I really enjoyed this book. But I came away from it with a lesson different than that intended by the author. I think that he has demonstrated that evil people do a lot of harm, and use religion as an excuse for it. He seems to be a disillusioned idealist, sad to discover that the promise of goodness is not fulfilled.
I find he is absolutely correct to condemn the God he condemns, and does it for all the right reasons. But the God he condemns is his own version, and I am sorry that Christians have been so inept at proclaiming the good news of the gospel that anyone could believe that God is evil or cruel.
Religion has not been able to stop child abuse, violence, greed, or stupidity. He is correct to be upset about that. But I think individual people are to blame, and not religion as a whole.
This book made me think hard, about a lot of things. It made me sad, and angry, and even made me laugh. I think it expanded my understanding of the human condition; because I have never experienced religion used as a weapon against me, and he has, and tells of it compellingly.
EXCELLENT! A must read for any atheist, humanist, secular, bright or whatever you wish to call yourself. I would also recommend to any religious folks who find themselves doubting their faith. This book will help you shed archaic superstitions and begin treading the path of sanity and reason.
Very well written with excellent examples and explanations throughout. Christopher Hitchens has a very beautiful style that is a joy to read!
One of the things about reading a lot is that I am constantly having my nose rubbed in how little I know and how small my life experiences actually are when compared with others. Reading just about anything by Hitchens can cause that sort of feeling, and this book drove it home for me.
With the subtitle "How Religion Poisons Everything", the subject is pretty obvious, and Hitchens doesn't hold back. His command of the language and literature are quite good, and he drives his points home completely. He spares no religious tradition of any sort.
There are three different reactions I had to reading this book, and keeping them separate in my mind is interesting:
1) Religion and its problems. This is, of course, the thing Hitchens is really after, and despite being essentially a life long atheist I learned a few things in here. For example, if you wanted the services of a prostitute in Iran you can do so *within* Islam. The Iranian brothels have the ability to marry you to the woman in question for an hour, and divorce you when you're done, thus making the transaction legal in the eyes of god. Seems a pretty petty and small minded god if that's all it takes to make prostitution legal in a theocracy, but then again, Islam tends to treat women pretty poorly anyway.
And don't think Christianity or Judaism get any better treatment here. Hitchens is well read and can open your eyes to the horrific things the founding texts contain, as well as the actions and beliefs of the more ardent current believers. Hitchens really dislikes Mother Teresa, and has all kinds of arguments on that front. Amusingly (to me) has has significant problems with the Dalai Llama too, and once again has the relevant knowledge to back up his vitriol.
I appreciate what Hitchens has to say here, and I agree with most if not all of what I read. There are so many awful things done in the name of religion, even now, that I wish it could all just be stopped. Sadly, however, I don't think most of the human race is anywhere near giving up its love of mystery and it's willingness to be lead by someone charismatic, regardless of how silly that leader's claims may be.
2) All that praise aside, I did have a problem with the book to some degree. It seems to wander a bit. Chapters that supposedly focus on one thing or area seem to meander into other areas without good reason. I found this a bit distracting at times. I can't tell if the book was rushed to print - without an editor suggesting ways to tighten up and/or reorganize to make it more effective. Alternately it might have been written over a very long time, where the focus of the author (and possible editors) gets lost in the long haul to get it out. Or maybe I'm entirely wrong and every word is exactly as Hitchens intended. Regardless, I found some of it a bit perturbing on an organizational level, and would have appreciated a slightly tighter presentation.
3) Finally, there's the issue Hitchens's life experience. This is what I alluded to before. My own experiences and travel are nothing in comparison with those of Hitchens, and it's humbling to be shown how some have lived a broad and expanding life well beyond that of the rest of us. Hitchens has spent time in many foreign countries, in the presence of many dignitaries of various kinds, and generally lived in ways that the vast majority of us cannot imagine. I found it humbling in some ways and yet slightly irritating in others.
At times Hitchens's experiences back up his statements nicely, driving his arguments to conclusions readily. At other times, though they seem a tad peripheral, and it might have been better to present things without reference to all of those places and people.
In any case, I learned things from this book - some of them very disturbing - and I appreciate the fact that it was written. Hopefully it opens a few other eyes in the world.
Excellent book. He is much less forgiving than Richard Dawkins. However, whoever wrote the back cover description might not have read the book. First of all, if you are giving a critique (as Hitchens does) of 5 major religions and their books in less than 300 pages, it isn't going to be "close". He didn't do any more than skip the surface as far as commenting on the bible. Second, I totally missed the part where he said we should be telling stories about the double helix rather than Moses, and the Hubble telescope rather than Hell.
I read Christopher Hitchens' column in Vanity Fair every month, and after reading an excerpt from his book, I decided to read it.
Well, it is extremely rare that I cannot finish a book, but this book set a new record. I quit in the middle of the second chapter. In my opinion, this was one man's laundry list/rant of atrocities committed in the name of religion--at least the beginning of chapter 2. But what put me over the edge was how after each example, the author then repeated his catch-phrase "religion spoils everything."
As a non-religious person, I waited on the wish list for this book for 6 months, then canceled after listening to Hitchens on Russert using bad arguments to make his points. He paraphrased and actually lied to make the point that religion had poisoned a topic. If this is how he argues a point, the book itself is of little value. I agree with his thesis, but have lost faith in Hitchens as any kind of authority.
Midway through the second chapter, I closed this book and put it away. I don't have time to waste reading such nonsense as this. What Hitchens needs to do is to forget about religion and concentrate on Christianity. There is a big difference. Regardless of what he chooses to believe and write, God, his creator and provider of salvation, still loves him through Jesus Christ.