Way back in June, Metro Mama offered up a few free copies of Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I jumped on the offer since I'd been planning to read a number of atheism-themed books this summer.
Long story short, a lot of stuff happened this summer and I spent about two months reading a few pages at a time. Now, it's been another few weeks since I finished the book and I don't even have it with me. OK, so this is not the most responsible way of going about a review, but it's what I can manage right now.
To begin with, I am an atheist. And have been for a while. So I don't need convincing.
Which is probably the best audience for this book. I already agree with Hitchens that religion is a human construct and that modern science trumps the explanations created by religion in the past. I read much of the book raptly; while I have a general knowledge of most religions, Hitchens has studied them thoroughly and up-close. The details and anecdotes he provided have helped me better articulate my issues with religion and introduced me to many things I hadn't known before. And so I felt fully affirmed in my atheism.
Nonetheless, I have two quibbles with the book.
The first is that the end felt anticlimactic. I was waiting for the 'solution' I thought had been promised. Instead it felt like a rehash of everything he'd already said. His basic solution: people need to recognize in this day and age that religion just isn't necessary. But that doesn't give me any idea of how we get there other than trying to reason with people--and religion simply is not an area where the firmest believers are willing to listen to reason.
The second is that Hitchens cannot find any place for religion. He recasts every good act done in the name of religion as a 'humanist' act at its root. While I agree that concern for and attention to other people is not limited to believers, I also think it is a bit unfair to dismiss any religious influence on positive actions. There are several people in my life whom I respect very much and who hold their religious beliefs very dear. They are good people; I feel that if religion is what gives them the desire to do the things they do, it cannot be all bad--if only more people followed religion in the way they do.
But I would recommend reading God is Not Great to just about anyone. Atheists and agnostics will find more support for their (non-)beliefs and believers may find an opportunity to hone their arguments in support of religion or, at least, to define how religion drives them.