God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

In the tradition of Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris's The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case against religion. With a close and erudite reading of the major religious texts, he documents the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos. Hit...

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Title:God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Author:Christopher Hitchens
Rating:
ISBN:0446579807
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:307 pages

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Reviews

  • Matthew Wesley
    Aug 02, 2007

    This book is fundamentally flawed in argument, but can be enjoyable to read. Christopher Hitchens, however, is an exceptionally witty writer, who often finds clever ways to express himself. His writing is conversational, flowing, but sometimes elitist, arrogant, and pretentious. His humor is evident throughout the book, but it is consistently divisive and adversarial.

    As an atheist, I find the writing enjoyable, intelligent, and humorous. I do not need to be further convinced of the dangers of fa

    This book is fundamentally flawed in argument, but can be enjoyable to read. Christopher Hitchens, however, is an exceptionally witty writer, who often finds clever ways to express himself. His writing is conversational, flowing, but sometimes elitist, arrogant, and pretentious. His humor is evident throughout the book, but it is consistently divisive and adversarial.

    As an atheist, I find the writing enjoyable, intelligent, and humorous. I do not need to be further convinced of the dangers of faith and religion, so I am willing to tolerate fallacies and offensive comments while I enjoy the witty writing. For the religious or the uncertain, however, this book may seem too irreverent and offensive to be of any intellectual value. Few faithful people would be willing to entertain the author's notions long enough to see where he has valid points and separate them from his snideness. This is a true shame, because there are some worthwhile messages.

    The main message is that religion can be a bad influence on things. Unfortunately, the author phrases this as the fallacious "religion poisons everything." Christopher Hitchens provides many poignant examples of wrongdoing founded in faith and religion, but this does not imply that everything done by religion is bad. It is unfortunate that the conclusion of the book is overstated, because a more cautious assessment of the dangers of religious rejection of reason would be valuable and accessible to more people.

    I would recommend that people interested in the subject matter instead review the extensive on-line collection of atheist writing. Much of it is more welcoming and less arrogant.

    is a good source of such material, and it has an excellent introduction to atheism that is valuable both to atheists and to Christians (

    ). The library also includes written works oriented towards people of other faiths as well.

  • Melly
    Aug 30, 2007

    As a fellow Atheist, Mr. Hitchens is preaching to choir, so to speak, in this informative, captivating work in which Hitchens judiciously provides historically documented and personal examples of what he sees as an ever-increasing war being waged by a variety of religious fundamental organizations. In our very own country we have troops of well-funded, born-again fanatics preaching hatred of anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their standards.

    Worse, these groups instill a deep-rooted fear in t

    As a fellow Atheist, Mr. Hitchens is preaching to choir, so to speak, in this informative, captivating work in which Hitchens judiciously provides historically documented and personal examples of what he sees as an ever-increasing war being waged by a variety of religious fundamental organizations. In our very own country we have troops of well-funded, born-again fanatics preaching hatred of anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their standards.

    Worse, these groups instill a deep-rooted fear in the most vulnerable, forced members of their congregation; young, helpless, defenseless children, sometimes as young as three. Hitchens provides chilling eye-witness accounts of these tactics which are slowly tearing away at the fabric of this great nation.

    Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you have an open mind and enjoy reading well written, fact-based, relevant nonfiction, then you will enjoy this book. Certainly, deeply religious people may find certain parts upsetting as fundamental beliefs are challenged with factual, cited information. Hitchens has a way of peeling away the absurdity of certain religious beliefs and how these beliefs, at their very core, are contrary to very ideals shouted to the masses during worship services. Something I learned at an early age, as a baptized Roman Catholic about to be confirmed, is that before anyone blindly accepts what they’ve been told over a period of time about a particular religion, it is your right, your responsibility and your duty to pick up a couple of books about Judaism, Hindu, Islam, Buddhism, Heavens Gate Kool-Aid Lovers or whatever they were all about, even Mormonism and Jehovah Witness, and read. Read about each of these religious. Get a book along the lines of Religion for Dummies (there is a joke in there somewhere) and get an overview of what these groups are all about. Then study philosophy and science and art and history. Read Ayn Rand and Aristotle and Plato and study and research and think for yourself. And then, one day, years later, you’ll realize what is true for you and that will be your own religion.

