Tag Archives: Fisking

Fisking Rick Warren

As you will have seen, my recent review of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life was not favourable. Rather than simply leave the review as a stand-alone, I will here embark upon a more detailed review, as I did with Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great. Here, I will draw out just some of the points with which I deeply disagreed with the author and state why. Warning: contains sardonic humour!

P12: “I am excited because I know all the great things that are going to happen to you.”

I severely doubt if Rick Warren knows what is going to happen to his readers. If so, maybe he can tell me when I will next get a job, when I will have a truly great meal or what eureka moments of understanding I may have from my bible studies.

P12: “I want to challenge you to stick with this spiritual journey for the next 40 days, not missing a single daily reading.”

Challenge all you like. But when we make arbitrary rules to stick to, we set ourselves up for all sorts of failures: pride if we succeed, condescension if we succeed and see others fail, self-chastisement if we fail and unwarranted feeling of self-inadequacies if we fail and see others succeed.

P18: “If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn’t be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner’s manual could reveal its purpose.”

I think most of us could have a pretty good go. Maybe you just haven’t tried enough.

P19: “For thousands of years, brilliant philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. Philosophy is an important subject and has its uses, but when it comes down to determining the purpose of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.”

Maybe so, but are you really so sure that you understand better than all philosophers? Might they not have had similar considerations to you and come to alternative conclusions?

P22: “God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color [sic] of your skin, your hair, and every other feature.”

Hmmm….that’s rather deterministic. I suspect a literalist interpretation to the poetry of the Psalms has been taken here. Not the smartest analysis.

P23: “God knew that [your parents] possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom “you” he had in mind.”

While I wouldn’t wholly disagree with this, it’s rather simplistic, but that’s typical of the approach of the book.

P24: “The more physicists, biologists and other scientists learn about the universe, the better we understand how it is uniquely suited for our existence, custom-made with the exact specifications that make human life possible.”

Dear Rick, allow me to introduce you to The Anthropic Principle.

P25: “If there was no God, we would all be “accidents,” the result of astronomical random chance in the universe….There would be no right or wrong and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth.”

While the relation of creational theology to ethics and morality is an interesting topic, this is a total non-sequitur. As others have well demonstrated, and as I have argued before, christianity does not have monopoly on morality. One can have a sense of right and wrong without believing in God. As for the use of the term “random” I refer you my thoughts on that here.

P31: “Hope is as essential to your life as air and water.”

Hope may be important, but this is rather a hyperbolic statement.

P32: “Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.”

He may have done quite a lot, but he had a lot of help. This downplays the important role played by many other disciples, some named in Acts, many more anonymous.

P34: “One day you will stand before God and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity.”

Having worked in audit for several years, I really hope that this will not be the method used by God in a final judgement. Nor an examination. I hope God will be much more thorough.

P37: “Your earthly body is just a temporary residence for your spirit.”

Wow! I thought this was a book on christianity, not dualism.

P38: “If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget being good and ethical and you wouldn’t have to worry about any consequences of your actions. You could indulge yourself in total self-centredness because your actions would have no long-term repercussions.”

This says more about what Warren would like to do but feels repressed from, than it does about the truth of christianity.

P42: “The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment.”

Ah yes, the old 3 point sermon which Jesus teaches us in Mark 17. Must. Never. Deviate.

P48: “Your identity is in eternity and your homeland is heaven.”

You might want to check the details of Paul’s Roman citizenship and how it informed his analogy of citizenship of heaven.

P58: “Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ.”

So….anyone who isn’t a christian is living in a holographic projection?

P74: “When you are sleeping, God gazes at you with love, because you were his idea. He loves you as if you were the only person on earth.”

Where to begin with this one? Extreme anthropomorphisation and am really not sure about the “only person” bit. God’s covenant promises tend to be to ‘people’ as a whole rather than to individuals.

P79: “If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross, saying, “I love you this much!””

Whenever I hear or read this old statement, I want to scream. The shape of the cross is not indicative of someone depicting size.

P101: “People often say, “I like to think of God as…,” and then they share their idea of the kind of God they would like to worship.”

This is a point I would agree with Warren on. Yet its appearance in this book is incredibly ironic as the view of God is so specific to Warren’s own view that it might be almost unrecognisable by a multitude of biblically astute christians across the world.

