It is not often that you read a book review that at the same time makes a profound and thought-provoking argument and leaves you with no desire at all to read the book that is being reviewed. But this is the experience I came away with after reading William C. Placher’s review of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens in the September 18, 2007 issue of CHRISTIAN CENTURY.
Hitchen’s book, according to Placher, is frustrating because it is “full of mistakes” and “its author seems not to have read any modern theology, or even to know that it exists.” I was struck initially that it was sad that there is yet another book out there gleefully ridiculing Christianity (and other faiths) as not just wrong or hypocritical, but actually dangerous. I wondered why Placher or CHRISTIAN CENTURY would want to publicize a book like this. (Maybe you are wondering why I am doing the same thing by writing this post… if so, keep reading.)
Placher does two things that are very helpful for Christians to notice due to the current popularity of books like God Is Not Good. First, he helps us to realize that many of the people that Hitchens is arguing with are not actually people, they are nothing more than strawmen. Second, Placher makes an appeal to Christians who “have found ways to be religious without being either stupid or homicidal” to speak up. Books like the one reviewed by Placher thrive on stereotyping Christians. Yet, most Christians don’t fit these stereotypes. So, the simple question is: Why aren’t we speaking up? In Placher’s words, “folks like those who read the CHRISTIAN CENTURY need to put aside our obsessively good manners and shout, ‘Hey! Those aren’t the only alternatives! We’re here too!'”
I would highly recommend this book review, it is one of the most effective I’ve read.