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.