|God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
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In the tradition of Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris's recent bestseller, The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case
against religion. With a close and erudite reading of the major religious texts, he documents the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos. With eloquent clarity, Hitchens frames the argument for a more secular life based on science and
reason, in which hell is replaced by the Hubble Telescope's awesome view of the universe, and Moses and the burning bush give way to the beauty and symmetry
of the double helix.
- Read It For The Arguments
If you're interested in lucid, well-argued discourse on a subject -- regardless of your own point-of-view on it -- you should read this book. Hitchens is a masterful debater. If you pay attention to how he makes his arguments (the form rather than just the content), you will undoubtedly learn something about how to argue a point. In other words, you don't have to be an atheist to appreciate this book and its author's rhetoric. Yes, I realize I am going against the grain of the present zeitgeist by asking people to allow themselves to disagree with someone's argument yet still have respect for the way he is doing the arguing.
Folks today are quick to judge, including the many people who have written reviews on here without yet even reading this book or without addressing its specific points. The irony of this is that such behavior illustrates one of Hitchens's main points about religion: it prompts thoughtless, unfounded judgment. I am not religious, but I still imagine it is possible to believe in a higher power while still respecting the the discursive powers of a mortal like Hitchens. ...more info
- A one sided look at the pros and cons of organized religion
The book seems to be written for the sole purpose of enlightening and impressing the author's friends at New your dinner parties. Hitchens has kind of a New Yorker magazine style of writing with an extremely ignorant choice of text clearly designed to impress rather than inform. Someone should let the writer know that the clearest text is the most influential and communicative.
I did enjoy the book overall and it provided a lot of unknown (to me) information about the dangers of mythology.
What I didn't enjoy was:
1. This writer takes such laughable points of religious folklore and trashes them in extremely long winded chapters as if a thinking man would consider these points debatable in the first place. It's as if the author is struggling with the issues believability himself and we are suffering alongside him.
2. He claims to be weighing the benefits of religion to the tyranny of it. Yet Hitchens provides no statistically or argumentative data on the billions of ignorant, lonely, lost, weak, or dejected human beings comforted in a time of need through worship in an idolized external protector.
I did like the book and shared my copy and bought another for a friend; just felt it could have been much better if this author removed about 80 percent of the mirrors from his Ney York Co-Op before writing it.
San Juan, PR
- Religion is Evil
After 36 years a Christian and clergyman's son, back in 2006 I decided that I owed it to myself to see if there actually was a God and if all of what I was brought up to believe about religion was true.
As of this review, I still have not found any convincing evidence that all powerful and all-knowing diety(ies) or supernatural realms exist and, summarily, became an atheist.
Christopher Hitchens' book "God is Not Great" is a personal exploration of religion and religious belief. He speaks as a man who has belonged to a variety of religions and delves into them, their belief systems, holy books and his experiences.
After reading this, you can understand why it has made The New York Times best seller list 2 weeks in a row once it was released in paperback format. I think Hitchens' book is better than Sam Harris's "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation". Where Harris writes about religion and faith from an academic perspective, Hitchens writes from academic and personal experience which, in my mind, carries more weight.
I was impressed with the manner in which Hitchens makes his case pointing to his personal experiences in a variety of different faiths while using them to demonstrate the fraud that religions and many of their saints and prophets (like Mother Theresa and Muhammad) are.
You can empathize with the venomous hatred Hitchens has for religion when his good friend Salman Rushdie was cited for execution by Ayatollah Khomeini after publishing his book The Satanic Verses and how the heads of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths sided with Khomeini rather than condemn the Islamic mullah's fatwa of death.
His critique of the Bible and Koran are top notch and he leaves no stone unturned with his bludgeoning of religion. Even eastern religions are not spared in which he was once a practitioner of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's cult.
I think Hitchens correctly points out that the death of civilization is not due to the lack of morality or secularism but the doctrines of self-sacrifice (i.e. altruism) religions constantly teach and transmit to thier followers which make them no better or different than the communists, Nazis or fascists who preached the sacrifice of the individual to the collective will.
As opposed to collectivist philosophies who wish to sacrifice mankind to the collective will or state; religionists guiltify mankind to sacrifice all or a part of his life to their deity in order to attain salvation.
What Hitchens is calling for is a new ethics among people. Respecting one another's right to believe in whatever they want as long as they do not force their beliefs on others while leaving free inquiry and science to itself.
I heartily agree.
Ultimately, I believe people should be free to believe in whatever they want, but when the religious try to force their view of life on others that is wrong.
At the same time, the faithful cannot expect their beliefs not to be subject to challenge and scrutiny by those, like myself, who do not subscribe to them.
It is fundamentally na?ve to think that those who believe in a god or believe in the supernatural can have their cake and eat it too.
However, to paraphrase the sentiments expressed by Richard Dawkins, READ CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS AND WAKE UP!...more info
- Adept Opinion, Inept Philosophy
Full disclosure: I am a Christian. I had an atheist friend recommend this read to me, promising that it would shake up my thinking. Excited at the prospect of having my worldview challenged, I borrowed his copy and started in. I was thoroughly disappointed.