    There are too many great stories in Hitchens’ book but some of my personal favorites pertain to religious interference with women’s reproductive rights. Islamic authorities of the Council of Ulemas in Indonesia urged that condoms only be made available to married coupled (HUH?), and then only with a prescription. He also quotes an article from Foreign Policy magazine in which a n official of Pakistan’s AIDS Control Program stated that the [AIDS] problem was smaller in his country because of “better social and Islamic values,” This, in a state where the law allows a woman to be sentenced to be gang-raped in order to expiate the “shame” of a crime committed by her brother.

    Good ol’ repression and denial. The building blocks of religion. Pro or con. Christian or Agnostic. Cubs or White Sox. This book will, if nothing else, be educational and thought-provoking.

    I give this FIVE Pac Mans

  • Bill  Kerwin
    Oct 15, 2007

    A wicked, witty condemnation of all things religious. As a person of faith, I find that Hitchens often sounds like a blind man ridiculing the value of Rembrandt and Van Gogh. But he is particularly fine on the noxious ways in which religion intersects with the most murderous forms of politics. And of course--as is always the case with Hitchens--the book is witty and well written.

    As a reader of the

    for over a quarter of a century, I enjoyed Christopher Hitchens political analysis and right

    A wicked, witty condemnation of all things religious. As a person of faith, I find that Hitchens often sounds like a blind man ridiculing the value of Rembrandt and Van Gogh. But he is particularly fine on the noxious ways in which religion intersects with the most murderous forms of politics. And of course--as is always the case with Hitchens--the book is witty and well written.

    As a reader of the

    for over a quarter of a century, I enjoyed Christopher Hitchens political analysis and righteous invective for many years. I always thought he was at his best when he attacked specific individuals for their public positions and private failings, and his refusal--like the best 18th century satirists--to draw any line between the two. I relished his take-downs of Bob Hope, Mel Gibson, Michael Moore and the Dalai Lama, and thought some of his best work was contained in his book-length tirades against Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa (the latter book distinguished by its outrageous title,

    ).

    Hitchens was outraged whenever he observed public figures overly praised for their few good deeds, excused for their corrupt habitual practices, and lauded for their wrong-headed opinions. He summoned every fact and argument--fair or unfair--in the service of his eloquent and venomous pen, fashioned an image of himself as a champion of truth, and, in so doing, produced satire of a quality perhaps not seen since the days of Swift and Pope, a quarter of a millennium ago.

    Unfortunately, Hitchens chooses to apply the same old formula in this attack on the Great Jehovah, and for once he is out of his depth. It is not so much that he lacks knowledge--although his grasp of theological controversy is much weaker than his grip on practical politics--but that he chooses to take God to task in much the same way he formerly used to criticize Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms. God may very well be a person--as the orthodox Christian theologians maintain--but, if so, he is not a person in the precisely same sense, for example, that George Galloway and Cindy Sheehan are persons.

    In attacking God himself in this way, Hitchens reveals his own pettiness, appearing less like a great moralist and more like a peevish gadfly. It is a pity too, for many of the great religious crimes he chronicles would constitute, in some other book, a devastating condemnation of organized religion itself.

    Now, if Hitch would have instead written a book about Bin Laden or Pat Robertson--or about John Paul II or Benedict XVI--what an excellent polemic it might have been!

  • Books Ring Mah Bell
    Oct 17, 2007

    I read this months ago and never got around to the review...

    Simply stated, Hitchens puts into words all the reasons I shy away from organized religion. The prejudices, sexism, the overall foolishness...

    At the same time, he seems oblivious to the fact that there are religious people out there doing great things; feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, building for the homeless.

    Hey Hitchens! I get that you are atheist. That's fine, but knock that chip off your shoulder already! Belief that decent

    I read this months ago and never got around to the review...

    Simply stated, Hitchens puts into words all the reasons I shy away from organized religion. The prejudices, sexism, the overall foolishness...

    At the same time, he seems oblivious to the fact that there are religious people out there doing great things; feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, building for the homeless.

