Christopher Hitchens, described in the London Observer as “one of the most prolific, as well as brilliant, journalists of our time” takes on his biggest subject yet–the increasingly dangerous role of religion in the world.
In the tradition of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris’s recent bestseller, The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case against religion. With a close and erudite reading of the major religious texts, he documents the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos. With eloquent clarity, Hitchens frames the argument for a more secular life based on science and reason, in which hell is replaced by the Hubble Telescope’s awesome view of the universe, and Moses and the burning bush give way to the beauty and symmetry of the double helix.
“If God intended reasonable men and women to worship Him without embarrassment, why did He create Christopher Hitchens? It was a fatal miscalculation. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens not only demonstrates that religion is man-made’and made badly’he laughs the whole monstrosity to rubble. This is a profoundly clever book, addressing the most pressing social issue of our time, by one of the finest writers in the land.”
– Sam Harris, Author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
This time he’s outdone himself … A spate of atheist screeds has arrived in the bookstores lately, but Hitchens’ may be the best since Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian (1927), laying out the essential arguments with force and precision … He makes his case in the elegant yet biting prose we have come to expect from him … Hitchens is the reincarnation of H.L. Mencken, the penultimate social critic of the first half of the 20th century, who used words like gunshots and considered most Americans ‘boobs.'”
– Associated Press
“An intellectual willing to show his teeth in the cause for righteousness.”
– The New Yorker
“Hitchens intends to provoke, but he is not mean spirited and humorless. Indeed, Believers will be disturbed and may even charge him with blasphemy (he questions not only the virgin birth but the very existence of Jesus), and he may not change minds, but he offers the open-mined plenty to think about.”
“Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he’s completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. Hitchens’s one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers … this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers’ weaker arguments.”
– Publishers Weekly
A Note from the Author
Why This Book, and Why Now?
I was quite young when I came to the unsurprising conclusion that there was no supreme being who had created the unknown universe and the known world, let alone a supreme being who took an interest in my doings or those of anyone else. I could be asked, I suppose, how I knew this. My first response would be that I learned it from those other humans who were making absurdly large claims that they could never in a billion years have even a slight chance of proving. My second response would be that we now have better explanations than “god” for everything that we do know about, and no sillier explanation than “god” for those numberless things that we cannot know about. Those who claim to “know” the mind of this indefinable entity are therefore wrong by definition and are arrogantly assuming an authority that no human can dare to claim.
In spite of the huge imbalance between the two sides, one resting its claims on reason and evidence and one insisting on “faith,” this ought to be a private dispute between two different mentalities. And I have spent many enjoyable evenings on just this point. The argument about god is the beginning of all intellectual arguments: it is how one works out how to think, which is always much more important than what one thinks. I hope to show in the book that I do understand the pulse that underlies belief.
However, we now live in a time when religion is trying to break out of the private sphere again and to rescue those who do not need or want to be “saved,” as well as to try and coerce those who are left cold by its supernatural claims. Thus for me, it became urgent to try and write something that would aid in the resistance to theocratic bullying. The faithful keep issuing terrible, conceited threats against those who “offend” them or who blaspheme. They must be made to understand that many civilized people are extremely offended by threats of murder in the name of god and by religious intimidation and censorship. Too many lines are being crossed, from the attempt to have pseudo-science taught in American schools from the campaign to have women forcibly veiled; from the mad enterprise of Messianic settlers in Palestine to the fascistic mania of Islamic jihad: a mania that starts by slaughtering Muslims and thus compels us to realize what it would like to do to unbelievers if it had the chance. The yearning for apocalypse is unhealthy enough when it appears in a sermon from some clerical windbag, but it is something more than unhealthy when it reaches out to grasp apocalyptic weaponry, and to employ nihilistic methods, as well.
So this has now become everybody’s business and bids fair to be the dominant subject for the rest of our lives. I thought it was time to restate the traditional and hard-earned reasonings by which humanity emancipated itself from medieval rule and brought about the triumphs and advances of science and the Enlightenment. I also thought it might be a good moment to show that all the claims of established religion are bogus, and man-made, and undeserving of anything but contempt and ridicule. My hope is that the book will become a part of the long-overdue fight-back against superstition, sexual repression, political fanaticism, and all the other ways in which the “faith-based” have chosen to present themselves.
– Christopher Hitchens