The problem is that Hitchens is great at lobbing opinion bombs at his targets from a distance, but he either knows nothing about the religions he attacks beyond the most superficial of details, or he purposefully misrepresents them. Either way, this is somewhat embarrassing for those of us who know better.
Essentially, Hitchens argues from two main angles: 1) Some religiously held beliefs are false, therefore ALL religions are false, and 2) Religious people do bad things, therefore ALL religion is bad. Christianity in particular seems to be the most hated thorn in his side, but just five minutes of careful reflection reveals that freshmen philosophy students know more about logic and reason than does Hitchens, for neither of his conclusions follow the premises at all.
1) I fully recognize that all descriptions of metaphysical realities (including "strong" atheism) cannot be equally right in the same way at the same time, but it does not follow that none can be accurate. Indeed, it would only take one to be right in order to discount all of the others when and where they depart from the true one. Implicit in Hitchens' writing is that he has faith that his atheism is an accurate description of reality. He seems to hold his atheism fairly religiously and thus falls victim to his own critique.
Furthermore, in the absence of proof for or against any position we might take (including "weak" atheism) requires a degree of faith. On its own, there is no reason for us to be troubled by this, but it does require a closer look at why we hold onto the faith(s) that we do, for not all faiths are created equal. Indeed some can be "proven" to be false or to persist in a dearth of supporting evidence. Mormonism fails at both points and atheism fails in the latter, but neither of these apply to Christianity or Judaism. When Christianity's detractors offer that the lack of a worldwide flood or the presence of a very ancient earth disprove the Bible, they should consider that there are alternative interpretive options to the ones they have selected (placed faith in). For even if we possessed a "perfect" Bible, it does not follow that any of us would understand it perfectly. But to come full-circle, I affirm that many religiously held faith positions are false, and this simply does not mean that all of them are false. As far as I could tell, Hitchens completely missed (or ignored) this logical error in formulating his opinion, especially as it applies to his own beliefs.
2) I understand the temptation to judge a person's beliefs by their actions, but once again this is a logical misstep. It's like saying that if a person tells a lie, then everything they say is false. Actually, Hitchens does worse than that. The logical content of his argument is akin to saying that since 2 + 2 does not equal 5, mathematics poisons everything. Even exceptionally polite readers should be left scratching their heads at the arguments employed by Hitchens here. That Christians sometimes do evil does not mean that what they believe is false. In fact, the Bible clearly and repeatedly says that all of humanity is in a pretty sad state of affairs, Christians included, which is why Jesus is so important. This belies Hitchens' ignorance of a core Christian tenet and undermines his position against that faith.
To Hitchens' credit however, if we bring other faith systems back into his critique, his point has some potency. For example, given all the hatred and violence Islam has engendered against the world, Hitchens' argument holds up rather well, for it is ingrained in the text of Islam to put non-believers to the sword, and Muslims get it right when they do so. One might counter that Christians have also committed unspeakable crimes against humanity (and the rest of creation), particularly in the Crusades, Inquisitions etc., and I do not deny this. On the surface, this would seem to be a good point. But here is the essential difference: Jesus taught love of one's enemies, and when Christians do evil, they get this wrong and simply are not following Jesus. Once again, Hitchens' missed this essential difference, and his credibility suffers for it.
Be that as it may, "God is Not Great" can serve to make discerning Christians better Jesus-followers. For as illogical as it is to judge God by the antithetical actions of those who claim to follow him, Hitchens' works should remind Christians that the world is watching, loving it when we screw up, and as such, we would do well to take Christ's commands to love him by loving others a bit more seriously. Aside from forehead-smacking amusement, that is the chief take-away I got from Hitchens' opinion piece. I was pleasantly surprised that it had little else to offer.
Thanks for reading me,
-C. Lambeth...more info
- Be sure to bring your thinking cap
Let me start by saying this is one of the best books I have ever read. I have an itch for all things history and philosophy, God is Not Great scratches me in all the right places. Hitchens critique of religon is insightful and thorough. His arguments are as cogent as they are provocative.
What impressed me most was his amazing depth of perspective. He successfully attacks religion from a historical, ethical, metaphysical, and scientific point of view. I feel smarter after reading it. I will warn potential readers that it is a bit dense at times but it is worth the read. ...more info
- Not Again.....
Just another book by an angry Atheist that needs to beat up those (verbally) who belive in God or have religion. I would say the same for a Believer who would write a book railing Atheists. People's religious believes are none of Hitchen's business and instead of writing books, should just read them. Everyone takes cheap shots at those, especially Christianity. I would like to see Hitchens have a conference on his book in Saudi Arabia, perhaps he would appreciate the free press (in Christian nations) that give him rights to spread his gospel of hate. ...more info
- Amusing but Shrill
The first thing to remember about Christopher Hitchens is that he is a journalist by trade, versus a scholar capable of writing a well researched paper that could withstand extensive critical peer review. Just a quick flip to the back of "God is Not Great" proves my point: there is no bibliography, and the "reference" section, all six pages of it, consists mostly of sloppy and essentially lame notes citing sources that, quite frankly, are almost counterproductive to his arguments.
