The conservative Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens has humorously described himself as a “minor celebrity” in his home country, Great Britain-“not famous enough to get airline upgrades, but famous enough to have to behave extremely well in public.” Or, as he told me on the phone from his home in Oxford last week: “I am not, in my country, a wholly obscure person.” That’s probably a bit of an understatement. He is certainly at times a “lone voice crying in the wilderness,” but he could be better described as polemicist with a podium, or perhaps even a prophet with a microphone.
On this side of the Atlantic, the name “Hitchens” generally brings to mind the somewhat hedonistic and very atheist Christopher Hitchens, the late writer who enjoyed a wide audience by intelligently and wittily attacking almost everyone with distinctive flair. Christopher was, incidentally, Peter’s older brother, and the brothers had historically engaged in longstanding public feuds on their profound points of difference. Peter’s outstanding tome The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith was in part a response to Christopher’s polemically fierce but philosophically feeble God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Christopher’s pugnacious anti-theism made him quite famous in North America. On the other side of the Atlantic, Peter is renowned, among other things, for expounding on quite a different worldview. In his view, without God, “Man can in a matter of minutes justify the incineration of populated cities; the deportation, slaughter, disease and starvation of inconvenient people and the mass murder of the unborn.”