Book Review: God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens, 2007

Given the author’s unfortunate passing only days ago, the temptation to write a review overflowing with praise is one I shall have to resist. It is only fair that I confess that I also agree wholeheartedly with his core atheist beliefs, so that may generate bias as well, but there you are.

This book is not merely an argument for atheism, or against theism (or deism), it takes the case much further than that. As the subtitle makes clear (“How Religion Poisons Everything”) Hitchens intends to demonstrate that belief itself is dangerous. Religion, he contends, has done harm both to individuals and society itself wherever and whenever it is practiced.

That’s a bold claim, encompassing as it does all of (recorded) human history and the entire worldwide spectrum of faiths. Hitchens makes a surprisingly effective effort, taking you all over the globe through his eyes as a journalist, and through history via his extensive study of philosophical and religious texts.

As for readability, the book varies. The book is at its strongest when Hitchens relates his own experiences. It is filled with riveting anecdotes from war-torn regions and harrowing times. However, when discussing ancient tomes or turning to classical knowledge from antiquity, Hitchens can be somewhat didactic, and I found these passages harder to wade through.

Overall, though Hitchens makes strong points, I think he fails to make his overall case, that it is religion itself that is at fault for every one of the woes he brings up, and not simple human greed or ambition. His erudition and intelligence are everywhere on display, though, and it is a pleasure to see the world through his keen eyes.

Hitchens’ brilliant mind is now sadly lost to us, and though neither he nor his work were perfect, I highly recommend giving it a read to expose yourself to his passion and searching intellect.

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