©2007 Christopher Hitchens; (P)2007 Hachette Audio
"The best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos." (Publishers Weekly)
"Effortlessly witty and entertaining as well as utterly rational." (Booklist)
Hitchens is brilliant, and funny as well. I truly enjoyed his little jabs that are sometimes so subtle that one wonders whether he intended any injury, however slight. His references to solipsism are "spot on", as is much of what he says. He's a splendid example of a British wit, yet a man who is concerned, in his deceptively casual manner, with the rise of religious extremism in America and the world.
Though I continue to find points of light in religion, I insist that what Hitchens and his fellow post-911 atheists (esp. Harris) have to say.
My only objection is to his narration. I appreciate the privelege to hear the author narrate, and his voice does not annoy, but his casual intonation and lack of clarity make him hard to understand at times. I just heard Hitchens interviewed today, and curiously, I think his delivery was clearer. Perhaps the chore of narration bored him a bit. Of course it's the duty of an Englishman to sound bored, so who knows?
In any case, I enjoyed the audiobook immensely, but I may have enjoyed the printed book a bit more.
Atheists suffer the same basic weakness as the religious. They believe themselves to know the truth. This author, thankfully, doesn't have the all-knowing tone of, for example, Richard Dawkins, and that makes the book a more enjoyable read. Hitchens freely admits that, for a long time, religion was the only option to explain much of the world. Contempt is reserved for those who, when confronted with new knowledge, retreat from it. I've no doubt it would still piss off the devout...but the book explains the reasoning behind atheism in a very straightforward, comprehensible way. This is the book I'd give to my mother to explain why I won't go to church with her anymore.
Final note: Looking at previous reviews, I'm compelled to mention that I understood the author's voice perfectly. I believe having him read benefits the presentation, since it adds genuine emotion to the reading. But, I'm using an iPod. Your results and sound quality may vary.
Christopher Hitchens not only wrote an insightful look into organized religion, he also did it in a style remenisant of Douglas Adams. Maybe it's his English accent or a sense of humor born in the English school and state religious system.
Regardless, I disagree with the negative comments in previous reviews. Hitchens' main point is that "religion poisons everything". He makes great points and backs them up with unassailable arguments. A few of the reviewers complain about the audio quality, maybe they need new earphones or need to download the program again. The audio on my copy is excellent and his reading of the book is done with clarity,style and humor.
I'm not an atheist; I'm just not convinced that any religion has the complete story. Mr Hitchens points brought my religious inclinations into clear focus and his experiences with events and news-makers validate his points.
This is one of the best non-fiction books I've purchased from Audible. The only problem is that now I feel compelled to buy a hard copy so that I can use it for notes and reference especially if I find myself compelled to believe in one of the "revealed religions". He words can bring me back to reality.
My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos.
Well written and well narrated. I grew weary of listening to count after count of how amazingly evil people have been to each other in the name of their religion. Although I'm an atheist, this book needed some balance.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
This is my fourth consecutive book dealing with an atheistic theme, and I enjoyed it as much as the other three (‘The God Delusion’, ‘On the Historicity of Jesus’ and ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’). It’s a very reasonable, well-argued discussion of religion looked at from many different angles.
Christopher Hitchens, who here narrates his own work, has a reputation for being a pugnacious, controversial figure, one of the ‘Four Horsemen of Atheism’ and so I was expecting to find some of the material shocking or disagreeable, but I didn’t. It seemed to be mostly sensible and true, so I suppose I must already be a willing convert to this world view.
He explains that religion arose in humanity’s infancy, when we had very little understanding of nature, when a deity was as good an explanation of lightning, volcanoes, sunrises and earthquakes as anything else on offer. Now science provides a much better explanation of these natural phenomena, but once religion has established itself, it is very hard to shake off. Young minds are indoctrinated with religious ideas, founded on fear, and then, in most cases, these beliefs persist through adulthood until death. Sometimes this is harmless enough, if people lead good lives and care about their fellow humans, but in many situations throughout history religion has caused repression, conflict and suffering.
Each religion considers its own holy book to be the only true version of the creation story, while all others are heresies. In each case the story of the founding figures is based on a mish-mash of ancient documents which have very little historical credibility and are probably mostly fictional. And then these scriptures become the basis of a system of rigid rules dictating in minute detail how life must be lived; leading to harmful practices and beliefs such as female circumcision, the prohibition of contraception, the stipulation of the existence of hell, burning people at the stake and encouraging martyrdom (for the reward of 72 virgins), just a few examples of arbitrary edicts from dodgy ancient sources that have caused untold misery.
