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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer Paperback – 6 Nov 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (6 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780306816086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306816086
  • ASIN: 0306816083
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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. His numerous books include Letters to a Young Contrarian and Why Orwell Matters.


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Excellent collection of writings dealing with some of the nonsense surrounding religion. It is difficult to imagine anyone reading this book and not wantinig to sue the various relegious organisations for gaining money under false pretenses.

Some of the writings are a little difficult to read as their use of English is very dated. The book starts with the work of an arab and ends with how a Somali woman left her faith.

There is an excellent piece by one of the Penn and Teller magicians. If nothing else, read that one.
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By Charles VINE VOICE on 13 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified 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).
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