Book Review: God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything By Christopher Hitchens

I bought this book, because during a speech by Daniel Dennett he mentioned in his research on de-conversions that this Book, God is Not Great was a major catalyst for some pastors and preachers to de-convert.  And for some it was the final straw.  (So, I thought it would be a good counter book to Mere Christianity, which also has claims of converting atheist to believers).  So because of the reputation of this book and what Daniel Dennett said, this book was a must read.

The book overall was very interesting read and a very condensly informative one as well.   I would say his writing style reflects that very much of his personality when he gives formal public speeches.  That the overall general content of the book does well to represent the title and purpose of the Book, ‘How Religion Poisons Everything.’

Pros:
It only takes two chapters to tell that Christopher Hitchens has lived an extraordinary and eventful life.  He starts off with the basic and waste no time in calling religion Man-Made.  In that there is nothing unique about Christianity, or any religion for that fact.   One thing that pleasantly surprised me was his fairness in attacking all religions, not just Christianity or any Abrahamic religion.

He bashes Old Testament Judaism in Chapter 7.  Calls New Testament Christianity Evil in Chapter 8.  Calls Islam a borrowed Religion in Chapter 9.  Tramples on Hinduism and Buddhism in Chapter 14.  Even takes a few stabs at Deism in Chapter 6.  One can definitely say that Hitchens dislikes all religions equally.   I positivity loved  Chapter 9 the history Islam and the Koran, because that was one topic I was ignorant of.

Furthermore in Chapter four of his book he talks about the dangers of religion how it poisons the Physical Health, Mental Health, Nutritional Diet, and Rational Thinking of cultural society.  He goes into how religion is more of contributor to the degeneration of people health vs. being a positive contributor and influence.  He even mentions one of my favorite stories in history, which is the one of Pierre-Simeon Laplace telling Napoleon that he had no need for the hypothesis of God when explaining celestial mechanics.  And explains in pg.95, that the whole known body of science and physics works without the assumption of God.

In fact he points out that the delusion of Christian religion and instability is almost so norm that in Jerusalem that those who feel that they are new returned ‘Messiah’ are suffering from the mental psychological malfunction of Jerusalem Syndrome.  And so common it is, the police and security forces have been trained on how to identify it and handle it

I think one of the greatest points he makes in the book, is that when people believe that God is on their side and favors them they will believe and do anything.  For when people think they have the favor of God on their side they will try to dignify their actions with the excuse that they are on the side of God’s will.  For typically even the most good or most evil will try to justify their wicked actions with their religion that says how God favors their position without care nor regard for others.  So we ask; Does religion really make people behave better?

“The trip began with my friends breaking some coconuts on a rock to ensure a safe journey.  This evidently did not work, because halfway across the island our driver plowed straight into a man who out in front of us as we were racing, too fast, through a village.  The man was horribly injured and- this being a Sinhala Village- the crowd instantly gathered was not well disposed to these Tamil intruders.  It was a very sticky situation, but I was able to defuse it somewhat by being an Englishman wearing an off-white Graham Greene type suit, and by having press credentials that had been issued by the London Metropolitan Police.  This impressed the local cop enough to have us temporarily released, and my companions, who had been very scared indeed, were more than grateful for my presence and for my ability to talk fast.  In fact, they their cult headquarters to announce that Sai Baba himself had been with us, in the temporary shape of my own person.  From then on, I was treated literally with reverence, and not allowed to carry anything or fetch my own food.  It did occur to me meanwhile to check on that man we had run over: he had died of his injuries in the hospital.” (Pg. 75)

Cons:
There were several things I personally I found of disinterest of the book.  I would say he has a tendency to almost go over board at times, especially when discussing certain people in history. (That he does almost name calling.)  And not giving a full story behind some of the historical examples he give.  For example, he talks about a Catholic Bishop name Misago in Rwanda (pg. 191) and gives an impression that he played part in the massacre of 82 Tutsi school children.  But a quick inquiry easily shows that the Bishop was cleared of charges, (however some still feel he played a part in not doing enough to prevent the massacre.)

He even quotes early church father Tertullian in saying, “I believe [in God] because it is absurd.”  And denounces Tertullian for such a narrow view of faith.  However I was disappointed that he didn’t give  a contextual & historical background to the quote to make sure he and any other reader is understanding it within context.  He does have a tendency in he book, to not go into detail on the full story of what he is talking about in analogy.  So if you don’t know the history or the context of the historical analogy you can get lost.

And then he gives two very off the cuff remarks in calling the new testament a greater evil then the old testament.  And that Early Church Father Augustine was a Self-Centered Facist. (Pg. 64).  He even bashes Ghandi as some point and does an entire chapter on pork, called a short digression of the pig.  That I found slightly of no interest to me.  In all honesty, in the book it does come off at times as the ramblings of an angry atheist.

