Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: God Is Not Great

My laptop is still on the fritz, but I have a little time at work today to squeeze this one in...

A while ago, when ordering my bulk book package from Amazon, I realized that I have never actually read any of Christopher Hitchens' work. He was certainly not as likeable as other atheist contemporaries of his like Stephen Fry, but nevertheless I recognized in him a monstrous intellect that could only be admired, even if not fully agreed with. Why not then, I thought, get a couple of his most famous books and see for myself? Well the first one I read was God Is Not Great, and holy hell he makes a devastating case.

The first chapters of the book justify one of his most famous positions: "religion poisons everything". He goes over some terrifying things that have been and are still done in the name of religion, and brings up a very good point about how religion facilitates these atrocities. I have explained in a previous post that I am fully aware that bad people in the world will do bad things and that in many cases it is not their religion that "made them" do it, it just gave them a good way to get away with it. What I missed in that post however is this other aspect that Hitchens touches on in this chapter: Religion causes people to accept terrible things, things they would normally cry out against in disgust and horror had they not been done by a religious figure, and this attitude is something that greatly stunts our ability to evolve and move forward as a society.

Case in point: if you found out that Hitchens went about sucking on injured baby penises, spreading herpes as he did so, you would cry out in outrage for his arrest and many for his lynching, and I would be right there alongside you. How disgusting, vile and cruel! Well, it's actually not illegal in New York City to do so thanks to mayor Bloomberg, if you're a rabbi that is. That's right, in a passage of the book that made my skin crawl and I had trouble believing was true, there is a practice amongst a faction of Jews whereby the rabbi, after cutting the foreskin off of a little baby, puts that bleeding injured penis in his mouth and sucks the foreskin off. Babies started getting venereal diseases this way, at least one of them died, but Bloomberg did not make the practice illegal, lest he offend the Jews. Are you fucking kidding me? Does anyone think that this would not be headline, national news with the perpetrator in isolation in prison for his 0wn safety, if he was hacking away and sucking on and infecting baby penises for any reason other than a religious one?

While the God Delusion is more of a philosophical reasoning behind atheism, this book focuses on organized religion, how it was invented by men, how it has done far more harm than good and in the world and how it is silly to believe in such a fabrication. It does not address mysticism or deism, so its a book that many more people are going to agree with. The style he adopts in his writing is so similar to his style of speaking that I could almost hear his voice in my head, a-mile-a-minute touching all the right points though never in profound detail, which means that this one book has added a dozen others to my reading list. The vastness of his knowledge is astounding and his personal experiences remarkable, he truly led a full, if too short a life.

He is obviously not a scientist, so do not expect a book about how evolution and cosmology makes the belief in a creator irrelevant (although I applaud his attempt at understanding the science and alluding to it, albeit superficially). Do also expect that cocky arrogance that Hitchens was so famous for, and you probably wont agree with him on every point. It is not perfect, for one thing he did trip over himself in the brief section he dedicated to abortion, but the best part of this book is that it is an excellent stimulant for debate. It touches on pretty much everything that he could think of, just enough to give you a taste, and almost every sentence can be used as a jump-off point for an hour-long discussion. I would have loved to have the opportunity to sit and chat with him, and be awed at how I could never keep up with his mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment