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God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

"God Is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything" by Christopher Hitchens
Joshua Chaplinsky
A literary manifesto that will excite and offend all the right people.

God is Dead
- Nietzsche

God’s not dead, (no) he’s alive
- Christian song

Opinions are like assholes. What I want are facts- cold, hard facts. Like Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal, I want knowledge, not belief.

God Is Not Great offers a little bit of both. But it is more an argument against religion than a scientific study on the existence of god. So if you are of a similar opinion, Hitchens will be preaching to the choir. The book contains a handy (but short) list of references, but otherwise assumes a certain amount of knowledge on the reader’s part. If you are not familiar with things like 16th century philosophy, the history of astronomy or the Burgess Shale, you will learn little here other than names and dates. Hitchens doesn’t go into much scientific detail. He cites and moves on.

Hitchens is like a one-man debate team. To him, religion is the turgid corpse being dragged by humanity in Barthelme’s The Dead Father. His argument is completely one-sided, but it is an entertaining one. The man has a way with words, and is not afraid to turn a hyperbolic phrase. His reputation as a provocateur (he once referred to Mother Teresa as a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud) is what drew me to the book in the first place. Maybe I have been desensitized by years of South Park, which has the subtly of a two-by-four to the face, because I did not find Hitchens as controversial as described. His reasoning, which could easily be construed as insensitive in the wrong hands, comes off as evenhanded. At least to me. I was expecting (hoping for) more ranting and raving. A little fire and brimstone, if you will.

Don’t get me wrong; there is an undercurrent of impish glee beneath the literary sheen of his writing. But Hitchens is first and foremost an intellectual. This might alienate those not already offended, as some tend to confuse a strong, articulate opinion with condescension. When it comes to such a sensitive subject, there are bound to be emotional casualties.  But not as many casualties as claimed by The Crusades! Ba-zing!  

In the end, Hitchens doesn’t have all the answers. Let us not forget that in The Seventh Seal, even the character of Death did not know whether god truly existed. Those searching for hardcore scientific “truth” should look elsewhere.  But if you are in the mood for some good old-fashioned religion bashing, this is your book. Of course, this is just the opinion of one asshole, so feel free to disagree.