The Greatness of God

A brutal counter-blast against Hitch's best-selling anti-theist screed appears in the new "Commonweal". Money quote:

Hitchens's claim that the God of Moses "never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all" is preposterous, given the Torah's injunctions about forgiveness of debts, redistribution of land, or openness to strangers, or the prophets' exhortations to mercy, justice, and beating swords into ploughshares. He rightly contends that the crimes of Nazism and Communism do not mitigate the felonies of religion; indeed, he writes, "one might hope that religion had retained more sense of its dignity than that." True, but that sense of dignity is inseparable from standards by which the religious can identify and condemn atrocities done in their name - standards that fascists and Stalinists never recognized, let alone applied.

Doctrines of racial purity lead inexorably to repression, ethnic cleansing, or genocide; acceptance of "historical necessity" inevitably sanctions "the necessary murder," as Auden later regretted putting it. There is nothing even remotely comparable in these secular ideologies to the command to love one’s enemies. Those Christians down the ages who tried to prevent the crimes of their horrifically errant brethren did so because they believed - often at the cost of their lives or fortunes - that the human person was the imago Dei, a conviction they derived from Christian theology.

I haven't yet read the book, but I hope Hitch did not merely dismiss Augustine as "a self-centered fantasist and an earth-centered ignoramus."