Had to read it for a class. Interesting, in-your-face account of how xtianity has been historically skewed by 'fashionable' pro-secular movement. Expe...moreHad to read it for a class. Interesting, in-your-face account of how xtianity has been historically skewed by 'fashionable' pro-secular movement. Expected to hate it, however found it thought-provoking and altered some of my previous conclusions. DBH is an imaginative, witty, and informative author. Dense history sometimes a drawback, but overall book runs very smoothly. (less)
"The disaster that followed could have been foreseen. Prussia was isolated - invoking the glorious past could not conceal the fact that the army had b...more"The disaster that followed could have been foreseen. Prussia was isolated - invoking the glorious past could not conceal the fact that the army had become a museum piece." p. 95
"At Tilsit Napoleon stood at the zenith of his power." p. 108
"Napoleon judged the series of battles in Bavaria, 20-24 April, among his most brilliant operations." p. 121
"When Wellington face Napoleon at Waterloo only 31,000 officers and men of his 67,000-strong army were British." p. 136
"Curiously, neither Napoleon, Wellington nor indeed any major commander had much interest in new technology. None the less, British artillery introduced two technological innovations during the conflict. The first was shrapnel - named after its inventor Lieutenant Shrapnel, Royal Artillery." p. 137
"Understanding as had the ancients that angels and demons were identical - interchangeable archetypes - all a matter of polarity: the guardian angel w...more"Understanding as had the ancients that angels and demons were identical - interchangeable archetypes - all a matter of polarity: the guardian angel who conquered your enemy in battle was perceived by you enemy as a demon destroyer." Author, p. 15
"Don't tell anyone, but on the pagan day of the sun god Ra, I kneel at the foot of an ancient instrument of torture and consume ritualistic symbols of flesh and blood." ... "And if any of you care to join me, come to the Harvard Chapel on Sunday, kneel beneath the crucifix, and take Holy Communion." Langdon, p. 40
"Is there? Is it not possible that we are still living in the Dark Ages, still mocking the suggestions of 'mystical' forces that we cannot see or comprehend? History, if it has taught us anything at all, has taught us that the strange ideas we deride today will one day be our celebrated truths." Dean Galloway, p. 387 (less)
"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst th...more"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government." p.2 Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826.
"If one plays the parlor game - "If he were to be an animal, which animal would he be?" - we are almost compelled to think of a large and rather resourceful fox." p 10
"General James Wolfe's capture of [Quebec] in late 1759 can well be described as a turning point in history: it decided that the future world language would be English and it indirectly precipitated the American Revolution, which in turn caused the British Empire to establish Australia as an alternative destination for convicts and malcontent laborers." p. 11-12
On drafting the Declaration of Independence: "He (Jefferson) was generally thought to be the better writer and the finer advocate; one might wish to have seen a Franklin version - which might at least have contained one joke - but it was not to be." p. 23-24
"He also helped compose a congressional address on the stirring occasion of George Washington's retirement as commander in chief; a voluntary renunciation of power that straightened the shoulders and spines of every believer in the republican virtue." p. 51
"It is perhaps both heartening and sobering to reflect that, in the contest between Jefferson and Adams in 1976, the electors were offered a choice between teh president of the American Philosophical Society and the founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and chose both of them." p. 107
"...all the officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty." p. 110 Jefferson, letter to Phillip Mazzei, April 1976, about the "Anglican, monarchical, & aristocratic party" (aka the Washington administration)
"And it (the Alien, Sedition, and Naturalization Acts together) permitted the punishment of anyone who, by publishing or utterance, brought the government of the United States into disrepute. (Or most of the government: the Sedition Act actually exempted the person of the vice president from the list of those officials who were above such criticisms.)" p. 113
"Thus, within the space of two years, Jefferson had been arraigned by pro-slavery forces as an abolitionist and had furnished the moral rhetoric of states' rights what was to become the great political prop of the pro-slavery faction." p. 115
"By means of those coincidences that give accident its necessary place in the telling of history, two simultaneous events supervened. The first of these was the full assumption of power, France, by the Corsican usurper Napoleon Bonaparte. Having made himself "First Consul" on the day still remembered as 18 Brumaire 1799, the new military dictator waited only a short time to declare that the French revolution was, after ten tempestuous years, at an end. The "Proclamation" was issued on December 15, 1799. On the preceding day, George Washington had died. No two moments, separately or in combination, could have given Americans a stronger sense of an impending new century." p. 116
"This is the period at which Americans began to revere the notion of orderly transitions of power between opposing parties, a thing that was still unknown anywhere else in the world." p. 118
"...but the record as it comes down to us makes it possible to state that without Thomas Jefferson as president, it is in the highest degree improbably that the United States would exist as we know it today, or even as we knew it a century ago." p. 125
