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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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5,974155702 (3.88)151
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 149 (next | show all)
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 |
Books read in 2016, youtube book ( )
  podocyte | Jul 5, 2016 |
Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great is an eloquent advocacy of atheism. His arguments are sound and, as always, he writes engagingly. His anecdotal evidence is interesting even if, on occasion, they are all too familiar. And it is this last point that prevents this book, in my opinion, from being essential reading. The argument is all too familiar.

As an atheist, there was not much new in Hitchens' arguments that might serve as further ammunition should I find myself in a debate with a believer. The arguments are routine: the wonder of science is more remarkable than the tawdry mysticism of religion, religion itself is tribal and violent and destructive, and it has no place in humanity's future. I agree with all these points, but the fact that I have heard them all before does diminish my interest somewhat. Where Hitchens excels is in recycling these points in a more presentable manner; Hitchens is, for example, less smug/condescending/militant (insert your own favoured adjective here) than Richard Dawkins can often appear to be, and his command of rhetoric and polemic is more masterly than Dawkins' more methodical, academic approach. One can, for example, truly comprehend and relate to his anger, when reflecting on the miseries which religion has inflicted on children, that those religious figures should have been thankful that the hell they preached was only one among their wicked falsifications, and that they were not sent to rot there." (p56). He is at his best when wielding Occam's razor, paraphrasing Laplace to note how the natural world works perfectly well without the assumption of a god.

The book seems, however, to be unsure of its intended target. Religion, rather than God, is nominally in the crosshairs, given the book's subtitle of 'How religion poisons everything'. But Hitchens seems to dip in and out of various arguments with little concern for how they knit together. He will, for example, move on from one chapter on religion's attitude towards healthcare to the next on the metaphysical claims of religion, or from a chapter on whether religion makes people behave better to another dedicated to the eastern religions such as Buddhism, with few attempts to link the chapters. Consequently, though one leaves the book with broadly anti-religious feelings, the sensation is more muddled than when one finishes a more hard-hitting, comprehensive polemic such as Dawkins' The God Delusion.

Indeed, in reading the book, I could not help but repeatedly compare it to The God Delusion, which I read a few years ago and which first codified my views on atheism and religion. I do not think this is an unfair comparison as both have the same goal - an advocacy of thoughtful atheism and free-minded scepticism - but I came to the conclusion that The God Delusion was the superior book, and should be the first port of call for anyone looking to engage with such arguments. God is Not Great is a fine polemic, and will appeal to those of an atheistic or agnostic persuasion, but it lacks the comprehensiveness of Dawkins' book." ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 149 (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)

» see all 8 descriptions

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