Customer Reviews: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
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on May 14, 2007
After looking through some of the other customer reviews found here, I was dismayed by the amount of "blog-style" entries: that is, people who may have only glanced at the title or saw Hitchens promoting the book on CNN or YouTube and decided to just speak up, either in support or condemnation. However, if you're curious about the book and just want to know what to expect, may I humbly offer some actual information?

Hitchens, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, author of books too numerous to mention and contributor to smaller magazines such as Free Inquiry, adds to the recent renaissance of pro-atheist books with his own provocatively-titled contribution. Whereas Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) sees dire warnings and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion offers a defense of science, Hitchens uses his long experience in journalism to illustrate the madness that results when faith is unchallenged by reason. Dawkins has been criticized for adopting a harsh tone (an assessment I disagree with), but Hitchens is the one who really pours on the anger and witty derision. Some sample chapter titles make it clear he's playing for keeps:

Chapter two: "Religion Kills"

Chapter Four: "The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False"

Chapter Seven: "Revelation: The Nightmare of the Old Testament"

Chapter Eight: "The 'New' Testament Exceeds the Evil of the 'Old' One"

Chapter Nine: "The Koran is Borrowed From Both Jewish and Christian Myths"

That should give you a pretty good idea of the tone, but the chapter titles prove to be no mere cheap provocations. Drawing on decades (if not centuries) of scholarship that exposes the cobbled-together recipes for the holy books of the three "great" monotheisms, he shows them to be products of a violent time when scientific information about the world was unavailable and most people were entirely illiterate. He then gives modern day examples of how these myths have been put to horrendous use (yes, 9/11 is mentioned). In one section, he revisits the sins of "Agnes Bojaxhiu, an ambitious Albanian nun who had become well-known under the nom de guerre of 'Mother Teresa'," which he covered at greater length in his previous controversial expose The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and reiterates how the "miracles" ascribed to her are so slap-dash and false they're almost comical.

While he devotes much of his outrage at "the big three" (my phrase), he also offers a chapter titled "There Is No 'Eastern' Solution," which would have to find disagreement with Sam Harris, who argues that many of the spiritual practices of Buddhism, shorn of their supernatural trappings, could be beneficial. Hitchens, ever the realist, wants us to know that history doesn't bear these claims out.

Hitchens often delivers his ideas like he's trying to splash his martini across your face at a party--at one point he muses "Why do people keeep saying, 'God is in the details'? He isn't in ours, unless his yokel creationist fans wish to take credit for his clumsiness, failure and incompetence"--and the result is often thrilling reading. His vitriol can be unnerving sometimes, like when he asks "Is Religion Child Abuse?", not to mention the full title of his tome. Never trust a book that splashes the word "everything" on its cover; it's usually a sign that the author is either desperate or foolishly grandiose. After reading the book, I don't think Hitchens is either, but in his worst moments he shows symptoms. In any event, I'm sure he doesn't intend this to be a work of (pardon the phrase) "evangelism"--he doensn't hope to influence even the mildly religious--but like that martini in the face (followed, perhaps, by an olive to the noggin), he wants to deliver a wake-up call. Some may see only a plea for attention, but he would quickly redirect you the the world outside.
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on August 5, 2007
My favorite part of the book is the last third. By that time Hitchens has made his arguments about how Religion Poisons Everything and is now rebutting the best intellectual arguments against his thesis. What would become of human decency, morality and ethics without religion? How do you address the inherent human need to believe in something and take comfort in a higher power? What are the god-less alternatives and aren't those institutions as bad or worse? Doesn't religion provide stability to society by pacifying individuals in times of darkness and uncertainty? It is hard to sum things up and provide sound bytes about something as complex as religion, but my take-away from this book is that any religion (by design) has the ingredients of becoming totalitarian, when successful; and totalitarianism of any kind leads to ultimate power corruption.

Hitchens makes his arguments and rebuts the best counter-arguments with passion and panache. If you are amongst the majority of people in the world - believers - his irreverent sense of humor may lead you to immediately brush him off as a partisan hack; while the unbelievers will get a kick out of each of the thousands of punchlines that Hitchens artfully mumbles. However, if you belong to the third category - an intellectual who chooses to look beyond a bi-polar view of the world when it comes to religion - I would urge patience with Hitchens' indulgence as a genius linguist (when you have it, it is hard not to flaunt it!) and you will find this book extremely rewarding and will not go un-satiated. If you are seriously debating the merits and demerits of religion as an institution in the society we live in, you have glanced at the perfect place, no matter what your affiliations.

If you are looking for education on the various major religions in the world, their origin, history, interconnection, impact, popularity, etc.; this is NOT the right book for you. The book presupposes basic knowledge about these topics, and on several occasions I felt that I lacked the prior knowledge to appreciate many nuances in Hitchens' arguments.

Hitchens is no economist, and he does not get into numbers and measurements. But Hitchens is a seasoned intellectual, and does utter the voice of reason grounded in the sound principles of philosophical debate. His knowledge and wisdom about religion are comparable (arguably) with "good" reverends and pastors. The book is written in commentary style, but does have a semi-structured flow to it.

