OK, it's not quite that grand, but Christopher Hitchens is taking on organized religion in a big way. His new book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens joins the chorus of recent authors taking square aim the world's faiths. Slate put up three excerpts/previews last week, consisting of a broad overview and specific bits about Islam and Mormonism. Let's hope he has fatwa insurance:
Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require. Thus, far from being 'born in the clear light of history,' as Ernest Renan so generously phrased it, Islam in its origins is just as shady and approximate as those from which it took its borrowings.Hitchens goes on to show how the Koran went through a process of canonization that's even more obtuse than the modern Bible.
The Mormons fare no better:
In March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being 'a disorderly person and an impostor.' That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith, who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad gold-digging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or 'necromantic' powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the 'Book of Mormon.'As Hitchens tells the story of the Book of Mormon, it's hard to to hear the South Park voice over from their telling of the tale ("dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb . . ."). And kudos to Hitchens for the phase "attempted necromancy."
Ironically, tonight PBS begins a two-part examination of Mormonism. Talk about timing!