    Hey Hitchens! I get that you are atheist. That's fine, but knock that chip off your shoulder already! Belief that decent religious people exist does not mean you have to agree with them or believe in their God.

    Mr. Hitchens, may I suggest a few new titles for your book?

    Try "God Can Be Great, But Freaks Poison Religion" or "How Jerks Screw Up Religion".

  • Jason
    Nov 15, 2007

    So. I've read it, front to back.

    Hitchens laments that the faithful (of whatever persuasion) "have believed what the priests and rabbis and imams tell them about what the unbelievers think" (10), and (it follows) he rages that priests, rabbis and imams would presume to know or communicate what atheists think and why. And yet, what is Hitchens's book if not 300 pages of an unbeliever telling other unbelievers what believers think and why? The hypocrisy here, and elsewhere in the book, is bald as

    So. I've read it, front to back.

    Hitchens laments that the faithful (of whatever persuasion) "have believed what the priests and rabbis and imams tell them about what the unbelievers think" (10), and (it follows) he rages that priests, rabbis and imams would presume to know or communicate what atheists think and why. And yet, what is Hitchens's book if not 300 pages of an unbeliever telling other unbelievers what believers think and why? The hypocrisy here, and elsewhere in the book, is bald as can be. Time and again, he holds religious institutions fiercely accountable for their contempt - e.g. organized religion is "contemptuous of women" (56) - even as he himself exhibits and condones contempt no less virulent for being on the page than one might see in a religious setting. Indeed, he writes that it is with "contempt [one must:] regard" (58) believers who reflect on and/or long to witness the end of the world. People "must" regard them with contempt, he writes, "must" allowing for no disagreement, no wiggle room. Hitchens here fashions himself the moral arbiter in his arguments against religions having fashioned themselves moral arbiters. Later still, he criticizes Evelyn Waugh's comments about remarriage constituting an addition of spittle in the face of Christ as a wickedness that outstrips Waugh's own infidelities. At this point, I'll make it known that I, too, am critical of Waugh's opinion on remarriage (and of his having expressed it to a friend on the cusp of remarriage), but who except Hitchens has made Hitchens qualified to rank Waugh's wickednesses? Again, his proclamation is arbitrary, and his authority specious at best. Or earlier in the book when he writes: "The harder work of inquiry, proof, and demonstration is infinitely more rewarding [...:] than any theology" (71)...according to whom? Hitchens. Later, writing of Spinoza: "his meditations on the human condition have provided more real consolation to thoughtful people than has any religion" (262)...again, according to whom? Hitchens. Although, what's even likelier here is a subtle dig at religious people on the whole in the suggestion that none of them is "thoughtful." He makes statement after statement that cannot be made, counting on his snide sense of humor to persuade people into believing their intellects are being used in siding with his arguments, when, in truth, their intellects are being appealed to less than their vanities. No one likes to side with the folks being humiliated (except Christ, anyway), and his wit insures his readers will at least want to side with him, even when their consciences and critical aptitudes discourage it.

    His incessant rollcall of insults, referring to various believers as "orangutans" (56), "ignoramus" (64), "goons" (275), "barbarian" (275), "pathetic fraud" (270), "boobies" (269), "hypocrites" (212) - all language that suggests Hitchens is every bit the "bigot and [...:] persecutor" (180) he rakes Martin Luther over the coals for having been. And when he condemns Mahayanna Buddhism's assertion that sometimes (it is perceived) one should be killed in order to preserve untold numbers of lives (203), one cannot but think of Hitchens's own vocal support for the war in Iraq, for the invasion of a sovereign nation on grounds debatable at best, dubious at worst, and resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. (It also warrants mentioning here that Hitchens's intellectual compatriot Sam Harris has written that a nuclear first strike in which tens of millions might die might be permissible if it meant saving more lives in the long run. Chris Hedges, in his book I Don't Believe in Atheists, takes Harris to task for this.)

