God Is Not Great.

Review and Commentary on God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.

I was blown away by the latest book I read. This book, much like Sam Harris' really made me think. Overall, this book gets a thumbs up.

This book, with its seemingly simplistic title opens up with a very head-on approach. The first chapter, Putting It Midly, caught my interest because of the poignant questions; I was enticed to continue page after page. Here are some of the thoughts Hitchens presents us with.

If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? What was so wonderful about his casting out devils, so that the devils would enter a herd of pigs instead? That seemed sinister. . .

This rings so true to me, why wouldn't he do something to cure blidness for once and for all? Then you wonder, if it was all a perfect plan, why would there be such a thing as blindness to begin with? Almost any devout religious person would explain that it is part of our punishment, for the original sin. Christopher poignantly addresses as many of the arguments that religion gives us to keep itself in control.

When speaking of religion:

Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the "meaning" of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by their religions or denounced by them. And yet --the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know everything.

Although reading some of the history in there made me cringe, the author points out how terrible some of the faith-based laws and regulations actually are killing us. Religion Kills is the title for another chapter and it is named appropriately. He talks about Yusra al Azami. . .

"[She] was shot dead in April 2005, for the crime of sitting unchapperoned in a car with her fiancé. The young man [the fiance] escaped with only a vicious beating.

Allabu Akbar means God is Great, and this is where the title of the book comes from God is not great, How Religion Poisons Everything. Lately books are working hard on keeping your attention with catchy subtitles, but this is not just a gimmick, it really sums up the body of the book. After Hitchens lays down the groundwork, and poses some faith shattering questions, he dives head first into the major areas of our lives and humanity. Then makes some very compelling arguments to explain How Religion Poisons Everything.

He also points out how our youth are abused, the kids that undergo unsanitary, terrifying "medical" procedures in the name of faith. I also learned what a Mohel is, or rather who is a Mohel. It is so disgusting I won't even talk about it here. Young girls also are often subjected to horrifying ordeals, also in the name of god. In a very matter-of-fact point of view Hitchens points out the very questionable argument for a Grand God Designer.

. . .it is hard to imagine anything more grotesque than the mutilation of infant genitalia. Nor is it easy to imagine anything more incompatible with he argument from design. We must assume that a designer god would pay especial attention to the reproductive organs of his creatures, which are so essential for the continuation of the species. But religious ritual since the dawn of time has insisted on snatching children from the cradle and taking sharp stones or knives to their pudenda.

A few of titles of other chapters in the book should give you a great idea of what to expect if you read the book. A Note on Health, touches on both physical and mental health and some things I didn't know had a name like schadenfreude. In the chapter: Arguments from Design, creationism is addressed. Some of the book would be better understood if you have at least an understanding of some of the events depicted in the "good book." The Nightmare of the Old Testament and The Evil of the New Testament show goes over contrasting differences between the "old law" and the "good news." Before I read this book I knew little of the origins of the Qu'ran or Koran; to explain some of the history of this book, Christopher added a section that covers this often overlooked historical fact: The Koran is Borrowed from Judaism and Christianity.

There are nineteen chapters to cover all that would fit in one relatively short book. The book that I read is a hardcover edition with 283 pages in addition to the Acknowledgment, and the references table and a very nice index.

This book is excellent, I would highly recommend it to people in all walks of life. Its not light reading. It is based on reason, free-thinking, our nature and drive to explore the unknown and to make logical decisions based on facts instead of blind religious faith. Whether you are a staunch atheist, or a devout Muslim, Christian or even a practicing Buddhist, you should read this.

You can buy this directly from Amazon: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

13 Comments

  1. Great review. I think I’ll add this to my list.

  2. The advantages of circumcision:
    -Improved cleanliness
    -Less risk of cancer of the penis
    -Less risk of phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin)
    -Less risk of balanoposthitis (inflammation of penis and foreskin)
    -Less risk urinary tract infections
    -Possibly less risk of transmitting sexual transmitted diseases (including HIV and cervical cancer)

    Disadvantages?

    -Surgical risks (bleeding, infection, damage to penis)
    -Pain
    -Not medically necessary
    -Possibly diminished sexual sensation (good for “stamina”, nobody likes a minute man, am I right?)

