God is not Great by Christoper Hitchens

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.” 

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

If heroes were my thing, the late Christopher Hitchens would be one of them. He was such a contradiction. On the one hand, Hitchens was a lucid intellectual and seemingly well-read in every subject known to man; he was a vicious debater while also being kind at heart; he could communicate with envious clarity, but turned off many who disagreed with him. Hitchens also had the appearance of a Dickensian villain: he was a heavy smoker and enjoyer of alcohol, and he often wore a dirty trenchcoat on his back.

Hitchens had a rare knowledge, both in breadth and depth, of literature, philosophy and religion. And he could turn his pen into an angry weapon, but also turn prose as elegant as Keats or Shelley. Conjoined with his fierce debating skills he was more than a match for most. But with his intelligence came a clarity of understanding; he appeared to be able to analyse complex situations and extract the black from the white. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, his opinions were controversial — like his stance on the Iraq War — but they were always backed up with deep historical knowledge and analysed to within an inch of their lives. Hitchens will be much missed.

Christoper Hitchens

But Hitchens didn’t just pontificate over a laptop about war-torn countries like Iraq, North Korea and Iran; he visited those places and saw the horrors of war and the damage religion was causing first hand. He was both coregeous and happy to admit when he was terrified of the situations in which he found himself.

God is not Great could be more accurately described as Religion is not Great. In fact, I would argue, that the single thing Hitchens does not do in the book — possibly he didn’t need to based on the polemic he’d written — was to extinguish the concept of God itself.

In his book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawkins does a far better, and far more delicate job, of excising the idea of a creator, of a prime mover. Instead, Hitchens dissects the religions of man, sometimes with a scalpel, occasionally with a lump hammer, and leaves the reader with nowhere left to run.

You can disagree with Hitchens interpretation but you can’t deny the facts he raises.

Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely soley 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. 

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

God is not Great is Hitchen’s ultimate case against religion. Hitchens argues that not only is religion an anachronism, a vestigial organ of the human evolutionary process, but he outlines with enviable clarify why religion is dangerous to the development of man.

Christoper Hitchens

Hitchen’s encyclopedic knowledge of the texts of the Abrahamic religions — plus a few others — allows him to analyse the wealth of contradictions and historical inaccuracies as he builds a rock solid cases against the religions of man. He compares the texts and provides insight into the creation of the books which so many millions consider sacred.

Hitchens pulls no punches and dives head first into well-considered arguments against organised religion’s obsession with the control of the sexual and human body. And he addresses the imposed censorship and the historical relationships between totalitarianism and the Abrahamic traditions with particular focus on the Catholic church.

God is not Great sits alongside books by Richard Dawkins and others as important documentary evidence of mankind’s development. You can argue with Hitchens’ philosophy, but you can’t argue with his facts.

This is a beautifully written work and one which should be mandatory reading. But if you’re not in the mood to read Hitchens, go and search YouTube for one of his many debates and sit in wonder as he verbally dismantles centuries of religious dogma live on stage.

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.

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