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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever | [Christopher Hitchens]

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

Christopher Hitchens continues to make the case for a splendidly godless universe in this first-ever gathering of the influential voices past and present that have shaped his side of the current (and raging) God/no-god debate. With Hitchens as your erudite and witty guide, you'll be led through a wealth of philosophy, literature, and scientific inquiry, including generous portions of the words of Lucretius, Benedict de Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, and more.
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Publisher's Summary

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages with never-before-published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Christopher Hitchens continues to make the case for a splendidly godless universe in this first-ever gathering of the influential voices past and present that have shaped his side of the current (and raging) God/no-god debate. With Hitchens as your erudite and witty guide, you'll be led through a wealth of philosophy, literature, and scientific inquiry, including generous portions of the words of Lucretius, Benedict de Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, H. L. Mencken, Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others well-known and lesser known. And they're all set in context and commented upon as only Christopher Hitchens, "political and literary journalist extraordinaire" (Los Angeles Times), can.

Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter: The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way.

©2007 Christopher Hitchens; (P)2007 Phoenix Books, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A fascinating collection of readings from some of the West's greatest thinkers." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (370 )
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  •  
    Oskar E. Boethius Lissheim Goteborg, Sweden 01-29-08
    Oskar E. Boethius Lissheim Goteborg, Sweden 01-29-08 Member Since 2007

    avocade

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    "Hitchens' Heroes"

    It is not very hard to accept the reasoning behind Christopher Hitchens' own ideas on religion after you've gone through the parade of fascinating works in this book. Intertwined with very subdued--perhaps an understatement, having his latest works in recent memory--commentaries from Hitchens, you are transported through the ages of reason and unreason, starting with the fascinating thoughts of the Roman philosopher Lucretius (highly influenced by the then "heretically" denounced Epicureans of Greece) around the, said, birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and ending in the 20th century, with Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud among the most notable luminaries.

    What is most interesting in the end, however, is perhaps not an obvious conclusion, have you previously been impressed with Cristopher Hitchens' own writings. For, as good a writer as Hitchens truly is, it becomes very palpable how he, along with most authors of the recent past, absolutely pales in comparison to the grandeur of thought, wit, faculties of reason and vivid imagination of these masters of our collective literary heritage.

    This book, which is very appropriately named, should be mandatory reading for all humans out there, who are the slightest bit concerned with their own existence, and how they relate to this world and its continuously morphing state of affairs. This world--the only one that exists.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Wolf 06-05-08
    David Wolf 06-05-08 Listener Since 2008

    Misanthrope™

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    "This is ABRIDGED"

    I would love to give it 5 stars, and would for the actual book, but the Audible recording is not unabridged as advertised. Get the book instead!

    23 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken Oakhurst, CA, United States 11-18-10
    Ken Oakhurst, CA, United States 11-18-10 Listener Since 2006

    Ken

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    "To think for yourself without fear"

    A challenge to anyone who wants to look for the truth. It is vital to hear, it is not easy to hear, it must be heard.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    German Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 08-03-11
    German Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 08-03-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Valuable ABRIDGED Anthology, Worth the effort"

    I must warn you that some texts are complex and very difficult to follow in audio format. This is not an excuse to give up. There’s an important distinction between reading for relaxation and entertainment, or reading just for information, on the one hand, and reading for understanding, for deepening your mind, and for acquiring insight, on the other. (Please take a look at Adler’s “How to Read a Book”, also available on Audible.)

    This book is well read with a clear professional voice. As one of the reviews said: the main difficulty in listening to this as an audiobook is that it is very difficult to tell when the narration from Hitchens ends and the excerpts from other authors begin and vice versa.

    There are many, many excerpts that are a please to listen to. Here are the three I enjoyed the must:

    (Due to the space limitation and since I cannot include URLs, please Google it. The three essays are in public domain.)

    - George Eliot, Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming (ch.3 of The Essays of George Eliot);

    - Anatole France, Miracle (p. 175 of The Garden of Epicurus);

    - Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish.

    Thanks to Nicholas Ball’s reading, they became even more powerful.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eugenio Puerto Rico 12-30-10
    Eugenio Puerto Rico 12-30-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Unabridged is not so"

    After finishing listening to the two part unabridged version as advertised, I was able to compare my Kindle PC text version and my printed book version. I was very disappointed to find out that more than half of the essays were left out. I can understand that it would have made it extremely long to listen to or that some of the essays are extracts of bestselling books. But I think Audible.com should make it clear that it is not an unabridged version as I consider this false advertising. Nevertheless, it is fabulous and eye opening information. It is well read with a clear professional voice. That is my only complaint.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Union, Ontario, Canada 11-11-09
    James Union, Ontario, Canada 11-11-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting authors, but not great as an audiobook"

    Definitely interesting and a good place to see the minds of different free thinkers throughout history.

