The book is God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. It was originally published in 2007 by Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. I read the 2009 paperback edition.
I read this book because I want to better understand the perspective of atheists. It’s important that Christians read material of the opposing view in order to “steel man” the other side. We should not argue against things they are not claiming and we should not be shocked by any worldview that’s out there. In order to argue against the pagan worldviews we should know what they’re saying.
If you’ve ever seen Hitchens in a speech or debate you might think he’s a great writer, but you’d be mistaken. That was my impression. He’s a good writer, but not great. He can form a sentence well and is technically proficient but I wouldn’t say he’s a joy to read. He writes like he enjoys the sound of his own voice, which was what was in my head the whole time. I’d say he’s a better speaker than writer. It felt like he was just saying the same thing over and over again.
He explained his point as clear as crystal and then shattered that crystal with further explanation. Talk about beating a dead horse. He basically just found as many different ways to say “religion is immoral” as possible. That was his main and only point. But like all atheists, he gives no explanation as to the standard he is appealing to when he uses words like “immoral” “evil” “wrong.” It’s all just assumed we know and agree what these words mean. But given his fish-to-philosopher, molecule-to-man worldview, he has no ground to stand on that can explain morality, beauty, logic, reason, or even consciousness. We’re all just evolved bacteria. What the hell does “evil” mean to bacteria?
I learned that many religious people throughout history did many bad things. The book is almost just a survey of the immorality of people who claim a religion. I found myself agreeing with his condemnation of unscrupulous televangalists and radical Muslim jihadists. Those were his typical targets. So he didn’t really have an argument against true biblical Christianity.
The most compelling points were when he pointed out historical discrepancies in the Bible. But I don’t know history well enough to know how he has missed the mark in these attacks. This might be my biggest takeaway from the book, the importance for a Christian to know history, and the manuscript tradition of scripture. These were the only areas of attack where I didn’t have a ready defense. I need to know more history.
Hitchens missed the mark all throughout the book because he wasn’t really aiming at true biblical Christianity, but rather at immoral religious people. But his moral indignation is meaningless given the “people are stardust” worldview he claims.
I’d recommend this to all Christians who have a firm understanding that the atheistic worldview has no ground to stand on. These Christians should read it just to be able to say you’ve read the other side. This is something atheists never do. They very rarely read Christian books. The amount of Christians who’ve read atheist books far outweighs the amount of atheists who’ve read Christian books. And we’re supposed to be the brainwashed, closed-minded ones. That simply can’t be true.
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