- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Emblem Editions; First Edition edition (Sept. 2 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0771041438
- ISBN-13: 978-0771041433
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 125 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Paperback – Sep 2 2008
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“If God intended reasonable men and women to worship Him without embarrassment, why did He create Christopher Hitchens? It was a fatal miscalculation. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens not only demonstrates that religion is man-made--and made badly--he laughs the whole monstrosity to rubble. This is a profoundly clever book, addressing the most pressing social issue of our time, by one of the finest writers in the land.” Sam Harris, Author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
"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.… 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." Booklist (starred review)
"Do yourself a favor and skip the Dawkins and Harris; they're smug, turgid, and boring, with all the human feeling of a tax return. Read Hitchens instead. Test your faith severely or find a champion for your feelings, but read Hitchens. It's a tendentious delight, a caustic and even brilliant book. And with the title alone, he takes his life in his hands, which right there has got to be some proof of his thesis. And so, thank God for Christopher Hitchens." Esquire
"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. Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers...this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS (1949-2011) was the author of the New York Times bestsellers god Is Not Great, Hitch 22: A Memoir, Arguably: Essays, and Mortality, among others. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthews Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.See all Product description
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In order to do a scholarly investigation of anything, the author needs to define what he is investigating. With a topic as abstract as religion, a study needs to clarify what it is examining. There is a vast difference between Islam that believes in one God and Hinduism that teaches there are thousands of gods and Buddhism that teaches there is no God. Hitchens writes like a Westerner in Vietnam in which there are fifty four ethnic groups discussing the (one) culture of Vietnam. He treats the different belief systems as if they are all the same. Without defining ones subject, your investigation is doomed.
Secondly, a study showing how religion harms society needs to make a comparison with non-religious beliefs and their impact on society. For his claims to mean anything, he needs to show by comparison that non-religious societies do not cause the same degree of human rights abuses. Before the 20th century, virtually every society was religious. So, we will look at the 20th century. R.J. Rummel writes about the human rights records of non-religious regimes in the 20th century. In his work Lethal Politics and Death by Government, he shows us that approximately 112 million were killed by non-religious dictators in the 20th century alone. (not to mention torture, imprisonment, etc.) Was Hitchens (a journalist for years) not aware of the abysmal human rights record of these regimes? An honest comparison would have totally undermined his thesis. Is that why he did not make the comparison?
Thirdly, Hitchens does not isolate the variables. He points to human rights violations by past societies and does not differentiate between violations caused by cultural values and religious values. For example, in the middle ages, European monarchs tried to suppress all non-christian beliefs (Jews, witches, etc.) Was that a function of their culture or was that a result of Christian teaching? The cultural norm in those days was for rulers to promote a unified religion in their kingdoms and to get the support of the dominant religion to enforce this. Hitchens does not even seem aware of this widespread norm, let alone investigate to see if this suppression was a part of Christian doctrine or a part of the culture. If he expects to be taken seriously, he needs to isolate the behaviours caused by the religions and those caused by cultural values.
Neither does he isolate variables when he discusses killing and wars. He gives many examples of religious people killing and fighting, but he does not investigate whether the killing is due to the religion or humans’ violent nature. Yes, humans will fight and kill because of their religious beliefs, but humans will fight for anything they believe in. They will fight for communism or democracy. They will fight for their family and land and power. He needs to ask, “Is this fighting because of democracy or family or religion, or is it because of human nature? He needs to isolate the real cause.
If Hitchens wanted to do a serious investigation, he would have checked out what percentage of wars were caused by religion. Phillip and Axelrod’s Encyclopedia of War chronicles 1763 wars throughout history. 123 have been religious in nature. That is just under 7%. Hitchens seems to equate correlation with causation. He has failed to isolate and identify the real cause.
Because of the high recommendation, I had expected at least some degree of scholarly rigour, but it seems that Hitchens’ hatred of religion has led him to violate the most basic rules of investigation. Those who already agree with him will undoubtedly love what he has to say, but those expecting a scholarly investigation will find ‘god is not great’ a serious disappointment.
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.
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