"In Haiti itself an unprecedented thing had occurred. A brilliant rebel general, perhaps the first slave leader since the possibly mythical Spartacus, had emerged in the person of Toussaint L'Ouverture. Massing the slaves behind him in a formidable army, Toussaint had proclaimed the first black-ruled republic in history." p. 137
"By this cajolery he wrung from Congress the grand sum of two thousand, five hundred dollars for the most momentous exploration in modern history." (L&C Expedition) p. 149
"He proposed that the penalty for killing an Indian should be the same in law as for the murder of a white man. The pleasure he took in being considered the Great White Chief, or Father, and in receiving delegations of lesser chiefs at the White House was the nearest he ever came to indulging any monarchical fancies. In fact, his outfittin gof the Lewis and CLark expidition was an inversion of the classical theory of the training of princes. Alexander of Macedon had had Aristotle as his tutor; the Florentine rulers had had Machiavelli. But Lewis and Clark had a president to educate them." p. 152
"(She had, [Jefferson] wrote, "established a degree of dislike among all classes which one would have thought impossible in so short a time.")" Referring to Anthony Merry's wife. p. 157-158
"Never did a prisoner released from his chains feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power. Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived, have forced me to tkae a part in resisting the, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passion." Jefferson, letter to Pierre Dupont de Nemours on leaving D.C. and the presidency. p. 166-167
"Without fully realizing or even quite intending it, Jefferson had helped usher the United States across the span of bridge that led from colonial settlement to continental nationhood." p. 168
"They [priests] dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight; and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversion of the duperies in which they live." Jefferson, p. 174
"The doctrines which he really delivered were defective as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible." Jefferson on Jesus, p. 179
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Lots of interesting information buried in here and conveyed with great clarity and wit by Hitch. The theme that was running through this whole thing is about how Jefferson was a man of great ideas but also contradictions and hypocrisies that were a tiny bit off-putting (i.e. SLAVERY, American expansion, state's rights, racism, . Despite this, you can tell Hitchens really appreciates what this man has done for the US (the world?) and counts him as a person who should be admired, issues of slavery and other eyebrow-raisers aside. But thats Hitch for you; a sharp, knowledgable, and I'll say honest iconoclast to the fullest, even if that means revealing the dirty laundry of a great American such as Jefferson. Unlike Mother Theresa and Henry Kissinger, however, Jefferson is left mostly intact and standing upright after a thorough Hitch examination, albeit with a slightly sullied image and lacking by small degrees the luster which it previously had. (less)
"This ridiculous foible is perhaps one of our most fatal characteristics; for is there anything more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden...more"This ridiculous foible is perhaps one of our most fatal characteristics; for is there anything more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden which one can always throw down? to detest existence and yet cling to one's existence? in brief, to caress the serpent which devours us, till he has eaten our very heart? p. 32, the Old Woman
"But is there not a pleasure in criticizing everything, pointing out faults where others see nothing but beauties?" p. 81, Candide
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Like Gulliver's Travels, you really gotta be in the satirical spirit to not only enjoy this book, but to understand the allegorical layers going on. And yes, these two things are actually very closely linked. If you don't understand the satire, then you probably won't enjoy the tale. That's kinda where I'm at with this book after just finishing it. I'm sure I missed a lot of references and contextual supports that hindered my ability to get everything I could out of this book, and thus I did not enjoy it as well as I might have if I had read this in a class where a teacher could serve as a useful guide in excavating this book. But there were some funny parts and it was short so it definitely was not a waste of time. Perhaps in the future I'll give this another go and try to get more out of it.
"You know, the atheists, who not only believe but know there is no God are just as silly as those who seem to have no doubt that there is." p. 4
"One d...more"You know, the atheists, who not only believe but know there is no God are just as silly as those who seem to have no doubt that there is." p. 4
"One doesn't have to beg a good being to be good, one only has to ask a bad being to be good. No? Since the devil is the bad guy, isn't he the one we should be begging for mercy?" p. 6
"If anyone was ever in the corner of a murderer it was God with Simpson." p. 8
"If a man partakes of a cup of liuid froma large barrel and it tastes to him like a certain, distinct beverage, can he not with confidence say taht tthe rest of the barrel is teh same beverage? Or should he really believe that deeper in the barrel the flavor might change dramatically? What I am saying is taht what I do oknw has convinced me that by and large the religious beleifs about God are a rich and intoxicating brew of myth, superstition, and nonsense." p. 13
"This does not mean that God is not responsible for the harmony and order of the universe. It only means that since there is no past human experience to rely on, Christians are not rationally entitled to assert, with the great confidence they do, that the harmony and design of the universe prove that a supernatural being, God, is behind it all." p. 24. Sounds very Humian.