    And then there is his admiration of Socrates's concession that he might have been wrong, Socrates having said "in effect: I do not know for certain about death and the gods - but I am as certain as I can be that you do not know, either" (257). This is an attribution Hitchens gives to Socrates, and one he applauds, and likely believes he shares. But the book is evidence otherwise. His cherry-picking in the texts he uses, the spin he brings to bear in the historical epochs he unfolds, and the manipulation of context in which he situates certain literary and scientific appropriations (one would think Dostoevsky hadn't been a Christian! or that Stephen Jay Gould hadn't been conciliatory and respectful to religion!) are embarrassments. Hitchens is a bright man, and he should be bright enough to see that replacing centuries of religious hostilities with 300 pages of secular ridicule does nothing to set the bar higher than it has been. The book is a rant in which numerous good points are made - e.g. "Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it." (266) - and in which others are woefully ignored (e.g. that just as human decency precedes religion, so, too, does the impulse - to wreak havoc and cause harm - he attributes to religion itself).

    One final thing I'll mention is how unfortunate it is that Hitchens cannot seem to fathom the ways in which truth and facts are different entities, if often compliments. He's a literary critic and should know this better than anyone! Just as Northrop Frye has discussed at length, the Old Testament was never intended as a literal document - the culture that conceived of it understood this, so why can't Hitchens? The stories in the Old Testament are not facts and were not meant to be taken as such, so criticizing their being more akin to fables merely because a contingent of modern religious folk have misunderstood their meaning reveals Hitchens's response to be more a reaction than a response and reveals a misunderstanding in him as deep as the one in the literalist perspective of which he's so unforgiving. Ironically, one of the best explanations of the assertion that truth is as often found in an absence of fact as in fact can be seen in Enduring Love, a novel by Ian McEwan - the writer to whom God is not Great is dedicated. In it, Clarissa, a Keats scholar commenting on a disputed urban legend-like encounter between Keats and Wordsworth, says: "It isn't true, but it tells the truth" (183). Similarly, the Old Testament isn't true as we understand "true" to be "factual," but it does tell the truth - about mankind, his nature, his shortcomings, his sense of longing, his sense of the sacred, etc. Enduring Love's exploration of this question with regard to religion - and not just Keats - plumbs much deeper, too, than I've mentioned here. Again, that Hitchens seems incapable of distinguishing between "truth" and "facts" or "data" is bizarre, given his standing as a literary critic.

    However learned he is, and whatever the book's nominal pluses, its tone is offensive, its conclusions misguided and its suppositions the product less of inquiry than of resentment. If there were a 1 1/2 star rating to give it, I would, but God is not Great warrants rounding down far more than rounding up.

  • Joel
    Jul 21, 2008

    Imagine if a basketball fan set out to discredit baseball and converts its adherents to his chosen sport. He would note the rather dubious creation myth still celebrated in the sports' Hall of Fame, the Black Sox scandal, the exclusion of African American players until the 1950s, frequent brawls between teams that literally clear the benches, and two most successful players of the last decade being almost undoubted cheats. He could go on to argue that the uniforms are childish, the habits of pla

    Imagine if a basketball fan set out to discredit baseball and converts its adherents to his chosen sport. He would note the rather dubious creation myth still celebrated in the sports' Hall of Fame, the Black Sox scandal, the exclusion of African American players until the 1950s, frequent brawls between teams that literally clear the benches, and two most successful players of the last decade being almost undoubted cheats. He could go on to argue that the uniforms are childish, the habits of players disgusting (and their salaries even more so), and the rules hopelessly complex and inconsistent. Finally, he might say, subjecting children to such a game through organized little leagues is perhaps a form of child abuse. After all, it subjects them to needless stress to perform in an environment where even the most successful fail more than half the time and relies on shouting coaches for motivation. The basketball fan might then make a few comments on the beauty of a Larry Bird jumper, the deftness of a Magic Johnson behind-the-back pass, and the awe-inspiring grace of a Jordan dunk and thus safely conclude the argument convinced that his case was proved.

    Replace baseball with religions and basketball with enlightenment rationalism and you've essentially got God is Not Great. Hitchens' book is a catalog of the sins of religions and a well considered and highly pointed one at that. I found much I want to think over a bit more in my faith after watching it fall under Hitchens's inspection. Still, it seems like the same sort of catalog can be written up about any organized human endeavor and the fact that organized religions are not free of the human stain hardly surprises.

