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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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5,593140769 (3.87)145
Title:God is not Great
Authors:Christopher Hitchens
Info:Hachette Book Group USA (2008), Edition: International Edition, Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Reviewed, Already Read, Your library

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


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Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Of all the books availalbe to read on this planet, this one probably would raise the eyebrows highest for the people who know me - if not for the content, then at least for the title.

However, I had to read this book for two reasons:

1) I have to read everything. The deal I made with myself is that if there is a controversial book whose content might effect my philosophical underpinnings adversely, I must also read the best available converse book for balance. I therefore read David Wolpe's "Why Faith Matters" at the same pace and actually finished both books on the same day.

2) I love Hitchens' writing in general. There is simply no one on earth with a better command of the English language than he. And if you can find me one who does (and I challenge you to do so), then at the very least, there is simply no one on earth who combines amazing literary intelligence with masterful insolent wit.

I absorbed all the information and enjoyed running to a dictionary every few seconds (his word choice is so expert, he should give lessons to those who try big words and contextually fail with them). I disagreed vehemently with two points and agreed vehemently with another.

Disagreement # 1: I was quite surprised at his lack of proper research into the finer details of Orthodox Judaism. If you're going to rail against it, know it. He himself says in the closing sentence that to fight one's enemy, you must first understand it. Ergo, he cannot fight Judaism without a better understanding of it.

Disagreement # 2: He addressed the classic argument that atheists are too responsible for scads of historical mass murder. His response is that the regimes responsible were religious in their construction. This argument is invalid, especially in the face of a much simpler argument he can easily counter with: would you assume that if these atheist murderers introduced G-d into the equation of their lives, they would have ceased their activity or increased it?

Agreement: He says with clarity that one needs not to be a moral person to achieve a great moral accomplishment. Often religions cry against this, citing purity of heart as responsible for purity of achievement. Both Hitchens and I believe this to be nonsense. Great, great, moral advances and lofty accomplishments have been achieved by people who hey, like to sleep with scores of women. So what?

Now if you'd like to rebuke me for reading this book, shove it up your poopchute. If you'd like to discuss it with me as a gentleman, please feel free to e-mail me. Let's talk.
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I'm reviewing this book as an evangelical Christian. I have long wanted to read a Hitchens book after enjoying many of his witty book reviews in The Atlantic and seeing the respect other evangelicals had for Hitchens after engaging him personally. As he wrote in his book, he spent much of his time among Christian or religious friends. He is a character.

Epistomological humility is the main lesson I gleaned from this book. Most of my Christian friends (myself included) are very confident in their theological positions and all of them, whether they admit it or not, look slightly down their nose at other positions as "errant" and therefore inferior. But this is arrogance. To think that of all the billions of people who have existed on earth, I was not only chosen by God and ended up in the one True religion, but have also ended up in precisely the right branch of Christianity. Not only that, but my specific school of thought within that branch contains the most right interpretation of Scripture written in other languages and cultures that existed thousands of years ago. That my team is the "most right" that ever existed. What are the odds of this? Incalculable. Yet, that's what most of us believe. So, maybe we should all be more humble. I would do better to admit as Baptist theologian/pastor Rodney Reeves does that I'm Baptist just because I was raised Baptist.

I enjoyed Hitchens' critique of the various religions. Very few have the breadth of knowledge and experience of travel, marriage, working, and friendships in so many religions and culture. Hitchens is like the anti-C.S. Lewis, well-steeped in world literature and philosophy but coming down on the opposite side of Lewis' "Lord, liar, or lunatic" proposition-- which Hitchens praises Lewis for.

A couple of weaknesses I found in Hitchens' arguments:

Hitchens repeatedly lauds the moral position and behavior of himself and other atheists/humanists. He repeatedly criticizes religions for promoting "evil" deeds such as murder, genocide, slavery, etc. This requires that morality exists and can be defined--that all is not relative. But Christianity justifies its moral code on the basic idea that man was created in God's image. This is the reason given in Genesis for murder being criminal. Without God, and an absolute truth, what basis does Hitchens or other atheists give for criticizing the behavior of others? Acknowledging and defining "evil" is a real philosophical problem for atheists, and Hitchens avoids that weakness completely.

Hitchens gives a good summary of arguments against Michael Behe's theory of irreducible complexity. He gives new scientific evidence and theory explaining the evolution of the eye, for example. He points out that we have plenty of useless body parts, and asks why an intelligent designer would design an eye that would require that images taken in be flipped before processed by the brain. That the body is a fairly inefficient system that if we could start from scratch and design ourselves we could make more efficient. My critique:
How did the first organism know that there was light to see and "data" to be received from it? Where did the light come from, and the data embedded in it? How did it know that the "data" could be decoded and made useful via something called "nerves"? He does critique the "have you ever seen a car without a maker?" argument and other more simple ones that Christians frequently use. But he does not explain a first cause. Stephen Hawking, in his essays published in Black Holes and Baby Universes, states that the universe's origins are explained by either a Grand Unifying Theory of physics, or a creator God. Hawking is betting on the GUT. Hitchens does not acknowledge that tradeoff, even though he quotes Hawking.