P107: “God is real, no matter how you feel.”

Supporting evidence? I think there may be one or two atheists and agnostics who might want to see some backup to that statement. Unfortunately, none is provided.

P123: “Life is all about love.”

Really? While love may be an important part of some people’s lives, I’m yet to be convinced by the “all” of the above statement.

P134: “If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it is your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into the fellowship.”

Rick, I think you’ll find that’s the controlling methodology used by Scientology, not something to be advocated in christianity!

P167: “At Saddleback Church, every member signs a covenant that includes a promise to protect the unity of the fellowship. As a result, the church has never had a conflict that split the fellowship.”

You’re not convincing me this is a church instead of a cult. Besides, sometimes good comes from a church split. The whole New Frontiers network would never have begun if Terry Virgo had not had a bitter dispute with the leadership of St Luke’s church in Brighton.

P172: “The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; that is why murder and abortion are wrong.”

Of course! That one sentence finishes all debates on capital punishment and abortion. Why did no one realise this before?

P177: “God is far more interested in building your character than he is anything else.”

I think the evidence we have in the bible may indicate that there are other matters on God’s mind. c.f. Job.

P190: “You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind.”

Warren’s guide for how to meditate is a great example of understanding scripture in its textual, historical, cultural and political context. Oh, wait…

P195: “Because God is sovereignly in control, accidents are just incidents in God’s good plan for you.”

Thus, the Epicurean problem is solved and theodicy is complete! Or maybe not…

P213: “At Saddleback Church we…developed [a programme] called Celebrate Recovery. It is a biblical, eight-step recovery process…”

The bible is well-known for its eight-step programmes, isn’t it?

P231: “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study.”

While I can see the point Warren was trying to make here, he doesn’t advocate a balance between study and practice. Pity.

P263: “Unfortunately, many leaders today start off as servants but end up as celebrities.”

Says the man whose book proudly announces on the cover that he is “One of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

P265: “God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do.”

An interesting idea worthy of discussion. What’s that? Oh, you just wanted it stated as plain fact without supporting evidence. I see…

P268: “…we have a group of CEOs and business owners who are trying to make as much as they can so they can give as much as they can…”

Not that old canard again! Remind us what the bible says about worldly riches and the love of money…

P282: “Your mission is so significant that Jesus repeated it five times, in five different ways, in five different books of the Bible.”

So if you read 5 different newspapers, each reporting an earthquake in California using different words, then that must mean there were 5 different earthquakes.

P286: “If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.”

Firstly, not sure you’ve quite got the hang of the idea of prophecy. Secondly, I’m yet to be convinced that trying to work towards any goal is going to bring a second parousia; it doesn’t seem to fit in with the ‘thief in the night’ motif.

P290: “…unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a “satisfied customer,” so they give you more credibility.”

Really? What survey was that research taken from? What was the methodology used? Or is it something that you just made up?

P294: “There are hundreds of great book on how to share the Good News. I can provide a list of books that have been helpful to me (see appendix 2).”

[Looks at appendix 2] Of the 8 books listed, 5 are written by Warren and another 1 is produced by his church. So when he says they “have been helpful to me” what he really means is that they “have been helpful to [my bank balance].”

P300: “People may refuse our love or reject our message but they are defenceless against our prayers.”

You do know that many people find being prayed for a form of passive-aggression? The idea of “defenceless” implies we are attacking them. Maybe not the best metaphor to use.

P307: “I strongly urge you to gather a small group of friends and form a Purpose-Driven Life Reading Group to review these chapters on a weekly basis.”

Indeed! Let’s scrap the bible and adopt The Purpose Driven Life as our new scripture. What could be better to ground people securely in God’s word?

Fisking Christopher Hitchens

As much as I wanted to read God is Not Great as an insightful and sharp critique of the world’s religions, the whole book is littered with factual errors, unevidenced rhetoric and hyperbole. If it is your desire that Hitchens be praised then I’m afraid you need to look for a review that has chosen to gloss over the book’s many flaws. For those that really jumped off the page at me, I turned the corner of the future reference (which doesn’t include all chapters). By the time I finished, this is what the edge book looked like:

If you think that I am unduly singling this out because it happens to be advocating atheism, then you’d be mistaken. After finishing reading God is Not Great, I began to read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which is equally full of non-sequiturs and which I intend to subject to equally close scrutiny. There are many good and reasonable reasons one may have for being an atheist, just as there for being a christian. My aim here is simply to demonstrate that the reasons Hitchens advocates are not as compelling as he would have liked you to think.

