Upon beginning this book, I had just barely made it out of Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator with my sanity. Strobel’s entire book was a biased scam of fallacy after fallacy in an insultingly illogical argument for intelligent design. I began God is Not Great ready to be refreshed hearing something from my own side of the argument, but what I found within its pages was even better.
What I got wasn’t another The God Delusion, rebutting arguments for God and sprinkled with a few examples of the harm done by or the origins of religion. This was instead the inverse: 283 pages of how religion poisons everything (I honestly shouldn’t have been so surprised; it was right there on the cover) with the occasional remark on a fallacy or two regarding the existence of God himself which never earned more than a chapter. In my opinion, there are enough books on why God is or is not real (but this is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed exploring them). And after all this time, I’m starting to see that they all say more or less the same things. There are only so many arguments to present and refute.
Possibly the most obvious thing to any reader of Hitchens’ most famous work, or even an observer of its cover, is a very deliberate abandonment of language rules. In the simple act of never hitting Shift when typing a “g” while typing the word “god”, Hitchens made a bold statement sure to irk any religious readers. I admire his tenacity at breaking this rule, because at times it was legitimately grammatically incorrect (such as when it is being used as the specific name of the Christian god), but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make in the name of pettiness that not many of us can hope to achieve.
I found God is Not Great to be sufficiently more cohesive than its year-older counterpart (at least it seems that they are always paired together), Dawkins’ The God Delusion. The former has its purpose and it serves it well; I see it as an introductory course for those new to atheism or at least questioning God and who dare to learn more. But The God Delusion is quite spread out: it touches on everything from the Kalam cosmological argument to the trolley problem to the roots of religion, and everything in between. Hitchens here homes in on historical examples of religion causing harm, and in some ways it made me realize that God being evil or harmful may be a more pressing issue than whether he exists at all, for if he does, then we must now make the decision on whether he is worthy of our praise. Hitchens makes his answer clear.
Recently I asked my fiancé, if we were to ask my mother to read one book from our atheist point of view (as a way of balancing out her conversion attempts), which book he would choose. He responded that he would suggest God is Not Great. Granted, it is the only atheism book he has completed so far, but I’m sure that many of you who have read far more than either of us would agree. My mother has no interest at all in scientific or reason-based arguments: she is more concerned with, as she says, the heart, rather than the head. Well, while most books may persuade the head out of belief, this persuades the heart out of awe. It shows the believer why we can still not like a deity in whom we don’t believe.
One of the biggest reasons why I can’t force myself to believe is beyond the logical arguments for god: it’s the fact that once you see just how fabricated and malicious religion (every religion) really is, you can’t unsee it. What you can do is see it for yourself—all its bloody, manipulative, totalitarian horror—and to do that is to read God is Not Great.