    What is surprising is the extent to which Hitchens' goes to leave no saint unblemished. Why he chooses to blame Indian partition on Gandhi, when Gandhi advocated contra Jinnah for a united India is beyond me. Similar is the portrayal of Mother Teresa as an opportunistic nun (I am sure the people she served wish there were more such opportunists). I suspect Mother Teresa is cast in such an unfavorable light more from the antipathy Hitchens feels for his fellow polemicist Malcolm Muggeridge, who first filmed her, than anything she's done. (In Hitchens estimation Muggeridge is an idiot as are most people he disagrees with).

    I suppose an atheist will find most of this comforting, though he may be pricked by a niggling doubt (a similar doubt to the doubt a theist such as myself has when reading some of C.S. Lewis' work) that the case for atheism is just a little too easily made here.

  • Manny
    Jan 05, 2009

    There's a debate I keep getting into about the difference between atheism and religious belief: someone claims that atheism is just another faith, and I disagree. This seems like a good place to summarize my objections.

    I would first like to draw a clear distinction between

    and

    atheism. If someone blindly believes that there is no God, and no evidence whatsoever would change their opinion, then I quite agree that, for such people, atheism is indeed another religion. (A mathemat

    There's a debate I keep getting into about the difference between atheism and religious belief: someone claims that atheism is just another faith, and I disagree. This seems like a good place to summarize my objections.

    I would first like to draw a clear distinction between

    and

    atheism. If someone blindly believes that there is no God, and no evidence whatsoever would change their opinion, then I quite agree that, for such people, atheism is indeed another religion. (A mathematician might say that it's the null religion). But most atheists aren't like that. They don't believe in God because they don't see compelling evidence to do so, but, were such evidence produced, they would change their minds.

    If you still wish to argue that sceptical atheism is a faith, it seems to me that you are in general arguing that one should abolish the distinction between faith and reasoned judgement, a step most people would be reluctant to take. When I say that I don't believe snow is green, my statement is based on having seen a lot of snow. Most of it was white (some was a dirty gray), and none of it was green. If I did see green snow, I'd change my position to saying that snow was usually white, but occasionally green.

    Of course, evidence isn't always as direct as looking at snow. I don't believe that any mountain in the world is taller than Mount Everest. I have never even been in the Himalayas, and directly verifying the claim would also involve visiting and measuring every mountain in the world, a difficult undertaking. Nonetheless, I have met people whose job it is to verify claims of this kind, and I know that they are good at what they do. If a geographer published an erroneous claim about the identity of the world's tallest mountain, I am sure that another geographer would take great pleasure in showing him that he was wrong, and would try to set the record straight. It's easy to measure the height of a mountain to an accuracy of at worst a metre or two. Soon the debate would be over, and almost everyone would agree.

    Moving on to things more directly divine, I don't believe that thunder is the sound of the god Thor throwing his hammer. I believe it's the sound of a large-scale electrical discharge made when clouds become sufficiently charged. Again, my evidence is largely based on other people's testimony, but the account of thunder in terms of electrical discharges is solid, coherent and meshes well with things I have seen. For example, discharges created by van der Graaf generators look enough like lightning that it's hard to write that off as a coincidence. I also know that the statistics on the efficacy of lightning conductors are very one-sided. None the less, if I were to meet Thor in person, as Natalie Portman does in the recent movie, I would no doubt revise my opinions.

    Well: I don't believe in the existence of the monotheistic God who created the universe simply because I don't see enough evidence. My lack of belief in that God is pretty much the same as my lack of belief in green snow, my lack of belief in a mountain taller than Everest and my lack of belief in big blond guys in thunder clouds throwing hammers. If I did see evidence, I'd change my mind. (

    makes this point very nicely). But, until then, I'm sceptical, and I don't see that my scepticism is an act of faith. It's only the normal exercise of reasoned judgement.

  • Diane
    Sep 27, 2009

    I'm probably going to court some hateful comments by trying to write a review of this book, but I think Hitch would be proud that I am making the attempt.