Chapter 1 – Putting it Mildly

P7: “Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them.”

The only reasonable conclusion is that Hitchens never read any of Bonhoeffer’s writings, as that conclusion is not borne out by the evidence of reading either of his 2 best known works: The Cost of Discipleship or Letters and Papers from Prison. On page 176, a similar statement is made to the effect of saying that martin Luther King Jr wasn’t really a christian – a sort of strange twist on the No True Scotsman fallacy.

Chapter 2 – Religion Kills

P16/17: “As to the Anglican Church into which I was originally baptized [sic]…..it has a historic responsibility for the Crusades, for persecution of Catholics, Jews, and Dissenters, and for combat against science and reason.”

Errr….come again? Given that the Anglican church was founded by Henry VIII in the 16th century, some 400 years after the Crusades, one can but wonder what timeline Hitchens was working on. As for the other allegations, Hitchens wholly fails to provide any evidence or even so much as a secondary reference.

P20/21: “To be a Serb is to be Christian orthodox. In the 1940s, this meant a Nazi puppet state, set up in Croatia and the patronage of the Vatican, which naturally sought to exterminate all the Jews in the region…”

Naturally?? I know that Catholicism did itself no favours with its complicity during the Second World War, but it goes far too far to suggest that the Vatican shared the Nazis’ anti-Semitic extremism in a desire for mass murder of the Jews.

P27: “I can think of a handful of priests and bishops and rabbis and imams who have put humanity ahead of their own sect or creed. History gives us many other such examples, which a going to discuss later on. But this is a compliment to humanism, not to religion.”

As touched on above, here we see Hitchens’ twist on the No True Scotsman fallacy. Only in this case, anyone who has been “religious” and done something good cannot have possibly done it because of their religion. Hitchens is desperate to find some other reason for it. Unfortunately, his choice of humanism betrays only his lack of knowledge of humanism’s origins. Long before organisations such the National Humanist Association hijacked the word to try to make it synonymous with atheism (see more here) humanism was a socio-political offshoot of christianity. To cite from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “though humanism gradually became identified with classroom studies of the classics, it more properly embraced any attitude exalting man’s relationship to God, his free will and his superiority over nature. Philosophically, humanism made man the measure of all things.” It then goes on to say, “In recent years [my edition was published in 1976] the term humanism has often been used to refer to value systems that emphasize the personal worth of each individual but that do not include a belief in God.” So the atheistic term is a very late arrival on the humanistic scene. The micropaedia article ends with a quote from christian theologian Karl Barth: “there is no humanism without the Gospel.”

Chapter 3 – A Short Digression on the Pig

P40: “Porcophobia – and porcophilia – thus probably originate in a night-time of human sacrifice and even cannibalism at which the “holy” texts often do more than hint”

Really? Hitchens doesn’t give any examples of hints of cannibalism in the Pentateuch or in the Qur’an. Nor does he provide evidence of “more than [a] hint”. It is an isolated assertion, devoid of meaningful context and vacuous of evidence.

Chapter 4 – A Note on Health

P56: “Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized [sic] religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”

Possibly one of the most revealing passages in the book, Hitchens gives us a great example of “projecting” onto one’s hate-figure some of the characteristics which one fears to be present in oneself. I’m not saying that Hitchens was necessarily violent (although he did support the illegal war against Iraq), but many of the other attributes embody his attitude towards religion. As shown below, his logic is most certainly irrational and intolerant. His alliance towards his own bigoted brand of atheism makes him tribalistic in his animosity to those who do not share his views and his wilful misreading of texts and failure to engage with the serious scholars of christianity shows he wished to remain ignorant of any viewpoint that would undermine his own argument.

P59/60: “even the stoutest defenders of the Bible story now admit that if Jesus was ever born it wasn’t until at least AD 4.”

This may be a simple typo, as Hitchens is alone in the authors I have read to assert that Jesus was born after AD 1. Most of what I read usually puts his birth at between 4 BC and 6 BC, largely due to the fact that Herod the Great (not to be confused with Herod Antipas) died in 4 BC.

