jeremy's Reviews > God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
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Mar 01, 12

bookshelves: gen-nonfiction
Read in February, 2012

few books in the past decade have elicited as much fervent criticism, charged rhetoric, and heated opposition as christopher hitchens' antitheist exposition, god is not great. the late author and journalist was obviously a compelling writer, and whatever controversies his works may have courted were often the inevitable result of his relentless pursuit of and devotion to veracity and intellectual inquest. hitchens was witty, wise, and clever, but it was his mordancy, incisiveness, and intransigence that won him both adherents and detractors aplenty.

god is not great takes aim, of course, at the cruel, deleterious, and all too often hypocritical role organized religion (especially the three abrahamic faiths) has played since its inception. hitchens' criticisms are indeed sharp, but they are also well-reasoned and logically conveyed. a salient point that he reiterates throughout the book concerns religion's evident inability to let alone those whose faiths may differ (or be absent altogether):
it can be stated as a truth that religion does not, and in the long run cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. it must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths. it may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one. this is only to be expected. it is, after all, wholly man-made. and it does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths.
hitchens' disdain of religion is hardly subtle, and his unrestrained arguments against it cover a wide breadth. with a long history from which to draw his evidence, he directs attention to common traits shared by all the major religions, including, but not limited to, their long, bloody history of conquest and crusade, their deplorable and unforgivable treatment of women and children, their inherent intolerance of opposing viewpoints, their totalitarian tendencies, their proliferation of specious metaphysical claims, and their general opposition to reason, openmindedness, and freethinking. hitchens also examines the respective merits of the sacred texts, illuminating an abundance of inconsistencies, plagiarisms, immoralities, and questionable provenances.

while hitchens spends much of the book in the effort of countering arguments asserted by theists of various faiths, he also attempts to offer clear reasons as to why it would be beneficial for our mammalian species to set aside organized religion. regardless of one's own spiritual inclinations, god is not great provides ample opportunity for one to consider (or, hopefully, reconsider) the aggregate effect of religion on the well-being and trajectory of all humankind. controversy for its own sake is generally an empty proposition, and while hitchens is apt to stray into the polemical, it in no way minimizes the evidence he advances or the delusions he dispels. god is not great is a contentious, sometimes combative book, however just such a style may well be called for to advance so impassioned an argument ever further into the forefront.
yet in our hands and within our view is a whole universe of discovery and clarification, which is a pleasure to study in itself, gives the average person access to insights that not even darwin or einstein possessed, and offers the promise of near-miraculous advances in healing, in energy, and in peaceful exchange between different cultures. yet millions of people in all societies still prefer the myths of the cave and the tribe and the blood sacrifice.
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