Adventures in Reading

god is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
“If one must have faith in order to believe something, or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something have any truth or value is considerably diminished.”

I have been debating on whether or not to include books of a strictly (or mostly) political nature on my blog. While of course many political debates rage fiercely in regards to fictional works such as Jane Austen, but seldom do arguments over narrative structure or character disposition result in earnest offense. However, political books certainly do exist in my personal reading repertoire and rather than shying away from public comment, which I seldom if ever do, I will attempt to represent my opinions of these pieces as best I can.

If you were born or raised in the United States, undoubtedly early on you learned of certain discussion points to avoid in social situations: (1) money, (2) politics, and (3) religion. Fortunately, my family never bothered much with these notions of politeness and instead spent a great deal of time speaking about everything. Despite my personal experience, I comfortably say that religion is certainly a point of contention for many people and I dare say it has always been this way. It seems recently, and I am sure it has blipped onto the screen in the past, that atheism has become the new chattering point with some such atheist regularly making guest appearances on television or lecture tours. During the past year, three notable atheist texts have been published: Christopher Hitchens’ god is Not Great, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation.

I finished Christopher Hitchens’ god is Not Great last evening, and it is a book I do not gush about with enthusiasm but that has provided me with a great deal of thought. While the book is located in the atheist section and certainly was written from an atheist perspective, the book has far more to do with its title than atheism. I recalled the sing-songy rhyme of my childhood declaring “god is great, god is good,” and Hitchens directly challenges this idea by listing example and explanation of religions own hypocrisy and hatred. If you do not identify as religious nothing in the book is probably too great of a surprise, but if you do consider yourself religious you may be shocked and/or insulted by what you read.

What I have gushed about is Hitchens’ brilliant rhetoric and wit. Even if you disagree with everything he says, he still remains an ingenious speaker and writer. I have read a few reviews calling Hitchens angry, which immediately calls upon my response of “what is wrong with being angry?” but after reading the book I cannot agree that he is all that angry (I found him often rather charming actually) or that when he is angry that it is not an acceptable and expected expression of emotion.

Hitchens’ concludes his book expressing his desire to see an updated version of the Enlightenment, which held particular interest for me after my recent Enlightenment inquiries in application to Jane Austen. I admit that I am a bit trumped at envisioning a New Enlightenment as the former Enlightenment was so thoroughly entrenched in a white, western, patriarchal, male, ablist, heteronormative, etc. perspective that I cannot easily imagine what a New Enlightenment embracing a wider perspective could be. However, I do believe Hitchens extends an interesting and plausible possibility to define the future of humankind in a secular world.

Overall do I recommend the book? Sure, why not? It was an enjoyable and informative read for myself though I must confess I am far more interested in his new collection of essays The Portable Atheist. However, it is a political book and being so I am sure the reader is (mostly) aware of what they are getting into as well as their response to reading such a text. I admittedly was not hugely interested in reading any of these books I have mentioned until fairly recently, but now that I have finished Hitchens’ book I do await the other books with much anticipation.

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