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Dio non è grande. Come la religione avvelena ogni cosa

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"La fede religiosa è inestirpabile, appunto perché siamo creature ancora in evoluzione. Non si estinguerà mai, o almeno non si estinguerà finché non vinceremo la paura della morte, del buio, dell'ignoranza e degli altri". Questa la tesi da cui parte "Dio non è grande". Muovendosi tra l'analisi dei testi di fondazione delle grandi religioni (Bibbia e Corano sopra tutti) e la riflessione sull'attualità politica e sullo scontro di civiltà in atto, Hitchens costruisce un implacabile atto di accusa contro le follie cui l'uomo si abbandona nel nome di una fede: oscurantismo, superstizione, intolleranza, senso di colpa, terrore verso la sessualità, anti-secolarismo. Contro questi non-valori, e memore della grande tradizione laica anglosassone, Hitchens reclama un ritorno alle idee dell'illuminismo, intessendo un elogio arguto e a tratti commovente della ragione umana. Un saggio che senza mai rinunciare alle armi dell'ironia e del paradosso, costringe faziosamente il lettore a schierarsi.

276 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Christopher Hitchens

182 books7,150 followers
Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-born American author, journalist, and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. He was also a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Hitchens was a polemicist and intellectual. While he was once identified with the Anglo-American radical political left, near the end of his life he embraced some arguably right-wing causes, most notably the Iraq War. Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left wing publications of both the United Kingdom and United States, Hitchens departed from the grassroots of the political left in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, but he stated on the Charlie Rose show aired August 2007 that he remained a "Democratic Socialist."

The September 11, 2001 attacks strengthened his embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he called "fascism with an Islamic face." He is known for his ardent admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, and for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger and Bill Clinton.

Hitchens was an anti-theist, and he described himself as a believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism, and reason.

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Profile Image for Oceana2602.
554 reviews139 followers
December 4, 2013
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 religiously follow the rules of logic. Or to, you know, be logical at all.
*closes book and throws it on the sale pile*
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
December 4, 2013
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 dogmatic and sceptical 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. (Carl Sagan's novel Contact 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.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
April 1, 2020

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 Nation 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, The Missionary Position).

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!
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
October 30, 2016
Witty, fact-based, amusing rant. I laughed out loud many times!

I think part of the rage Hitchens encounters derives from the fact that he is funny. If he put on a scholarly, serious tone, and imitated the behaviour of priests in the way he poses his arguments, he would not be hated in the way he is. But the ridicule makes him a target. I happen to like entertaining arguments more than tedious, nonsensical discussions on evidence for made-up assertions, and cheer Hitchens on when he offers his own (beware literalists, ironical!) belief:

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either.”

If there is one thing I would like to add, it is my amusement at discussions between scientists and creationists. Besides the fact that scientists will happily accept new evidence and change their theories if knowledge in their field expands, as opposed to creationists, who stubbornly will change reality to fit their ancient ideas from an illiterate, patriarchal and tribal era, there is another flaw in the creationist vindictive search for loopholes in evolutionary science:

Even if they happen to prove that evolutionists made a mistake or two in their research, that does not by any means make their own claims more valid! Why is the default setting a minority Christian fundamentalist belief in the literal truth of the Bible? ANY other explanation is equally valid without proof. The world on the turtle's back, the simulation of a brain in a vat, anything can be true if we do not accept evidence as a basis. As far as I am concerned, there is more proof in the world for Greek gods than for the so-called "justice" of the monotheistic gods in their various interpretations.

And Hitchens makes a beautiful statement for the diversity of gods in the human world of notorious storytellers:

“God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.”

So, I guess in 17th century Europe, I would now be burned as a witch. Can I please have a trial like the one in Monty Python's Holy Grail? I'll wear a false nose and wart if necessary:

"- Crowd: A witch! A witch! A witch! We found a witch! We've got a witch! A witch! A witch! We have found a witch. May we burn her?
- How do you know she is a witch
- She looks like one.
- Bring her forward.
- I'm not a witch! I'm not a witch !
- But you are dressed as one.
- They dressed me like this. - No, we didn't.
- And this isn't my nose. It's a false one.
- Well? - We did do the nose.
- The nose? - And the hat. But she is a witch !
- Did you dress her up like this? - No, no!
- Yes. A bit.
- She has got a wart.
- What makes you think she's a witch?
- She turned me into a newt!
- A newt?
- I got better.
- Burn her anyway!
- Quiet! Quiet!
- There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
- Are there? What are they? Tell us. - Do they hurt?
- Tell me, what do you do with witches?
- Burn them!
- And what do you burn, apart from witches?
- More witches! - Wood!
- So why do witches burn?
- 'Cause they're made of wood? - Good!
- How do we tell if she is made of wood? - Build a bridge out of her.
- But can you not also make bridges out of stone?
- Oh, yeah.
- Does wood sink in water?
- No, it floats. - Throw her into the pond!
- What also floats in water?
- Bread. - Apples.
- Very small rocks. - Cider! Great gravy.
- Cherries. Mud. - Churches.
- Lead. - A duck!
- Exactly.
- So, logically--
- If she weighs the same as a duck...
- she's made of wood.
- And therefore?
- A witch!
- A duck! A duck! - Here's a duck.
- We shaIl use my largest scales.
- Burn the witch !
- Remove the supports!
- A witch!
- It's a fair cop.
- Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?
- I am Arthur, king of the Britons."
Profile Image for Books Ring Mah Bell.
357 reviews262 followers
May 28, 2008
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".
Profile Image for Melly.
7 reviews22 followers
October 16, 2011
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
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,719 followers
May 30, 2014
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. Religion poisons everything. 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."
Profile Image for Becky.
1,384 reviews1,650 followers
September 11, 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 (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 end... 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..."
(I zoned out around this point, just holding up my end of the conversation by muttering "Oh?" and "That's nice..." every time she stopped for air.)
Then: "So, why don't you go to church?"
Me: (DAMMIT!!) "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.
Profile Image for Abubakar Mehdi.
158 reviews223 followers
October 29, 2016
Since I can't say anything with out being labelled as a 'heretic' or a 'heathen', I will just say this;
Not everything, but it does poison a lot of things. And its first victims are Reason and Common sense.
Profile Image for Luffy (Oda's Version).
765 reviews759 followers
January 23, 2020
Having read the book some time before the author died and having written a review but not on this site I'm at a loss to comprehend now what went wrong with this book.

I had a more lenient rating system at the time I read this book. Now I'd have given this book a 2/5 - which I just have. There is too much focus on current terrorist acts and while in theory it's not a bad idea, I did found such parts muddling and boring. Respect to Hitchens though and RIP.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,852 followers
May 9, 2023
How surprising that no argument of the author can be invalidated with rational arguments. Only with wonders and proof of God
Hitchens provides a hard-to-disagree, non-philosophical polemic against faith. Throughout the history of religion, he paints a picture of contradictions, power struggles, manipulation, warmongering, and the possible call for war, genocide, intolerance and oppression, and the mistreatment of women, people of other faiths, non-believers, and children.

