I was in a bit of a quandry. The BBC had phoned and asked if I would respond to a taped interview with Christopher Hitchens the author of 'god is not Great' and review the book from a Christian point of view. Here was my dilemma - as a Christian pastor I am responsible for the people under my care and guidance and should not be afraid to speak out and warn folk about this spiritually dangerous and throroughly offensive book (Hitchens would be pleased to hear me say that as his stated aim in writing the book is to 'demoralise people of faith' and be offensive to them) - and yet I did not want to give the author any money or read a book that might harm me spiritually and perhaps even be the reason why one more person would buy it.
Following an evening service in which I had told the church that I intended to read the book and asked for their prayers, a spiritually mature and sensitive lady came up to me at the end said that she felt the Lord was saying that I should not read that book! A word from the Lord?
Here is what I did. I agreed to the interview but refused to read the book on the grounds that its stated goal is to demoralise people of faith. I have enough to demoralise my faith without that! I surely don't need to drink from a bottle labelled 'poison' in order to know that it will do me no good. When the book arrived at my house I sent it back unopened. I then read widely on the internet what much more clever people than me were saying about the book and the man. I found excellent material on the Christian site www.markdroberts.com and several helpful reviews from the Washington Post, the Spectator and the Mail on Sunday. The interview was recorded this morning for transmission tomorrow, Sunday 29th July. I am praying that the outcome will glorify God and help people.
Hitchens is a tragic and arrogant figure, a journalist who mocks God and anyone who believes in Him. He calls Mother Teresa a 'fraud and a fool' and St Augustine as 'a self-centered fantasist and an earth-centered ignoramus'. He believes that people of faith should be 'removed from the stage' so that the real debate about philosophy and the meaning of life can begin. His attitude is very similar to that which leads to anti-Semitism and the persecution of believers. He reminds me of an ageing comic on British tv called Alf Garnet who sneered and mocked at people of different races and creeds. We laughed at him then, but we cringe now. Hitchens is the Alf Garnet of the atheistic philosophical world. His views are poison.
Right now there is a real deluge of printed material from atheistic sources which has the aims of making money and demoralising believers. We don't need to drink it to know it tastes pretty bad.