Alex Telander's Reviews > God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
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Sep 16, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-read-in-2007
Read in May, 2007

GOD IS NOT GREAT BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Christopher Hitchens has spent some time in journalism: a book reviewer for the Times, a staff writer for the New Statesman, chief foreign correspondent for the Daily Express, a regular columnist for the Nation, and is a regular writer for Vanity Fair, Harper’s, and Atlantic Monthly. As a foreign correspondent and travel writer, he has written from more than sixty different countries. He is also the author of such books as Letters to a Young Contrarian and Why Orwell Matters. Hitchens now takes on a subject of growing discussion and debate in a time when the number of atheists in the United States, as well as the rest of the world, is apparently growing either because they are abandoning all religion or they are simply “coming out” and admitting to their atheist beliefs. A short time ago “atheist” was a hated label for one to admit to having, but now with a slew of atheist and anti-religious books, including Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion, Sam Harris’ End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, to name a few, with no doubt many more to be published; Hitchens addresses a subject that is slowly creeping into mainstream media (Dawkins made Time’s Top 100 Most Influential People list this year) and becoming a commonplace conversation in many households across the country.

What I find quite uncanny, having read most of the books mentioned above, is how each author avoids covering the same examples and details when discussing the same subject matter. The authors find new and different ways of exposing the futility of religion and pushing forth their atheist beliefs. Hitchens joins the ranks here in presenting a new side to a growing subject matter. What makes God is Not Great different is that while many of the other books calling for the end of the religion gloss over the different faiths of the world, they ultimately focus on Christianity, being the largest and most visible faith in this country; Hitchens doesn’t hold back and has chapters not just on Christianity and its various denominations, but also extensively attacks the Muslim religion and its denominations, Buddhism, Mormonism, as well as small religious sects around the world such as Shintoism and Jainism.

Hitchens puts his journalistic background to good use here in citing many different examples of how each religion causes more pain and suffering than good. In most cases, these are examples that feature situations that Hitchens was either involved in or learned about it while in that specific country. He best illustrates this in the second chapter of the book when he talks about serving on a panel with Dennis Prager – one of America’s notorious religious broadcasters – who challenged him to responding yes or no to a simple question: Hitchens was to imagine himself in a strange city one evening whereupon he saw a group of men coming towards him; the question is would he feel safer or less safe if he was to learn that they were coming from a prayer meeting? Hitchens then spends the next five pages explaining specific situations from a list of places simply beginning with the letter “B”: Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem, and Baghdad. In each city, he gives examples of why he would not feel safe, and in so doing covers the world’s major religions.

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