So what you have here is more of an extended essay: Hitchens' view of the world vis-a-vis religion, which he apparently just had to get off his chest.
There is no doubt that Hitchens IS one heck of a writer, and he has a devastating pen. I would not want to be the target of one of his polemics. Which is what this is. Even though I agree with most of what he says, I can see that ultimately, this is just Christopher Hitchens venting a lifetime's worth of bile toward injustices he sees in the world that he is certain have been caused by religion. I don't disagree with him that in many cases, religion seems, in fact, to be guilty as charged.
What Hitchens fails to address at all however is the debate over whether it is religion that is causing all this evil, or whether bad things happen simply because Man is quite simply a very nasty creature. Believers who like to rebut the former argument by arguing "more people have died under atheist regimes like Stalin or Mao than because of religion" are actually and inadvertently supporting the latter argument. I would suggest that all this mayhem occurs simply because some people are simply no good, and when they get into positions of power they are prone to killing people by the dozens, or perhaps millions. Whether they use their religion, or their fanatic belief in Marxism, or something else as justification doesn't change the fact that their primary rationale has something to do with either greed, lust for power, or just plain nastiness.
Conversely, Hitchens does not account for any of the good that religion accomplishes in the world. And it does, in fact, accomplish much good. I cite as Exhibit A my grand-uncle, who died while I was still very young, and so I do not remember the one time I met him. But I know all about him. He was the village priest in a small farming community in Nova Scotia, and he gave of himself ceaselessly for over 50 years caring for and overseeing the needs of all the people in that community. If someone was sick, he got medical help or tended to the person himself, and used church funds to pay the medical bills if the person had nothing. If someone was hungry, he made sure they were fed. When anyone needed a hand, or support, or a friend, he was there. Would he have still been a decent, caring, charitable person if he had not become a priest? Probably. But would he have accomplished all the good that he did had he not become a man of the cloth? Probably not. So I cannot accept Hitchens argument that "religion poisons everything." It may poison a lot. But everything? No.
If we ran a balance sheet on whether religion does more harm than good, I'm not sure what the answer to that question would be. It might come out pretty even. Or not. I don't disagree that religion causes a lot of harm in the world. We might be better off without it, though eradicating it, when it seems that the need for it is literally hard-wired into most of us genetically, is almost certainly a fool's errand. Still, the kind of black and white thinking that Hitchens exhibits here is ultimately not useful. I would like to see a more balanced analysis of the pros and cons of religion. This book is not it.
In summary, if you are an unbeliever, you may find yourself agreeing with most of Hitchens' criticisms, and you may find yourself laughing out loud. But in the end, this book is too shrill, too negative, too unbalanced, and too unsympathetic to ever do anything more than preach unto the choir of agnostics and atheists, a relatively small percentage of the population. These are not the people who need to be reminded that religion run amok can become a thing of evil. This book will turn off the folks who actually need to hear the message that this book purports to bring long before it ever has a chance to penetrate their thought processes....more info
- What now?
So where do we go from here, now that the great English/American intellectual,talk show guest Christopher Hitchens has informed all of mankind that there is no God, that this internal instinct we all have may just be wish-thinking and our need to worship is probably just fear of the dark. And of dying.
Hitchens does do an impressive job of discrediting the holy men and holy books that somehow came to pass before the invention of the video camera and the printing press. The heretofor sacred scriptures are probably just cobbled together collections of folklore, myths, early philosophy and incredible superstition that seemed believable to illiterate peasants in anchient times. But modern man has easy access to all the information ever recorded in the world thru his laptop computer. Are we still to be devoted to such nonsense that was churned up when civilization was in its infancy?
Where I tend to disagree with Hitchens is that even without religion, man will still behave ethically. No he won't. If there is no God, no heaven or hell fire, no certain punishment or eternal reward to choose from, then the riff raft of this world runs amok and society is ungovernable.
The problem is not religion. The problem is the sinister manipulators who inevitably come along to mobilize the gullible, the uneducated, the poor and to use them for political and military gain.
Also, much of this book is wordy and scholarly and whoever did his fact-checking, God bless him....more info
- Reason and Free-Thought Can Prevail Over Dictums
I found "God Is Not Great" to be scholarly and informative about the way religions have been constructed, and in general I had to push myself through the first three or four chapters to capture the meat of Hitchens' message.
Why? Because one can only hear the obvious that "religions poison" so many times before the message is over-sold. The descriptions about C.S. Lewis' writings, the formation of religions that I call "tribes" in my book, are interesting.
There is something impressively missing in Hitchens' book and in Dawkins as well: Why do people cling to tribes?; Are there ethical tribes that return real value to the individual?; By what measures or metrics can these be evaluated?; and, What if "the metaphysical" is really a seamless extension of "the physical", wherein "the metaphysical" is only the branch of science not explored?
Atheists who are committed to a "belief" that all of the self ends at death, and believers in deities or saviors, have something in common: Their "beliefs" limit their freedom of mind to explore with reason and experience with epistemology.
Locking out any possibility but "termination-of-being" at death is a blind belief - essentially a "religious-like" limitation.
