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600 of 620 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best anthology of atheism I've come across, November 12, 2007
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This review is from: The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Paperback)
The Portable Atheist, edited by Christopher Hitchens, is a great selection of how atheism has transformed into what it is today. Hitchens' introduction itself is an astounding tour de force that should not be skipped. In his introduction alone, Hitchen's lays out the foundation and positive attributes of atheism. This is crucial as many people have the common misunderstanding that atheists are pessimists or discontented. He also makes the genuinely important point that in order to believe in one of the three major monotheisms, you have to believe that the heavens watched our species for at least one hundred and fifty thousand years with "indifference, and then- and only in the last six thousand years at the very least - decided that it was time to intervene as well as redeem." He concedes that it is preposterous to believe such a heinous thing - for it would be cruel if true. His introduction is intelligent, convincing and witty - and it doesn't stop there.

The selections in this book show the evolution of atheism (or at least nontheism) from early critics of religion such as: Benedict De Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes and David Hume to more of a middle stage (Darwin, George Eliot, Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell) and then to modern-day critics like: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg, Daniel Dennett, Carl Sagan, Victor Stenger, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and many more. Another great thing is the book is helpfully arranged in chronological order. All beliefs aside, the selections in this book are powerfully argued and well written. I'd recommend it to anyone with a hunger for the truth and an open mind.
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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 49 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 22, 2009 1:22:30 PM PDT
S. J. Snyder says:
Minor quibble. I'd argue that Ayaan Hirsi Ali isn't a critic of religion in general.

Posted on Jul 2, 2009 8:32:16 AM PDT
Red-Poet says:
I think you mean "six thousand years at the very MOST"

Posted on Aug 26, 2009 11:07:22 PM PDT
I am tempted to read this book for the camaraderie with other rational minds. But really, the whole god thing is so palpably absurd that I find that even arguments against it bore me to death, unless they are of the sort that can be put into one or two pithy sentences.

It seems like reading 500+ pages on the subject would inevitably be to get down and mud wrestle with the ridiculous claims of believers. What a waste of precious hours.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2009 5:37:28 PM PST
keeyop says:
Ha! Nicely stated... I only wish I didn't feel a need to "mud wrestle" with believers. "Jiu-Jitsu" might be a better way to state it; quick & accurate. WAY too many people I come across give little real, rational thought to their belief systems. Dangerous.

Books like these can be useful references for sparking doubt/analysis. (and as a bible-belt resident, I could use some comeraderie/ammo) One need only glance at the Atheist vs Religion numbers below to be worried (consumer-based though they are...). "Truth" has been co-opted.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2010 10:58:45 AM PST
You should be just a little more tempted to read this book or you may be viewed as someone with a closed mind. I find this work helpful to build an arguement that is unassailable and gives me the ability to come up with pithy sentences.

True you will probably only be able to discuss the contents with other rational minds, since the other minds are closed and irrational, but it is still worth it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2011 10:21:35 PM PST
Sasquatch says:
My argument would be that many atheists once belonged to a religion. There are people who are willing to listen if you give them a good argument. At the least being able to plant the seed of inquiry in their minds is valuable to get them going on their journey. Yes there will always be those who will never see it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2011 3:36:10 PM PST
NJD says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 30, 2011 10:39:29 PM PST
Bibsisis says:
Excellent review by J. Benishek. All religion from Greek/Roman mythology & others depend on superstition, myth, and fairy tales. Religion of any kind is a crutch for the masses who cannot live with their fear of death and must believe there's heaven in the sky or hell down below, wherever they feel those are. It's all indoctrination and the inability to think which is most of the population of the world. I've read much of Hitchens and Dawkins, and I applaud them for being of highest intellect and for their courage in putting it out there.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2011 10:46:17 PM PST
Bibsisis says:
Hey keeop, I'm a born and raised bible-belter. You have my support & camaradarie. "Truth" is a matter of semantics & belief/faith. I prefer science & rationality. There are truths, but no one knows "THE TRUTH." Whatthehellcouldthatbe?

Posted on Dec 1, 2011 7:50:30 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2011 7:55:54 AM PST
Yuri Mozo says:
Regarding Hitchen's important point, I've heard it also expressed in his debates, and it makes sense if one directly equates the literary times of the Bible with the modern time of history and science. However, this allowed, the literary traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam firmly entrench the view that God continually works to redeem humanity, from Adam, the first man, up through the generations.

Were theists to superimpose the Biblical time line on the scientific time line of the history of man, they would admit two beginnings of man, separated by over 100,000 years, with a yawning gap of darkness between. However, most theists do not believe this scenario, which Hitchens seems to have in mind. Because these theists believe so strongly in God's continual work with humanity, the tendency is less to hold both time lines at equal time values than to 1) extend the literary time line of the Bible (in the case of Christianity and Judaism) in translating it into real time, or 2) attempt to discredit the present scientific estimates for the time man has existed on earth, either through other scientific evidence and theories, or by portraying science as informed by society & culture, rather than science standing above it.
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