Updated on May 19, 2015
39. ‘God Is Not Great’ by Christopher Hitchens
When I bought this book, it was front-facing on the shelf. The man behind the counter told me that it is the book that gets most turned around in the store – people will come in and be so offended by the title that they’ll turn it around. Now THAT is the sort of thing I want to read.
[Obviously this review talks about some controversial things to do with religion. If you’re likely to be offended by this, stop reading now.]
This book is essentially a series of very detailed, occasionally verbose essays about various aspects of religion and why it is not just ridiculous, but an actively poisonous part of humanity. Hitchens does not pull any punches – at all – which I really enjoyed. This is a very clever man talking about a field he clearly knows a lot about; whatever the subject matter, reading that sort of thing is always going to be interesting. (OK, maybe not with every subject.)
To begin with, Hitchens sets out the four major errors that can be found in almost every religion: it misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos; it is servile and solipsistic; it is sexually repressive; and it is a form of wish-thinking. That was an idea I found particularly interesting, that man invented God not because we needed him, but because we really really wanted him to exist.
In this book, Hitchens deconstructs some of the more ludicrous aspects of certain religions (the killing, torture, rape, mutilation and spreading of disease that have historically gone hand in hand with faith-based beliefs), and then attacks the go-to arguments of religious apologists. He claims that religion does not make us more moral, but has actually stunted the progress and growth of humanity at every turn.
I would say that Hitchens has a more extreme stance on religion than me. I can see that in some circumstances, for some people, belief in a higher power can be of psychological benefit. What this book argues, however, is that anything that perpetuates the spread of religion in any form needs to be stopped; misinformation may be helpful to you for a time, but at a certain point you have to put it aside and deal only with provable facts.
This is a fascinating book that will have anti-religionists nodding their heads and religious people … well, I don’t know actually. I would be really interested to see what a religious person thinks of Hitchen’s arguments and how much they affect their opinions. Not for the sensitive reader, I found God Is Not Great fascinating reading.
“Faith is not a leap that can be made once and for all. It is a leap that has to go on and on being performed, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.”
If you liked my review, why not the read the book and let me know what you think? I would be especially interested to hear from religious readers!