Sociocultural evolution? No so much
These mentioned horror topics above were popular among primitive illiterates at the time of the founders of religion, and one would have thought that reason and enlightenment could bring about knowledge. Unfortunately, not so much. Regarding the care, poor feeding, and other social activities of religions: the sense of charitable action and donation is based on selflessness and the willingness to provide help without expectation of a return in the form of indoctrination readiness as thanks for salvation from precarious situations. On the other hand, if they recruit from the zealots and fundamentalists, who are saved from starvation or permanent physical damage, they deflate any well-intentioned intention due to the desired and purposefully evoked negative echo. On the contrary, it is perverted, and the supposedly good deed causes more bad things than if it had never happened.

You thought Gandhi and Buddha were better?
The author also dares to be one of the first to criticize the sacrosanct figure of Mahatma Gandhi, the impact of Buddhism on Asian societies, and the role of Buddhism in Japan at the time of the Second World War. To illustrate the proportional increase in intolerance per believer Hitchens refers to the different reaction patterns of believers and atheists. An extremist will never be tired of criticizing and attacking the religion or even the pure disbelief of others. It´s the foundation of his irrational construct. Attending a Mass, celebration, or just a non-inconspicuous event from another faith community can thereby turn out to be more and more impossible with increasing radicalization.

Being able to go to a different church and state recognition
On the other hand, tolerant, secular believers, atheists, and agnostics do not have to struggle with rolled-up toenails and internal turmoil when attending cultic acts of various religions and sects. By the way, state recognition makes the difference between secret cults and in the light of the legitimacy of sun-worshiping religion. Also, this recognition is based on pure numbers. These are important, just as cash for an almighty entity.

One faithful apple ruined the whole box of humanities
The basic concept of ignorant narrow-mindedness, unfortunately, often metastasizes, starting from religion, across all strata of the population and aspects of life. Be it politics, social systems, emancipation, education, economic models, knowledge formation, or several other essential elements of life; the infiltrated poison has been active for millennia. Moreover, you can see that everywhere, based on the societies that were built and are, at this moment, build on such structures and concepts, self destruction, atrocities, and backlashes are always just a question of time, no matter how high the technological level might be. Did you, for instance, notice that US women lost their reproductive rights thanks to religious extremists? An epigenetic analysis would be interesting.

They believe in politics and economics too
In the meantime, in the case of religion, fortunately, it has now become acceptable to produce criticism and one's own opinion. But as far as the economic system, monetary and financial systems, the nature of democratic participation, and the influence of the media and unwritten laws, doctrines, and unassailable dogmas are concerned, mankind faces a similar challenge as at the beginning of religious foundations.

Believe in endless exponential growth and free markets
It´s not acceptable to disobey the commandments of apologists for the political and economic neoliberal order, not carved in stone, but digitized, which bears frightening resemblances to religious delusions. When economic and sociopolitical infidels are considered subversive elements, no matter if they belong to the extreme left and right, without any empirical evidence, that´s an alarm sign. As an example, there are no attempts to have an objective conversation on controversial topics with an economist, banker, entrepreneur, politician, or opinion leader in any big media company. If the rare case occurs, the same arrogance and narrow-mindedness as with a deluded believer will usually be delivered automatically. Instead of monasteries and churches, the false savior is honored in schools, universities, parliaments, committees, and think tanks.

Industrial revolutions lead to corporate rule
Unfortunately, humanity is only at the beginning of the rule of multinational conglomerates, and like all authoritarian secular and spiritual regimes before it seeks omnipotence. Established only towards the mid to late second millennium, it has created a hitherto unknown alliance of Mammon and hardcore indoctrination that changes the world in a way that no autocratic regime before it did. Don´t dare not to consume because that´s a holy commandment.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...
Profile Image for Kevin.
523 reviews108 followers
June 29, 2023
“In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the road and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind men as guides.” ~Heinrich Heine

Straightaway, Hitchens starts by asking the right questions. Like, ‘Why would a benevolent, omnipotent, and omnipresent deity insist on being constantly praised and prayed to?’ And, ‘If God’s earthly emissary could restore sight to a blind man, then why not just alleviate blindness altogether?’ And, ‘Why do so many among us claim to have definitive knowledge of God’s intentions yet those intentions are consistently (and often violently) at odds with one another?’

The Bloodletting (Religion Kills)

“The level of intensity fluctuates according to time and place, but 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.” (pg 17)

A complete accounting of the atrocities committed in the name of God would be an enormous undertaking. Therefore Hitchens limits his illuminating examples to his own personal experiences. Even so, his years as a journalist brought him into contact with so much death and destruction, all in the name God, that he further confines himself to the letter “B”…

Belfast. Beirut. Bombay. Belgrade. Bethlehem. Baghdad.

“It is not possible for me to say, Well, you pursue your Shiite dream of a hidden imam and I pursue my study of Thomas Paine and George Orwell, and the world is big enough for both of us. The true believer cannot rest until the whole world bows the knee. Is it not obvious to all, say the pious, that religious authority is paramount, and that those who decline to recognize it have forfeited their right to exist?” (pg 31)

9/11, 2001

Leave it to the likes of “Reverend” Pat Robertson and “Reverend” Jerry Falwell to turn the immolation of three thousand human beings into an event of pious opportunism. It was all, of course, God’s retribution for homosexuality and legalized abortion. Obviously. Even the sanctified “Reverend” Billy Graham piled on, proclaiming personal knowledge that all who were murdered were now safely seated in paradise and would not return to their loved ones even if they could. *This was, as Hitchens points out, a statement eerily similar to bin Laden’s deific exaltations.

“…religion is not unlike racism. One version of it inspires and provokes the other.” (pg 35)

A Brief Digression on Vaccines

Once upon a time, thanks to the work of a few dedicated scientists, it became possible to immunize people against a “ghastly malady.” In several nations inoculation teams were hard at work so that people need not be killed or made wretched and incapacitated by this “hideous disease.”

In order to be effective, the vaccine had to be administered twice, with a booster and a confirmation of immunity. There was, after much suffering and despair, now a general air of hope and optimism.

And then began the rumors. Religious fundamentalists planted the seeds of doubt by insinuating that the vaccine was actually an insidious government plot. Those who submitted would be stricken with dire health issues and severe medical consequences. As a result, some segments of the population declined inoculation. This was a problem.

“…it takes only a few uninoculated people to allow the disease to survive and revive” (pg 44)

Within months, the epidemic was back with a vengeance. The year was 2005. The disease was polio.

“The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile.” (pg 47)

The Reticence of the Rational

Hitchens dismantles the metaphysical claims of religion (chapter five) and the weak arguments for “intelligent design” (chapter six). He calls out the hostile and nightmarish God of the Old Testament (chapter seven) and the exponentially worse God of the New Testament (chapter eight). And if you, by chance, think the Koran is unassailable, think again (chapter nine). Buddhism and Hinduism are also called into account (chapter fourteen). Hitchens was nothing if not an equal opportunity heretic.

“Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important. Where once it used to be able, by its total command of a world-view, to prevent the emergence of rivals, it can now only impede and retard-or try to turn-back the measurable advances that we have made. Sometimes, true, it will artfully concede them. But this is to offer itself the choice between irrelevance and obstruction, impotence or outright reaction, and, given this choice, it is programmed to select the worse of the two.” (pg 282)
Profile Image for Matthew Wesley.
3 reviews6 followers
August 30, 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 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. www.infidels.org is a good source of such material, and it has an excellent introduction to atheism that is valuable both to atheists and to Christians (http://www.infidels.org/library/moder...). The library also includes written works oriented towards people of other faiths as well.
Profile Image for Jason.
248 reviews121 followers
June 3, 2008
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.
April 7, 2021
So, I had been itching to read a book by Hitchens for so long, and after reading and enjoying "Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide" by Richard Dawkins earlier this year, I thought it was about time I feed my hungry mind, and simultaneously, find out what all the fuss is about.

Hitchens is accessible and somewhat of a master in his argument that God is not great, and being an atheist myself, this just strengthens anything that I previously knew. He puts many things about religion into perspective, and essentially, why it can be so damaging.

I'm not going to repeat my journey of deconverting from Catholicism here, as I have done so in a previous review, but I must clarify, it was probably one of the best things I've done, as all of my doubts and the absolute absurdity of it all, actually weighed me down, and made my life a lot more difficult.

Hitchens does include this question from Epicurus, the Greek philosopher around halfway through the text, that I think is very thought-provoking, and I think could potentially put an end to any argument;

"Is he willing to prevent evil but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

A little further on we come to the utter evil that religion can bring with it, such as FGM, which is nothing more than child abuse. Nobody in this world can tell me that FGM is something that must be done because it is in their religion, and it is a practice they must carry out. Extreme ignorance and evil plays a part here.

Due to having The Ten Commandments etched in my memory at a terribly young age, I used to be terrified of doing something wrong, as I thought God was always watching my every move. (Creepy, right?) So each time I cursed, or didn't make my Mum happy, or didn't behave in school, I used to panic and feel like I had to say a few prayers to say sorry to God. Looking back now, religion definitely caused me more harm than good, and after my experience of that, I honestly think it isn't a good thing to expect children to follow suit. Let them think for themselves.

This is a powerful book written by an individual that sets the standard of the argument for God and religion. I would definitely read more of Hitchen's works.
Profile Image for Joel.
46 reviews5 followers
July 24, 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 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.
Profile Image for Marc Horton.
63 reviews10 followers
May 23, 2009
Obviously, anyone who can write a less-than-flattering book about Mother Teresa is not concerned with offending anyone. More or less, here's the rub: "God" explained a lot, back before we had Science and The Enlightenment, and now, humanity suffers at the hand of religious zealots whose battles spill over into the lives of the innocent. And one point that I'm sure would make my mother cry: it is possible to live a moral and good life without "God." Given the right subject, he's actually pretty funny, though he always dangerously treads the line between being obnoxiously and prodigiously smart. So, while I've disagreed with some his past books and ideas, this is one that fellow misanthropic humanists would do well to read. I'm reminded of a favorite Bill Hicks quote: "Humans? We're a virus with shoes."
Profile Image for Murtaza .
669 reviews3,399 followers
December 1, 2018
In his later years, Christopher Hitchens developed a habit of loudly declaiming about subjects that he had little specific knowledge about. Departing from his career as a journalist, during the mid-2000s Hitchens began an entirely new adventure as an amateur philosopher of sorts. The “New Atheism” movement of which he was one of the major figures made very bold pronouncements, announcing what seemed like nothing less than an imminent revolution in human values. The decrepit old garments of thought were - finally - about to be cast aside by a group of intrepid journalists and scientists. A new age of enlightenment was dawning.

In retrospect the whole thing looks to have been a poorly-informed fad, as a few educated people had tried to point out at the time. Reading their books many years ago, I was completely appalled by the “war on terror” orientalism of Sam Harris and bemused by the scientism of Richard Dawkins. I generally viewed Hitchens as the most complex of the group, even though I disagreed with him, mainly because of his journalistic background. He knew a little something about the world, much more so than Harris to say the least. I figured he was at least entitled to have a shot at making his grand philosophical case about things. Picking up this book years later I’m reminded of the incredible weakness of his actual arguments, even when they were made in good faith.

Hitchens does not understand religion and does not appear to be familiar with the philosophical underpinnings of the modern world, at all. He goes to great lengths to note all the terrible things done by people in the name of religion (all over the world, all history, all religions, in about 300 pages), which is easy enough and could be done with anyone having access to Wikipedia. He also explains away the unconscionably bad things done by people in the name of “not religion” as also somehow religion. As such it’s quite unclear what he defines religion as, since it actually seems to encompass any expression of tribal identity or ideology. As terrible as the Balkan Wars were, and as decent a journalist as Hitchens was during them, to distill it to religious atavism is so glaringly myopic that I can hardly believe that Hitchens himself believes this.

The book ambles on very tediously with Hitchens believing himself to be “debunking” the historical consistency of every world religion along the way. He does not engage with the depth of any of the traditions he critiques. He raises questions as though he is the first person ever to think of them and does not even appear to be interested in the answers. I’m sure this is enjoyable reading (preaching?) for the already converted, but Hitchens doesn’t even try to make a serious argument to anyone else. I was really looking for this book to just be an enjoyable read and I have to say I was disappointed.

I also have a brief comment about the aesthetic quality of Hitchens writing, which is praised in breathless terms every time his name comes up. Yes he is a capable writer and has written some eloquent things in his career. Despite a few nice turns of phrase this book however is very disjointed and not pleasing in a literary sense. An ostensibly serious book about a serious topic can also be undermined by too many flowery obfuscations. It’s nice to be able to fill one’s writing with elegant similes and literary references. This really needs to be an ornament to the argument rather than a substitute for it though. The slick charisma of a used-car salesman actually gets quite wearisome after the point when it becomes clear that he’s selling you a lemon.

To redeploy a tired metaphor, on the topic of religion Hitchens was all sizzle and no steak, which is usually enough to impress people who don’t know better anyways. David Bentley Hart really had the last say on this subject and I highly recommend his essay instead of this book: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2...
Profile Image for Julie.
555 reviews275 followers
November 12, 2016
Surprisingly, I wasn't beguiled by this book as much as I thought I would be. I like Hitchens's irreverent delivery on everything -- but this seemed to fall rather flat. (Or at least, "flattish"). Couldn't quite put my finger on it, except to say that it seems that any kind of sustained rant has the immediate effect of getting me to tune out.

A rant is a good thing -- get it off your chest, say what you have to say, with good points to back it all up, and then move on. Hitchens lingers on the page just a little too long and makes me feel that not only does religion poison everything, but so do clever intellectuals. Know thyself -- and know when to shut up -- are worthier conceits than verbal diarrhea.

