Saturday, July 21, 2007

Atheist Author Hitchens Creates a Buzz

The AltTulsa team tries its best to monitor the Zeitgeist. That's what led us to writer Christopher Hitchens, whose new book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has reached the bestseller lists and, not surprisingly, sparked considerable controversy.

Hitchens, along with authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, are part of a recent trend in anti-religious books, according to a Stanley Fish op-ed piece published last month in the New York Times. As Fish reminded us, Harris published The End of Faith couple of years ago and Dawkins published The God Delusion in 2006.

We also read a recent AP article on Hitchens and his book that noted the success of his "all-out assault on religious faith." Hitchens told the AP reporter, "There are a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying."

We haven't read Hitchens or these other authors, but we are curious about this trend, if that's what it is. Fish suggests that some of the anti-religious sentiment is a backlash against religious fundamentalism. As the AP put it, "Bad behavior in the name of religion is behind some of the most dangerous global conflicts, the atheists say."

The AP piece quotes religious leaders answering the atheist challenge. The Rev. Douglas Wilson at New Saint Andrews College in Idaho told the AP that he sees these books as a sign of secular panic. Perhaps so.

We can't endorse Hitchens or his fellow nonbelievers. As we noted, we haven't read these books. But we were surprised to see the Hitchens book selling well and attracting actual nonbelieving fans.


Dan Paden said...

But we were surprised to see the Hitchens book selling well and attracting actual nonbelieving fans.

Why? Isn't it the case that most people, not being blessed with totally unlimited reading time, tend to read things they're interested in and that don't conflict overmuch with what they already think? Most believers that I am aware of tend to spend most of their non-fiction reading time reading fairly well established Christian authors, and it doesn't surprise me that non-believers would reward authors like Hitchens and Dawkins with their book-buying dollars.

What really would surprise me is if you saw an awful lot of people picking titles from across the aisle, so to speak. In theory, it's a great idea to get exposed to the best arguments from both sides; in practice, most working people just haven't got enough time to do that.

Tulsan said...

The Bush government, in its continuing quest to maintain its political power by keeping fundamentalists happy, has attacked impartial science, attempted to merge church and state via "faith-based" enterprises, installed party apparatchiks in place of experts, etc., etc. It is sickening.

Non-believers have been a much-dumped-upon minority in this country, even more so than gays and racial minorities. But I think Bush and company are forcing them to band together to keep the U.S. collectively from going down the drain. The high sales of these books are an indicator.

Alternative Tulsa said...

Thanks for the comments. Dan's right that most folks probably won't cross the aisle. (We just didn't think there were very many people on the atheist side to begin with.) So tulsan may be correct that the purchase of these books is a way to find solidarity in a mostly religious world.