Final Thought:
Overall this was a very informative and very jammed packed of historical information.  He leaves no stoned unturned in his dismantling of religion and dogma of religion.  Really for me this was much tougher read than I expected because his writing style was not something I thoroughly enjoyed.  (But that is just my personal opinion.)  Most people (Based off of other reviews I have read, enjoyed his writing style.)  It is very much like the way he speaks in public forums, but for me that style just did not mesh well for me personally.

If I had to describe this book, I would describe it as A.P. (advanced placement) atheism.  Because it goes over alot of historical and academic information if you are not familiar with the story, you may get lost in what he is trying to convey.

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in agnostic, atheism, atheist, attributes of God, bible, christian faith, christian fraud, christian history, debate, early christian history, fallacious reasoning, Free-Thought, freedom, god, human nature, message, reasonable evidence, reasoning, religion, scientist and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Book Review: God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything By Christopher Hitchens

  1. Nate says:

    Great review, Marcus. I haven’t read this book yet either, though it’s one I’ve wanted to get to for some time. I felt that way about Mere Christianity, and it was your review that finally got me to read it (haven’t written a review yet). Your review of this book has called my attention to it again, and I’ll try to get to it sooner rather than later.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      Yeah I’be read some of your book reviews. I look forward to reading ur review of mere Christianity. Did u also find that book fairly liberal theology? Or did you find it mildly convincing?

      • Nate says:

        I thought it was well-written — I truly enjoyed some parts of it. But I also felt like it had some glaring problems which kept it from being convincing. And yes, very liberal in its theology.

  2. unkleE says:

    Hi Marcus, I haven’t read this book either, but taking you review as “gospel”, Hitchens doesn’t allow the fact to get in the way of his rhetoric. For example, “he talks about the dangers of religion how it poisons the Physical Health, Mental Health, Nutritional Diet, and Rational Thinking of cultural society” is contrary to the findings of science. So I find it interesting that (again) the atheist ignores the facts while the christian reports them. How do you feel about that?

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I would not go so far as to say he ignores the facts, but more of he interprets the facts to his own liking and at times have a tendency to embellish and over exaggerate them. But as to how I feel about them. nothing, cause at one point we are guilty of that crime.

      • unkleE says:

        Fair enough. I only mention it because atheists generally claim to base their views on evidence, yet I find they often repeat statements and views that are contrary to the evidence, as Hitchens seems to do here. So I think that is worth pointing out. As long as atheists repeat such views without checking them, they are not being evidence-based at all, as Nate said in a recent post. I would hope that you would want to correct that approach.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I would say all people (christian, atheist, budhist, mother, father, sister, brother) have a tendency to believe something or say something that is not entirely based on sufficent evidence. And hitchens is not the exception to the rule.

  3. unkleE says:

    Hi Marcus & Nate, this comment is not intended in any way to be critical, or even disagreeing, just pointing out something of interest. If I understand you correctly, both of you are saying that CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity is ” fairly/very liberal in its theology”.

    CS Lewis seems to me to have been one of the most influential and respected christians in the English-speaking world in the 20th century, whether we agree with him or not. His books were widely read, and are still influencing people today – otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing him now. The only English-speaking christian I can think of with comparable influence would be Billy Graham, and I don’t think he is as influential as Lewis these days.

    I would think that must make Lewis somewhere near the mainstream of christianity, at least in the US, UK, Australia, etc. Yet you two perceive him as being “liberal”. So I wonder how you use that term? If you mean liberal in manner (i.e. tolerant of diversity, non-dogmatic, reasonable, etc), then I would agree, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. You specifically say “liberal theology”.

    So if a person who is somewhere in the mainstream of christian thinking is seen as liberal, that must mean your viewpoints are right off to one side – i.e. he seems liberal from your viewpoint because your viewpoint (based on the christianity you used to believe) is actually right out of the mainstream.

    I think that perspective may be important to understand, so I wonder if you agree with me here?

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      well maybe you are right in that area. Remember we (both Nate and I) are both america, and both in and near the Bible Belt of America. (Nate in Alabama, Me in Florida) two fairly more conservative states in comparison to the rest. And you Unklee are in Australia,

      So our definition of conservative/liberal theology will vary based on the comparison of the two countries. In america, evangelical Christianity is the dominate force in america. It is not too uncommon to have another christian try to witness to you or try to convert you. It has happened several times to me. In fact still an extremely large percentage of Americans believe that evolution is not true, and that the bible is inspired and infallibility written by God. In fact in some states, only a christian can hold political office. These types of things are not considered mainstream christianiy in australia. They would probably be considered radical. So you see the difference in culture and society. What you have as mainstream theology in australia, is probably considered liberal in the US. And this is so not just in america, but in the UK, germany, france, japan, denmark and many other nations. In fact C.S. lewis was from the UK, which helps demonstrate that his version of christianity was considered mainstream in his part of the world.

      • unkleE says:

        Yeah, that more or less fits with how I see it. If you consider the world, and consider Orthodox, Catholic & Protestant, CS Lewis is mainstream, possibly a little conservative and evangelical. It is only from the perspective of rather fundamentalist or right-wing evangelical churches in the US that he might be seen as liberal.