Just like this book lashes out at totalitarianism in the form of religion, I wish someone writes a book lashing out at totalitarianism in its other most ugly form in the modern world - Nationalism.
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on August 14, 2007
When I came to read the reviews (out of curiosity) on Amazon, I first went on to read the one-star reviews. I was amused that many have clearly not read the book, but felt that their defense and protection of the faith was necessary. Many voice their maliciously gleeful prophecies of Hitchens ending up in hell alternating with those who in their gracious piety wish him "saved" from this otherwise inevitable fate. Others go into long nervously complex and defensive discourses to draw "aha! now I can rest easy" conclusions as to why Hitchens was all wrong about their specific brand of faith. A stark parallel to how religious texts are designed to make things convoluted and abstruse with riddles within riddles and side-winds for every long-wind with the end result to successfully befuddle and consequently beguile the masses.

I do not see this book as a detailed thesis and nor did I expect Hitchens (nor do I think this is possible) to be an expert on each tedious detail relating to every religion. I find this quite irrelevent to the intent of the discourse in the book. Further, I do not see this as some juvenile battle between the virtues of all believers versus all non-believers. I must add that one big difference between how religion (as opposed to a lack thereof) manages to impact the lives of all is it's need and very mission to impose, interfere, and establish.

I see this as a book as something that improves our perspective and understanding of an age-old subject that has a huge bearing on all our lives. It makes us observe and be mindful of our primitive brains, impulses, and tendencies. It forces us to sit back and think of the absurdity in so many of the decisions and interactions we take for granted all around us. Hitchens' tone does appear a bit high-handed at times (not that I saw a need for apology or restraint), but I certainly did not detect any anger or malice. More so an exasperation and consternation at the continued propagation of the absurd and preposterous. Look at what is happening around the world - and *these* are the summary reasons that are being used as justifications?!!

I cannot expect a book like this to ever make a "believer" slap his or her forehead and reconsider because it is too embarrassing and the pride will likely be too hard to swallow. In fact I think this book is a waste of time for such people because all it will do is spin them in an unnecessary nervous worry about how they can refute what is being said or else launch personal attacks at the author. This is all just too stressful and does not help anyone or anything. However, this will be an interesting read for those who are looking to learn more about the world they live in and grow their minds. I highly recommend it.
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on June 28, 2007
Believers are missing a lot by not reading Hitchens' book. You should not let that title, "God is not Great," spook you. Pretend that the title is something more appropriate. In my opinion, for instance, a better title might have been "Religion is a Many-Splendored Thing," because the book is really more about religion than about anybody's god.

I can sincerely recommend this work to the faithful--of whatever faith--but especially to Christians. As a Christian, though I was a studious one, I never realized how much about my faith, and about the Bible, my teachers and pastors were not telling me (and may very well not have known themselves). I later learned much of this omitted data on my own, and this is largely the information you will acquire by reading Hitchens' book. It is a bonanza of fascinating facts.

Contrary to what you may have heard, Hitchens does not try to persuade you that there is no supreme being. Rather, he explains things you've probably wondered about but didn't know where to go for the answers. For instance, he explains why God hates ham; he shows that the Muslims' "Koran" is largely just a ripoff of the Old and New Testaments; and he makes miracles more understandable for doubters.

If there is one book--besides the Bible, of course--that I would recommend to most Christians, I think this is it. And if you're not much of a reader, I hope you'll at least read Chapter 18, "A Finer Tradition."

Don't believe everything you've been told about Hitchens' book. Don't knock it 'til you've read it!
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on July 9, 2007
I am not suprised that religious people are offended by this book as Hitchens' language can (at times) be aggressive and polarizing when describing the believers of a given faith. To call all believers of a religion thoughtless imbeciles or to call them just plain stupid seems to me out of hand. However, as I read some of the half-baked religious apolagetics being written in the one or two star reviews of his book, perhaps Hitchens was not out of hand at all. (As a side note, to the reviewer who wrote "Christopher Hitchens is NOT great", you are truely an ignorant moron who has only strengthened the resolve of 'unbelievers' with your blind, hypocritical and borderline racist remarks. The very fact that you accept all the criticisms Hitchens had to offer about Islam but you object to his critique of 'us' "civilized Christians" (as you put it) only reveals your blind prejudice.)

I think many (if not all) of Hitchens arguments have been presented in the past but as the spectre of religious fundamentalism rises in our modern society perhaps an "anti-theist" revival is in order as well. Though I have to say that Hitchens' random derision of 'multiculturalists' (like Karen Armstrong) because they are too soft on the behaviour of religious people or because they are too sensitive to the beliefs of a given people seems to be counter-productive at best. We live in a diverse society which relies on mutual respect for other peoples cultural beliefs. Reviving a kind of soft Jacobin anti-clericalism does not really seem feasible (or desirable)in this day and age.

