on November 21, 2014
At the risk of being "Booed" on the internet, I have to say that this is one of my favourite books to read when I need to refer people to the acts of violence and cruelty done in the name of Religion.
Though this book argues many points, I feel it is only focused on a few points of why religion itself is a horrid collection of lies. It focuses mostly on historical religious events and how they influenced society then and now.
If you wish to read more scientific, or philosophical literature on the same subject, check out books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.
on May 14, 2010
This book literally changed my life.
I was so relieved to find within it all the intelligently constructed arguments that rang so true with me that I no longer felt any pangs of guilt for not believing in "the Faith of my Fathers". I loved this book. Now I feel I must read all the rest of Hitchen's books. It's all there. The total proof of evolution lies just down the road in the Burgess Shale. Now I have no doubts. There is no god. Man invented him in his own image. I don't need it.
Thank you Christopher Hitchens.
on December 16, 2009
As someone who has grown up in an environment where religion has played a major and often devastating role in family affairs, this book is catharsis in print form. It is everything that I ever wanted to say about religion and then some embodied in this eye-catching yellow book. Hitchens' masterful polemical abilities are the real stars of the show. If anybody has watched with glee a Hitchens vs [insert religious person] debate on television or YouTube, you will love this book. Whilst Hitchens can only express so much in a 1 hour debate format, this book is the real meat of his whole argument against god(s). He spares no punches going after Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Christ, Mohammed,... You name a holier-than-thou person and Hitchens has destroyed (or at least implicated) them in this book. Thoroughly entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the history of the Bible (Old and New T) and the Qur'an. 5 more stars. 10 stars for Hitchens!
The subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything, pretty well sums up the entire book. Hitchens sets out to destroy every aspect of the worlds religions.
And I think he accomplishes his goal. Hitchens is an atheist, but has done so much research into the topic of religion. His arguments against religion are very well made.
I heard Hitchens commenting about his book. He mentioned this was a personal issue for him. In the seventh grade he started to question religious beliefs. It was the first thing that he really thought about. I also had the same feelings in the seventh grade about religious beliefs.
In summary, I would say that this book basically says everything about religion, that most people are afraid to say.
God is not Great is one of a number of "new atheist" books that were published over the past few years: Breaking the Spell by Dr. Daniel Dennett; The God Delusion by Dr. Richard Dawkins; In Defence of Atheism by Michel Onfray; and Hitchens' book, to name the best known. However there are significant differences among these books, so if you're thinking of picking one up, you should be aware of their different styles and subject matter.
Hitchens' one-liners in God is not Great will delight atheists who cannot imagine why anyone would take this nonsense seriously, let alone use it as a foundation for their values. Perhaps the freshest contribution Hitchens makes is introducing the general public to the fine points of Mormonism, surely one of the most infantile and ridiculous collection of claims to ever grace the face of the earth. Mormons' clean living habits, which are highly commendable, serve to mask a total detachment from both current and historical reality when it comes to their deranged belief system.
But for the most part, there are no new arguments or information in this book, and Hitchens is preaching to an already convinced irreligious choir. In the same way that he challenges believers to give an example of a moral act that could not have been performed by a non-believer, I would challenge Hitchens to present even one person whose belief in the existence of God has been shaken by this book: sadly I don't think this person exists.
Regardless of how idiotic religious beliefs may seem to non-believers, the fact is that they have persisted among the majority of people, in a majority of cultures, for thousands of years, so they obviously have something going for them. What that something is may not be truth, but religions undeniably appeal to very fundamental psychological needs of human beings for a sense of meaning, direction and purpose in life, that only a minority of people have the time, desire and educational background to fully think through and analyze for themselves. Religion is a often a short-cut to meaning.
For anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the psychological and sociological "hot buttons" that religions use (whether or not they are aware they are doing this), Dr. Daniel Dennett's book Breaking the Spell would be a much better place to start than Hitchens' book.
For those who are looking for a deeper understanding of the "debate" between creationists and evolutionists, Dr. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (or indeed any of Dawkins' books) would be a better place to start.
But if what you are looking for is not understanding, but rather an entertaining polemic, Hitchens' is certainly a great read. That having been said, Friedrich Nietzsche made almost all of Hitchens' points, just as entertainingly and much more deeply, more than 100 years ago. Hitchens is Pepsi to Nietzsche's Coca-Cola.
on May 22, 2007
This is by no means a hateful book. In fact, those who have become used to Hitchens' sometimes cut-throat prose will be surprised at how restrained he is, and how quick he is to acknowledge, say, the equally-ghastly crimes of the secular dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. Then he points out how both regimes were abetted by the church.