"It turns out that the book is primarily not even about God but, as the subtitle of his book declares, about how Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens apparently believes that by slaying the dragon of organized religion, an unworthy opponent, he is therefore slaying God, an obvious non sequitur." p. 43......... I might have to reread this book but I'm pretty sure Bugliosi is putting words into Hitch's mouth. He never said there is definitely no god because of all the evil religion has done. All he said was that he is rather an Anti-theist than an atheist anyway.
Talking about Sam Harris: " In other words, I've destroyed religion, and therefore I've destroyed God. But does Harris actually believe that there can be no God without religion? Indeed, that there can be no belief in a creator, a supreme being, without one being, concomitantly, a member of some organized religion or religious faith? How can anyone believe this? Yet this, apparently, is what at least Harris and his colleague Hitchens believe." p. 48. OK this is an outright lie, at least for Hitchens' sake who I know a lot more about than Harris. Hitchens absolutely believed one could believe in god without religion, i.e. his favorite president (and mine) Thomas Jefferson was of this ilk. Again, just because other people call him an atheist does not mean Hitchens says there is no god and attacks religion, Hitchens calls himself more of an anti-theist and attacks religion and says he thinks there really is no good reason to believe in god.
"When I hear theists and atheist pontificating on how they know God does or does not exist, I can only smile at the irrationality and yes, vanity of the notion." p. 48. I'll give you that I've heard theists say that, and some atheists, but not the ones he is attacking here (Hitchens, Dawkins). Dawkins gave himself a 6.9 on a 0-7 scale where 0 is knowing there is a god and 7 is knowing there is no god. Again, he is presuming that these New-Age atheists are claiming they know god doesn't exist and I'm almost certain (see what I did there?) they have not.
On the multiple universe theory as it applies to the anthropomorphic principle in Dawkins' view - "The most acclaimed atheist of today has the effrontery to present a pure fantasy of his (and a virtually impossible one at that, unless one wants to run the zeros of improbability to the end of hundreds of pages) as actual evidence that there's no God, and he does it, I assume, without even blushing." p. 56. OK clearly this guy has never heard of the multi-verse theory, calling it pure fantasy... theoretical physicists have been kicking that idea around for a while now in earnest.
"Concomitantly, the struggle for life caused the organisms to mutate, to change, to adapt to their demanding environment, the changes making them more complex." p. 62. As he states earlier, he clearly has no idea how evolution works... the struggle for life does not cause mutations.
"In other words, his theory has been accepted as fact by most scientists on how man evolved, and they therefore reject the notion that God created man." p. 62. NOT TRUE, they can still say that God overlooked evolution.
"I can say that viscerally I find it difficult to conceptualize the notion of bacteria evolving into Mozart, or, for that matter, any human. At a much more elementary level, I find it difficult to conceive of how evolution enables any life form, such as a bacteria, not only to improve life itself and become more capable of surviving, but actually allows it to change into a completely different species, many of such transmutations having had to take place for a bacteria to evolve into a human being." p. 63. READ A BOOK ABOUT EVOLUTION THEN I'm running out of characters for this review so I'll just leave it at that.
"[D]oesn't the very word "evolution" by definition, mean that the previous life form no longer exists? That it has evolved or mutated into a new or higher form? If so, since monkeys still exist, does that mean, perforce, that we did not evolve from them?" p. 64. NO SHIT SHERLOCK, again, read a book on evolution, we didn't evolve from monkeys, we have a common ancestor with them. This guy is starting to annoy me.
'What does it say about humanity that the one thing people think is important enough to talk about is not that, aside from Noah and his family, God murdered the entire human race, but "I wonder if they'll ever find Noah's ark?"" p. 144.
"To pause for a moment, unless God is part homoseual, which I have yet to hear anyone suggest, since the bible says that "God created man in his own image" (Genesis 1:27), how could it come to pass that there are homosexuals in the world?" p. 146. This is actually really funny.
