- Hardcover: 307 pages
- Publisher: Twelve Books; 1st edition (May 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446579807
- ISBN-13: 978-0446579803
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,142 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Hardcover – May 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. (May 30)
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*Starred Review* God is getting bad press lately. Sam Harris' The End of Faith(2005) and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (2006) have questioned the existence of any spiritual being and met with enormous success. Now, noted, often acerbic journalist Hitchens enters the fray. As his subtitle indicates, his premise is simple. Not only does religion poison everything, which he argues by explaining several ways in which religion is immoral, but the world would be better off without religion. Replace religious faith with inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas, he exhorts. Closely reading major religious texts, Hitchens points to numerous examples of atrocities and mayhem in them. Religious faith, he asserts, is both result and cause of dangerous sexual repression. What's more, it is grounded in nothing more than wish fulfillment. Hence, he believes that religion is man-made, and an ethical life can be lived without its stamp of approval. With such chapter titles as "Religion Kills" and "Is Religion Child Abuse?" Hitchens intends to provoke, but he is not mean-spirited and humorless. Indeed, he is effortlessly witty and entertaining as well as utterly rational. Believers will be disturbed and may even charge him with blasphemy (he questions not only the virgin birth but the very existence of Jesus), and he may not change many minds, but he offers the open-minded plenty to think about. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Hitchens' book changed my life in profound and wonderful ways. By encouraging the use and strengthening of one's own faculties, it can truly awaken the slumbering intellect of the faithful and lead the reader down an exhilarating rabbit hole of human knowledge and fearless inquiry.
It's a great contemporary work to whet a new reader's appetite for greats such as Spinoza, Russell, Hume, Lucretius and the like.
I've purchased this book as a gift multiple times and it never fails to positively motivate my friends and family to think for themselves.
In a post-nuclear world, where a reality tv gameshow host holds the highest office in the land, we need more Hitchens. His works live on! Buy and share! Share the truly good news that god is not great and we are the architects of our own fate!