Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Collateral Damage

I've been reading Hitchens' marvelous little screed, god is not Great, and brought it with me this morning on the train.

I did this with some misgiving, knowing that other people on the train might be put off, offended, or otherwise disturbed just being in the presence of a book with such a title. I've heard a reliable second-hand account of an otherwise reasonable person who was uncomfortable even having Hitchens' book in the house, as though its mere presence posed some sort of threat.

I read the book in transit anyway, of course, but it got me thinking about why it is people might react this way. Part of it, I thought uncharitably, is simple fear: someone reading such a book is committing a terrible offense against God, and may be struck down at any moment.

Why should this inspire fear in others who just happen to be nearby? Well, given the long history of misfortunes and disasters attributed to God's punishment, the message is clear enough: God is jealous, God is vengeful, and God has very bad aim . . .

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