Christopher Hitchens died last year and until he died I had never heard of him. I read eulogies from his fellow journalists and then heard no more until last week when, by chance, I came across some video clips of Hitchens speaking about his views on religion and I found them fascinating.
I then found that Hitchens had written a book, God is not Great: how religion poisons everything. I bought the book and have now read it.
Firstly, I have only read a couple of chapters of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion and I have to say that Hitchens did a far better job than Dawkins.
Religious people do not like God is not Great. Not because it tests their faith but because of what it reveals about what goes on in the name of religion. Hitchens tells us, almost in passing, that he has received death threats, nasty phone calls and threats of violence for holding his view that he believes that religions poison everything.
Having been born and brought up in a country where freedom of speech is taken for granted, I wonder at who it could be that would so object to someone's views that they threaten murder. That's for their conscience!
As for the book, it is entertainingly written and full of stories aimed at the three main monotheisms: Christianity, Jewry, Islam. He regales us with story after story of the things that clerics hiding under these three banners get up to and have got up to for millennia. Hitchens reveals a great number of sources too: he's not just letting off steam.
I have to say that I read this book for the overview it provided and not to learn the deep and detailed information that Hitchens sometimes goes into: it's there if you want it, of course.
I like Hitchens' style as it is keen, ascerbic, funny, witty, well sourced and contains many words that I had never come across before. At least it will improve your vocabulary.
I have to say that another motivation for reading the book is that I arrived at a similar position to Hitchens vis a vis religion over the last two or three years having seen religious brainwashing and its consequences at first hand. No God will work in that way with those people: something else is most definitely going on and I could support these things no longer, having realised what was happening.
I imagine there will be people who read this mini review and who might feel angry with me for having written it: well, that's for you to come to terms with. I am glad I read the book, I learned many things about religions that I did not previously know and Hitchens gives a message that we all ought to consider. You do not have to agree with him!
What's wrong with the book? Well, Hitchens has a mission, to clarify why he thinks religions poison everything. He gives no time to the good that good people in religions often do. He does not attempt to redress any imbalances in his arguments at all in this respect. If he were alive to answer this point I am sure he would ask, why on earth should I?
Overall, if you are deeply committed to your religion you might not want to read this book but I think you should suspend your faith, read it and then explore fully what Hitchens has to say. Don't dismiss this book with anger in your heart! If you give Hitchens a fair hearing and stick to your guns then fine.
I recommend this book to everyone but if your English reading skills are weak, it will be difficult for you: Hitchens' English language skills are highly developed and he's writing for an educated audience. No offence to anyone, just a friendly warning!