Humanists, for example, who embrace the philosophy of open minds, the freedom to consider all possibilities guided through reason, to explore and make actionable and ethical decisions in one's volitional self-interest, will find support in a new book: Atheists Can Get To "Heaven": Perspectives From The Journey Beyond The Tunnel of Light.
The book may be the first to describe the continuum between the physical and the post-physical, perhaps the first major new concept about the meaning of human life and evolution since Darwin. "A second Copernican Revolution", said one Editor.
The book describes an extraordinary journey that reveals revolutionary discoveries transcending across the physical into the metaphysical. By replacing mythology and faith with reason, the book deeply opens the meaning and vision of enlightened spirituality for humanity based in reason, as a sequence of evolution. This compelling story connects you to a timeless philosophy, revealing a thought-provoking and perhaps controversial new version of humanity's evolving future. The book vividly transports you beyond "the tunnel of light" during a clinical death experience to explore the vastness of our evolutionary future, describing the true nature of "heaven."
Featuring astute perspectives gained from this journey, readers are encouraged to open their mind to possibilities that may transcend current beliefs by gathering answers and meaning supported with observations that can be applied to every day life. This book is a powerful source of hope and inspiration to evolve personal growth with reason and volition, to impressive awareness and attainment.
For a comprehensive description please visit:
then click on the link to Amazon and read the posted "reviews".
- The book is great, but..
..how about actually reading the book BEFORE writing the review. It's just like religious "science": belivers don't need to research before writing. Please spare us this crap. You only make bigger fools out of yourselfs, how that is even possible....more info
- Book Is Not Good
I wanted to like this book, but it's boring, boring, boring. Mr. Hitchens' arguments about God are not persuasive, although they do make him come across as a major jerk. If anything could make me return to religion, it would be this book....more info
- One of my new favorites
I read a lot of athiest non-fiction. From Dawkins to Harris, at the least, I have skimmed through the book or in the case of Dawkins and Hitchens read it from front to back, enjoying every page. There's some overlap of course, it's not hard to make a case that 1)there is no god, 2) therefore the bible is a fairytale, 3)all religion is myth, etc.
But this book has something new to say and from the viewpoint of a concerned observer, read it for the information on Mother Teresa alone. Wowza, I really had no idea about her!
- Disappointing, but not unexpected.
I am an Atheist in the very simple formulation that I have no belief. I simply do not believe, in anything. I was looking forward to reading Hitchens new book with some anticipation. A man of no small debator and written skills, he has a wonderfully devious mind especially in regards to literature and its various criticisms and defenses. However, I found that "god is not GREAT" to simply be a rehash of ideas with absolutely nothing new put forth on in the debate. As a wordsmith Hitchins excells, but when nothing new is offered I yawn. Better to read Eller's "Natural Atheism" which at least puts forth a handful of unique ideas that cage belief and religion in terms of pure logic and reason into ever diminishingly small irrational actions and ideas (at least once you get past the first few chapters). I cannot give this a single star because there are passages, paragraphs, and sentences of incredible intelligence and humor, but they do not negate the tedium of simply another 'atheistic rant' that does nothing to further the argument. ...more info
- Anger and Mistakes
I read this book hoping for some new evidence, reason, logic and science. But instead I quickly found two mistakes: one is Abraham (of the Bible fame, not our president) is alleged to threaten suicide (it was murder, actually, of his son), and the comment 'rebuilding of the 2nd Temple' Actually it is the rebuilding of the 1st temple (the 2nd temple was considered a disappointment compared to King Solomon's original temple). According to the author Jesus was a false Messiah and possibly wasn't born. Hmmm. A little common sense here; if you feel Jesus was never born, why make the case that he was a false Messiah?
Short of wondering if the author was pummeled in his youth by some wayward nuns, I am bewildered by the level of anger here toward God. Whoops - forgot, God doesn't exist, does he. Why then is the author shaking his fist at - well - nothing? You can almost imagine those pesky wayward nuns somewhere - shaking their collective heads and murmuring, 'Hey, isn't that the kid we pummeled years ago..." Stay tuned - there may be a new movie coming for the Christmas season: Nuns Gone Wild. ...more info
- hitchens is not Great
Assume that the worst book does not exist. Now imagine in your mind what the worst book would be if it existed. Clearly if that book exists in reality, it is worse than the worst book in your mind. But you were imagining the worst book, and we just found a book that is worse than the worst book. This is a contradiction, so the worst book exists, and it is christopher hitchens "god is not great." This was like reading someone's Live Journal. hitchens goes on and on, telling all these anecdotal stories about Thomas Paine and all areas of irrelevant material. Not once did this book require thought to counter any of the tired objections to religion. Page after page, hitchens builds up straw men, bringing out the worst characters in religion and basing entire faiths on these few lousy individuals. hitchens even fails to get basic facts about different faiths correct. It really was pathetic. I began to feel very sorry for him. He is so far out there and understands very little. Finally, hitchens references hardly any of his claims. A few sporadic ones here and there, but the reader cannot verify the bulk of his claims. This is so far removed from being a scholarly work. I am sure I could write a better book on atheism than this....more info
- Hitchens Is Thought Provoking
The following is a review of the Christopher Hitchens book "God is not Great." The setting for the writing of the review is beautiful Door County. The weather turned out to be in the 70's and 80's all week. Each morning I would rise and write a little bit while listening to my Mp3 player and drinking caramel flavored coffee. The first morning I rose at about 7am, stepped out onto the porch and spotted a doe. She was feeding on a plant near the path at the foot of the large deck. A pristine morning was made better by glancing at this miracle of nature and symbol of peace. I stared at her and she at me for at least three or four minutes. After a while she capriciously sauntered on into the woods. I felt that the deer was a symbol for my careful but natural movement through life, being cautious not to hurt any living thing. As I write this review, I hope I am going to be as careful and sensitive as possible to different points of view. As my sister said at age 6, "Everybody is different. I know it and you should know it too." Well said Sarah. I will never forget your pearls of wisdom. :)
Well, on to the subject at hand. The book I have chosen to read while on vacation at Door County is "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." Author Christopher Hitchens seems to revel on controversy and argument. Like a good lawyer he is constantly he is building a better argument for his case.