    I have been reading Hitch's work for years, including his essays on mortality and atheism, so I knew the gist of his arguments against religion, but it was enlightening going through this entire book. He synthesizes a tremendous amount of research from history, philosophy, science and current events, and he argues that "religion poisons everyth

    I'm probably going to court some hateful comments by trying to write a review of this book, but I think Hitch would be proud that I am making the attempt.

    I have been reading Hitch's work for years, including his essays on mortality and atheism, so I knew the gist of his arguments against religion, but it was enlightening going through this entire book. He synthesizes a tremendous amount of research from history, philosophy, science and current events, and he argues that "religion poisons everything." No religion is spared his glare -- he gives time to all faiths and prophets. He makes his case using his great wit and flair for words, and the result is a compelling read.

    Here are a few favorite passages:

    "Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse. And if we chance to forget what that must have been like, we have only to look at those states and societies where the clergy still has the power to dictate its own terms. The pathetic vestiges of this can still be seen, in modern societies, in the efforts made by religion to secure control over education, or to exempt itself from tax, or to pass laws forbidding people to insult its omnipotent and omniscient deity, or even his prophet."

    [On the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and referencing a speech by Abba Eban] "Two peoples of roughly equivalent size had a claim to the same land. [Eban said] the solution was, obviously, to create two states side by side. Surely something so evident was within the wit of man to encompass? And so it would have been, decades ago, if the messianic rabbis and mullahs and priests could have been kept out of it. But the exclusive claims to god-given authority, made by hysterical clerics on both sides and further stoked by Armageddon-minded Christians who hope to bring on the Apocalypse (preceded by the death or conversion of all Jews), have made the situation insufferable, and put the whole of humanity in the position of hostage to a quarrel that now features the threat of nuclear war.

    As well as a menace to civilization, it has become a threat to human survival."

    [On atheism and his co-thinkers] "Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake ... We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and -- since there is no other metaphor -- also the soul."

    Hitch died in December 2011, and damn how I miss that brilliant, cantankerous ol' rabble-rouser. If you have ever seen him interviewed or heard him give a speech, you know he has a fantastic voice, so I need to make a plug for his audiobooks, which are excellently narrated. And if you want to read some Hitchens but don't want to get all religion-y, I highly recommend his autobiography "Hitch-22."

  • Oceana2602
    Sep 16, 2010

    Let me begin this review by telling you that I'm an atheist. In fact, I'm with Douglas Adams in calling myself a "radical atheist", just to make sure that everyone gets the point. Yes, really. It's in my profile.

    So my opinion about this book really has nothing to do with my personal convictions. Well, not my personal religious convictions, of which there are none. It has everything to do with my personal convictions as an atheist. And as an atheist, I'm offended by this book.

    Hitchens is not, and

    Let me begin this review by telling you that I'm an atheist. In fact, I'm with Douglas Adams in calling myself a "radical atheist", just to make sure that everyone gets the point. Yes, really. It's in my profile.

    So my opinion about this book really has nothing to do with my personal convictions. Well, not my personal religious convictions, of which there are none. It has everything to do with my personal convictions as an atheist. And as an atheist, I'm offended by this book.

    Hitchens is not, and I quote from the numerous book reviews so helpfully printed on the first few pages of my paperback copy,"witty, impressive, entertaining, funny, challenging" or, GOD forbid (pardon the pun), "excellent".

    He is not even polemical, since that would require some factual discussion. He is simply inflammatory.

    Hitchens bashes religion in 341 pages, complete with references and an index. (I guess that way he can pretend that his "work" has some academic value). Now, the book is called "God is not great - How Religion poisons everything". What the hell did she expect this to be, you will probably ask.

    Let me tell you.

    I expected this to be a serious, well presented argument of why the world would be better off without religion. I expected there to be a theoretical discussion about how a world without religion can not only work, but work better than one with religion. And I expected there to be a dicussion and dissection of religious beliefs and their influence on human interaction and how these beliefs, in a modern society, are not necessary anymore, and/or are probably even hindering the development of our society.

    Instead I get 341 pages on the most stupidest things people do in the name of religion, like, fundamentalist muslims telling poor people not to get polio vaccinations, and arguments like 'jews and muslims hate pigs because pigs are dirty and eat their young if they are trapped in little stables, but the muslims completely stole that idea from the jew' (complete with a really touching page on why pigs are really cute animals and that human babies love little pigs. Cause you can never be wrong with the human baby argument.)