I felt much this way in viewing Bill Maher's Religulous. Clever, acerbic, funny, to-the-point: but then he just didn't know where to stop. Hammer to the head, over and over -- and over -- again ... that I took refuge in prayer that it would all end soon. The irony of that!

I agree with everything Hitchens (and Maher) says, but for me, once is enough. (That is, tell me once, I learn my lesson and move on.)

That being said, he does leave the believers with a lot of food for thought in this simple quote:

Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.

I note, with some temerity, that those words are not applicable only to religion, however, but to the state of political figures making their rise in today's world. Change the title to Man is Not Great, and it would be more applicable.

Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,430 reviews693 followers
December 3, 2016
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، در این کتابِ ارزشمند، به اختصار از موهوماتی چون: وحی و برهان هایِ گوناگونِ اثباتِ خدا، معجزه و نیروهایِ متافیزیکی، چرت و پرت هایِ دینی و مذهبی در موردِ خوک، کتابهایِ احمقانۀ عهد جدید و قدیم، تجاوز و کشتارِ مردم بیگناه توسط سردمدارانِ ادیان مختلف در تاریخ، جهنم و بهشت، تاثیرِ دین در رفتار و گفتار، به پایان رسیدنِ ادیان و سوء استفاده ادیان از دین و ... سخن به میان آمده ... در کل خواندنِ این کتاب را به فرزندانِ خردگرایِ سرزمینم توصیه میکنم.. عالی بود
‎دوستان عزیزتر از جانم و ایرانیانِ آگاه و خردگرا، «دیوید هیوم» فیلسوفِ اسکاتلندی میگوید: بپندارید که معجزه، دگرگونی دلخواه در نظمِ طبیعت باشد

‎به نظرِ من در این جمله از این فیلسوفِ بزرگ، ده ها و صدها، تعریف گنجانده شده است، در هزاران سال پیش موجوداتِ بی وجدان که خود را انسان مینامیدند و مردم آنها را پیامبر و راهنما خطاب میکردند، با سوء استفاده از سادگیِ ملتِ خود، دروغهای کثیف را که به آرزوهای مردم مرتبط بود را با نامِ معجزه در حلقِ مردم بیچاره فرو میکردند
‎از قرن ها پیش پرواز یکی از بزرگترین آرزوهایِ انسان بوده است، از این رو پیامبرِ اسلام به مردم گفت، شبانگاه با یابویِ سفیدی به اسمِ "براق" رفته به اورشلیم و بعد هم همه میدانیم که تشریف بردن آسمونِ هفتم... شما دقت کنید که چقدر یک موجود باید نادان و بیشعور باشد که این دروغ کثیف را باور کند و به آن ایمان داشته باشد... یا سلیمانِ کلّاش و متقلب، میگوید با قالیچه از این سرِ دنیا به آن سرِ دنیا میرفته است و جن ها گوش به فرمانِ وی بوده اند...یا پروازِ عیسی به آسمان ... یا به صورتِ احمقانه همیشه فرشتگان را صاحبِ بال میدانستند و هزاران هزار آرزویِ دیگر که توسط پیامبران به صورتِ معجزه به کیسۀ باورِ مردم انداخته شده است
‎اینها تنها مواردی بود که با پرواز در ارتباط بوده است
‎با پیشرفتِ علم، در قرنِ حاضر، دیگر مردم به این معجزات اعتقاد�� ندارند... البته به غیر از مردمِ ساده باور و خرافه پرستِ ساکن در سرزمینِ پاک و متمدنِ ایران زمین که این عرب پرستانِ بیشعور و ساده لوح سرزمینمان را به گند کشیده اند
‎دوستانِ گرامی، اگر شما و هر انسان دیگری، ادعا کند که شاهدِ یک معجزه بوده است، این میتواند دو دلیل داشته باشد،... اول: طبقِ گفتۀ فیلسوفِ اسکاتلندی، قوانینِ طبیعت، طبقِ خواستۀ شما، از کار افتاده است ... دوم: شما دچار توّهم شده اید و متوجه نیستید که چه دیده اید و روانپریش هستید

‎امیدوارم با پیشرفتِ علم، ما هم بتوانیم خرد و اندیشه خویش را به روزرسانی کنیم و از این فاضلابِ کثیفِ خرافاتِ دینی و مذهبی رهایی پیدا کنیم
‎زیرا تنها با مطالعه و خردگرایی، میتوانیم خطِ بطلانی بر رویِ موهومات و خرافاتِ کثافت و عرب پرستی بکشیم، که هزار سال است که مثلِ انگل بر جانِ سرزمینِ ما افتاده است
‎خبر داری ای شیخ دانا که من
‎خدا نا شناسم.... خدا ناشناس
‎نه سربسته گویم در این ره سخن
‎نه از چوب تکفیر دارم هراس

‎بله... ایرانی اگر از عرب و عرب پرست، هراس داشته باشه که ایرانی نیست
‎دوستانِ خردگرا، امیدوارم از خواندنِ این کتاب، نهایتِ استفاده را ببرید
‎«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for EisΝinΕ|v|XenoFoneX.
249 reviews316 followers
January 29, 2023
Up until a few hundred years ago, religion used to be our way of understanding all the shit we didn't have answers for -- which was a lot: stars, rainbows, the causal relationship between fucking and dropping babies* -- and a way to feel like we had emergency options when we were completely helpless: times of plague, famine, warfare, & of course, death itself. There were gods we could try to please or mollify by killing things, and then harass for military, climatic and antiviral favors. It usually didn't amount to much, but one lucky break in 50 is enough to keep faith alive for the desperate. The gods were like us, capricious and selfish.

Then it was God, singular, for very specific and random reasons; archaeologists and anthropologists are still finding fun new evidence to confuse themselves with. It appears the Israelites were originally a low-ranking (perhaps even persecuted) caste among the Canaanites, another semitic people who would later become their hated arch-rivals in Biblical lore. The Hebrews apparently said 'fuck this' at some point, seceding from Canaan & absconding with a member (or two) from the local pantheon, probably a god who was traditionally seen to look after their caste -- and his wife -- before settling in Israel. After a time, god got a divorce, & became the piece-of-shit God we know & hate. Everyone forgot about the ex-wife, because no one wants to picture their Holy Father having sex.

In the monotheistic beginning, God wasn't any better than the gods that came as a matching set. He had his own crew, and still acted like a mercurial, blood-thirsty dick. The idea that the Jews are a 'chosen race', one that will inherit a blood-soaked Earth after their messiah comes to murder the 'gentile' >95% of the population, is one I'd probably complain about, if it wasn't bullshit... Especially since the Jews feel no compunction to save any of us, like the Christians do. Granted, it makes them less annoying to be around, but as a philosophy, Orthodox Judaism is terrifyingly genocidal; the Hebrew vision of a perfect world involves all of us being murdered by Seraphim with flaming swords.