P60: “When the earthquake hits, or the tsunami inundates, or the twin towers ignite, you can see and hear the secret satisfaction of the faithful.”

What an utterly vile comment. It is disgusting to suggest that religious people delight in disaster and the death of others. All of these are tragedies and their victims to be mourned. For 2 of the 3, these are natural disasters; the other stemmed from a gross misunderstanding of Islam.

Chapter 5 – The Metaphysical Claims of Religion

P64: “Muhammad is claimed by his own followers to have thought, as did Jesus, that the desert was pullulating with djinns, or evil spirits.”

I can’t say my knowledge of Islam is broad enough to be able to give an opinion on that side of the assertion, but it is bizarre to suggest that Jesus thought the desert was full of evil spirits. He doesn’t give his references (a common theme throughout the book) so there is no way to know where Hitchens got this idea from.

Chapter 7 – The Nightmare of the “Old” Testament

P100: When criticizing the notion of the 10th commandment Hitchens comments, “If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts, he should have taken more care to invent a different species.”

Hitchens spectacularly demonstrates a failure to understand the nature of free will. I wouldn’t claim I fully grasp it myself, but there can be many puerile statements made which demonstrate what it is not. This is a prime example of the like.

P104: “Apart from the absurdity of claiming to be meek in such a way as to assert superiority in meekness over all others, we have to remember the commandingly authoritarian and bloody manner in which Moses is described”.

Hitchens makes a mistake which is not unique to him, in mistaking the word “meek” for “weak” – when its meaning, especially in the Hebrew context, is far closer to “power, under control.” To be meek is to be a very strong character. When we use “meek and mild” these are not synonyms; their relationship is more akin to “sweet and sour.”

Chapter 8 – The Evil of the “New” Testament

P115: “The contradictions and illiteracies of the New Testament have filled up many books by eminent scholars, and have never been explained by any Christian authority except in the feeblest terms of “metaphor” and “a Christ of faith.”

Here, we see Hitchens’ use of the argument from authority, which he employs when it suits him and condemns when it is used against him. While there are a tiny number of mostly innocuous inconsistencies in the New Testament, they are significant enough to be worthy of attention. Hitchens’ flippant dismissal demonstrates little about the resolution of any inconsistencies and tells us much more about how Hitchens would like to think of christians. Most that I come across are capable of discerning between what is metaphor and what is history, but Hitchens implies that he favours a false dichotomy between the two.

Chapter 9 – The Koran Is Borrowed

P127: “…while there was little or no evidence for the life of Jesus, the figure of the prophet Muhammad was by contrast a person in ascertainable history.”

Wow! Simply wow! This is in the same league of historical denialism that is illegal in some European countries.  If he wishes to cast aspersions on the historicity of Jesus, then it would be very interesting to see his thoughts on the likes of Hannibal, Alexander the Great or Octavian.

P129: “But Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion happened to require.”

Hitchens doesn’t provide much evidence to support this rather sweeping generalisation. To do so would require a book in and of itself, carefully researched and cross-referenced. But that needs a lot more work than is needed for a pithy remark.

Chapter 10 – The Tawdriness of the Miraculous

P142: “One of professor Bart Ehrman’s more astonishing findings is that the account of Jesus’s [sic] resurrection in the Gospel of Mark was only added many years later.”

This comes near the start of a paragraph that is worthy of an essay by way of dissection in itself. Hitchens would have done well to familiarise himself with NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God before taking such a blunt analysis to a subject that requires such care. Ehrman is cited uncritically. Unusually, note how Hitchens refers to him as “professor” – something he doesn’t do for most authors he references, even if they are professors. This shows again Hitchens’ devotion to the argument from authority, even though he says just 8 pages later, “The “ARGUMENT FROM AUTHORITY” [caps original] is the weakest of all arguments.”

P143: “And exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”

Still on the subject of resurrection, this concludes a demonstration of Hitchens’ failure to engage with christians over the subject of resurrection, as he is under the mistaken impression that christians believe that Jesus didn’t really die. This is sometimes known as the docetist heresy and is rejected by just about all christians. But in this concluding statement, he makes a logical clanger, trotting out the well-worn fallacy that muddles epistemology with ontology. In other words, if something which is an exceptional claim does not have exceptional evidence it must necessarily be false. Wrong! If a claim is extraordinary, but there is insufficient evidence to prove it, then we must make the most reasonable assessment based on what evidence there is, and retain an element of scepticism.

