God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything - Christopher Hitchens One might fault Hitchens for using too broad a brush to condemn religion but his point is that any institution or belief – no matter how beneficent its dogma* – that demands that an individual surrender choice and freedom of conscience to an outside power for which there is no evidence is profoundly wrong and immoral.** Any such belief represses or – worse – perverts the best in human nature and leads to needless misery (“religion poisons everything,” as the author reiterates several many times).

Whatever utility religion may once have had (and I’m not sure Hitchens would have ever credited it with any at any time), humanity is capable of moving beyond it and standing on its own two feet. The species is not a three-year old who needs daddy to tell it how to behave or what to do. And Hitchens is passionate in his belief that we need to dispense with all such nonsense.

I can’t say I disagree with Hitchens because I don’t, though I don’t see his call for a new Enlightenment making any serious headway. We are in an era of fundamentalisms and voices of reason, tolerance, mercy and compassion are drowned out by people unwilling to admit anyone’s right to freedom of conscience.

I listened to the Audio CD version as read by Hitchens in my car so don’t have any notes or more to say about the book. The only complaint I had with the reading was that the author had an annoying tendency to bark out the first few words of a sentence and then fall back into a more normal voice. The only good thing about this was that it did keep the listener from nodding off.***

* Hitchens has a very respectful and laudatory bit about Martin Luther King but points out that – like other apologists for the good religion can inspire – the reverend was very selective in what he chose to emphasize in his version of Christianity, ignoring the “bad” parts. And I don’t think Hitchens is disrespectful of believers who sincerely act morally; he only wishes that they would face up to the hypocrisies and absurdities of their faiths and realize that they can be just as moral without them. (While Hitchens can talk to believers who evidence reason and toleration, he has no mercy for the fanatic or the thug who uses religion to impose their will on others. I was especially taken by the image he evoked when mentioning [a:Tim LaHaye|15451|Tim LaHaye|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1219180926p2/15451.jpg] and his co-author of the Left Behind series: Two orangutans provided with a typewriter.)

** Indeed, the existence of so many mutually contradictory revelations and the often sordid histories of their origins is evidence of their manmade geneses.

*** Not that
I was in any danger of nodding off as I cruised down the Santa Monica freeway, the subject matter was too interesting.