It really wasn't until 2000 years ago that Christianity made excuses for his temper tantrums, and repainted Yahweh as a kind and loving god, despite a shitload of evidence to the contrary. The cruel games he played with Abraham & Job, the fact that he cursed the entire human race to disease, natural disasters, and death in general, all because he got his feelings hurt when two morons ate the wrong fruit... what the fuck? If god existed, why would anyone think this twat deserved 'faith'? Seen objectively, the god of the Old Testament is the best argument against 'faith' around. Any ideology that makes a virtue of willful ignorance, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, needs to be killed with napalm.

'Yahweh' or 'Jehovah' - extrapolated from the four consonant tetragrammaton (YHWH/JHVH) - was still the blood-and-thunder bad-ass that the Hebrews needed him to be, but he was slowly picking up the loving, motherly characteristics of the wife he left behind once they settled down, moving closer to the Christian concept of god. He wasn't capricious or cruel. He was fair and loving... although he did get drunk with Satan once and pick on Job; he just kind of laughed as the devil killed Job's family, gave him weeping, smelly skin ulcers, and treated him like a bitch... all on a bar-stool bet. He felt bad about it the morning after, though... and made it up to Job with a shiny new family. And an awesome goat.

This new-and-improved, loving and caring, monotheistic 'Yahweh' supposedly wasn't governed by human faults and weaknesses, even if he let it slip to Moses we were created in his image. It may seem ridiculous from a modern POV, but it all seemed plausible to them. And Christians, Jews and Muslims are still in denial about this murderous piece of shit.

Insecurity is definitely a part of the divine character, since he constantly needs reassurances that we love him, even after the douchebag kills our cats and grandmothers. It's always our fault; 'it's not you, God, it's me'. Those tens of thousands of babies that die every day obviously have it coming for their sins. If god's so dead-set against abortion, maybe he should prove it by not killing the children of parents who wanted to start a family. So contrary to whatever his biographers and publicity agents have been telling us for several millennia, god's just as flaky and mercurial as, well... Mercury.

Looking back at all the sadistic Old Testament tantrums - Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, cursing several billion people to pain and death because their great-great-great-great-etc. grandparents ate some fucking fruit - you'd have to conclude that if God did exist, he'd be a psychotic douchebag and all-around piece of shit. Every bit of suffering in the universe was his doing, yet we're still supposed to thank him for shoving this shit sandwich down our collective throat, to grovel and smile and beg for vague nothings via prayer. Yeah... fuck that. If you're... how should I phrase this... stupid enough to bother with a prayer, and -- shockingly -- it doesn't work out... the problem's on your end. Unplug it, plug it back in, and pray harder, ferfucksake.

He apparently needs 7 billion people to pray at him daily, so he can look at himself in the quantum mirror and smile/frown/grow tentacles, but he can't be bothered to answer a single one. Are you certain you've done everything right? Yeah? There you go, you're too proud of your righteousness. That's not it? Well... file it under 'moves in mysterious ways'. For the desperate and the stupid, faith is invulnerable to reason. What would you think of a person who bought an ant farm, then tossed it into the furnace a day later because the ants wouldn't tap-dance when he asked politely? God's nuttiness is several orders of magnitude more severe. Thank God for not existing.

Now that all those answers religion provided are no longer needed -- and wrong about absolutely everything -- it's only purpose is to whisper bullshit in the ear of the 'troubled soul', and provide reasons for humanity to kill itself over long outdated lies. We might as well murder each other over slight historical disagreements about Santa Claus. Elves or gnomes? Reindeer or caribou? Scarlet red or cherry red? Guh.

I'll make this point clear, however: as someone raised as a JW, my dislike for the Abrahamic faiths is profound, but never extends to the worshippers themselves. People have the right to believe in any bad idea they like, as long as they're not harming others. That includes ISIS supporters, Communists & neo-Nazis. The second we start policing belief, we've let them turn us into the bad guy. Freedom of belief, of speech, of expression, only truly exists when it protects the rights of the worst of us. When we start making Constitutional exceptions for those the majority find objectionable today, we open the door on persecuting the unpopular minority of tomorrow.

*(They'd narrowed it down to wind and water as the most likely culprits for pregnancy, before agriculture became a thing and matriarchies became patriarchies; like flint knives and mastering fire, it's hard to know if an understanding of sex led to agriculture, or vice versa.)
Profile Image for Joey.
199 reviews47 followers
July 20, 2017
When my friends or the new people I'm acquainted with find out that I am an atheist ,they tend to raise their eyebrows or purse their lips. It is unusual for someone  like me in the Philippines to not believe in God/god. The same as what happened a long time ago, when my best friend based in Thailand confirmed that I belong now to the  members of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism", she was worried that I would no longer be saved in the event that the Judgment Day came. She insisted that I believe in him.Inculcated in militant character,I explained my side in flagrant defiance. As a result, we had had heated debates many times; our friendship almost turned to ice in view of our irrepressibly acrimonious opinions. In the end, we still  make sure that her religion will never shake the foundation of our friendship.

Christopher Hitchens is one of the major influences on my being an apostate. Actually, I've read his God is not Great once,  and I decided to read it for the second time because I wanted to understand its contents more. It was still unintelligible to me since I read its free PDF. That's why I was not even able to write my review of it. Besides, I was not scholarly ready yet to give my thoughts of it; it needs deeper assimilation.

Hitchens  strongly emphasized that religion kills every thing. He believed that  it causes violence, irrationality, intolerance, alliance to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, investment in ignorance and hostility to free inquiry, scorn for women and coercion toward children and sectarian.

To deduce  his arguments, he  wrote  various personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts. The result? Voila! A book that believers must find ridiculous beyond logical explanation, a big threat to their incessantly dominant indoctrination.

After reading it, I felt like I had a rude awakening for Hitchens' views  that religion causes violence, religion is full of superstitions, religion in particular is hazardous to health, some religions are just copy-cats,  both the old and the  new testaments are inconsistent, religion has been the root of corruption, religious dominance can come to an end,religion  has been emphasizing   the meaning of sin, religion abuses children, and people can live without religion.

In the end, what Hitchens wanted to point out, the way I see it overall, is that there has been a culture of ignorance in that people conform to the facts they find universal. Go figure!

I've been an avowed atheist for four years, since I read some books dealing with atheism. (Well, if you are deeply religious cringing at what I'm blabbering about here  now, you might opine that I should not read such anti-religion books, for they  corrupt my mind. Duh! )So, comparatively speaking, I would say that my life is better than before. I am now comfortable to live the way I want. I don't need to conform to religious customs I find paradoxical. I don't need to shape my life according to what the bible dictates  to me. Rather, I lead my life based on what I know what is right for the sake of humanity. I might call it the " universal conscience". And don't even dare tell me that conscience is a godly gift. As a matter of fact, I have proven prominent atheists' belief  that a person can be good without the misleading guidance of religion. However, contrary to the militant attitude of Hitchens, I still believe that respect for one's religious views is the best way  to gain rapprochement among us ,only if we know our limitations without being affected by our deep-seated devotion and fanaticism. No wonder Hitchens strongly believes that religion kills everything.