Hitchens does not believe in a literal resurrection because he is uncertain that a Jesus ever existed. He doesn't address the radically changed behavior of Jesus' followers after the resurrection event, or their peculiar martyrdoms. Many biblical critics, including those in the Jesus Seminar, acknowledge that "something happened" around the time of Jesus' supposed resurrection that is hard to explain with any physical or scientific explanations. Hitchens does not address those concerns, seemingly lumping in Christian martyrdom as the same as those seen in Islam, Mormonism, or other religions.

I enjoyed Hitchens' critiques of Mormonism and Islam, showing them as essentially the flip sides of the same coin (which I have often argued). He does a great job showing the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the Catholic Church when it comes to moral posturing.He points out an awful lot in the history of all the religions that adherents would rather forget.

In an interview I saw with Hitchens late in his life (I believe it was on 60 Minutes) he stated that he did not deny the chance that a God may be out there, he was just supremely confident that none of the religions and explanations for him here on earth were correct. It's important to keep that statement in mind while reading this book.

If you want a more complete rebuttal to Hitchens et al, I would recommend William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith, which at one time included a 13-cassette audio series that I listened to in college and gleaned quite a bit from.

I recommend Hitchens book for though-provoking discussion and even entertainment value. I would argue that every Christian should read this book and be ready to give a response to it. I give it 4 stars out of 5. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
A point well argued; a bit meandering at times. ( )
  heradas | May 31, 2015 |
Well, I am sure that Mr. Hitchens is equally as controversial as Dawkins, so we shall see how quickly this review is swooped upon. (I did one on The God Delusion and had a near immediate rambling assault on Amazon.)

My biggest issue with the book is Hitchens’ reading it. I have heard him in debates and found him drolly entertaining. However, in the reading of the book, his voice fluctuates both in volume as well as in clarity. I was often forced to try and fill in the blanks of sentences lowered to a jumbled mumble. I am not sure who was at the control board during the recording, but they should have been whacking him with a pointer each time he started to slump over and talk into his shoulder.

That said, as always, I find Hitchens to be intelligent and insightful. He does cover much of the same ground that Dawkins did in The God Delusion (or vice versa, not sure whose came out first) I am also not sure the reasoning of his commentaries about disagreeing with Dawkins on the subject.

Mumblings aside, I found this book to be excellent in its airing of the histories and realities of some of the largest religions in the world. I learned quite a bit as well. I learned that Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church was jailed as a con artist and suspected of necrophilia. I was also surprised that Hitchens didn’t take issue with the Church’s habit of going through death records and baptizing segments of the deceased population regardless of their religious beliefs in life. He actually found that to be a brilliant answer to the dilemma of correcting past prejudices of not allowing blacks or others into the folds of a church (such as had been the views of the Church of LDS in the earlier days)

I was also surprised to learn that most of these religions “holy books” were delivered to illiterates and transcribed by others. This also included Joseph Smith, Mohammed, etc. I knew that was the case with the Koran. I did’t know so with the others. So, I find it hard to believe that the legitimacy of these “holy texts” are so unquestioned given the highly questionability of their origins.

He speaks at time with dry humor an insight. I smiled at his recounting of how he was more than willing to attend the Bar Mitzvah of a friend’s son or a Muslim religious ceremony or any of any number of religious ceremonies for friends. However, the same respect and accommodation was never returned to him. These same friends always found it necessary to try and help to save his soul.

I think one of the most shattering chapter in the book was the one on is religion child abuse. Hitchens probably showed more emotion in this section than any other as he explained why indeed, religious indoctrination was child abuse. Especially when it came to the rituals of the genital mutilation of children. (And this was the first time I had learned that original Jewish circumcision involved the Rabbi biting the foreskin and sucking it off the child’s penis then spitting it out) Holy crap! He also gave very detailed descriptions of female genital mutilation (most of which I was already familiar with). This chapter alone is enough to deprive on of more than a few good nights sleep.

I do give Hitchen’s credit in that he didn’t just go after Christianity and its religions. He proved himself quite knowledgeable on a good many religions and drug all of their dirty laundry out into the glaring light of day to be seen for what it was without the candy coating, including the Catholic Church’s support of Hitler and the Nazis, the ethnic cleansing in Rhuanda, etc.

Additionally, he backs up all of the genocides, slavery, rape, torture and other horrors with citations from all of the holy books on when god himself commanded or approved of such things, without pausing even for a breath to add in the same comment they hypocrisy of how god can set down laws in one passage only to command his people break them in the next. I have to admit, I have also had a problem with those selfsame hypocrisies. At least most of the pagan gods painted themselves in their true colors.

Hitchens does all of this from the voice of an accomplished journalist, stating the facts as the record shows them, haunting in their stark horror. Above all, he shows that not only do we not need religion to be moral creatures. In truth, we somehow, many of us, manage to be so in spite of it.

In closing, I do have to make a comment about the music I can only assume Hitchens chose for the book. Although very pretty, it just seemed very out in left field to the content of the book. Which made me smile and giggle a few times as it gave pause between the chapters. But, if you are willing to take a stark, unvarnished look at religion, its history and its priesthood, you couldn’t find a better read. Okay, Dawkins is up there as well.

March 2015 ( )
1 vote sephibitchwitch | Mar 19, 2015 |
Very important book written for those of us who have an open mind and are willing to use reason above faith. It took great courage for Hitchens to publish this, and hat's off to him. Glad to have somebody at least attempt to be straightforward and honest about a topic that has long concerned me. ( )
1 vote MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (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 editionsconfirmed
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)

» see all 8 descriptions

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