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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
In editing this anthrology, Christopher Hitchens has performed a great service for all who wish to understand one of the most important issues of our time, the debate (the struggle?) between secularism and religion. From Lucretius to Ayan Hirsi Ali, the chosen authors reveal and explain their understanding of the universe and its ways. Hitchen's pithy introductions to each selection add considerably to the reader's understanding and pleasure.
Many of the essays would be difficult to find outside of a large library, others might be hard to find at all. From the 1997 UN Anthology, for example, there's Salman Rushdie's "Imagine There's No Heaven": a letter to the Six Billionth World Citizen. This gentle and loving essay fearlessly accepts the fact that there is no god, but gently and with love asserts that there is much beauty in human life if each of us can manage to 'live in our own time, use what we know. . .'
The reader expects to find Spinoza, Hume, Shelly, George Eliot, Marx, Einstein, H. L. Menkin,Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins in such a book, and we are not disappointed. Hitchens also introduces us to many less-well known (or almost forgotten) men and women, such as Chapman Cohen, Elizabeth Anderson and Charles Templeton.
There are brief contributions such as the poems by Thomas Hardy, Johon Betjeman and Philip Larkin;, other segments, such as Ibn Warraq's commentary on the Koran, are extensive. (The latter is sixty pages in fact.) The variety in the length of selections makes The Portable Atheist an excellent book for a long journey, or to keep beside a favorite chair.
The subtitle of the book is "Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever" but i would suggest that any and all intelligent citizens will find the selections stimulating and exciting, well worth the purchase price and reading time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2011
Put quite simply, this is an anthology intended to give agnostics and atheists and perhaps secular theists the groundwork and firepower that may be needed to engage in critical discussion with their friends or enemies of opposing or complimentary viewpoints.

I felt the anthology so engaging, I read the 500 page book(roughly) in 2 nights. I would have liked to see more intellectually thick argumentation based on more of a logical approach. I did like The excerpt regarding Freud's view of religion as a mass illusion of the people, and I loved how Ibn Warraq laid waste to the belief that the Koran is unchanged and perfect. The excerpt of Bertrand Russel's Intellectual Rubbish is lovely(one of my favourite philosophers).

I feel compelled to purchase many of the full publications of a majority of the contributing authors of this work.

Christopher Hitchen's introductory essay pretty much sums up the entire anthology and is a concise razor sharp tactical shot at the virtues of superstition and totalitarian ethics.

I would recommend anyone who has the freedom to read this, to pick up this book and examine the pages within.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2010
This is not a bedtime book. Find a nice comfortable chair and put on a pot of coffee, you'll need to be alert. The effort will be worthwhile.
Hitchens has compiled wide ranging review of atheist (rationalist, humanist)thought that is both revealing and challenging. Each chapter deserves to be re-read, in order to fully appreciate the reasoning and philosophy behind it. An intellectual feast to be savoured and revisited frequently.
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on May 13, 2013
A most interestisng collection of essays on atheism which while by no means exhaustive, nor always original, usually manage to bring powerful argument for the rejection of belief in god in our daily lives.
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on April 30, 2014
I have now read a number of books that shred the magical beliefs so prevalent in our many societies. This is yet another excellent addition to the hopeful demise of religion and magical thinking.
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on July 27, 2014
A bit hard going at times, but some wonderful excerpts, some of which are very funny, others very intellectually stimulating.
A worthwhile addition to the Atheist's bookshelf
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on May 8, 2014
I'm a fan of Hitchens and this book only reinforces my position. I would recommend this book to anyone who believes he or she needs to cement his/her stance against religion.
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on September 5, 2012
Great book, a compendium of essays of various writers introduced by Christopher Hitchens,the translation does it justice to one of our favorite exponents.
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on December 14, 2012
well documented and written book, easy to read, and very easy to understand. It is comforting to realize that you are not alone in the atheistic way
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on July 10, 2015
Great collection for those looking for a boiled down collection of essential short readings for the intellectual athiest and anti-theist.
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