For those people who have the same struggle  with their religious conviction, I suggest that you firs read God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or  Atheism: The Case Against God  by George H. Smith. I believe that these books are the springboard for breaking all the spells that have been binding you for a long time. Good luck and let me know then about your thoughts of them. Happy reading!  :)
Profile Image for Kerissa Ward.
24 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2008
Ever since 'The Trial of Henry Kissinger' I have been a fan of Christopher Hitchens. I knew that he was an atheist, but because of my own spritual searching I was reluctant to read this book when it first came out. I finally picked up the book because I have been on a non-fiction binge lately and I knew that by reading his book I was guaranteed an intelligent treatise. By the time I finished the book, I was very glad that I had read it.

Hitchens doesn't so much attack God as he attacks religion. He begins the book by describing himself as a boy, learning passages from the Bible, and the moment he felt that there must not be a God because of a comment his teacher makes. The tales of his boyhood experiences with religion and atheism are used for making his one of his thesis -- that organized religion ruins everything. He points out that it seems one goal of organized religion is to make humans relinquish independent and rational thought.

One of the great things about the book is that the chapters are clearly and concisely laid out. In fact, I found the chapter sequence to be quite methodical. As is his usual trait when Hitchens is arguing against something, he builds his arguments gradually and strongly.

Right after I bought the book I read online that many people who considered themselves evangelical have bought the book in a sort of know-thy-enemy way. I wonder if they felt like they any kind of rebuttal, because Hitchens -- through his extensive readings and reportage -- has built a historically sound case against the three organized religions.

It is worthy to note, while Hitchens does deride some of the beliefs and practices of the big three, he does not sneer of the entirety of the faiths. He knows that there are good people in these faiths who only wish to do good. It the people who take their faiths to the extremes and misinterpret the written word that Hitchens takes most issue with.

My only critique is that I do not think he addressed the evolution vs creationism as effectively as he could have. He makes mention of it several times, but does not explore it deeply.

Otherwise anyone with any kind of brainpower should read this book.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
June 3, 2020
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens is a book I kept hearing about and finally was able to get at the library.
He covers everything with the same feelings I have but he has a powerful writing style and better vocabulary. He presents a great message!
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
March 26, 2021
A third reread. A one-way conversation with the late Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great is Hitchen's castle of words. One of many on various subjects. You might want to read this detailed book as well. I do not claim to be sagacious at all!

First read was just after 9/11 when the Hitch capitalized on the event and hit the jackpot. Debates raged all over the world.

Second read was on audio. His soothing voice put me to sleep every night for a while.

Third read (now) was to view its longevity and relevance almost ten years after his passing.

My argument: Different people build different bridges to God(nirvana). Or don't build them at all. They then worship their bridges instead of God.

Hitchens:The argument with faith is the foundation and origin of all arguments, because it is the beginning—but not the end—of all arguments about philosophy, science, history, and human nature. It is also the beginning—but by no means the end—of all disputes about the good life and the just city.

A bucket full of skepticism, with a clarity of style, combined with disciplined and candid thinking, Hitchens spent most of his life exposing the results of fanatical secularism and authoritarian religion upon history. Both groups, throughout the ages instigated wars, raped women, killed children, destroyed nations, robbed people and destroyed freedom of choice. Religions exercised a theistic tyranny in the world and most of the time disguised it under blankets of euphemisms. In the process entire civilizations and ecosystems were/are destroyed. Paradise mutilated. Hitchens with his linguistic weaponry is his usual self in addressing the issues. As a polemicist he is combative, elegant, and ruthless.

Hitchens: Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the “meaning” of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by their religions or denounced by them. And yet—the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know everything.

My response: The very same can be said about science and scientists. The current (ferocious) climate debate comes to mind. Politician can stand inline as well. Money and power. So simple.

Love him now or hate him, but at least enjoy this tidbit of classic Hitchens:
Marx and Freud, it has to be conceded, were not doctors or exact scientists. It is better to think of them as great and fallible imaginative essayists.

Hitchens, might have been an autodidactic savant with a keen intelligence, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but he was not a scientist either. His mastery ( and Oxford degree) was in words and knowledge. His journalistic skills enabled him to capture audiences with the right headlines. The information shared in this book about the history and dogma of different religions throughout the existence of mankind, and the scientific discoveries, some (or most of it) perhaps unknown to many readers, justify the time to explore his arguments. His research is immense and varied.

Hitchens writes not to just illuminate the world, but to roundly de-mystify it, in his opinion.

He opens this book with reference to his school teacher Mrs. Jean Watts, whom he adoringly calls a pious old trout. She introduced him to practical and textual criticism. She and the poet John Clare's rural poems played a big role in his formative years in becoming the insufferable little intellectual at the age of thirteen. Philip Larkin's Poem 'Church-going , according to Hitchens, was the perfect capture of his own approach.

For the rest you will have to read his memoir Hitch 22: A Memoir Hitchens is never a quick read. He leaves little time or room for superficiality or indifference of thought. Hitchens is not a relaxing read. His books provoke thought, debate, questions. It's never a one-sitting read. The information is always overwhelming.

You might also find his portrayal of mother Theresa insightful. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice ,

or his other writings such as Arguably: Selected Essays ,

or a different perspective such as Larry Alex Taunton's book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist .

Meet some of his critics:
Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left .

My review of his book No One Left To Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton .

I admire Christopher Hitchens and will forever be one of his devoted groupies. I MISS HIM!!! His outspokenness; rabble-rousing; compassionate nature. His journalistic skills allowed him to confront issues and stir debate. He covered a wide range of subjects in his writings and done so with a volatile combination of historical knowledge, a savage wit, and an acute feel for irony and contradiction. However, I expected more clarity on the real reasons and motivation behind a worldwide Antisemitism revolt than the usual accusations of Christians. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book Two Hundred Years Together and novels such as The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov , both illuminated the issues and are widely acclaimed publications. The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol (Vintage Classics) by Nikolai Gogol also touches on the issue. The revolt against Judaism was not purely Christian in origin. Although the issues was briefly mentioned in God Is Not Great, it is clear that this issue might have been avoided by Hitchens. His comments on the South African situation also lacked serious insight. His research in this regard was not as meticulous as was hoped for. For instance, he stated that Afrikaners supported Hitler, but in actual fact it was a very small group who did. They were supporting anyone who were against the English, after thousands of women and children(both Black and White) died in the British concentration camps. The vast majority fought on the British side against Hitler. He also lacked serious insight into the origin of Apartheid. He was partly(selectively) correct though. James A Michener's book, The Covenant, would have been of great value.

The book leaves the reader with this question: What is your choice of drug, and why. Faith, non-religious or religious rituals, and drugs, have the same soothing addictive psychogenic effect. Organized religion is something totally different.

Faith as nirvana or nightmare. He traveled the world and relates his experiences of religious atrocities everywhere. His arguments are solid.

