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God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens

God is not Great (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Christopher Hitchens

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6,091158675 (3.88)152
Title:God is not Great
Authors:Christopher Hitchens
Info:Hachette Book Group USA (2008), Edition: International Edition, Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Read Non-Fiction

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God Is Not Great : How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (2007)


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When this book was still new I was working at a grocery store in Vancouver. One of the guys in the produce department was reading and enjoying it. He had immigrated to Canada from Iran and had every reason to be suspicious of religion and its affects on people. He made me promise to read this book, and I said I'd get around to it. So though I don't have any occasion to see him anymore, Yadi this review is for you.

My impression of Christopher Hitchen is that he is uppity, arrogant and too self-aggrandizing for my tastes. But I also think it is easier to see the faults in people you don't readily agree with. I will cut him some slack here. He is witty and intelligent and believes strongly in his message. This is perhaps his charm. I once saw a debate between him and Alister Mcgrath (on youtube not in person. The debate was at Georgetown University). Hitchens sheer presence carried the debate, though I think McGrath's arguments were clearer and more cogent. When I was younger and fed on a diet of Christian apologetics that was really 'trite answers to tough questions' the case against religion which Hitchens presents here, would have completely decimated my faith. Now not so much, but I think this is a honest account of what he really thinks of religion and I respect him for it.

In this book Hitchens argues that religion is evil, religion is stupid and that the alleged positive examples of religiousity (i.e. Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, jr.) do not really make a case for religion as such (Mother Theresa was an ineffective charlatan and King was a plagiarizing, womanizing man who while religious, was oppressed by the religious establishment). He points out some glaring flaws in religious people and systems. Religious people do and have done some really evil things. He shows how the Christian Scriptures, Old and New Testament have some difficult scriptures (he also does some amateur source critical analysis of scripture). But he isn't focused solely on Christianity (just mostly). He also turns his ire on Islam for its promotion of violence and Mormonism for just being so moronic. In every case, he reviews the central tenants of that religion with an eye for how it is sheer lunacy. He makes a case for Evolution which eschews the need for a Creator (intelligent designer or otherwise).

In every case, he says nothing that is news. He also seems in every case to be arguing with fundamentalists but treating every religious person like they belong to the category (i.e. when handling the Old Testament, he tries to show how silly it is that Moses wrote the Torah when it says that he is the most humble man that ever lived and he dies before the end of Deuteronomy. Many Christians accept at least some use of other sources for the Pentateuch and the Bible itself never claims Mosaic authorship. He also insists on quoting the King James Translation which just says to me he is arguing with a certain element and setting up strawmen).

He makes some great points, but a lot of this book is mere conjecture.He likes to tell you how religion is stupid, and unnecessary because science has displaced religion in answering every question of import. Of course the only important questions are what Hitchens think is important.

But one thing he does commend which I agree with is skepticism. It is Hitchens belief that Skepticism is better intellectual habit because it teaches you to question and to think. He believes religious people don't do either, but mindless rush for the koolaid. Certainly I think any faith worth having stands up to skepticism and doubt and I think God is worth questioning. Certainly there were times in my Christian faith where I felt like having questions and doubts would have marked me as outside the fold, so I can appreciate a call for honest thought and questions. Where I disagree with him is in his contention that honest skepticism precludes any sort of faith.

So this was worth a read or a listen (Hitchens looks like Tim Curry but sounds like Emperor Palpatine). Hitchens is not the smartest of the 'new atheists (that would be Richard Dawkins), nor is he the best looking (Sam Harris), or the jolliest (Daniel Dennett). He is the wittiest and the one dying of cancer. So if you don't want to read his book, maybe just pray for him. As he points out in the conclusion to his book, there is no proven correlation between medical recovery and prayer. But it will still kind of piss him off that you are doing it. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
About the author: quoting from the book's dust jacket, "Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to 'Vanity Fair' and a visiting professor of liberal studies at the New School. He is the author of numerous books. . .He was named, to his own amusement, number five on a list of the 'Top 100 Public Intellectuals' by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect. For more information about Christopher Hitchens, you can visit www.twelvebooks.com." About the book: quoting from the work's dust jacket, "Hitchens tells the personal story of his own dangerous encounters with religion and describes his intellectual journey toward a secular view of life based on science and reason, in which the heavens are 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. 'God did not make us,' he writes, 'We made God'"
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  uufnn | Apr 16, 2017 |
A case against religion from an atheists point of view ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
Brilliantly argued, entertaining and often convincing. Can anyone recommend an equally excellent riposte to this book? ( )
  davidmp | Nov 25, 2016 |
I feel Christopher Hitchens' absence keenly. He was still young, in writers' years, when he passed, and when I look at his contributions to literature and to the discussion about literary and political figures, as well as his enormously important work on religion, I feel an almost physical pain. I doubt very much that I am alone in this regard. I have always valued candid, straightforward writing and yet I seem to encounter it infrequently. To me, reading Hitchens is like escaping from a stuffy, overheated room into the cool, crisp air of late autumn. He's bracing and reassuring, and he refuses to insult the reader's intelligence by ever cloaking his opinions to spare their feelings, or to avoid offending their sensibilities. There are no true polemicists working today. Political columnists advance an agenda. True polemicists, like Hitchens, advance truth.