At the book's beginning, he talks about a teacher he had when he was nine years old who made a poignant impression on him. At that impressionable age, he was imbued with a sense of the sacredness of nature thanks to someone named Mrs. Jean Watts. Hitchens eloquently talks about his disturbing "ah-hah" experience when he realizes Mrs. Watts is teaching about the details of nature but is simultaneously delivering a message of magical thinking---that God created the mountains, the streams the lakes and all of the wonderful creatures. She asks Hitchens about such things as the infinite color variation of the wild flowers and asks how there could not be a God making all of this just for us. Hitchens says he was tempted by ignorance and didn't take the bait. "If Satan chose her to tempt me into error he was much more inventive than the subtle serpent in the Garden of Eden. She never raised her voice or offered violence---which couldn't be said for all of my teachers. " Wow.
In somewhat a related fashion, Hitchens takes some pride in unveiling the late Mother Theresa's humanness. He has written a book about Theresa, who had a private side that was much more flawed and less confident than her public persona. As he saw this poignant cognitive dissonance in his earlier teacher he noticed imperfections after studying the late religious figure. He exposes how Mother Theresa struggled with her faith until her last days. Hitchens with his rapid-fire, William F. Buckley type intellectualism is able to put things in perspective, accepting the vast imperfections even of one who is thought to be God like by some many millions of followers worldwide. This experience of psychologically ingesting Mrs. Watts' ideas on faith led to an epiphany of sorts---confirming to his young strong intellect that he would see many more apparent contradictions that he (and only he) would be able to sort out. Having a strong intellect also carries with it the strong responsibility. With his great propensity towards and aptitude towards logic and learning I believe he knew had the power to sway opinion at an early age.
At this tender age of nine he would continue to critique the Bible. "Why did I have to continue to say in public that I was a miserable sinner?" At 13, he would read Sigmund Freud's "Future of an Illusion," which would give him another totally new intellectual paradigm for assimilating postulates of human good and evil. The Id made more logical sense than some outdated black magic being imposed by non-logical thinkers.
Here are Hitchens' objections to faith in a nutshell:
1. It wholly misrepresents the origins of man and of the cosmos.
2. It combines the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism.
3. It is the result and cause of dangerous sexual repression.
4. It is grounded on wish-thinking.
These are hard to argue with.
Hitchens says atheism is less a doctrine and more of a distrust of anything that contradicts science or enrages reason. Wow. The atheist intellectual continues with his insights:
"We are not immune to the love of wonder and mystery and awe; we have music and art and literature, and find serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and Elliot than in mythical morality tales of the holy books."
As I was reading the book I started thinking about Carl Rogers' term called congruence. It seems to me that the religious crowd may have more problems overcoming contradictions in expression and being honest and direct. Inherent in the scientific method(as Sam Harris aptly puts it) is honest reflection of hypotheses and must have the ability to humbly admit right and wrong. Such humility is scarcely seen in religious circles where minds are already made up. All the answers are known. I saw some of this in Promisekeepers and it made me feel uncomfortable. There is a certain non-intellectual drama inherent in religious ritual it seems that is empty of any objectively meaningful content.
Mighty religious scholars like Aquinas and Augustine "may have written about many evil things and many foolish things, and may have been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the globe in the solar system, let alone the universe."
So what Hitchens seems to be saying(in his William F. Buckley manner) is that we have been fast asleep like a little children at Christmastime, imbued with magical thinking. As Daniel Dennett aptly puts it, we must courageously break the spell.(Have you seen Dennett's brilliant interview with Bill Moyers. Please google it on Youtube!)
Mr. Hitchens says that people who proclaim answers from belief and tradition alone and not on reason and personal experience should not have the audacity to pretend to know all, arrogantly standing over all non-believers. He says I quote, "Such stupidity, combined with such pride, should be enough on its own to exclude belief from the debate. The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. (As Daniel Dennett says, "Playing the faith card is a disqualifying move.")
Hitchens adds that such a farwell should not be protracted. Let's say our goodbyes with a courteous smile and get on with more interesting people. Life is too short to debate with unreasoning individuals.
I cannot help but to think that I may be misrepresenting myself as a "seeker" to my Christian friends, (who by the way are patient with my apparent potential for growth as they see it.)
