I have recently had ample opportunity to watch Christopher Hitchens’s debates and interviews on the subject of religion, the Catholic Church, and specifically the relative “goodness” of religion and belief. During these debates and interviews, Hitchens often broached the subject of Mother Teresa, and cited his work debunking the “myth” of her otherworldly kindness and compassion. Finally, last week, I took the plunge and bought his book on Mother Teresa: “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory and Practice”. However, unlike the many Hitchens’s articles and books I have read previously, this one has left me thoroughly unsatisfied.

As you would expect from a Hitchens book, it is beautifully written and amazingly readable, it pulls no punches and is infinitely quotable. In fact, I took down close to 20 pages of notes as I was reading. However, it was not as well argued as I would have hoped. The hundred plus pages are full of incredibly damaging research and reasoning about Mother Teresa, and several of the issues that Hitchens raises certainly turned my belief in Mother Teresa’s kindness and generosity of spirit (e.g. hoarding cash from questionable sources and refusing to spend it to relieve pain, instead allowing it to fester as part of some sort of religious fetish), however, Hitchens does not complete the argument he set out to make.

Hitchens set out to debunk the myth built around Mother Teresa and her “Missionaries of Charity” order, and while he provides plenty of damaging points, he fails to provide much more than a one dimensional evil caricature of Mother Teresa. I ended the book not entirely convinced with what Hitchens was trying to sell. My belief in her myth has undoubtedly been shaken, but I was already a convert before I set out. It is unlikely that her ardent supporters will be convinced. This is evidenced by Bill Donohue’s ridiculous review of the book. I would recommend this book for those willing to encounter some information and reasoning challenging one of religion’s sacred cows, but I don’t think it is enough to convert someone by itself.

Title: The Missionary Position

Author: Christopher Hitchens

Pages: 128 (Paperback)

Publisher: Twelve

ISBN-10: 1455523003

ISBN-13: 978-1455523009

Josh’s Rating: 3/5