    Now personally, I can’t recall my procedure as I was a bit young at the time, and although I’m sure it was painful, I’ve never had a problem with it. On the other hand, I’ve heard the foreskin of those without the procedure done need a lot more cleaning, as with most crevices. Take it how you want.

  3. lol ok my friend caught me posting my last comment, and after a bit of an awkward moment and laughter, he’s informed me that he himself is uncircumcised. He also informed me that his pubic hair somehow gets stuck inside the foreskin when his (trying to type while he’s hitting me) penis is flaccid, and gets pulled, which he informs me is very painful. It requires restroom visits because the hair doesn’t slide back out very easily. He says that he would much rather be circumcised, although the foreskin allows him to masturbate without.. lubricant. Jeez, did I just type all of that? Anyway, email me if you want to debate all of this.

  4. Thanks Chris for you comments. I think I read a little bit somewhere that some of the “advantages” that are often brought up as being medically founded might actually be more like social wisdom and not exactly factual. Given the way that circumcision is performed, where it is performed, and ultimately the people on which this is performed, I think that maybe it is hard to track these “risks” over a significant period of time. eg, how many actual studies have been done where a large sample group checks in every year or so to report of the status of whether they are circumcised or not.

    I’m not so much against the procedure, as much as the age in which is usually performed. As Christopher Hitchens says early on in his book, (I’m totally paraphrasing here..) Let the person decide when they are of age to make such decisions.

  5. Thanks again, That was probably a little more than I wanted to know or needed to know at this point.

    While I appreciate it and welcome more commentary, I don’t think I want to debate it, nor am I knowledgeable enough to have a more in depth discussion.

  6. It’s a common mistake by people who read a book and believe it without checking up on their facts. Think about this: when you’re born, a thing called a “heel stick” is poked right into the heel of your foot to draw blood. I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped on something like a nail or tack that has gone in your heel, but if it’s deep enough to draw blood, trust me, it is excruciatingly painful.

    Another way to look at it, if you’re uncircumcized, you’re part of only about 21% of people in the states who are, and likely to meet a girl who is a bit apprehensive with the whole foreskin thing.

    Anyway, if you want to read more about the benifits (including evidence that circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV among other things), go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision#HIV_and_other_sexually_transmitted_diseases .

    Oh, and put another mark on the “Why God is Good” side of the scoreboard.

  7. thanks Chris for your comments. You are right about the fact checking bit, that’s one of the reasons I think this book is great; it has a great bibliography to verify that what you are reading is in fact the truth.

    And I’ll let you do the score keeping if you wish, but I didn’t quite get what you meant on the whole mark on the “Why god is Good” side… can you explain? Why would a mark be scored? with what merit?

  8. I’ll compare this argument to something basic.. let’s say, milk for example. Studies on one side of the aisle say that milk is really good for you, it promotes bone health, it’s loaded with vitamins, and could prevent certain types of cancers. On the other side, studies have shown that it (along with most other things we put in our bodies nowadays) could actually cause another kind of cancer, and aggrevate undiagnosed diseases.

    There’s no doubt that you felt a certain satisfaction when you wrote your article about why circumcision is bad; this is where I got the mark to be scored, and seeing the facts that you failed to check would’ve proven otherwise, I was just trying to balance out that point.

    Now I’m sure the book has a wonderful bibliography, as do certain other books that like to quote and fact mine (see: The Da Vinci Code, various pro-evolution books, etc). But I could write a book on witchcraft and possibly greek mythology, and write an extensive bibliography that makes both of them look true also.

    Don’t believe everything you read. It’s just not very bright.

  9. @Chris. Hello there. Being a frequent visitor to this blog I feel I’ve got an idea of the tone the author is trying to set. Reading your last comment on the book review caught my attention. While I’m sure the author of this blog encourages people to leave their opinions/feedback, I think you took it a bit too far by essentially telling him he is not bright. To retort, I must point out that the “milk argument” you make is not a good one. Both studies you suggest would be of a scientific nature. This is one area where religious discussion takes a turn in the other direction so your example is not on point.

