Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why Do the Heathen Nations Rage?

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to FaithThe Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Peter Hitchens can write. His prose in this autobiographical journey from atheism to faith is at times elegant, precise, poignant, poetic, mystical and melancholy, and is almost universally exquisite. This book was like candy. Yes, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly," but it's so refreshing to encounter someone that does it well. Here are a few samples of what I mean.

"It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time."

"It was illustrated with soppy pictures of Christ looking--in C. S. Lewis's potent sneer at stained-glass sentimentality--"like a consumptive girl."

"Unlike Christians, atheists have a high opinion of their own virtue."

"There were other things too. During a short spell at a cathedral choir school (not as a choirboy, since I sing like a donkey) I had experienced the intense beauty of the ancient Anglican chants, spiraling up into chilly stone vaults at Evensong... The prehistoric, mysterious poetry of the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, perhaps a melancholy evening hymn, and the cold, ancient laments and curses of the Psalms, as the unique slow dusk of England gathers outside and inside the echoing, haunted, impossibly old building are extraordinarily potent. If you welcome them, they have an astonishing power to reassure and comfort. If you suspect or mistrust them, they will alarm and repel you like a strong and unwanted magic, something to flee from before it takes hold."

"My own confirmation, by contrast, was a miserable modern-language affair with all the poetic force of a driving test..."

"Utopia can only ever be reached across a sea of blood."

"The delusion of revolutionary progress, and the ruthlessness it justifies, survives any amount of experience."

So yeah, I was fond of this book. But more than just his voice when writing, his organization and progression through his experience and his understanding of the surrounding events is clear and extremely insightful. It is, in a word, a delightful book: it is not often that a book on this type of topic this feels more like a reward than a duty, but this is that rare one, and I highly recommend it.

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