Read and buy this book, especialy at the price they are selling it for, but if you are not really interested then read some Voltaire, Hume or Nietszche instead.
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on July 9, 2007
I have never read a book that so matter-of-factly and flawlessly made its argument seem the only possible point-of-view. This book could possibly be the most important and relevant piece of literature written in the past decade. Christopoher Hitchens so effortlessly weaves a tale of religion's many downfalls that it sometimes seems as if his subject has done the research for him. In a world where people who look inward for strength are ridiculed, persecuted and often brutally abused, raped or murdered by those who look toward the sky for guidance and find solace in cartoon-logic, this book serves as a beacon of hope for those, like myself, who sometimes feel weakened beneath the burden of Mankind's history of savagery. I bought this book as soon as I heard it had been written and every page has been incredible. The writing style might be a bit too literate for some, which has already - in the case of certain neo-religious talking heads, Denis Prager for example - lead to bad reviews by means of excluding some for its readership, but the patient or already well-read (open-minded) audience will find it a delightful read.

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals."
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on July 8, 2007
'god is not Great' is the best Atheist apologist book I have ever read,(and unlike some here I DID read it!) and I've read quite a few. It is coherent, extremely intelligent, and tightly written.
He is obviously brilliant, and he is not alone in his beliefs. I have personally experienced that lovely religion known as christianity since the day I was born, and he is right that it is child abuse, and it also helps other types of abuse to occur (which also happened to me). It took me 10 years and some back-sliding to de-program myself with the help of numerous books and study. The truth is more valuable than idiots who are afraid to die, and afraid of life as adults.
If people think he is angry, well he should be. There is a lot to be angry about.
One more thing- people keep expressing unhappiness about their 'beliefs' being disrespected. They don't seem to understand that there is a huge difference between truth and belief. You can believe anything you feel like you want to, but that does not make it true. People need to get this idea. I don't have to 'respect' anyone's belief. And no one has the right to be upset when the truth conflicts with their cherished 'belief'. Truth wins, that's it, you don't get to kill the messenger.
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on June 28, 2007
Yes. Organized religion is the work of the devil and ignorance is it's closest ally. Religion has always held contempt for knowledge, reason and ideas. Ask Galileo, Hippocrates or any of countless others persecuted, tried, tortured and/or killed in the name of wholesome, pious goodness. Through history, the church has been used by kings, dictators and various unsavory governments as a tool to validate their "divine" authority and to remain in power, freedom be damned. The invention of religion and it's eternal reward or punishment system, neither of which can ever be proved/disproved, would surely be useful in maintaining one's sovereignty, no? Ever wonder why it's called "The King James Bible"? Maybe this is why America was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. Thomas Paine, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson... wise men, those fellas.

So what is faith other than a command to believe something without questioning it? Is that really a good idea? If faith is the reason you believe but faith is also a tenant of every other religion, then why is your faith different? Why is it bad to be a "doubting Thomas"? Does that mean one shouldn't ask questions? If so, then isn't "doubting Thomas" just a label used to stifle thought? If something is really "the one truth", then shouldn't the act of asking questions strenghten that truth instead of weakening it? Why does religion go to such trouble to prevent folks from asking simple questions?

It isn't easy to surrender that which we've been taught to believe from childhood, which of course is when our minds are most susceptible to programming, but a little curiousity and a penchant for googling can shed a lot of light. Wikipedia doesn't hurt either. Educate yourself and keep an open mind. Hitchens is a hero.
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on July 8, 2007
Christopher Hitchens, in his hard-hitting and revealing new book, "god is not Great", has found the courage to say what so many of us have thought for a long time...religion is its own curse and has been a plague endured by millions for centuries. With science and reason as his guide, Hitchens debunks just about everything from god and the Bible to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mother Teresa and more... and he does it with a breathtaking panache. It's the best book on this subject I've ever read.

No mere bystander when it comes to faith, Hitchens recounts his own associations with religion and how he moved to his current intense feelings about the topic. As a lapsed Christian who has moved towards atheism, I found myself concurring with just about everything he says. Not content to simply disagree with the faith-based crowd, Hitchens lambastes them. Good for him. The chapters in this book are all relevant to 2007 and some really stand out. One chapter entitled "A Note on Health", gets this book going full steam and another one toward the end, "Is Religion Child Abuse?", cuts to the quick. The Catholic Church, to Hitchens's credit, comes under scathing attack...I wish he had written even more about the abuses that this institution has caused.

Hitchens warns about secularism, too, (citing non-religious movements such as Fascism and Communism and the immense suffering they have inflicted). But it is religion itself that Hitchens finds almost intolerable. He closes by saying "religion has run out of no longer offers an explanation of anything important". Bull's-eye! Religion should be in the business of putting itself out of business.

"god is not Great" is an important book in large part because it demonstrates convincingly that science has trumped religion and continues to, everytime. The depth which Hitchens tackles religion and its ramifications is matched by a compelling narrative style that has become the author's "signature". I highly recommend this book for its courage to tell the truth.
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on July 10, 2007
The amount of evil perpetrated by religion and magical thinking in the past and in the present makes this book almost mandatory.
Buy this book for someone you love.
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