Recommendation: A book that skeptics will love and the devoutly religious will hate, the subject matter is pretty much exactly what you expect it to be. What you might not expect is the accessibility in Hitchens’ writing and the melodious tone in his reading. Obviously you should be aware that Hitchens is an atheist and he’s not a fan of organized religion, but as long as that doesn’t scare you away this is a good book to pick up.
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Christopher Hitchens was a well-known atheist and detractor of organized religion. He’s been involved in his share of controversies and, while I won’t pretend to know any specifics about it, I imagine that the publication of God is Not Great garnered a similar amount of squabbles. After all, this book is essentially an attack on the most popular organized religions today. Hitchens felt that religion is more than a belief system that you can choose to partake in or ignore. In Hitchens’ view, religion is a toxic disease. It not only infects and harms those who get involved in it, but its fog spreads throughout the world, negatively effecting each and every one of us while serving as the root cause in countless acts of terrorism and violence.
The first thing to address here is that Hitchens’ argument is not airtight. A common misconception about Hitchens is that he was some kind of scientist and that his arguments are based on empirical evidence and logical deduction. DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE. Hitchens was not a scientist. He was an author, an intellectual, and a journalist. This point is proven throughout God is Not Great as Hitchens relies on anecdotal tragedies and personal opinions to build the majority of his argument. Even calling it an argument might be a little misleading. The book is more of an in-depth personal evaluation of religion than an argument. And while I found his evaluation to be interesting and, at some times, quite insightful, it is important to remember that this book really is nothing more than a personal opinion.
What I most enjoy about this book is Hitchens’ ability to write about complex and high-minded topics without using erudite, convoluted language as a crutch. Anyone whose read my rather scathing review of Here, There, Elsewhere knows how annoyed I can get when authors try to mask show-offy arrogance as confidence in the intelligence of their readers. Well, when I started on this audio book, I was worried that Hitchens, with his reputation for intellectual criticism, would have the pompous tone that makes me so pissy. But, I found Hitchens’ writing to be exactly the opposite. Hitchens ditches the vocab-test approach, instead asking his readers to concentrate on the book’s concepts, and I love that. To me, respecting your readers doesn’t mean that you use as many seven-letter words as possible to describe the most basic idea; it means that you use natural vocabulary to describe complex ideas. If you are of a similar mind, you’ll enjoy the respect that Hitchens shows you in these pages.
The last thing I want to comment on is the fact that Christopher Hitchens might have actually missed his true calling, Sure, he’s a world-renowned journalist and a best-selling author of immense popularity, but he missed out on the chance to be a kick-ass audio voice. I could (and did) listen to him talk for hours on end. In fact, I didn’t even believe that he was the voice on the audio book until I double checked it just now on the internet. Even if you don’t like what Hitchens has to say, you should probably listen to him say it just to enjoy the soothing notes. It’s like lemon cake for the ears. This just stands as more proof that people from the UK simply sound great all the time.