The contention by "J" that Hitchens argues that "religions are closed-minded and have only brought about the oppression of women and children without any knowledge of the social and intellectual advances that many religions have afforded us" is proof positive "J" has indeed not read this book. Hitchens simply balances the claims of religion versus the results and argues that overall, religious dogma is merely a holdover from the time when humans had little to no information about how the world is actually constituted. While he does skirt around the shortcomings of scientific reason, Hitchens rightly reminds us that science has actually enhanced the mystery of "creation" rather than spoiling the fun.
Hitchens may be a lot of things: a misanthrope, a contrarian, and sometimes a bit of an arrogant jerk, but to say he is a "closed-minded journalist" without having read this work (which is shot through with references to the Classics, religious scholarship, science, history and literature) is an insult to Hitchens and the book-buying public. Hitchens can look after himself; the book-buying public is so advised.
on June 22, 2009
Extrordinary book, very comprehensive review of the damage relegion has done to our world, very challenging to read, this author has an exceptional command of the english language
Christopher Hitchens was obsessed with religion. He says he’s been writing this book all his life, and despite its publication, would continue writing it the rest of his life. In his world travels, he always made time to attend the local religion’s house of worship, no matter what religion it represented. He was even visited at home by the son of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who inscribed Hitchens’ Koran with passages where he disagreed with the supreme leader. Hitchens wanted to know, to learn, to understand, to appreciate. He himself was a member of four religions over his lifetime. The result is 300 pages lambasting religions around the world and throughout history.
As you might expect of a life’s work, it is highly organized, thorough, and sharply confident. What I don’t understand is the point of it all. Collecting all the ways religion is fabricated, hypocritical, fraudulent and just plain wrong is not going to change anyone’s mind. How many Christian fundamentalists will abandon Jesus because they’ve read god is not Great?
He gives examples of where it’s obvious that different writers were involved in telling biblical stories. Well, whole books have been written showing how poor translation of even individual words has led to the codifying of totally wrong facts. This is not mentioned either, but the King James version of the bible – the official one – was cobbled together by committees, who voted by a show of hands on what versions and what words to accept or reject. A simple majority won each challenge. The word of god it is not. So, yes, it’s all problematic. So?
His arguments can also be incomplete, making them one-sided. He slams Islam for prescribing slavery for non-believers, leading to European and American sailors in the Mediterranean being enslaved in the 1700s. But he doesn’t say that in 1452 Pope Nicholas specifically awarded to both Spain and Portugal the eternal right to take any nonbelievers as slaves in perpetuity. This was in an infallible Papal Bull, just as Columbus was about to discover a great new market for it. The result was the multinational slave industry, certified by the Catholic Church.
He’s at his best when he qualifies religions as totalitarianism, and posits that their rules are impossible to follow - by design. That way, the ruling caste can impose arbitrary punishment at will. And so it has been, in Hitchens’ words, a spiritual police state, fueled by indulgences (bribes) and other such corruption. Even Islam joins the corruption, with mullahs issuing temporary marriage licenses to enable prostitution. For a fee.
Hitchens refers far too many times to Ockham’s (Occam’s) Razor, where you must discard redundant evidence and proofs as piling on. Ironically, this entire book is jam-packed overkill. I don’t disagree with any of the evidence. I just think those who have come to the conclusions that Hitchens came to are not made much better by it. For the rest, I can only hope readers approach with an open mind, though practically by definition, this cannot be the case, as religion is not about opening new intellectual frontiers. So I had to wonder what the point was.
I got my answer in the new Afterword, where Hitchens hits on an unexpected positive outcome from this effort. In his book tour, he found that Americans had no idea there were so many like-minded atheists among them. (Polls say better than one in five.) Their self discovery gave him hope and them reassurance that they were not alone, surrounded by the smitten.
on September 22, 2007
It doesn't matter if you are religious or not to thuroughly enjoy this book. Hitchins is artful writer and essayist who knows how to leverage substantiation techniques to craft very clear and accessible arguments. However, it is important to remember that this is exclusively a critique of religion and how it can (as the subtitle explicitly states) poison everything. It is not, and nor should it be, a cross-comparison with all the arguable good, religion has contributed to society; for which I'm sure there are plenty of other texts already available. As a critique, you will perhaps not find a better stated case against religious institutions and the dangerously unreasonable and fanatical belief they inspire.
on December 31, 2008
I'd been disinterested in Hitchens' book for some while. God has seemed mainly irrelevant to me of late, so the recent spate of God-bashing books didn't really register. Then a friend gave me a copy, and I realized that it's more important than I had been giving it credit. It reminded me that it's not adequate to ignore members of organized religions and hope they'll return the favour - because that is not and will never be good enough for them. We need to remind ourselves of the aspects of institutional religion that continue to be morally harmful, and plan how we can counter their debilitating effects. So, I'm grateful to Hitchens for nudging me back to a more active stance with respect to the positive evils associated with organized religion.