Saturday, January 12, 2013

“god Is Not Great” – Book Review




This year on my winter vacation, I finally finished reading “god Is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything” by the late Christopher Hitchens.  Actually, I started reading it towards the end of last year’s vacation, but didn’t finish it; although I had resolved to do so during the summer, time slipped away from me and I never got around to it until my next winter trip rolled around. 

A National Book Award finalist, “god Is Not Great” is a brilliantly written, meticulously researched book that is simultaneously hilariously (dare I say devilishly?) funny, thought provoking and intellectually stimulating; in short, it is The Bible for Atheism.  If its late author is not remembered for anything else in his extensive oeuvre, it is this book that should stand above all as his ultimate triumph.  Hitchens’ writing style and combative approach toward all religions of the world combine for a refreshing “Take No Prisoners” approach in advocating a new enlightenment for mankind. 

god Is Not Great” contains 19 chapters where Hitchens relentlessly bitch-slaps every known religion mercilessly.  His attacks are well thought out and backed with a phalanx of facts for those who would dare to question any of his assertions.  Chapter 5 is titled, “The Metaphysical Claims Of Religion Are False”; in its introduction, he includes a quote that pretty much sums up the author’s views of religion of any kind:  “We sacrifice the intellect to God”. 

But that said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend you stop reading right then and there – or at least if you did, you would be doing so at your own risk.  To fail to read further would be doing yourself a disservice because you would miss the sheer fiendish delight at which “Hitch” (as I’m given to understand his friends called him) dismantles the sanctimonious and the pious alike, proving that evil is not committed in the absence of religion, but rather, it’s committed by the presence of religion. 

Religion, Hitchens asserts, is a hypocrisy which exists not only as a money-making enterprise but also a means by which to both control and enslave the weak-minded – thus, it is exceedingly more dangerous than merely being an emotional crutch, as is the frequent accusation.  The concept of “Intelligent Design”, he insists, is nothing more than bombastically re – branded creationism – and isn’t even “intelligent” in the first place, given that much of the design is poor and faulty. 

Hitchens also uses the opportunity to address the use of the term “god” versus “God”, saying that “god” is more about “anti-theism” which is not to be confused with atheism.  He further maintains that religion and totalitarianism are both mutually supportive of each other and somewhat symbiotic.  Regarding The Gospels, Hitchens believes that they are inconsistent and at times even contradictory.  Yet somehow, they have long gone unquestioned.  Why?  Jesus himself has been depicted as possessing the hubris to be both judge and jury in various instances – he forgives “sinners” but gives little or no thought to the people who were wronged or hurt by those “sins”.   

Criticisms of “god Is Not Great” are few and far between.  For one thing, there was no discussion of either L. Ron Hubbard or Dyanetics – perhaps the author felt this was low-hanging fruit he didn’t need to pick in order to make his salient points.  Also, one must admit that Hitchens is (if you’ll pardon the inexcusable pun) preaching to the choir – he is catering to an audience who already shares his world view, after all.  Would religious people even deign to read this book?  And if they did, would it result in them questioning their faith?  If so, then you could rightly suggest that their belief was rather shaky to begin with.  In all likelihood, most would immediately dismiss the book or come equipped with what they think are sufficient arguments to refute Hitchens’ allegations. 

Christopher Hitchens was a mind that was tragically robbed from society far too soon a little over a year ago.  One might well pose the question what other valuable insights about religion he would have given us with more time and opportunity?  To quote The Beach Boys, “God Only Knows”.   

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