There is no doubt Christopher Hitchens’s latest book God is Not Great: How religion poisons everything is a beautifully written and forcefully argued polemic against the evils of organised religion. And Hitchens is much more balanced and accommodating than Richard Dawkins’s rigid and absolute (dare I say religious?) hatred of any form of faith.
But it didn’t take long for my faith in Hitchens to be shattered. In chapter four, A Note on Health, to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous, listing a variety of forms of sexual repression in organised religion, he says:
Orthodox Jews conduct congress by means of a hole in the sheet . . .
Uh. No they don’t, Chris. That’s a myth. And ten seconds of basic research on the intertubes would have at least cast sufficient doubt in the mind of a supreme rationalist about the veracity of that claim.
OK, a minor point to be sure. But if he’s completely, verifiably and carelessly wrong about such a basic fact – one which I am very familiar with – I have to wonder how many other points in the book – of which I know less – might also be wrong, distorted or lazily, sloppily generalised.
Which, I’m afraid, makes it very hard to believe . . .