    And you are right, you very well could write a book on witchcraft and greek mythology and reference others in the bibliography to make your points, but only those that want to believe in witchcraft and mythology will buy into the premise. I could write a book on how Elvis is still alive and only those that want to believe would think I am writing the truth. When all is said and done, isn’t that what the bible is? A story about how we should live, what we should and should not do and if we don’t believe the contents on faith (zero proof) we will be sent to a very bad place to suffer for a very long time. Kind of silly if you ask me. We have evolved away from the days of Zeus and witchcraft. Sure there are people out there that may still believe in Greek gods or the power of witchcraft..or even claim to have seen Elvis alive, but I have never heard that any of those people strapped a suicide vest to themselves and ran into a crowded market in the name of their god.

  10. Well, thank you both for posting. First off,

    @Ziggy, thanks a lot for stopping by! I really like your blog and read it all the time. Thanks for stepping up to comment.

    @Chris
    Thanks for coming back Chris. I might now devote some time to writing an article about circumcision since it seems such a touchy and controversial subject. This wasn’t an article on the topic, if you actually read the entire post, it is simply a review of the book by Hitchens and I mention circumcision as one of the topics in the book. I did not set out to write an article about circumcision at all. You will also see that it talks about mutilating children’s genitalia, not specifically a boys. Can you pose a valid reason why the females should be cut as well? I doubt it.

    The issue I have with circumscition whether male or female (as I mentioned before) is the same issue I have with almost every other religious practice; it is done without the conscious permission of the person on whom it is being performed. A small child does not understand what is going on when someone cuts off a piece of his penis or vagina because God says to do so.

    If you think a bibliography is just a voucher for a book to “look true” then you are sadly mistaken. I in fact have gone back to this books’ citations and looked some of them up to actually verify their claims. Unfortunately this kind of fact checking is non-existent when reading most religious writings. We are simply supposed to take it based on faith. That is why I question the merit of “chalking one up for God”.

    I am glad you have come to the realization that not everything you read is true, long ago I discovered this and it is why I read different and opposing views in a wide range of media. I appreciate your attempt to balance out the argument but I believe you have failed to prove anything. You, very much like me are simply presenting an opinion; I’ve yet to see any actual facts.

    I, like ziggy, found the milk comparison useless in this discussion. Not only because I fail to see the connection, but because we are the only animals that continue to consume milk after infancy; it wasn’t supposed to be that way. So I don’t see that as a valid point.

    I also find your comparison of a fictional piece of work such The DaVinci Code to scientific books, irrelevant. I just don’t see the connection. With that said I will try to write an article devoted to the topic in the near future so feel free to stick around.

  11. If you would like to continue the discussion of circumcision, please use the contact form ) to email me. I would rather stay in topic with the book review in this post. I might post about circumcision soon and we can continue the discussion there.

  12. @ziggy
    I guess by association I did say he wasn’t bright, so I apologize. However, our previous discussion was about circumcision, which is of the scientific nature. I’m trying to draw a parallel between the scientific and religious communities, to point out any double-standards that may exist, and ulterior motives that may be used.

    For example, PETA is against inhumane treatment of animals, so I’m sure they’d never list the advantages of having a meat-filled diet. On the contrary, they would tell you every detail they could find on why eating animals is harmful, and exaggerate it to the point that you’d feel guilty for walking into a store that sells meat. Hidden agendas are very easy to point out, when you open your eyes.

    And I could make arguments for faith all day long. Everyone has a little faith. Without it, we wouldn’t trust anyone we know. That’s not silly, that’s trusting that someone has your best interests at heart.

    @Oscar
    I completely agree that the female circumcision (mutilation) shouldn’t be practiced, and I really don’t approve of it when people group religions together like they’re all the same and should take the blame for one offshoot that has been led astray. Nowhere in any of the Jewish or Christian texts is female genital mutilation allowed. So no, I can’t pose a valid reason why females should be cut, and I don’t see any reason I should have to.

    A small child has no idea what is best for them, especially right after birth. The parents do. The birthing process in the US and most of the west isn’t exactly a skip through a field of daisies. Pain is involved, no matter what course you take, unless you don’t do any tests to find out if your baby is healthy or not; if that’s the case, then you’re possibly setting them up for a much more painful experience.

    Here’s a link to a critical review of the book: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/MichaelMedved/2007/07/11/hitchens_vs_god if you have time.

    Looking forward to your next post.

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