Richard Coles:

I wouldn’t argue that Dawkins and Hitchens are crypto-believers, far from it, but it interests me that religion continues to hold a fascination for them, even if it is an appalled fascination. That tells you something about religion’s persistence, endurance. When I read Hitchens’s God Is Not Great – which I found good in parts – I liked his passion, but there is something so angry and disappointed in that literature, and you think, ‘Why do you care so much?’, and then I think it must be because of the way followers of Jesus Christ fail so lamentably to follow what Jesus preached.

Well, I suppose if there’s nothing else in the philosophical pantry, we can always reheat some Freud. Perhaps Dawkins and Hitchens are like little boys shooting spitballs at a girl to show how much of a crush they have on her.

Look, I’m not sure it really needs any explication as to why people should have an interest in the Big Questions, or in those those who claim to have the final answer, and if I may get all Nietzschean about it for a moment, it’s equally natural to be concerned about a belief system which has had great power for thousands of years, especially if one considers oneself to be an ideological enemy of it. And continuing in that vein, I’ll add that outright disbelief is still enough of a novelty in our culture to provide an iconoclastic opportunity for distinguishing oneself. Oh, sure, I’ll admit it: there’s a bit of an egotistical thrill upon feeling as if you’ve seen through a venerable deception that has gulled so many important and powerful people.