The big three monotheistic religions have been around a long time, and they have pervaded all aspects of culture, art and literature to such an extent that they now have an aura of solemn authenticity and because of this long tradition they feel like the genuine article. But it is interesting to look at some recently formed religions to see how quickly they can spring up, based on bogus stories. The Mormon religion is a laughable case of a huckster, Joseph Smith, who wrote his own bible conveniently including prophets who had lived in the USA, yet this is now taken 100% seriously and is the founding document of a religious movement involving 15 million adherents. Haile Selassie and Rastafarianism provide another good example. Similarly, the ‘cargo cults’ that spontaneously cropped up in several Pacific Islands in the twentieth century offer an instructive model of how religions can form in a short time based on mythical figures (e.g. John Frum and Tom Navy), or unwitting real people (e.g. Prince Phillip), accepted as messiahs, who made no claims to having such status. It is not difficult to imagine that similar events may have occurred in antiquity to found the big three religions, in which case there should be no reason to be in awe of them.
Hitchens summarises these and many other arguments very persuasively. He had an adventurous and exciting life as a foreign correspondent and he describes at first hand his experiences of some of the evils perpetrated in the name of religion. Perhaps he exaggerates with his mantra ‘religion poisons everything’ because, even if religious beliefs are unfounded, religion must nevertheless have given hope and consolation to many down the ages. Also, my own experience of many religious people is that they are happy and positive and lead good lives. So even if they are wrong about the existence of God, I don’t agree that it poisons absolutely everything. However, in general I found myself agreeing with Hitchens’ opinions and I found the book to be an excellent and enlightening listen.
If I had heroes Mr. Hitchens would be one of them. This is one of my favorite books, and I have read and re-read it. I buy copies of this book and give them to friends, family and acquaintances.
Mr. Hitchens will say what others think but are afraid to say, or are not capable of saying, or are to "polite" to say. He pulls no punches and does not pander to the "you must respect my beliefs just because" crowd. No "get out of jail free" faith cards allowed here.
Reading this book was the first time I realized that it was not necessary to shut up when people said stupid things just because they were "religious" stupid things. People who have irrational, crazy ideas and air them publicly should be subject to being "called" on it, especially when we live in a world where theocracy seems to have been welcomed back into the political realm, especially where those kinds of beliefs could now endanger the entire planet rather than isolated peoples or nations.
For most of human existence, most humans lived under the power of one theocracy or another. They endured torture, burning, murder, mayhem, crusades and genocide of all kinds. Mr. Hitchens book reminds us of the dangers of history repeating itself. To me this book was a wake up call that made me realize that "live and let live" was not appropriate at this time, because the theocrats do not intend to live side by side, but to enforce their beliefs on the rest of us.
Atheism for Dummies
Hitchen's is clearly at his best here. Like an urbane uncle after a few drinks, he's not afraid to spout off on the follies of take your pick. It's all told in his acerbic style that pulls no punches. Makes a convincing case that not only is religious belief harmful not only to mankind but through countless examples, individual believers as well. Like Sam Harris' The End of Faith, Hitchens probably won't convert any true believers but unlike Harris, he does a much better job making this a personal appeal as well as polemic without, excuse the pun, sounding preachy. Even if you don't buy his line, it's hard to say it isn't entertaining.
If I had a complaint it was the narration by Hitchens himself. Whether it was him or the director, he had a reading habit of explosively starting a sentence and letting his voice trail off into a mumble by the end. I like to listen while driving and it was near impossible to understand many sentences.
Not particularly, but I did like how he closed out one chapter by saying how sometimes he missed the certainty of his old religious beliefs, then followed it up by daring the reader to give them up with a "try it, you'll like it!" Exhortation. Priceless!
If you are an atheist - or wonder if you are - this is an important and thoughtful book to let you know you are not alone and not alone in wondering why no one points out all of the ways that religion gets it so wrong. It is also important to note that Hitchens does not mock religion or the idea of god - in the way that Richard Dawkins does (e.g., in The God Delusion). He also isn't trying to gently speak to believers to help them see how harmful a strident religion can be the way Sam Harris does (e.g., in Letters to a Christian Nation). Instead, Hitchens thoughtfully and scholarly dissects and discards each of the main arguments for god and shows how they are used to attack non-believers and control society. His arguments are VERY compelling and well thought out - if you are open to the notion that god is a very interesting idea but not self-evident - and not the domain of any religious group and should not to be used to control society.
To the extent that there is a downside - it is Hitchens himself. Yet again, Hitchens remind us why writers should never narrate their own books. Although a few writers can pull it off - Hitchens is not one of them. For much of the book I was straining to hear and to understand him. He seems to mumble and he trails off at the end of sentences. Although frustrating, it did not distract enough to undermine the significance of this book.
I have to take issue with the many reviews condemning Hitchens for narrating his own book. Hitchens' style is so unique that any other reader would be quite inappropriate. I guess this is mostly a case of U.S. readers having difficulty with anything not familiar to their ears - pity. As a non-US listener I have no problem with most books performed with U.S. accents, but it is nice to have a little variety occasionally! Hitchens is, well, Hitchens and to have him read the book was the icing on the cake, at least for me. The book's message? Wonderfully over the top and worth every minute.
Christopher Hitchens provocative and highly effective polemic against organized and not so organized religion suffers only from the author's own narration. Too bad. Despite his Richard Burton like voice and accent, Hitchens often brilliant observations and corruscating style are severely damaged by a breakneck tempo and detached delivery. But the extra effort required when listening is still well worth the effort.
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