I rate this book five stars. Reason: Christopher Hitchens ripped all the euphemisms out of history. I thank him for that.
Profile Image for Sketchbook.
679 reviews225 followers
May 31, 2016
Growing up w Protestant clergy all over the family (but, most thankfully, loving parents), I never took any of the Blubble seriously, or weekly "devotionals," which one older sister hugged as a way to say to parents, "Hey, LOVE ME!" ~ They did. But she had a problem : I made my parents laugh. When Pops intoned, "Man cannot live by bread alone," I retorted, "What about chocolate croissants?" Parents cracked up and, of course, said, Ssssh, but sis was inflamed. I knew fr the get-go that relig was bosh...how to explain this?? A genetic quirk? (Or wazzit cos all the religios I had to be poohlite to were dowdy frumps or oogly fat boors?? Beauty could only be found in movie zines...)

Hitchens has written a scholarly and brilliant book on how relig "poisons everything." Relig, he avers, is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or gurus actually said or did. And yet -- they still claim to know! Not to just know, "but to know everything." Author further asks : "If god was the creator of all things, why are we s'posed to praise him incessantly for doing what came to him naturally?"

I could go on. But if ye are not a stiff-necked people, you will let Hitchens do it.

Profile Image for Mikey B..
1,007 reviews374 followers
May 24, 2013
Hallelujah – the atheists strike back! This is a personal and direct assault on the whole “God” concept. Hitchens buys none of it; its just fables and hearsay (upon hearsay) past down from antiquity. Religions cause wars, they indoctrinate the young and they are immoral - the very opposite of what they claim to be.

Since the 18th century science has started to trump religion. The microscope, the telescope, discovery of fossils, exploration – all have either imploded religion or opened alternative wide vistas.

But why is religion so persistent – I don’t know if Hitchens successfully answers this troublesome question? Hitchens is more comfortable dealing and attacking the Judeo-Christian world than other religions.

And sometimes he is too relentless. He misses the point with Gandhi. It is the way India achieved independence that is historically significant. Gandhi promoted innovative means of protest – marches, strikes – and more importantly, he never directly used violence or espoused violence and never accumulated wealth. Gandhi is not solely remembered as a religious leader. As for the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. – it was the local black clergy in the Deep South that organized, funded and precipitated the struggle for freedom. Later, clergy from across the U.S. actively participated (at the risk of their lives) in Freedom Rides, the Voting Rights march in Selma and many more. Credit must be given where it is due.

Mr.Hitchens is also rather hard on the personality of Jesus. Many analysts find Jesus’ teaching to be “revolutionary” in the sense of being anti-materialistic. A few have argued that the entire hierarchy and wealth of the Church – Catholic and Protestant - is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Nevertheless thank God for Christopher Hitchens! I am so sick of hearing Presidential candidates talking about their faith and how often they pray. As Mr. Hitchens points out it was people of faith who carried out the September 11th attacks. I also subscribe with Mr. Hitchens when he equates revolutionary dictatorships with theocracies. They espouse dogma and repression. Hitler was a Messiah to the German people.

Religion condones the abuse and indoctrination of children. Its’ ancient (and sometimes ludicrous) texts prevent free inquiry and purport to have all answers. It is ridiculous to rely on texts of long ago to regulate your life.
Profile Image for Ana.
807 reviews610 followers
December 11, 2014
I don’t know why I feel the nagging need to clarify something before we even get started.

I am an atheist myself, however new to the group I might be. Indeed, until a very recent time, I spent a big period of my life believing I’m an agnostic. How do I put this mildly? Agnosticism is the safe route, it’s the one in between the dirty street filled with drug dealers and that very safe boulevard. It’s the one you’d take if your mom told you to take the shortest route home and you decided to be a bit of a rebel. But just a bit, mind you, not a lot. Because the basic concept of agnosticism, in relation to God, is that “we don’t know”. We don’t know, we can’t know, therefore we can’t make suppositions based on thin air. But, what agnosticism offers in return is the acceptance that there is actually something out there, luring in the divine space, waiting for us to recognize it to its true form and power. Basically, you get the “safety-belt” package that allows you to say, if you ever find yourself blamed in front of said divinity, that you couldn’t be sure. Which is, I used to believe, much more acceptable than…

Than atheism, really. Than flat-out acknowledging and believing and living up to this belief that there is no God. If death is not final and you find yourself face to face with the supreme Judge… you’re fucked. I guess I didn’t want to be a little rebel anymore and blossomed into a full blown hooligan.

I have never in my life been a believer. Not a single moment have I said: “I believe in God.” I have been raised with only one rule as guidance: “think for yourself”. As a kid, my family took me to a vast number of churches, not only of my religion, even if predominantly confined by it; big churches, small churches, some covered in gold, some built of wood, some carved in rock; some with a lot of fervent followers, others with just a lonely, old priest watching over the precincts… I have visited other countries and entered their churches, seen their shrines, watched their processions. I have had a fair amount of religious visiting done – but never in the name of God. Not once, in my entire life, have I gone to a church/religious space with the purpose of praying or bowing to the maker. If there was a reason, I guess it was to witness art, beauty in religious architecture, in believer’s paintings, in faith based sacred images. It was to see human-made wonders, ironically. I have shared meals with priests and slept with nuns in their rooms, in the mountains; I have experienced the simplicity that religion can instill into the lives of men and women, who devote their entire beings towards a better existence at the end of their current one. I have also seen the gold-adorned lives some religious people dwell in because of this foolish and completely idiotic belief that a creator would need to be worshipped with precious stones; How, did the creator not also create the poor?.. Or maybe he had an eye for sparkle.

I guess my point is, the concept of God in itself was useless to my formation, to my life. I have not had any advantage from being baptized into the Orthodox Church, no real need fulfilled by my affiliation to a certain religious cult. Knowing the Ten Commandments hasn’t overthrown my innate sense of right and wrong. The Genesis hasn’t impaired my ability to understand and believe in the Darwinist model. I have a moral code and fairly tough ethics without having followed God’s rules a single day. My life has been much more impacted upon by the fact that I was born into a white, middle-class, fairly well-off European family and that I have been given the proper education during each stage of my life in order to propel me to my current position and allow me to pursue my (apparently) fucked-up dreams.

But, at some point in my intellectual journey, I realized I had to know more about religion. I simply had to. There was no way around it, I had too many questions that hadn’t received answers. What also prompted me to analyze the matter more profoundly was the attitude of religious people in my vicinity when confronted with a non-believer. I have had confrontations (mainly in a scholarly environment, but just as meaningful ones outside of it) with people who had blamed me for my decisions and professed harsh consequences upon my doings, supported by their faith, when all I had done was ask questions.