    Cause not eating pigs is really one of the worst problems caused by religions in modern times. Poor pigs, they feel all left out. Well, I don't eat pigs, and I certainly don't think that makes me a bad person. Just a mostly vegetarian one who can't stomach pig meat.

    But wait, the pig thing is leading somewhere. It is leading, piggies beware, to the oh so representative story of the muslims who, because of the ban on pigs, try to ban things like "Winnie-the-Pooh", or "The Three little piglets". Because yes, that's certainly a REAL problem, and, you know, EVERY muslim thinks that way. Plus, since America is SO GOOD with its non-censorship policies, it's always a really good idea for Americans to hold up the "STOP CENSORSHIP" banner to other nations.

    (this was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell).

    I'm sorry, but almost everyone I know is religious. NO ONE I know is a radical muslim, christian, jew or whatever. Maybe that's why I have the nagging feeling that most religious people are really quite normal and do not propose bans on children's books or tell people not to get vaccinated in the name of god.

    And I really think pointing out the tiny minority of FREAKS in a religion, any religion, btw, in order to ban the whole thing, is kind of ineffective. What does Hitches want to say with that? That religion is okay, as long as they keep in check the radicals?

    As a radical atheist, I'm confused.

    Arguing with the most extreme examples is certain to get you heard, but in my experience, it isn't very effective. It's too easy to say, yes, Hitchens, you are right, but religion isn't really like that. The [insert religious work of your choice] doesn't really say that. And then the normal religious people will lean back and stay as happily religious as they are.

    That there is a reason why people are religious, that religions have shaped our societies and our behaviors as humans for as long as we can think?

    Hitchens doesn't mention it.

    And that there is no more need for religion in the present we live in, that religion has in fact become THE factor that is most likely to hinder the evolution of humans as a race?

    Not a word.

    Or wait, maybe he does mention that somewhere in the 241 pages I chose not to read, because I have better things to do with my time. But I doubt it.

    I bought this book because I was led to believe that Hitchens is one THE top intellectuals of the USA, and one of the important proponents of the so-called "new atheism". (whatever that is)

    If he is, I feel sorry for us "old atheists". And I'm calling myself that because I most certainly do not want to be connected to a movement that does itself exactly what it criticizes in religious radicals: attack and condemn, without reason or explanation. That's what Hitchens does in this book. Hitchens may think that he is an atheist, and he may argue on behalf of atheism. But in doing so, he turns his atheism into the one thing that I am strongly against: a new religion.

    And that does not only offend my as an atheist, it also harms atheism as such. Which is the fundamental difference between me and Hitches: we both are convinced that there is no god. But where I only want people to take responsibility for their own mistakes and to not blame a superior being, where I want them to be human because they are, and not because some religion dictates how and why they should be human, Hitchens does not seem to think that far. He just jumped onto the popular train ("new" atheim? Really?) to point his finger at the most outrageous and stupid examples of radical religious people he could find.

    Newsflash, Mr. Hitchens: there are idiots everywhere, but you cannot judge the whole system upon them.

    Case in point.

    P.S.: Oh, and I should probably mention that the book isn't very well written either. The language, especially the first chapter, is pompous. The structure of the "arguments" is, at best, random. Also, the author seems to have chosen not to

    follow the rules of logic. Or to, you know, be logical at all.

    *closes book and throws it on the sale pile*

  • Becky
    Sep 04, 2013

    Not long ago, I watched a couple of those "How The Universe Works" shows, and it kinda traumatized me. In however many billions of years, the sun is going to die, and slightly before that the Earth will be incinerated, and everything that we are, were, will be, and will have built will cease to exist. I can comprehend that. Earth's only one part of a solar system in a tiny part of one galaxy of hundreds of billions of galaxies that exist in the vastness of the universe.