When Christopher's father died, he read perhaps the most awe inspiring passage from the Bible at this funeral:
"Finally brethen, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."
Richard Dawkins has proclaimed that religion holds many things we hold near and dear hostage. By this he means it's all knowing presence at weddings, funerals, baptisms, Easter, Christmas, etc. Religion is infused with all of these events with a pious intensity, like they own them and the human feelings and compassion that go with those happenings. The events have a religious context and no other, which leads to a sort of cognitive narrowing. It is simply the one-dimensional paradigm that we are all the most familiar with. To abandon religious tyranny of this kind too quickly, I fear, would be too traumatic of a change on people who are firmly rooted in tradition. How about a marriage without God in it? How about instead of "Amazing Grace" we sing "Amazing Energy of a Higher Power That Has Yet to be Scientifically Proven?" It wouldn't fly. We cling to tradition like a security blanket like to Mommy and Daddy when we were four years of age.
Perhaps my greatest fear is that even though Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett are well meaning and make very convincing points, their paradigms require a deep intellectual committment not just taking in information on faith.
My Christian friend Craig seems says he is afraid of the bottom dropping out if we learned that God isn't real. It could be mass kaos in the streets. The foundation would drop out and there would be no reason to be good. This life would be a meaningless contest devoid of any reason to do good---hence the only answer is to follow as many selfish desires as is possible during our finitely but sometimes infinitely troubled lives. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer believed the same after he converted to Christianity. (I'm in no way comparing my friend Craig with Dahmer, but trying to point out a faulty piece of thinking.) In an interview with Stone Phillips, he said that evil would flourish without this structure and goodness provided by Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind.
This may be most subtly evil idea in the world, that people would be incapable of morality if the paradigm shifts(or as Daniel Dennett calls it 'the Cosmic Shift') The reality is that we live in a world which is changing quickly and if we fail to adapt---we will not survive. This is perhaps Sam Harris's greatest trepidation as well, that he has professed on many occasions. What responsiblity do athiests have once they reasoned believers half way out so they cannot find themselves back in? They are left in the void to search for a messiah they will never be able to reach??
As I read on, I noticing a confrontational mode that Hitchen's ego seems to thrive on---a politically confident tone that could border on unnecessary arrogance. My brother Will saw CH speak in Madison and said he lost respect for him when he got entangled in an argument with anti-war protesters. Will said he felt sorry for the audience because they got shortchanged out of what they came to see, a debate on religion. One of my reasons for reading the book is the investigate this apparent arrogance and to see how it may get in the way of the truth Hitchens wants us to know. How much of his ego is just plain getting in the way??
Hitchens is empathetic to author Salmon Rushdie when he asks why such a "lonely and peaceful individual" would be hunted down by extremist groups. He blames the fanatical mindset for this. True genius is attacked by those who do not understand. That is too bad. There is a quote by Martin Sheen that my mother loved and I believe applies directly to me an my life and Rushie's life,
I do it because I can't seem to live with myself if I do not. I don't know any other way to be. It isn't something you can explain; it is just something that you do; it is something that you are.
I believe that we need to gain the courage to live our own lives as bravely as possible, not afraid of giving our true loving selves to others.
It is up to those with free thinking propensities to shed light on black and white thinking, for example the different between the all or nothing mindsets of pro lifers versus the pro choice thinkers who are able to see the subtle grays. BIG DIFFERENCE!! The black and white thinking of religion says "You believe or else you will experience hell fires for eternity." That is a fairly arrogant claim, don't you think??
Hitchens also offers his thoughts on 9-11. He talks about the rediculous claims of Robertson and Falwell that infer that the terrorist attacks were the result of our moral weaknesses of permitting too much homosexuality and abortion---ant that as then AG John Ashcroft said that America had "no king but Jesus." That is scary. George Bush consults religious leaders before making decisions that could alter the future of the free world. Faith thinking is not the same as thinking based on reason.
CH's book is full of shocking facts about how supposedly learned men are still hanging on to superstition because it gives them more spiritual comfort than science. Timothy Dwight president of Yale University(one of the most respected adults in the country) was opposed forto the smallpox vaccination because he regarded it as an interference with God's design. What about a former first lady who believes in astrology??
Hitchens hits hard again....
"In the city of Jerusalem, there is a special word in the mental hospital for those who represent a special danger to themselves and others. These deluded patients are often sufferers from the "Jerusalem Syndrome." Police and security officers are trained to recognize them through their mania. Their mania is sometimes concealed behind a mask of deceptively beautific calm. They have came to the holy city in order to convince themselves as Messiah and to proclaim the end of days."
Religion is not rational.
"The holy book is the largest continuous use, the Talmud, commands the observant one to thank his maker every day that he is not woman." Hitchens goes on to say, "Throughout all religious texts there is a primitive fear that half the human race is simultaneously defiled and unclean, and yet is a a temptation to sin that is impossible to resist."
