COMMENTARY | Sales of Christopher Hitchens’ work have increased since the politically frank author’s battle with cancer came to an end in December. Demand for his 2007 bestseller “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” has been strong since his death. Booksellers and wholesalers are finding it hard to keep copies on store shelves, according to publisher Hachette Book Group.
One part of me (the devilish side) said kudos to Hitchens for his “God” success. He had written a book that he poured his critical heart and passion into and an adoring audience with credit cards found it. But my other half (the Christian side) thought that there was something rather twisted about writing about atheism and profiting from it.
Several years ago, at a large book fair in the Bible belt, I saw Hitchens speak, where he was in the troughs of his anti-God book tour with a southern twist. He was taller than I had imagined from seeing him on television and his bloodshot eyes and puffy, flushed cheeks reminded me of photos taken of Jim Jones right before Kool-Aid hour at Jonestown. There was even a rumor that he was walking around the fair’s floor with a pocket sized bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey.
Most of what Hitchens said was self satisfying and sharply controversial. His view on America’s invasion of Iraq was one of “take no prisoners; bomb the Islamic jihadist back to hell.” Like I said, his views were sharply controversial, like well versed daggers.
Hitchens was not alone; the atheist bestsellers club also included Professors Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and the neuroscientist Sam Harris. Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Harris’ “The End of Faith,” with their appealing book jackets and memorable titles, also were juggernaut bestsellers like Hitchens’ “God”.
All of those authors, including Hitchens, found a unique niche in the market. And I don’t think their audience is just atheist. I think Christians have bought a lot of copies of “God” as well. Hitchens already had a built in following and there was an army of fans, myself included, which would buy most anything he pitched to the public. His posthumous book of essays will be released later this year.
When I travelled to see Hitchens speak, I didn’t go for his religious ideology. I went to see the great political essayist for Vanity Fair, a magazine I’ve read and loved since I had candy stuck in my teeth. His piece was always what I turned to first when a new copy would show up in my mailbox.
“God Is Not Great” is what our searching Christian nation is reading with a tiny flashlight under the spiritual blanket, hoping we don’t get caught by our Father.