BY ANNA ARCO
TWO WELL-KNOWN journalist brothers have crossed swords over religion.
The writer Peter Hitchens has staunchly defended faith against the arguments of his American-based brother Christopher, whose vitriolic attack on religion. God is not Great, will be published this month.
In a two-page review of his brother's work for the Mail on Sunday. Peter challenged Christopher's "antitheistic" arguments, describing the book as "wrong, mostly in the way that it blames faith for so many bad things and gives it no credit for any of the good it may have done".
"Most of the British elite will applaud, since they see religion as an embarrasing and (worse) unfashionable form of mania," wrote Peter Hitchens.
"I think [his book] misunderstands religious people and their aims and desires. And I think it asserts a number of things as true and obvious that are nothing of the sort," he wrote.
The two brothers have fallen out many times before, over politics (Christopher is an outspoken journalist of the Left, Peter a Christian writer of the Right) and the invasion of Iraq (Christopher was for, Peter against). They were estranged for several years but were reconciled after the birth of Peter's third child. • Both men acknowledge that strong disagreements remain. "Christopher is an atheist." wrote Peter in his review. "I am a believer. He once said in public: 'The real difference between Peter and myself is the belief in the supernatural. I'm a materialist and he attributes his presence here to a divine plan. I can't stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity or who is a person of faith.'
"I don't feel the same way. I like atheists and enjoy their company, because they agree with me that religion is important."
God is not Great is one of a recent flurry of massmarketed "down-with-God" books. It is an invective against religion in the same vein as Richard Dawkins's recent work, The God Delusion — its basic premise is that "religion poisons everything". Criticising his brother, Peter Hitchens wrote: "Much of his book is devoted to claiming that religious impulse drives Man to do, or excuse, or support wicked and terrible things in the name of goodness. Is this not a perfect description of the Iraq War, which he backed? On the few occasions where Christopher is prepared to admit that religious people have done any good, he concludes that they did so in spite of their faith, not because of it."
Peter Hitchens argued that what both believers and nonbelievers "have in common is that they are human, and capable of the sin of pride. The practice of religion does not automatically prevent this and nobody said it did. It sometimes joins in with it, as Christopher points out.
"But if there is a voice raised against such arrogant pride in the heedless modem world, it is usually a religious one, and the death camps and dungeons of dictators always contain their ration of the faithful who at the cost of all they held dear in the world have listened to their consciences even when the message was so unwelcome."
In conclusion, Peter wrote: "We are in the process — encouraged by Christopher ' — of abolishing religion, and so of abolishing conscience, too.
"If you do not worship God, you end up worshipping power, whether it is Kim Jong II, Leon Trotsky or the military might of George W Bush."