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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer [Paperback]

Christopher Hitchens
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Nov 2007
Christopher Hitchens, the acclaimed journalist and best-selling author of God Is Not Great, selects and introduces an illuminating collection of the most essential and influential writings for the non-believer, including contributions from Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, Richard Dawkins, H.L. Mencken, Sam Harris, and more.

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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer + God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything + The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
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Product details

  • Paperback: 499 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (15 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306816083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306816086
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.5 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.

Product Description


"Reading all these essays together is an intellectually invigorating experience this is a fine anthology and a provocative challenge to believers." --Metro (London) 14th November 2007

"(a)t 500 pages this excellent anthology is only just portable, but it is the perfect Christmas stocking-filler for the atheist in your life." --The Guardian

"(a)fter setting the non-believing cat among the devout pigeons in America, Christopher Hitchens compiles an anthology varied enough to entertain atheists, agnostics and believers alike." --The Financial Times

About the Author

Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a visiting professor of liberal studies at the New School. The author of numerous books including the current bestseller God Is Not Great and Letters to a Young Contrarian, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
221 of 229 people found the following review helpful
This book is perhaps slightly undersold by it's title, it's a pretty solid tome, still portable I suppose but it must be a good 2 or 3 inches thick. The second part of the title is also a little misleading, the majority of the authors are indeed atheists, but not limited to the more militant kind one might expect Hitchens to choose. There's a broad spectrum of Humanist, Secularist and Rationalist writing spanning from Lucretius and Spinoza to Ibn Warraq and Sam Harris. The book progresses through these in a roughly chronological order charting the way human thought on the divine (or lack thereof) has changed and progressed.

The readings are well chosen and Hitchens provides a little introduction and context to each section (if I had one minor complaint it would be that these intros could have been even longer, they were fascinating in their own right). He also provides an overall intro to the book as a whole.

If I was to direct someone, atheist or theist, to a single book to explain non-theistic world views to them, it would have to be this.
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198 of 209 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nourishment for the mind 11 Mar 2008
An absolutely dazzling work. As a recovering Christian I am actively seeking out the thoughts of the great secularists down through the ages.
Particular highlights for me were the writings of Mark Twain on the Church's position on slavery, and also a remarkable deconstruction of every Christian argument regarding morality and God by Elizabet Anderson. Its one of those books that I'd love my wife and my Christian friends to read. Sadly, the bubble of false consolation and cognitive bias appears overwhelmingly strong. My experience tells me that the only evidence that Christians can cope with is Christian evidence. A truly impartial assesment of the available evidence from both sides seems a pose a real challenge to them.
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119 of 128 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 18 Jan 2008
I found this interesting in that it provides a potted history of atheistic philosophy which could be useful to anyone introduced to the subject more recently (perhaps by Dawkins or Dennet). Some of the historical material can be a little hard to read (especially on a packed train) but I found it fascinating to see how the arguments against religion have developed over time. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's story is truly inspiring and is a fitting conclusion to the book. Hitchens' introductions to each chapter are fitting, and often show just how important the individual writers ideas are to the him. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding compendium 8 Aug 2010
By Steve
In The Portable Atheist, Hitchens has assembled a surprisingly diverse collection of first rate writing by non-believers. From medieval poets and enlightenment philosophers, to twentieth century scientists, this is most definitely not 500 pages of people saying the same thing in the same way. Representing a broad sweep of styles and perspectives - science, politics, philosophy, poetry, autobiography, literature, and more - about the only thing they have in common is their willingness to stand up and challenge the great behemoth that is religion.

The entries by Carl Sagan, Anatole France, and the always dependable Bertrand Russell are a real treat. Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali lift the cloak on Islam, Ian McEwan and others reveal the unsavoury episodes in the history of Christianity, and the poet Shelley gives us an early refutation of creationism. The writers and the writing truly are the cream of the crop. Also welcome in this volume are selected writings by Albert Einstein, whose eleven pages of letters and notes remove any lingering doubt about his repudiation of a god that takes an interest in human affairs. So much for the religiosity of the world's most famous genius.

The brief introductions by Hitch to each contribution are pitched just right: concise, illuminating, a little droll, but never nasty. He prefaces the whole collection with a longer piece that has all the passion and wit we've come to expect from him. Very few religious people will be drawn to read this book, but that's fine - this isn't that kind of book. (Those readers might like to try the excellent 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portable and perfect beach reading... 23 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If, like me, you need writers like Hitchens to help you rage against the dying of reason - I mean, Halal meat is now one of the fastest growing food trends in the UK, what is THAT all about with its inherent cruelty and madness! - then books like these really are essential reading. The carefully selected essays and excerpts are beautiful. There is beauty in writing but not in God. God is a cruel fantasy. Read and weep.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unless you're one of the lucky people with a brain like a computer, able to instantly bring to mind, that perfect reposte, during any discussion on religion or theology, then this is the book for you. Within it's pages, is a deconstruction of biblical and koranic arguments, added to scientific logic and a dollop of plain old common sense.

In short, it contains all the quotations and arguments an atheist might ever need, to win the inevitable arguments, in which we find ourselves so often. On top of that, it's contributors are witty, brilliant and mostly very readable. For those believers of one persuasion or another, who wish to confront the atheist argument; stay away from this book, unless you're ready to face the truth.

Good old Hitchens, his selection of writings is perfect, as we've come to expect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Most interesting reading. and because each chapter could be ...
Most interesting reading.and because each chapter could be read independently the size of the volume was not daunting.
Published 24 days ago by Patricia Josebury
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
perfect purchase
Published 1 month ago by Nobody's Fool
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Many very interesting views and writings from the dawn of the written word through to modern day thinkers. Inspired me to want to read more on the subject.
Published 3 months ago by teatime
5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensable collection
Hitchens as done here a wonderful job of collecting here the works of great free-thinkers, rationalists, agnostics and atheists all through the ages. Read more
Published 3 months ago by john
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection
Great collection of atheist texts. From philosophers and scientists, a lot of explanations of why you don't need to believe in any god or magical creature to either be a moral... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Drifter
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good stuff in here. The chapter on Islam is very good.
Decent spread of work in this chunky book. If you want to get a good feel for the 'Atheist' movement, you could do worse than starting here. The chapter on Islam is a cracker.
Published 7 months ago by Surrey Smallholder
4.0 out of 5 stars very appropriate selections from many diverse sources
Enjoyable read,quite deep, plenty to reflect on & contemplate. I would recommend as a good starting place for this subject.
Published 9 months ago by handyman
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading
Product was on my doorstep sooner than expected. In great condition, good packaging. I dived right in, everyone should read this book. It is a book on life, love and happiness.
Published 11 months ago by rosemary ruddy
5.0 out of 5 stars A truely great read...
After listening to ,watching debates and reading books by this great,interesting,thought provoking man i can only assume people really do try to hege their bets by believing in the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by David Johnson
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite portable
I expected a smaller book with more of Mr Hitchen's own ideas. But it is nice to see some work that has inspried the inspirational.
Published 12 months ago by J. Wallis
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