I have just read an excellent critique of Christopher Hitchens' book God is Not Great (by Andrew Shepherd, a free-lance researcher and teacher in New Zealand).
The essays was called "Face to Face with Violence: Hitchens and Religion, Hospitality, and Peace-Building" and is found in a forthcoming collection of essays called Taking Rational Trouble over the Mysteries (Pickwick, 2013).
I confess that I have not read Hitchens' book but if the argument contained in it is anything like that set forth and critiqued by Shepherd I am shocked and staggered!
To caricature the summary, it appears that the argument is predicated on a simplistic association of violence and religion that is myopic in its understanding of both violence (many kinds of violence are simply passed-by; perhaps because they implicate secular societies too much) and religion (which is understood in purely functional terms). Religion is more or less defined as violent and violent behaviour is more or less defined as religious. So Hitchens can, of course, list of many instances of religious violence. But when he considers counter-examples things start to get silly:
* atheistic violence (which the twentieth century saw many shocking examples of) Hitchens redefines as "religious."
* instances of religious non-violence (e.g., Martin Luther King Jr) are redefined as secular-inspired rather than Christianity-inspired. Why? Because Christianity is violent so King's peaceful work cannot have been inspired by Christianity. (A claim that anyone even remotely familiar with King will know is simply false.)
I am almost lost for words. That an intelligent person could try to argue in such a fashion seems almost beyond belief. A stunning ability to decide on a theory in advance and then not to allow any evidence to get in the way of it.
Even more worrying was what appeared to be Hitchens' positive, unapologetic, and indeed even gleeful affirmation of the use of lethal violence against certain religious groups. Apparently violence is bad ... unless it is used by secular humanist governments to enforce and defend secularism. Then it is good. (Although, as it is violent would it not be ... religious?)
(OK, I have simplified things above, but ...)
Shepherd then offers a much more helpful and hopeful analysis of religion and violence, drawing on the philosophers Derrida and Levinas.
There are very serious issues to do with religion and violence that need addressing — everyone knows that religion can most certainly be linked to violence. However, if we want constructive solutions to religious violence then the resources for them will need to come from within religious traditions themselves.