    My one major criticism is that as an audiobook it was hard at times to distinguish the text of the narrator from that of the various authors in the book, especially when returning to a section midway through.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Boston, MA, USA 07-13-09
    Tim Boston, MA, USA 07-13-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Great resource, difficult audiobook"

    This is an excellent book and the reading is okay, even if it is not Hitchens. The main difficulty in listening to this as an audiobook is that it is very difficult to tell when the narration from Hitchens ends and the excerpts from other authors begin and vice versa; for that reason, the print version is better as a resource. This is a book you'll want to come back to a refer to specific passages, which is almost impossible in this format. Also, I wonder if a couple of the other reviewers downloaded both parts. I had the entire book -- unabridged. If you're looking for resources in this area, Hitchens' "God is Not Great" is essential and this is a good supplement. Hitchens provides the most comprehensive discussion of atheism available.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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    Phyllis Carbajosa de la Sagrada, Spain 12-14-12
    Phyllis Carbajosa de la Sagrada, Spain 12-14-12 Member Since 2007

    5 stars - books that I will listen to again and again. 4 stars - books that I might listen to again someday. 3 stars - books that I probably won't listen to again. 2 stars - books that I know I will never listen to again. 1 star - books that I should have never listened to in the first place.

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    "Absolutely Essential Reading"

    Can anyone pick up a Christopher Hitchens' work and NOT learn something NEW? Do I agree with everything written by Hitchens, of course not. But, do I believe it extremely important that Hitchens' ideas and opinions are made available and read by as many people as humanly possible, yes! An incomplete list of the intellectual and philosophical tidbits addressed in this incredible book;

    (1) Hume: He takes the idea of miracles to task.
    (2) Mill: Rationally explains his lack of faith.
    (3) Marx: Ever wondered what the "opium of the people" really means?
    (4) Mencken: A witty memorial service to all the "dead" gods.
    (5) Einstein: Always one of the best when it comes to collecting eloquent and humorous short quotes.
    (6) Russell: Puts superstition to task.
    (7) Mackie: Discusses possible consequences of adopting atheism.
    (8) Shermer: Excellent parody of what one would have to believe if one wishes to reconcile what we know scientifically today with the teachings of the Bible.
    (9) Dawkins: Probably the best presented argument for the unlikelihood of the existence of God, and a good refutation of some of the most powerful objections of theists. His book, "The God Delusion", is a more complete explanation. Also available at Audible and highly recommended.
    (10) Stenger: The best attack on the cosmological arguments for God.
    (11) Anderson: Wonderful summary of the type of moral things God does in the Bible, tells others to do, or simply permits. The bottom line: clearly no truly good moral person should look to the Bible exclusively for guidance.
    (12) Weinberg: Another cosmological discussion, but he is more sympathetic to religion.
    (13) Warraq: A long but devastating attack on the Quran. Also good for those that do not really understand the type of things actually written in Islamic religious doctrine (or for that matter, how these religious books came about).
    (14) Vatican: Admits that Limbo does NOT exist. Insists that condoms are worse than AIDS.
    (15) W. Hannaford Brown: On The Nature of Things by Lucretius.

    Thought provoking for the philosophical at heart, while NOT dwelling too much on the Abyss. Not to mention the fact that Nicholas Ball's narration is impeccable. Highly Recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian Farnborough, United Kingdom 07-11-12
    Ian Farnborough, United Kingdom 07-11-12 Member Since 2003
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    "Better in print?"

    So Hitchens was a genius. His own writings are impressive and trusting him to select the writings of others for you is always going to be a good bet. This brings together a varied selection of essays and tracts from writers over a long period of history with the central theme being the non-existence of any supreme being or supernatural force. 'Nuff said really. If its an area of human experience that interests you, read this.

    Some of the older works get a bit difficult to follow in audio format. There are sections that you clearly need to study over several times to get the full flow but audio doesn't lend itself well to this. So I'm glad I listened to this but will also be buying the printed version as well because there are ideas and thoughts in here that deserve to be properly understood.

    The narration is ok. Its a great shame that the author/compiler doesn't do the honours himself as one of the few things more enjoyable than reading Hitch is hearing Hitch read Hitch.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE, United States 12-29-13
    Andrew MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE, United States 12-29-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Abridged Collection"

    Mr Ball has narrated an excellent collection of fantastic works when it comes to the discussion of the human mind and the answers it must create for itself when contemplating its most common spiritual questions throughout the ages. The truly unfortunate thing about this audiobook's collection is that not all of the compiled works are being narrated. With only two hours left in the second audio file I realized that I was only halfway through the book. So much of the collection is missing.

    Another drawback to the narrator's performance is the fact that it is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between Hitch's introduction to the compiled text and the text itself.

    Aside from these two drawbacks, Hitchens' collection of works comes from many different eras of spiritual contemplation. Whether springing from the mind of a psychologist, physicist, zoologist, or fellow author, the works express mankind's need to find the answers to as many questions as it can, sometimes inventing what actually aren't solutions to the problem but rather ideas that raise more questions. Faith and fact are two entirely different things and the authors that Hitchens compiled in this book express that clearly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Jonathan
    grantham, lincolnshire, United Kingdom
    3/21/09
    Overall
    "great book"

    I have the book already, but wanted an audio version for planes & trains, also because the book's pretty hefty for travel. I don't know if it's just me but the narrator, Nicholas Ball has a soporific effect on me. Ideally I'd have liked Hitchens to have read it. So, for me, it's better in the printed form.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lawrence
    oban, argyllshire, United Kingdom
    12/27/07
    Overall
    "The unheard side"

    Excellent, informative and essentianal reading on atheism. So much strong evidence and compulsive listening

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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