    See? I know that someday

    Not long ago, I watched a couple of those "How The Universe Works" shows, and it kinda traumatized me. In however many billions of years, the sun is going to die, and slightly before that the Earth will be incinerated, and everything that we are, were, will be, and will have built will cease to exist. I can comprehend that. Earth's only one part of a solar system in a tiny part of one galaxy of hundreds of billions of galaxies that exist in the vastness of the universe.

    See? I know that someday (thankfully not very soon), Earth is a goner. But what's hard for me to comprehend is that eventually, the rest of the universe will end too. That's just mind-boggling to me. That something so vast, and so seemingly infinite, can just

    ... well, it makes me almost wish that there was something more, to almost want to have faith that there is some sort of creator who set all of this in place and then breathed life into it, and who has a plan and a purpose for what it will eventually become, rather than there being nothing but a ticking clock until the end of everything.

    Almost, because it's sometimes comforting in the face of the end of all existence.

    But I don't. Even if I DID have that faith, that would be all. I could never be religious, because I don't believe in religion. And that is the crux of this book for me.

    A little anecdote before I continue: A couple weeks ago, The Boy's family came to stay with us for a few days to visit. They are religiousy, grace-before-dinner (heh, almost typo'd 'sinner' there), "God has a plan" types, who give God credit for everything. They hit all green lights driving through town? God was with them, etc. I try not to get sucked into conversations about religion with The Boy's grandma, because she's a sweet lady who just can't see things being other than how she sees them, and she believes that she's only trying to help me "find God". I know she wouldn't understand my lack of desire to have anything to do with religion, so I just avoid the topic altogether whenever possible.

    The last day of their visit, the inevitable happened and she cornered me while I was making dinner:

    Her: "So, have you found a church yet?"

    Me: "Umm, no... OhIhavetocheckthefoodnow... *mumblemumble*"

    Her: "Oh, well you'll find one... you just have to keep trying! You know, you'd really like my church. It's the biggest in the area. We have to drive 45 minutes to get there, but I really like it because it's got gold on the windowsills and they've got their own TV and radio stations and..."

    Then: "So, why don't you go to church?"

    Me:

    "Oh, well... I don't believe in organized religion."

    Her: "Oh, you mean like those Catholics? They are always standing and sitting and chanting at just the right times! They are really organized!"

    Me: O_o "Yeahhhhh... that's not exactly the kind of 'organized' I meant..."

    Hitchens' point, as the sub-title indicates, is that RELIGION poisons everything. Simply put, it's a pissing contest, winner decided by headcount (or body count, as the case may be), between groups who are each claiming that THEIRS is the Right and One True Religion... and thus intolerance and hatred and fear is born. Religions tell people that they are going to spend eternity in suffering unless they Follow The Rules... when The Rules themselves can cause immense suffering in people, from fear of eternal damnation, to circumcision (both male and female), to homophobic violence, to genocide, just to name a few. Seems like a lose/lose to me.

    Organized religion seeks (and too often succeeds) to exert control over people's thoughts and behavior, imposing standards of purity that are nearly impossible to attain, even in the most pious believer. But more than that, they also insert themselves into politics, seeking to impose their particular brand of 'morality' on everyone, which inevitably leads to human rights violations and less freedom for people of all beliefs.

    Religion spawns creatures of such vile ugliness and pure evil that I can't even comprehend them... And that's just the Westboro Baptist Church.

    Ahh, such wholesome, joyful hatred.

    I agreed with much of what Hitchens said in this book on the subject of religion, because I do think that can be toxic, but we actually differ on the faith aspect. I felt uncomfortable with some of his attitudes toward people who believe in God/Allah/Buddha/Krishna/etc, resorting to dismissive name-calling several times. I realize that this is a fine line for me to walk, because religion and faith/belief are tied so closely together. But I feel like faith/belief in and of itself is not a bad thing, nor does it make the person who holds it stupid or naive or less worthy of respect. I have no problem with faith, or belief in any God, whatever they may be called. That is an individual's decision and it's personal to them. I make no claims of knowing there is NOT a God, so I cannot say anyone who believes in one is wrong.

    My issue is when faith is bound up in religion as an institution that uses it as a method of control and intolerance. That is when I feel that a line is crossed, and in my opinion, the result is far more harm than good, if viewed in large-scale terms.