You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

I've thought highly of Christopher Hitchens, even though I haven't always agreed with his opinions. He is widely traveled and well read. He has written on religion, politics, biography, and culture. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens discusses religion versus skepticism, going over centuries of the history of organized religion.

Hitchens starts by discussing the atrocities committed in the name of religion. Throughout history, religious authorities have abused their powers and subjected others. Religion not only kills people directly but subjects them to onerous and ridiculous health restrictions. He dissects the metaphysical precepts of religion and demolishes them. He also destroys any other arguments for the exists of God.

He spends a couple of chapters on the terrors that the God of the Old Testament wages on humanity and the horrors of the New Testament. The horrible injustices in the Old Testament are well known. The principle that one's children are to bear the burden of one's errors is clearly immoral by human standards. But it is in the New Testament where Hell is first mentioned. Before that there was no concept of eternal punishment.

Hitchens shows the origins of Islam and the Mormons. Both were religions initiated when their founders declared that they had been sent revelations by God. The Koran is shown to be made up of old sayings and scriptures stolen from the Torah and the Bible, filtered through the violence of the early struggles of the sect. As far as the LDS, Joseph Smith was a convicted con artist who fooled many people with his story of golden tables that mysteriously appeared and disappeared.

Hitches is well read and displays his knowledge when he talks about the history of the Catholic church and the history of atheists, freethinkers, and other apostates. He gives a good description of William of Ockham and his common sense principle of choosing the hypothesis that is least complicated or has the fewest entities. His theory, if taken sincerely, would not only make philosophy simpler but negate any concept of metaphysics or gods. I really enjoyed his listing of historical figures who were nonbelievers who could not be honest with their thoughts due to the extreme measures the church and society took to suppress dissent.

He posits that religion not only does not make people better but makes them worse. Forcing children to believe crazy things and undergo harmful rituals is very damaging. Finally he makes the case for a new Enlightenment, a rebirth of the ideals of science and knowledge against the tyranny of dogma.

I was impressed by the wealth of knowledge Hitchens displays throughout the book. He is well versed in the history of fanaticism, and has witnessed acts of fanatics from Yugoslavia to India. He is an avowed atheist and sees no use for religion. His style is literary and philosophical, often using asides to show an important related tidbit. Hitchens is ruthless throughout the book. He does not show any sympathy for dogma or those to shun the value of reason and knowledge. It is really refreshing and honest. It is a great resource for anybody questioning the value of faith, or those of us without faith who wish to learn more of the history of religion and apostates. A


Post a Comment

<< Home