God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

Read: 27 April, 2010

“God should be flattered: unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult.”

The above quote is from the New York Times Book Review and appears on the cover of my edition. I find it to be an excellent summary of the book, and of Hitchens’s work in general. He treats God like any other human adult, holding him responsible for the actions attributed to him, and not letting God’s celebrity status get in the way of justice.

My complaint of this book is the same as my complaint of pre-sober Hitchens in general. He has a lot of zingers and truly quotable lines, but they’re buried under a meandering and unstructured argumentation. The book is divided into chapters, but there’s no build-up or progression. It’s more like Hitchens merely writes in the train of thought and then publishes, without regard for editing.

I also didn’t like the lack of notation. He does have end-notes, but they aren’t marked in the text and mostly only provide citations for the passages he quotes. Any “facts” that he writes aren’t sourced, so it’s often difficult to check their veracity. For example, on page 110 of my edition, he write: “One recalls a governor of Texas who, asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that ‘if English was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.'” Unfortunately, no details are provided about this incident that might help the interested look it up. No name, no year, nothing except the location. It seems plausible that it’s true, but I have no way of verifying it.

I’m being harsh on the book, but I did enjoy it. Hitchens is an excellent writer – funny, interesting, and he certainly keeps the pace moving. So this is a fine book to read while travelling or sitting by the pool. What it isn’t is a resource or an argument. It’s the fluff of the atheist library.

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0 thoughts on “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

  1. Anyone ever thought about how all of the major religions are man altered versions of the same story. There is only one God. The God that every religion believes in simply with different names. If only everyone came together and just accepted one another without all this man made bull shit that everyone proclaims as the “real” truth. All it does is generate hate because everyone thinks their answer is right. How bout this all the stories in any book of religion were written by man. They could steer the real truth how ever they wanted to. and guess what they did and everyone bought it and we are now divided as a species when we could be a united front of humanity. coming together to solve the worlds problems. I could poo on a piece of paper and publish it and call it “truth” all it would need is for someone to believe it and pass the story on.

  2. If you can poo stories, I’m very impressed! lol

    If I understand you correctly, I went through a phase of thinking similar to yours. The way I saw it, there was one Truth, let’s call it the moon. And then there were many people all pointing up, trying to get people to see the moon, but the people didn’t get it and just kept staring at the people doing the pointing. If we’d all stop looking at the pointing people and, instead, look at what they’re pointing towards, we’d all be better off.

    But the I realized that the world’s religions are just too different for that to be true. If they have any common points at all, they are only at the most superficial level, and even then apply to only a handful of religions at a time. You say that there is only one God that the different religions simply give different names, but that’s really not all that accurate. There are religions with multiple gods, and other religions with none – opting instead for totems or spirits or ancestors…

    But even if it were true, the “man-made bits” are so pervasive that there’s really nothing knowable about such a god anyway.

    The way I see it, an unknowable god is equivalent to a non-existent god. If we can know nothing about God’s properties or desires, there’s no point trying to please him because we can never know if what we’re doing is right or wrong.

    So in the absence of a knowable god, I opt for atheism.

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