      • Nate says:

        I completely agree with Marcus’s assessment. The only other thing I’d add is that even when comparing Lewis to the world as a whole, he still may come off as slightly left of center. I really only say that because I got the impression from his writings that he wouldn’t call a Muslim or Hindu, etc wrong — he just thinks they don’t have the full picture. I don’t know if the majority of Christians worldwide would agree. Maybe they would though; I could easily be mistaken here. What are your thoughts, unklee?

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I would say now he is more mainstream….because as time goes on the world is more accepting/tolerant or other religions, and have taken a more approach of common ground when it comes to religious differences.

      In regards to time Lewis is mainstream now, but when that book was written 80 years ago. He was definity a left-wing liberal. For the world was more conservative than.

  4. unkleE says:

    “I got the impression from his writings that he wouldn’t call a Muslim or Hindu, etc wrong — he just thinks they don’t have the full picture. I don’t know if the majority of Christians worldwide would agree. Maybe they would though; I could easily be mistaken here. What are your thoughts, unklee?”

    I suspect many christians in the world haven’t given the question much thought. They believe christianity is true, but they don’t necessarily go on from there to draw the conclusions we might logically draw.

    But in the west, where we do think about these things, I think Lewis would have been a bit liberal on the question you raise, but slightly conservative overall, when he was alive. But christianity is changing, and perhaps he’s getting closer to the centre on this issue.

  5. portal001 says:

    I think the reason we are seeing more extreme and brash expressions of atheism in the world is partly due to some people painting faith with all one colour. People see the horrors of September 11 and delegate their outrage to all faiths rather than a specific that a violent act stemmed from, or even just the individuals involved. This generalising I think is what causes alot of people to get really angry, and that anger spills over to other, entirely different faiths.

    • Nate says:

      I think it may be more than that. I can’t speak for other places, but living in the Bible Belt of the US, it gets old to have Christianity pushed into everything, including events that should be strictly secular in nature. For instance, a number of years ago, one of the Alabama Supreme Court Justices, Roy Moore, put a 10 Commandments monument in our state court house and refused to remove it, even after he was ordered to do so. He finally got in enough trouble that he was removed from office (so was the monument), but last year he was re-elected as Chief Justice. It’s ridiculous… but that’s the way it goes here in Alabama.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        I would say at the core of both. Atheism and religion, they are incompatibale. And will be at odds over one another fundamentally. For one says to kill or excommunicate those who don’t agree and may lead you away. And the other says, that the person is borderline delusional and should not be taken serious in an academic setting. How can those two groups ever truly compromise?

  6. portal001 says:

    Its true if people push their beliefs on a secular system then this can cause tension, but many theists also believe in the importance of the seperation between church and state. I think if what people have in common was celebrated more than just what people differ in then the world would be in a better state 🙂

  7. portal001 says:

    Also, its the extremists that usually yell the loudest, and who demand attention – whether they are right or not.

    I think attentions are drawn to extremes more for novelty sometimes. Sadly, more considerable voices can be drowned out or ignored because their message is not “loud enough”. Extreme opinions spark more controversy and excitement I suppose, but that doesn’t always mean the extreme louder voice is always more right over the quieter and humble. I think this applies to both atheists and theists. Volume or brashness doesn’t equate to justification, yet that’s what media jumps on and what is used as examples of a “belief or non belief”.

    I think attentions are drawn to extremes more for novelty sometimes. Sadly, more considerable voices can be drowned out or ignored because their message is not “loud enough”. Extreme opinions spark more controversy and excitement I suppose, but that doesn’t always mean the extreme louder voice is always more right over the quieter and humble. I think this applies to both atheists and theists. Volume or brashness doesn’t equate to justification, yet that’s what media jumps on and what is used as generalised “examples of a belief or non belief”.

  8. portal001 says:

    duplicated my response, sorry

  9. unkleE says:

    I would say at the core of both. Atheism and religion, they are incompatibale. And will be at odds over one another fundamentally. For one says to kill or excommunicate those who don’t agree and may lead you away. And the other says, that the person is borderline delusional and should not be taken serious in an academic setting. How can those two groups ever truly compromise?”

    I would not say they are the cores but the extremes. I think the core of Islam is more caring than often portrayed, but I may be wrong. But the core of christianity is forgiveness, loving your enemy, caring for the downtrodden and loving God & neighbour.

  10. Nate says:

    Yeah, I actually agree with unkleE here. There are fringe elements (Westboro Baptist, etc), but I think a common ground is definitely possible. And Ryan’s right that to get there, we need to be more understanding and accepting of one another — focus on our commonalities.

    The vast majority of my friends and family are Christian, but they’re very accepting of me, and I of them. The “secret sauce” is that we just don’t talk about our differences that much. That’s why I think it’s important that our governments remain secular. The government is supposed to represent us all — if they put up 10 Commandments monuments, or crosses, etc, then they’re alienating part of the society for no good reason. Whereas, leaving religion out of those public spaces allows everyone to have his or her own beliefs and not be distracted by the differences when we come together for government business.

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