I can see why this book could be painful to readers who have had an intense relationship to any religious tradition. While he doesn't attempt to outline an exhaustive case "against" religion--that would be a multi-volume work--Hitchens does point out why the ideas and texts that underpin major religions are unsound and, frankly, ridiculous. More darkly, they can be extremely damaging, even abusive. I found his discussion about Spinoza and the Greek philosophers exceptionally enlightening, and appreciated his defense of Einstein against those who would co-opt his statements, mangle them, and then claim them as some sort of endorsement of religion.

I found a couple things puzzling in this book. In his zeal to condemn ancient rituals that have been codified into religious law, Hitchens has special disdain for circumcision. His point is well-taken, but he says that later "justification" for the procedure in hospital settings for public and personal health reasons had been "exploded" as scientifically unsound. Being the extreme public health nerd that I am, I was confused by this uncharacteristically offhanded condemnation of the procedure in this context because current research shows the opposite to be true (again, medically, not religiously). This is, of course, an intensely personal decision, but Hitchens had great respect for fact, and as of now, circumcision is shown to dramatically reduce transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa by up to 60% (WHO: http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/en/; http://www.nature.com/news/aids-prevention-africa-s-circumcision-challenge-1.141...). Of course, that approach itself is inherently problematic and could actually lead to more transmission, but not because of the circumcision itself. Anyway, it's not like I have a dog in the "circumcision" race, and a quick scan of the literature does show that at the time Hitchens wrote the book, there was conflicting research on the efficacy of the procedure. But it was enough to make me read over the section a couple times.

The other puzzler for when he again, offhandedly, condemned Isaac Newton as a plagiarist. I can't claim to know, well, hardly anything about the issue, but when I watched Cosmos, the Neil deGrasse Tyson narrated series that aired last fall, there was a lengthy segment on Christopher Wren, Newton, and Robert Hooke. In fact, my son liked it so much, we watched that segment at least four times. Anyway, Newton is portrayed in Cosmos, anyway, as the unfair victim of plagiarism accusations sparked by Hooke. Just a curious moment for me in the book. But Hitchens is one of my favorite writers. One of the only things I'm proud of in a professional career that has stalled is that I wrote for The Nation, a publication he wrote for regularly, that we share that credit on our CVs. I love him with visceral affection that I feel for very few writers. He's honest about where he stands and he values truth. You don't realize how little of that we have in our culture until you're confronted with someone who offers both. ( )
1 vote bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
Observers of the Christopher Hitchens phenomenon have been expecting a book about religion from him around now. But this impressive and enjoyable attack on everything so many people hold dear is not the book we were expecting. . . He has written, with tremendous brio and great wit, but also with an underlying genuine anger, an all-out attack on all aspects of religion.
A positive review

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christopher Hitchensprimary authorall editionscalculated
de Vicq, Fearn CutlerDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Witte, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Oh, wearisome condition of humanity,
Born under one law, to another bound;
Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity,
Created sick, commanded to be sound.
-Fulke Greville, Mustapha
And do you think that unto such as you
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew
God gave a secret, and denied it me?
Well, well - what matters it? Believe that, too!
-The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
(Richard Le Gallienne translation)
Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in your name, and beyond the grave they will find only death. But we will keep the secret, and for their own happiness we will entice them with a heavenly and eternal reward.
-The Grand Inquisitor to his "Savior" in
The Brothers Karamazov
For Ian McEwan
In serene recollection of
La Refulgencia
First words
If the intended reader of this book should want to go beyond disagreement with its author and try to identify the sins and deformities that animated him to write it (and I have certainly noticed that those who publicly affirm charity and compassion and forgiveness are often inclined to take this course), then he or she will not just be quarreling with the unknowable and ineffable creator who - presumably - opted to make me this way.
The voice of Reason is soft. But it is very persistent.
And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anthing that contradicts science or outrages reason. ("Putting it Mildly")
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446579807, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"A case against religion and a description of the ways in which religion is man-made"--Provided by the publisher.

(summary from another edition)

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