Chapter 11 – Religion’s Corrupt Beginnings

P167: “If anything proves the human manufacture of religion, it is the way that the Mormon elders resolved this difficulty.”

The difficulty referred to is how the Mormon church initially regarded black people as being less than human. The “resolution” relates to an additional revelation in 1978, where it was revealed that black people were human after all. While this does expose an absurdity within Mormonism and demonstrates how the church changed its credo in the face of societal pressures, Hitchens makes an astounding error in logic to suppose that this “proves” that religion is manufactured by humans. Mormonism, yes; but to extrapolate to all religions on the basis of one instance is negligent indeed.

P168: “Christians used to resolve this problem by saying that Jesus descended into hell after his crucifixion, where it is thought that he saved or converted the dead.”

This is not the same problem as the prior quote. This is about the (very real) problem of how christians might think of the salvation of those who came before Jesus. While it is true that some christians may well have thought along those lines it would be unfair to present this is a panacea agreed upon by all christians. The roots of the idea stem from the apocryphal Gospel of Peter where a talking cross emerges from Jesus’ tomb and a voice from heaven asks, “Have you preached to those that sleep?” to which the cross replies, “Yes.” This is not a text that will be familiar to the majority of christians, nor is there universal agreement as to “where” Jesus went between his death and resurrection. To those who think he went to hell, they have a hard time explaining Luke 23:43, although they will often quote Ephesians 4:8-10 in their favour.

Chapter 12 – How Religions End

P172: “So the Sabbatau Sevi religion came to an end…..But had its founder been put to death, we should be hearing of it still, and of the elaborate mutual excommunications, stonings, and schisms that its followers would subsequently have engaged in.”

Although the chapter with which Hitchens uses this passage to conclude is mildly interesting, the poor logic is again mildly irritating. Clearly intended as a swipe at christianity, he envisages the second half of the above quote as an inevitable consequence of a religion where the leader was executed. By the same logic, one could look at the Tolpuddle martyrs in isolation and suppose that all trade union movements are destined to end in deportation.

Chapter 13 – Does Religion Make People Behave?

P176: “In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was [Dr Martin Luther King jr] a Christian.”

See my comment relating to P7.

P180: “The chance that someone’s secular [italics original] or freethinking opinion would cause him or her to denounce the whole injustice was extremely high. The chance that someone’s religious belief would cause him or her to take a stand against slavery and racism was statistically quite small.”

This comes shortly after a mysterious reference to “the whole record” which Hitchens fails to reference, so any reader wanting to investigate this claim will be bereft of the opportunity to do so. Hitchens also seems to imply an inherent link between secularism and freethinking which is again unfounded. Further than that, he seems to assume a mutual exclusivity between this point of view and a religious one, when no reason is given to suppose that they are.

P192: “At a minimum, this makes it impossible to argue that religion causes people to behave in a more kindly or civilized manner.”

This is the non-sequitur which concludes the chapter on “Does religion make people behave.” His case, though, is composed purely of anecdotes which could not determine the case one way or another. More to the point, however, is that it is written in such a way as to indicate that behaviour is one of the primary concerns of religion, which is a dubious assessment to say the least.

Chapter 15 – Religion as an Original Sin

P206: “sacramental guttings and throat-cuttings, particularly of lambs, occur every year in the Christian and Muslim world, either to celebrate Easter or the feast of Eid.”

I can’t speak for Islam, but this is certainly something I have never witnessed in a christian church. Maybe Hitchens was confusing Easter, occurring in spring, with regular livestock farming and the lambing season.

P209: Speaking of Jesus’ crucifixion: “Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god. He is god, and he is trying to impress humans.”

Hitchens here demonstrates that in spite of being familiar with some elements of christianity, he had no understanding of even the basic tenets of it. I know of no christian that would suppose that Jesus’ crucifixion was meant to “impress humans.”

P209: “I have to accept that I am responsible for the flogging and mocking and crucifixion, in which I had no say and no part, and agree that every time I decline this responsibility, or that I sin in word or deed, I am intensifying the agony of it.”