Why does religion carry with it the fatalistic belief in armagedeon? In this age of nuclear weapons why resign oneself to destruction just because the Bible says it's so? There will fire on the planet, then Jesus will come? Don't bet on it. I think we are responsible for our own survival. Hitchens talks about the death wish which "may be secretly present in all of us." He continues...."When the earthquake hits, or the tsunami inundates or the twin towers ignite, you can see and hear the secret satisfaction of the faithful. Gleefully they strike up, " You see---this is what happens when you don't listen to us. With an unctious smile they offer redemption that is not theirs to bestow and when questioned, put on the menacing scowl that says, 'Oh, so you reject our offer of paradise? Well, in that case, we have quite another fate in store for you.' Such love, such care."...more info
- Informative and persuasive
Hitchens is an extremely sharp, erudite, and well-qualified author on the subject of religion. Having had several encounters with different faiths in his life, he is a journalist who has witnessed first-hand the effects of religious belief around the world. He also has intimate knowledge of religious traditions through history, as well as of important thinkers. In this book he chronicles how throughout human history, religion has been the bringer of more suffering, fear, and misery than any other force. What's sad is that most of what he says is obvious, yet most everyone is afraid to admit it. At one point Hitchens gets a bit carried away, arguing that Stalin's regime showed many characteristics of a monotheistic religion. That may be true, but there's a logical fallacy at work: just because religious institutions tend to be totalitarian in nature, and Stalinism was totalitarian, doesn't make Stalinism a religion. It's important to realize that it's religious institutions that are responsible for the considerable damage catalogued in the book. The faithful don't tend to be any more or less moral than the nonfaithful, but the power of religion as a means of dominance and control gives them a whole lot of leverage....more info
- The War on Religion - A never ending conflict
it comes to no surprise that these anti-religious loons are trying to convert as many people to atheism and humanism when events like 9/11 were sparked by religious fundamentalism. It is fundamentalism that is the problem, not religion itself. However, these people who have limited understanding of God seek to do damage which is not supposed to be the role of individuals but rather a collective of people who seek to prove that they are right and everyone else who is not like them is wrong. These secular fundamentalists are no different nor any better than their religious counterpart, I find it interesting how much they have in common yet they hate each other.
This war on religion should be more so focused upon the war against fundamentalism, not religion, nor God. These inspired texts have caused much conflict, no one can deny it, but they have also cause people to reach potentials never before reached. Could it be that fundamentalism is the problem being that fundamentalism is what has caused religion to be used for war and personal gain? These critics of religion should be willing to help their religious heretical counterparts in breaking down dogmatic fundamentalism. Instead they dont, they attack all of religiosity as if it was the full problem. These books and others like them are based on ignorance....more info
- This book is not about God
Whatever this book is about, it's not about God. It's about the author, first and foremost, which is perhaps a very exciting subject for the author himself, but not necessarily for his intended audience. It is also about the religion, primarily about the organized religion. I would suggest that an appropriate title for this book should be either 'Christopher Hitchens Is Great' or 'Organized Religion Is Not Great'.
Boring, inconsequential and meaningless is all I can say about this book....more info
- Technical Critique- Audiobook is unintelligible
This review addresses the quality of the audiobook and does not address the content itself.
The engineer on this album failed or simply forgot to compress and/or normalize the audio. The narrator has a habit of "punching" the first words of the sentence and then trailing off to almost a whisper.
If you drive a very quiet car or have a killer sound system, this may not be an issue. For the Toyota drivers of the world, it's a nightmare. If you crank up the volume you get an ear-splitting start of a sentence and then a "what did he just say?" end to the sentence.
In short, do not buy the audiobook version unless you're listening in a sound-proof studio in a hollowed-out volcano using professional earphones. It's maddening....more info
- RELIGION: IGNORANCE IN A NUTSHELL
There are those among us who are blessed with already knowing all there is to know. Their curiosity does not extend beyond the Bible (Torah, Koran). There are others who are curious about everything and feel free to roam and explore and learn. We will never know everything, but the pure joy of discovery is what being human is all about. Read this book; read others. Dig into the earth and stare at the stars and taste the delicious fruit of knowledge. Keep evolving. The Great Apes are catching up, and their gods are bigger than ours. ...more info
- Atheism from a political eye
I love science. Learning about how things work and why things are the way they are is one of my favorite things to do. Therefore, I read Dawkins, Darwin and various other zoological and biological literature. However Atheism is something I feel very strongly about and as I'm sure most people are aware, it goes hand in hand with science. This book is different.
In most of my favorite atheistic literature from Dawkins, there is a certain degree of "reading over" to do every now and then. You know when you read through a paragraph and you have to stop and think "wait a minute.. what?" and read it again? That's typical with science literature because it is SO full of information its almost like taking a bite of overly rich cheesecake, its just too much for one mouthful and you need to take smaller bites.
My point to that long over-analytical analogy is that, this book is NOT like that. Because Christopher Hitchens is a JOURNALIST he approaches the atheism from a different angle. The angle is still of course to try to convince the world that the world would be a better place without religion, but he does it in a different way than Dawkins. Dawkins is a zoologist and biologist, therefore his dialogue is very technical, analytical and DEEP. Hitchens knows words and he knows how to use them. Hitchens writes, referencing current events, facts of politics and history of events revolving around the horrors of religion, what it does, and what it HAS done in the past.
