god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Hitchens frames the argument for a more secular life based on science and reason, in which hell is replaced by the Hubble Telescope's awesome view of the universe, and Moses and the burning bush give way to the beauty and symmetry of the double helix.In the tradition of Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris's recent bestseller, The End of Faith, Christ...

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Title:god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Author:Christopher Hitchens
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Edition Language:English

god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Reviews

  • Lisa

    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 ow

    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."

  • Bill  Kerwin

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

    As a reader of the

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

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

    As a reader of the

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

    ).

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

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

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

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

  • Books Ring Mah Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Manny

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

    I would first like to draw a clear distinction between

    and

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

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

    I would first like to draw a clear distinction between

    and

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Oceana2602

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

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

    Hitchens is not, and

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

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

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

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

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

    Let me tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As a radical atheist, I'm confused.

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

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

    Hitchens doesn't mention it.

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

    Not a word.

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

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

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

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

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

    Case in point.

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

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

    *closes book and throws it on the sale pile*

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