I don’t think there are many christians that subscribe to this view. The crucifixion of Jesus was a stand-alone event in history. It happened, it was not repeated and no subsequent events can affect what happened; such is the linear nature of time. While christians believe that Jesus died for “sin” I think that Hitchens has chosen to take a very literalistic view of some discussions on causality which are still the subject of discussion today.

Chapter 16 – Is Religion Child Abuse?

P227: “Sexual innocence, which can be charming in the young if it is not needlessly protracted, is positively corrosive and repulsive in the mature adult.”

I could dissect this a lot, but I don’t wish to go into much detail. However, it begs the question as to how long he means by “needlessly protracted”. One may also wonder if he went about asking people if they were virgins and choosing to find them “repulsive” if they said yes; this seems to me to be on a par with the sort of feelings exhibited by those who choose to be homophobes – judging someone on the basis of their sexuality.

P228: “we are talking about the systematic rape and torture of children, positively aided and abetted by a hierarchy which knowingly moved the grossest offenders to parishes where they would be safer.”

The much-documented instances of child abuse in the Catholic church are indeed horrific (as are the more recent revelations about those in the Anglican church in Chichester – the nearest diocese to where I live), but to suggest that this is systematic is a wilful misreading of the situation. It imagines that there are meetings taking place about how to perpetuate such atrocities, which is in the realm of the conspiracy theorist.

Chapter 17 – The “Case” Against Secularism

P233: “According to the really extreme religious totalitarians, such as John Calvin, who borrowed his awful doctrine from Augustine, an infinity of punishment can be awaiting you even before you are born.”

Hitchens demonstrates his love of pejorative adjectives, but without backing them up. Though Calvin was an important figure in Reforming christianity, not all of his views have been universally accepted.  The idea of predestination was not originally Calvin’s at all, but Paul’s (see Romans 9:14-24) – Calvin & Augustine merely pointed out and wrote about this view.

P233: “Calvin’s Geneva was a prototypical totalitarian state, and Calvin himself a sadist and torturer and killer, who burned Servetus (one of the great thinkers and questioners of the day) while the man was still alive.”

If you read up on Servetus, you will find much more that demonstrates how Hitchens has twisted the truth to suit his own rhetorical purposes. Servetus was a polymath, with a special interest in theology. He did not agree with Calvin on predestination and they entered into mutual (though heated) correspondence, where Calvin once wrote, “I neither hate you, nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you.” That said, Calvin was not exactly outspoken in condemnation of Servetus’ execution and this may well call into question Calvin’s integrity – though Calvin never testified against Servetus nor did he order or carry out the execution.

Chapter 18 – The Resistance of the Rational

P254: “I dare say that there have been at least as many credulous idiots who professed faith in god as there have been dolts and simpletons who concluded otherwise.”

It would be ungracious of me to let this comment pass without saying that I agree with it. Hitchens does get some things right, occasionally, and this is one of those instances. I’ve read various attempts to prove that atheists are more intelligent than christians and vice versa; neither of those two have ever, to the best of my knowledge, come up with a convincing case.

P255: “It does not matter at all to me that we have no certainty that Socrates even existed. The records of his life and his words are secondhand, almost but not quite as much as are the books of the Jewish and Christian Bible and the hadiths of Islam.”

It serves as interesting contrast to the comment made on P115 & P127. It seems that historical attestation can be done away with if it suits your argument. Who knew?!

P260: “In view of the terror imposed by religion on science and scholarship throughout the early Christian centuries (Augustine maintained that the pagan gods did exist, but only as devils, and that the earth was less than six thousand years old)…”

A few points on this one. First of all, the “terror imposed by religion” has little more in favour of it than the Loch Ness Monster. Such rhetoric is the bleating of the desperate, who wants history to show that they have been persecuted in the past. For a more reasonable, well-evidenced look at the history of science and religion, see God’s Philosophers by James Hannam. The parentheses about Augustine are quite out of place within the chapter and the paragraph within which the comment sits; it seems to be an afterthought inserted without much attention. As for the content of it, Hitchens demonstrates that he has read the title of Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis without reading any of its content, as Augustine argues exactly the opposite point which Hitchens portrays.