I've been reading god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. I'm a Muslim and this book is my most extensive introduction to Christianity so far, as well as other religions including mine, to some extent.

Here is the passage:

Some of these would still be in some danger if I were to name them, but I must admit my debt to the late Dr. Israel Shahak, who introduced me to Spinoza; to Salman Rushdie, who bravely witnessed for reason and humor and language in a very dark time; to Ibn Warraq and Irfan Khawaja, who also know something about the price of the ticket; and to Dr. Michael Shermer, the very model of the reformed and recovered Christian fundamentalist.

I'm now familiar with the basic denominations, sects etc. of Christianity to some extent but am really confused by the churches, traditions, movements and so on. There are so many of them and they may be a bit too confusing for a beginner.

One of them is reformed and recovered fundamentalist. There is a universe of definitions and explanations on the Internet, I know. But believe me, the more I read them the more confused I get. Moreover, I read each one of them separately and think that I've got the idea but then again, whenever I try to combine and make sense of them, I fail.

I would be more than grateful if anyone could explain me what a reformed and recovered fundamentalist is in simple terms for a non-native non-Christian dummy, so to speak.

As a side note, I know it isn't within the scope of this site but now that I've asked one question about the above passage, I must admit that I don't understand either what is meant by know something about the price of the ticket here. I totally understand if you wouldn't like to answer this one since it's off-topic.

Thank you so much.

  • I wouldn't depend too much on Hitchens to give a fair assessment or description of any religion. He, along with other, spearheaded the neo-atheist movement, which sets out to not only spread atheism, but oppose and discredit all religion in all forms with little prejudice. The sole purpose of most of his work is to remove religious influence from society.
    – user3961
    Aug 1, 2015 at 0:37

2 Answers 2


This isn't really about Christianity, but let me answer anyway.

First, please note that Christopher Hitchens was an extreme and vociferous opponent of both Christianity and Islam. Learning about Christianity from him is like learning about America by reading Soviet Cold War propaganda.

By "reformed and recovered Christian fundamentalist", Hitchens means that Michael Shermer used to be a "Fundamentalist Christian", but isn't any more. (Hitchens describes many Christians as "Fundamentalist" that most people wouldn't).

"Knowing the price of the ticket" means that these are people who have suffered in some way for speaking about about what they believe (or in this case, don't believe). I.e. they they have experienced the cost of speaking out.

  • Thank you very much for answering both the main and the side question. I really appreicate it. Yet, I don't get why you don't think the question is really about Christianity. I thought it was quite fit for this site. Could you please enlighten me?
    – A.K.
    Jul 31, 2015 at 18:27
  • 1
    Because it's really just about the meaning of words. If Hitchens had written "Reformed and recovering Hindu" the answer would have been the same. Jul 31, 2015 at 18:47
  • @A.K. Specifically, Hitchens is making a case that sometimes being a vocal atheist negatively affects your life. This is actually a question about atheism.
    – user3961
    Aug 1, 2015 at 0:41

I have not read the passage in question before, but given what I know about Hitchens, he likely means that Dr. Michael Shermer used to be a Christian fundamentalist, but is no longer. A Christian fundamentalist is someone who argues that Christianity ought to only have a small number of doctrines, such as the inerrancy of the Bible and the Virgin-birth of Christ. The proper term "fundamentalist" however has also diverged to other connotations, and is sometimes used in contexts that are not theologically accurate.

I would also offer in passing that Hitchens is unlikely to be a good introduction to Christianity - he is heavily biased against it, so what he says should generally be taken with a grain of salt. For a much better introduction, I would read CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, or other works by CS Lewis or GK Chesterton.

  • 1
    Welcome to the Christianity SE. I hope to see more of your thoughts in the future.
    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 31, 2015 at 18:14
  • Thank you very much for your answer. Actually, I don't (or didn't) intend to learn Christianty or any other religion from Hitchens. Just things turned out in a way that I happened to read Hitchens before anyhting serious about religions. I by no means agree with Hitchens on his thoughts about any religion but he uses lots of specific terms and I learn about the English language a lot from Hitchens.
    – A.K.
    Jul 31, 2015 at 18:24

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