"Can you imagine that? Thirty grown men with all types of doctorate degrees, wearing suits and ties and boarding planes with their briefcases to fly to Rome and sit around a conference table and actually conduct a serious discussion about limbo. It's mind-boggling." p. 173
"The point I am making goes beyond prayers. When people, saying grace before a bountiful Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, thank God for giving them the wonderful food on their plate, don't they realize they are necessarily saying that God decided not to give millions of starving people around the world no food at all to eat?" p. 212
"Indeed, isn't the need for laws throughout the land an implied admission that God and religion are only marginally effective in deterring bad and immoral human conduct?" p. 230
"Isn't it comforting for people to know that their very firmly held religious beliefs have nothing to do with the quality and merit of the beliefs, and everything to do with geography?" p.231
"If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, faith is the first refuge of an idle or apprehensive mind, and though it may perhaps be mentally and emotionally nutritious, it is not intellectually sustainable." p. 254. Last bit is a really well-made phrase.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: As much as he tries to promote agnosticism, he is really an anti-theist. Which is good, because that's what I am too. My cousin bought me this book after seeing I was reading a book by Hitchens called "The Portable Atheist," and, although he actually never said this so I hope I am not misreading his intentions, wanted me to expand my horizons and get out of my little atheist corner. I am perhaps putting this in a much more condescending way than it should be, because that was definitely not his intention at all. As I greatly respect his intelligence, so I figured this thoughtful gift would be well worth my time. It was, but for a different reason than he or I thought it would be. Like I said, this was supposed to be a book that engenders agnosticism, and it kinda does get that accomplished. However, he spends much more time bashing religion than anything else in this book (always a fun thing to do if done right). His arguments against atheism are much less prominent and forceful. He merely attacks 'gnostic' atheists, those who say that there is absolutely no way there is a god. I am not under this flag; in the strictest sense, although most people only see 3 exhaustive options in atheist, theist, and agnostic, I consider myself and 'agnostic atheist,' in that I don't believe there is a god (atheist) but cannot say that there is no god (hence agnostic). So when Bugliosi says: "You know, the atheists, who not only believe but know there is no God are just as silly as those who seem to have no doubt that there is," I agree with him, but I really have not come across too many of these types of atheists who say that there absolutely is no god. To be sure, there are some like this there, but the 'new age' atheists that he attacks, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, are not of this stripe. I guess I cannot say this for sure of Harris, as I am only a tiny bit familiar with his position (a few youtube videos here and there, I haven't read anything by him yet). Ironically, as much as he tries to put down Hitchens for his book "God is Not Great." this book actually reminded a lot of GiNG. It was replete with some very interesting and keen attacks on the absurdities and atrocities of organized religion, mostly christianity and especially the catholic church. Very well picked and deserving targets, in my opinion. What is a little different about this book than GiNG is that this focuses more on the absurdities and a little bit about the atrocities, while GiNG focuses more on the atrocities and a little bit about the absurdities, although, needless to say, they go hand-in-hand and reciprocate each other. So, besides the bit about evolution and straw man attacks on virtually non-existent intransigent atheism, this was a pretty informative and entertaining book. Also, this seemed to be a pretty quick 270 pages, which is probably a product of the 2-guys-just-sitting-around-talking-casually writing style and interesting subject matter. I'm only giving it 4 stars, however because of the "If we evolved from monkeys, then why are they still here?" boneheaded fuck up.
So much literature, so much history, so much politics... pretty interesting. Why I love Hitch so much; interestingly honest...moreJerusalem vs. Athens,p. 78
So much literature, so much history, so much politics... pretty interesting. Why I love Hitch so much; interestingly honest and honestly interesting. I've read reviews complaining that its just a compendium of name-dropping yada yada yada. I'm sure he didn't 'drop' half as many names as he could have, and its his memoir, let him fill it with whatever he deems fit. A big part of his life was meeting and conferring with and arguing against intellectuals, writers, politicians, and commoners (whatever that means) of all stripes. But he doesn't need me to defend him (and that's saying something for a dead man), so I won't. All I really have left to say about him is that this memoir confirmed my conviction that I selfishly wish that there were more people like him around in my life in order to make this short life more interesting and more honest. Notice, I did not say I wish this because we share so many opinions, but because of these two simple virtues. And this probably has struck you by now, if there were more Hitch-clones, the level of interestingness would automatically drop because there would be less variety. So I'm not wishing for Hitch-clones. With that said, I'll concede that he is on a short list of people I wouldn't mind being cloned, given the impetus that some cloning had to be done. (less)