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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever Paperback – November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Hitchens, an avowed atheist and author of the bestseller God Is Not Great, is a formidable intellectual who finds the notion of belief in God to be utter nonsense. The author is clear in his introduction that religion has caused more than its fair share of world problems. "Religion invents a problem where none exists by describing the wicked as also made in the image of god and the sexually nonconformist as existing in a state of incurable mortal sin that can incidentally cause floods and earthquakes." The readings Hitchens chooses to bolster his atheist argument are indeed engaging and important. Hobbes, Spinoza, Mill and Marx are some of the heavyweights representing a philosophical viewpoint. From the world of literature the author assembles excerpts from Shelley, Twain, Conrad, Orwell and Updike. All are enjoyable to read and will make even religious believers envious of the talent gathered for this anthology. What these dynamic writers are railing against often enough, however, is a strawman: an immature, fundamentalist, outdated, and even embarrassing style of religion that many intelligent believers have long since cast off. It could be that Hitchens and his cast of nonbelievers are preaching to the choir and their message is tired and spent. However, this remains a fascinating collection of readings from some of the Wests greatest thinkers.
"My prayers are answered!"--"The New York Observer"
"A fascinating collection of articles that just say no to religion...Required reading for anyone who believes, disbelieves, or just isn't sure yet."--"People," "Critic's Choice"
"Contrarian Christopher Hitchens' "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever" should be sufficient fodder for anyone uncomfortable with the notion of a creator."--"Hartford Courant"
"Those objections and the writings Hitchens assembles to buttress them will surely bring on new controversies, which is just the sort of thing on which he has thrived over a long and fruitful career."--"Kirkus"
"Hitchens has returned to the Belief Wars backed by a full army...the Godless Warrior marshals in an Atheist A-Team...to buttress his own arguments...Hitchens is the guide as well as the commentartor linking it all together."--"San Diego Tribune"
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Today's typical "justification" for religion involves charitable or humanitarian work - obviously this says nothing about the veracity of the belief systems involved. All religions must, at their core, look forward to the end of this world; atheists, on the other hand argue that this world is all we have and that it is our duty to make the most of it.
It is one thing, per Hitchens, to believe that the magnificence of the natural order strongly implies an ordering force; quite another to say this creative force cares for our human affairs, and it is interested in with whom we have sex and how, as well as the outcome of battles and wars (and even athletic contests). Even accepting Jesus' birth, it still does not prove he was more than one among many shamans and magicians of the day.
Einstein took the view that the miracle is that there are no miracles.
Everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god in which he does not believe - atheists simply go one step further and add another god to not believe in.
Sadly, there are the seemingly endless wars and persecutions that go on in the name of religion. It is almost comical that as the Iranians pursue the imminent return of the Twelfth Imam and reinforce their apocalyptic talk by acquiring doomsday weaponry, Jewish settlers hope, by stealing the land of others in accordance with biblical directions, to bring Armageddon in their own way, while their chief backers (American evangelical fundamentalists) are simultaneously trying to teach pseudo-science, criminalize homosexuality, forbid stem-cell research, and display Mosaic law in courtrooms. At the same time, the Pope maintains that condoms are worse than AIDS.
The bulk of "The Portable Atheist" consists of readings from mostly eminent minds, going back to the early Greeks. My favorites were Elizabeth Anderson, Bertrand Russell, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Summarizing, the biggest take-aways of this book were to show how tenuous the belief in religion is, the almost laughable inconsistencies involve, how it has blocked progress through the ages, and the almost unlimited misery it has brought to mankind - throughout the ages.