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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever Paperback – November 6, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 331 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 What these dynamic writers are railing against often enough, however, is a strawman: an immature, fundamentalist, outdated, and even embarrassing style of religion that many intelligent believers have long since cast off.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 West’s greatest thinkers.

Review

"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780306816086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306816086
  • ASIN: 0306816083
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (331 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Benishek on November 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
Christopher "Hitch" Hitchens is the literate jackanapes of the New Atheism, an unofficial affiliation that includes Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, Victor Stenger, PZ Myers, and others. Hitch once quipped that Dawkins had been invited, along with him, to present atheism so that the audience could also get a more moderate view of the position. (If you don't know why that's funny, read Dawkins's "The God Delusion," which is uncompromisingly immoderate.) Hitch's book, "god is Not Great" cemented his reputation as the Sweeney Todd of antitheism, for whom words are razors and arrogant ignorance is the prey. This was the guy, after all, who several years ago wrote a slashing diatribe against Mother Teresa.

The introduction that Hitchens writes for this volume is just excellent. Funny, barbed, witty...a real showcase of his rhetorical skill. And the selections made for this book are uniformly excellent. It's easy to quibble that this should have been included or that could have been left out, but on the whole, this volume represents a compendium of some of the best literature in atheology. From Hume to Penn Jillette, Hobbes to Salman Rushdie, some of the most brilliant, sharpest criticisms of the notion of gods and the practices of religion are represented.

I know too many believers to think that something as mere as reading a great many genius writers making mountains of sense could change their minds; but certainly this tome presents a substantial challenge to easy assumptions, and a buffet banquet for thought. It is a tribute to this book that it winds up on the favorites lists of several bloggers, including one who defines himself as a "secular Catholic Buddhist": [...]
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Format: Paperback
In a world being swamped with 6000-year earth age advocates and mind-numbing religious attacks on science, with some U.S. presidential candidates in the lead, The Portable Atheist is an island of sanity and respite from irrationality and the unending barrage of misinformation from "believers". From the Taliban to the fundamentalist and evangelical command posts, whether on "Christian" TV and radio or the minaret, temple, or store front hotbeds, common sense, science, and rational thinking have never been so daily assaulted. Revel in the words of those who have fought the good fight against Bronze Age morality and intellectual dysfunction. The Portable Atheist is a companion you will want by your side. Great reading, instructive, and, most of all, provides hope that clear thinking might just have a chance.
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Hitchens prefaces his book by telling us that the prehistory of our species is ridden with episodes of nightmarish ignorance and calamity, for which religion is used to identify not just the wrong explanation but the wrong culprit as well. The few men of science and reason and medicine had all they could do to keep their libraries and laboratories intact, or their very lives safe from harm.

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.
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