My main point that I have been trying to make is that this book is very easy to read, you never trip up on his words, it flows with ease through your mind.
Buy this book, read it, then pair it up with The God Delusion from Richard Dawkins.
- god is not Great. By Christopher Hitchens
Great Book! Christopher is very knowledgeable on many, if not all, of the major religions. Book has been entertaining as well as educational. Can't wait for his Movie!...more info
Is religion sacred? Should we treat it with special respect and veneration? Christopher Hitchens thinks not and he lets everyone know in the title of his book!
Hitchens is a fantastic polemicist and you can leave a chapter sweating as if he roughed up a suspect in an interview. Nothing is sacred, not even Mother Teresa and the Roman Catholic Church which he attacks with particular venom. If you are a believer you are likely to see red, and if you are a nonbeliever, you are likely to either enjoy the ride or feel a bit embarrassed at the over-the-top nature.
Hitchens, as a journalist, has seen the world - in particular those scarred by the wars of religion, and he leaves no doubt in the mind of those who read this book that he feels that religion is an evil in this world that we tolerate at our own peril. He doesn't even entertain the notion that there is a valid "Eastern" solution either.
Perhaps in a moment of weakness he performs some atheist apologetics and blames Stalin on the orthodox church and sees North Korea as the perfect theocracy (despite being an atheistic state)
It's a fun book to read so long as you don't treat it too seriously. Hitchens does have some moments of brilliance amongst the whiskey soaked vitriol which drips from each page....more info
- Ten pages short of too long/boring to be worth reading
God is Not Great may contain quite a bit of shabby history, but at least it outlines a great deal of sham philosophy. About 10% of it is interesting and wittily put, if not original. In this book Hitchens, a pro-war British aristocrat, has decided that his rather obtuse interpretations of religious traditions are the only ones tenable, and then proceeds to attack outlandish religious assertions that religious people aren't really even asserting for the most part. God is Not Great is an important book for believers/seekers to read because it's a good way to become familiar with the anti-faith vitriol in contemporary pop culture. Atheists, skip Hitchens and graduate yourselves to Heidegger or Camus if you want an actual, worthwhile bit of atheistic literature....more info
- Debunking the arguments supporting religion
Hitchens pulls no punches in countering the purported "facts" supporting a deity. He is pursuasive. But he might have more readily acknowledged the comforts religion provides many beievers.
Most convincing is his shattering of the contention that religious folks are more ethical than non-believers. Worth reading....more info
- Provacative Read, don't miss
I picked up this book on a lark and am I glad I did. I could not put it down. He wonderfully and scholarly attacks all religion. He has not made me an athiest, but he has made me wiser. Other reviewers have analyzed this book, I say read it. ...more info
- Hitchens says what has been in my head
I have the audio version read by the author. I have to admit I am not quite finished with the book and the only knock I have so far is that Mr. hitchens tends to mumble the end of his sentences and it takes a while to get the knack of understanding what he says - especially listening in a noisy car! I have had a smile on my face since I started listening, not only is he very witty, but he says (in much more eloquent prose) what i have been thinking for most of my life. I think he presents a damning case against organized religion and especially the fanatic fringes of all religions. I used to be a Catholic, but have been an Agnostic and now an Atheist for years. That being said, even if I beleived in Gods and were part of a religion, I would be sickened by the numerous examples presented by the author of barbaric, criminal and wrong-headed acts carried out in the name of Gods. Many of these same acts have upset me for most of my life and I am releived to find someone who shares my disgust at them. I have no problem with people believing in Gods or anything else, and many are good people who try to do good, but Hitchens is dead right about the evil that believers and their religious institutions have brought to this world and that, on the whole, it's been more bad than good. There was a time when religion attempted to explain the world and put forth theories about what it all meant and even changed their thinking- unfortunatly, they froze all thinking and turned it into dogma thousands of years ago and since have been trying to surpress science and knowledge. Time for us to grow up....more info
- A seminol work
This book is one of the most important books written in the 21st century. When historians look back and wonder how such an advanced civilization could still be beholden to barbaric ancient myths written by misogynistic sheep herders, they will see that there was indeed a small, yet, presciently aware segment of our society that was fighting the good fight of reason, science, and true human compassion, not bound by selfishness, but guided and inspired through selflessness....more info
- Factual, but strident and depressing.
I actually read the book. I'm not religious. Now that we've gotten those points out of the way...
I only gave the book 3 stars because it's too strident. (I did pass it on to an atheist friend and she loved it) Dawkens is more forceful, but not as shrill. I also found the book depressing. This isn't Hitchens' fault-- hard to be upbeat about centuries of hatred and senseless slaughter. At least Richard Rorty ("Philosophy and Social Hope) was upbeat about the future.
As for the formal logic mavens trying to poke holes in the book... maybe there are violations of rules of argument, etc., but the horrors of religion cited are facts.
As for the religionist reviewers (most of whom probably haven't read the book), their opinions would be fine if they were a private matter, but as the book shows, when religious "morality" goes public, the results are deadly.
Morality: Doing what's right no matter what anybody tells you.
Religious Morality: Doing great wrongs because somebody tells you to.