221 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful selection of Atheist, Agnostic and Rationalist writing from across the ages.
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,...
Published on 25 May 2008 by AmazonUser
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 13 months ago by J. Wallis
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221 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful selection of Atheist, Agnostic and Rationalist writing from across the ages.,
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.
201 of 212 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nourishment for the mind,
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.
119 of 128 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding compendium,
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.) As others have said, Hitch's compendium is considerably less 'portable' than the average paperback, but if you compare it with a whole bookshelf from which these extracts have been taken, you start to appreciate the aptness of the title. Whether you're an atheist, an agnostic, or just someone who appreciates fine writing, The Portable Atheist is highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portable and perfect beach reading...,
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.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the things you ever wanted to quote about religion, but couldn't remember them,
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.
79 of 91 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vital purchase,
Here's a book that will expand your mind. And how could it not? Look at the contributors it boasts: Einstein, Darwin, Orwell, Larkin, Twain, McEwan, Rushdie, Hume, Shelley, Russell, Dawkins and many more. Plus you get a main introduction and author introductions from the erudite and savagely witty Hitchens.
A word of warning: the first 100 pages are a bit sticky to wade through. This is because the book's essays are arranged in chronological order so we start with some ancient texts where the English is very heavy and dozens of commas adorn each sentence. There are some wonderful points made of course, but extreme concentration is required to pick them all up.
Things brighten after that and the book becomes highly readable. The majority of the essays are informative, stimulating and beautifully written. Highlights for me included Dawkins (as ever), who once again comes over as the world's best science writer, Larkin's stirring poem Aubade, AC Grayling's succinct essay, Can An Atheist Be A Fundamentalist?, and Ibn Warraq's brilliant dismantling of Islamic beliefs. If only Muslims would read it - but if they did they'd likely just throw it on the nearest fire.
We have much work to do. It may be a thousand years before the awfulness of religion is eradicated from the world, but books like this help: they perpetuate the `drip-down' effect. In the West we were well on the way to eradicating it before several million Muslims came to live here. Personally I doubt that nothing but a devastating clash of civilizations can be the result (we have of course already seen such clashes). Reading this book underlined my belief that this will be the case.
In conclusion, this book is highly recommended. If you only buy one atheist book buy this one (although The God Delusion is also fantastic). In the end you must decide which version of man's evolution and the planet's creation you believe: the views of thousands of the world's greatest ever minds of the past few hundred years; or words written a long, long time ago by people who thought the earth was flat and that the sun went round it, as passed on to them by other people who could not read or write and had not travelled, in their whole lives, more than a few miles from their primitive, parochial townships. I know who I'd prefer to believe.
PS On reflection I'd give this five stars but Amazon don't appear to allow you to edit star ratings.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Selection,
With believers on the back foot, resorting to "evangelical atheism" taunts against anyone who dares challenge their ideas, the measured and incisive writing in this collection would open their eyes - if only they would dare look. Alas, I suspect that the readership will be those who do not need convincing. Those who are prepared to believe the irrational simply don't want to be challenged by cogent argument - it frightens them. Nevertheless, the selections articulate ideas that many of us have but can't put into words with such ease. I recommend it without hesitation.
A favourite citation is this, from Penn Jillette, :
"...everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day."
What more does a person need?
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Atheist Bible?,
I bet the publishers thought about calling this book "The Atheist Bible". It's a chronological collection of writing by different authors about religion, the first half being writings from history (ranging from pre-Biblical through to early 20th century), the second half being a more modern take on things- sound like any other religious books you can think of?
Instead they've played it safe and given it the title "Portable Atheist"- presumably tongue in cheek, as at 500 pages it's not a pocket book by any means.
On the back cover it claims- "Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter", suggesting that the subject matter is suitable for everyone. Although that's not necessarily untrue, I think different sections will be of more interest to people with different standpoints. Some of the writings are very earnest pleas obviously directed at believers, and any atheists reading (like myself) will just nod and think, "I know this already, I don't need any more convincing". Some of the writings are by atheists, for atheists, and will do nothing to believers except infuriate or alienate them. So it's a mixed bag in that sense, but all the better because that's something for everybody.
I'm not an academic and I would say that a handful of the writings were too dry and longwinded for my liking. Writers like Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins specialise in exceptionally readable work, and there are a few little treats of short writing from Michael Shermer and Penn Jillette that should be hung on atheist's walls the way "Desiderata" hangs in some Christian houses. However the extracts from Karl Marx and Ibn Warraq (60 stone-dry pages) were too much like hard work.
Personally as an atheist I didn't need my views re-affirming, but it's still an entertaining read and provokes some thought. If you're agnostic or wavering in your world outlook, read this book. It's important.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual and thought provoking,
This review is from: The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Kindle Edition)
I give a five star rating when a book delivers on its promise. Christopher Hitchens spent his life researching, thinking, reflecting, writing and debating this subject. He dissects the 'faith' and 'religious' positions with elegance and humour. I have no hesitation in commending this book to Atheists, Nonbelievers and those who doubt. The Portable Atheist delivers on its promise to offer essential readings for the Nonbeliever.
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Dios no existe/ The Portable Atheist by Chistopher Hitchens (Hardcover - Sep 2009)