I do have opinions, mind you. I do think religion has become a political/economical tool and that humans have, in their majority, lost the true meaning of it (which is achieving spirituality). Also, on my bitter road filled with deception in becoming an atheist, I found myself more and more disgusted with religious people and faith preachers and church goers, all because of their sense of superiority over me, their smug characters, thinking they have the divinity watching over their backs, that a divinity cares for them, repudiating reason and thinking and skepticism and empirical evidence to the dungeons of hell and their inhabitants to even worse tortures… I’m sure you could say atheists become atheists because of people more than because of God. I am not one of those who will talk against the concept of God; however, against the fantasies that the Bible (or any other scripture) professes as historically true, I will; against stupidity and racism and extremist followers and the banishment of science, I will; against mindless, spineless and remorseless individuals who coerce their children into fear and revulsion, perpetuating this tradition of imbecility over generations, I will. Against all of that and many more, I will speak up.

After all this ranting, I want you to take this away: I understand the need for religion. I understand why we turned to it in the first place and why we still cling to it now. I am not an “anti-theist”. I do not speak against God. I question him, his existence, his preaching, his absurd needs and his megalomaniac commands. I judge him, yes, and his followers, as they also judge me in return. You could call it mutual distrust, really.

But, if it’s true, if God exists, then I’m content with my atheist position. I believe I have the right to burn in Hell, or in all versions of it that exist. If you are a religious person reading this, please pray to your God that I may suffer. Please, bring the flames on, an eternity of torture for this pitiful apostate that I am! I beg of you, prove me wrong. I’ll be the happiest for that – indeed, I, in a very sadomasochistic way, look forward to it.
I fully intend to burn in Hell if that is the punishment for critical thinking and freedom of opinion.

Make crackling strips out of my skin! Scrambled brains out of the contents of my skull!

And never grant me forgiveness for wanting to understand the world by the power of my own mind. I don’t need to be excused for my own egocentric nature. Not by someone who is content in giving up his identity to a whimsical being of a far-away land.

In any case, if death is not final, I’ll still be going to hell even without being an atheist. I’m a sinner by birth, supposedly. Being an atheist just makes me a conscious one.

DONE! Now, let’s move on to an apologetic review that is supposed to be worth reading the whole rant that you just went through… Oh, well, I doubt it.
What I promise I will not talk about: how awesome Christopher Hitchens is.
What I will talk about: how awesome Christopher Hitchens’ work is.

“God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” is one in a long series of published papers that Hitchens has dawned upon us readers, that concern the matter of a divine being’s existence. Now, Hitchens is, as Woody Allen so humorously puts it, “the loyal opposition”. He is an atheist and a very articulate one indeed. When reading his work, you must be aware of the position he is taking: he is against blind faith and all for finding proof. As always, as in his speeches and his essays, he doesn’t cut off the path to discussion; rather he wants to open one. He questions everything, tries to shed light on the scriptures and the relationship between human and divine and all in all succeeds in making a very serious and solid case for his motion.

I have read some commentaries that he just mindlessly gives examples about how different people do different bad things in the name of their religion, and the readers who said that were arguing that these are useless extracts. I believe not. Of course he is going to point out what individuals do in the name of religion, that is the exact purpose of it all, how far humans will go and to what extent they will cause suffering and ignite wars and deny the most basic needs to others because of what their God (read: whimsical being of a far-away land with a very serious ego problem) has said.

Now, Hitchens doesn’t differentiate between Gods. If one is false, all are. The God’s importance doesn’t reside in the number of his followers, for this author. He talks the same about the three big monotheist religions, as well as about the remote cults of distant lands. The reason why so much of his work is concentrated around the Judaic, Muslim, and Christian preaching is that these three have had a massive effect on our society, as we experience it today. He speaks against them not with the purpose of defiling the “fantasy” itself, but in need to show how ridiculous and irrelevant they are for humanity today. They were very useful in the dawn of time, when volcanoes erupting at every corner and people found dead in the morning could not receive a proper explanation. After all, religion is a very early and very primitive attempt at science! Hitchens doesn’t deny that, and never once attacks the spiritual need of humans to unite and find solace – what he offers, instead, is solace through knowledge.

For all it’s worth it, I need to address the writing. You can see that this man has loved reading since he was a kid. You can see he knows literature in a very intimate way; his choice of words, his rhythm, the subtle irony underlining the entire work, everything points out to a wonderfully complex and cultured mind behind those pages. And cultured he had to be, given the enormity of the subjects he chose to tackle in his entire career. This is, in my opinion, a very good piece of non-fiction writing. It shows through a very thorough research, even if it is centered on finding the right facts to support his claims. I can throw away my subjective, atheist self, look at this work with my objective, detail-obsessed reader’s eye and find only minor twerks in this study.

I, for one, love the way Hitchens writes, because I feel he’s having a conversation with me. And, in the end, that is every writer’s dream – the extension of one’s thoughts into another’s mind without the two actually being in each other’s presence.

Atheists … you know you liked it. Even if it was the sort of: "oh wow he said it much better than I could have" like, you enjoyed it.

Believers … you know you can’t deny its truth. Even if you're backed up by all your faith, don't Hitchens' arguments pick at your reason?

All the rest … pick a side. Does Hitchens ask for too much?

Just pick a damn side.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,251 reviews234 followers
May 6, 2023
A cogent diatribe against the world's organized religions

An atheist manifesto, GOD IS NOT GREAT contains content that ranges from thought-provoking essays to vitriolic diatribes against both the existence of an all-powerful God and the current and historical conduct of the three largest mainstream monotheistic religions of the world - Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Hitchens does a good job summarizing his own thesis in this pointed paragraph:

"If I cannot definitely prove that the usefulness of religion is in the past and that its foundational books are transparent fables, and that it is a man-made imposition, and that it has been an enemy of science and inquiry, and that it has subsisted largely on lies and fears, and been the accomplice of ignorance and guilt as well as of slavery, genocide, racism, and tyranny, I can almost certainly claim that religion is now fully aware of these criticisms. It is also fully aware of the ever-mounting evidence, concerning the origins of the cosmos and the origin of species, which consign it to marginality if not to irrelevance."

Sadly, Hitchens did not need to look far to find well known examples of the evils perpetrated by slavish adherence to dogma and by the outlandishly arrogant assumption that a "benevolent" God has granted preference to one group of people to the exclusion of all others.

While I personally enjoyed the book and found it sad, brutal, shocking, informative and, to a great extent, a confirmation of beliefs that I already held, I suspect it is also an exercise in futility. That is to say, people like me will enjoy it simply because it is such a hard-core affirmation of their personal tenets of life. Others will find the book despicable, because they are believing members of those groups that Hitchens has chosen to criticize so brutally. Perhaps (but somehow I doubt it) there will be a small handful of Christians, Moslems or Jews on the margin of their religion whose faith may be shaken and it is to this group that Hitchens is perhaps addressing himself.

Just so you know where I personally stand on the issues, you may find it interesting to hear that I am definitely a deist. That is to say, I cannot presume to suggest that the deity in which I believe (I think) is a personal God that has any specific interest in me or in humankind here on this tiny planet we call earth. The concept of an infinite, all-knowing and all-powerful deity is so far beyond my ken that I wouldn't even begin to ascribe any attributes to such a deity that are capable of human description. Hitchen's beliefs are perhaps similar to my own:

"If something is in me which can be called religious then it is in the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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