God Is Not Great

The atheist blogs are aquiver in anticipation of the imminent publication of Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. The author has allowed three excerpts of the book to be posted at Slate for our edification and enjoyment (and let’s not forget the obvious marketing ploy).

I should not care, having already made up my mind about religion, and its presumed benefits to the human race and civilization. I don’t need to read it. But Hitchens writes so well, I probably won’t be able to resist. For example:

We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and—since there is no other metaphor—also the soul. We do not believe in heaven or hell, yet no statistic will ever find that without these blandishments and threats we commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful. (In fact, if a proper statistical inquiry could ever be made, I am sure the evidence would be the other way.) We are reconciled to living only once, except through our children, for whom we are perfectly happy to notice that we must make way, and room. We speculate that it is at least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they might behave better toward each other and not worse. We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true—that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow.

What a nice, concise description of what atheists believe, almost poetical in it’s style. So, even though I need no reinforcement of my convictions, I will read this book.

One thought on “God Is Not Great

  1. I agree, very nice prose.

    I should not care, having already made up my mind about religion, and its presumed benefits to the human race and civilization. I don’t need to read it.

    That is exactly how I felt before I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Boy, was I wrong and boy, am I glad I read that book. I’d put off reading End of Faith by Sam Harris and Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett for the same reason. I read those too, and again, I’m so glad that I did 🙂

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