THE UNAPPEALING ATHEIST PROPOSITIONOne early medieval story says that humans are like a bird who flies in one window of a great hall where a vast banquet is in progress The bird only has time to catch a glimpse of all the festivities before it flies out of the other window That s us we rapidly pass from non existence to non existence Is that going to be a message many people want to hear No Is that why religion with its vivid promises of afterlife joy for you, and, hopefully, misery for THE UNAPPEALING ATHEIST PROPOSITIONOne early medieval story says that humans are like a bird who flies in one window of a great hall where a vast banquet is in progress The bird only has time to catch a glimpse of all the festivities before it flies out of the other window That s us we rapidly pass from non existence to non existence Is that going to be a message many people want to hear No Is that why religion with its vivid promises of afterlife joy for you, and, hopefully, misery for your enemies may still be attractive to most people Yes That and about a thousand other reasons.It s a good thing that atheists are now making themselves heard after centuries of oppression but I don t like the way the argument has gone THE PROBLEMS OF THE WHOLE ATHEIST DEBATE THING1 At the heart of it there is a meaningless question do you believe in God The believers don t or can t define what they mean by the word Everyone appears to assume that the word God has the same meaning for everyone That is not true A lot of these debates are between people who never define their terms, so what they re talking about is anyone s guess.2 The nature of belief the majority of believers have not converted from one religion to another, they were born into a particular religion They have never for one second considered the possibility that a different religion might actually be the true one The very idea is obviously absurd for this great majority of all believers of all religions How can a debate be had within such a confined space 3 I have been waiting for a thousand years to be able to say this That s what it sounds like when you read these bitter, angry litanies of the horrors inflicted by the Christian Church on the people of the world In essay after essay they are trundled out like the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds a famous waxworks exhibit in London I bet you knew that And after they get done with the followers of Jesus, the current grisly gang of jihadis provide many non Christian examples of religious bloodlust Okay, it probably needs to be said but Christopher, not 15 times over but this is not a debate about belief.AND ANYWAYThe atheists denounce Christianity and Islam the two main disturbers of the peace in this book as if, with their suppression, none of this xenophobic, misogynistic and fratricidal violence would ever have happened If these two religions had just fizzled out, like thousands of others, then mild pleasantness would have descended and scientists would have been busily inventing motor cars and packet soup before the 13th century But what would have happened instead of Christianity and Islam Imagine that the Roman religion persisted in the West and the local animist cults continued in Arabia and the Middle East, alongside Zoroastrianism Would humans have avoided wars of conquest, disease, ignorance, slavery and all the rest of it Not at all There would have been different names on the shops but they would have been selling the same bloody goods The atheists are cynical about religion but uncynical about human nature 4 And then there s being caught in the crossfire the non specialist reader of the atheist debate will be scoffing aspirin very quickly, to ward off the throbbing headaches caused by the sesquipedalian jawbreakers of the cosmologists, the theoretical physicists and the biologists on the one side and the theologians on the other side If I wrote what I know about quantum uncertainty, Planck time and fructose on the back of an average sized postage stamp I would still have room left over for the ten commandments and the lyrics of Like a Rolling Stone A lot of this stuff is above my paygrade.SEMI USEFULSo, this book is only semi useful and sporadically entertaining Christopher himself can always provide a few zingers To be charitable, one may admit that the religious often seem unaware of how insulting their main proposition actually is.Or religion is based on our willingness to be persuaded against all the evidence that we are indeed the centre of the universe and that everything is arranged with us in mind And I did really enjoy Richard Dawkins leaping all over the anti evolutionists two favourite topics first, The Worship of the Gaps, which refers to the gaps in the fossil record, which allegedly prove that evolution is wrong RD says that when a new fossil is found which fits in one of these gaps, the creationists then proclaim that there are now two gaps where before there was only onE And second, irreducible complexity The creationists difficulties with things like the human eye or Venus Flower Basket, or Dutchman s Pipe Aristolochia trilobata all examples taken from a book by the Watchtower Society called Life How Did it Get Hereare dealt with as follows The logic of the creationists turns out to be noconvincing than this I insert own name am personally unable to think of any way in which insert biological phenomenon could have been built up step by step Therefore it is irreducibly complex That means it was designed MAYBE THERE ARE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR TIMEThere are always interesting bits and pieces in a collection of essays by such big names as these In one, Ian McEwan casually tossed out that one poll showed that 53% of Americans believe that the universe is less than 6000 years old I boggled at that He was then quick to point out that In Pennsylvania, Kansas and Ohio the courts have issued ringing rejections of Intelligent Design and voters have ejected creationists from school boards.He also explains the enduring appeal of the belief that The Apocalypse will happen in your own lifetime 44% of Americans he says that this is an indication of how difficult it is for many people to accept that they aren t special You see this in the harmless fatuousness of generational narcissism kids of today, they don t know what music is but when people really expect The End of Times to be about to really happen it s like I m not going quietly When I go,the whole of time and space is coming with me A Venus Flower Basket I would not call myself an atheist, but a some of what is collected in this book rings true to me However, like most atheist philosophy there is much to be desired Much of the counter points favoring the non existence of god s can be boiled down into 1 God does not exist because there is no evidence.2 God does not exist because there is evil in the world.3 God does not exist because bad people have embellished on the myths 4 God does not exist because there are too many gods both past an I would not call myself an atheist, but a some of what is collected in this book rings true to me However, like most atheist philosophy there is much to be desired Much of the counter points favoring the non existence of god s can be boiled down into 1 God does not exist because there is no evidence.2 God does not exist because there is evil in the world.3 God does not exist because bad people have embellished on the myths 4 God does not exist because there are too many gods both past and present.I m sure that I am over simplifying, but that is essentially the crux of it as far as I can see All of these thoughts ring a bit hollow to me, but they all touch on a larger understanding that I have yet to figure out myself If I had to guess, the existence or non of the truth of god lies in the analysis of Dawkins Spaghetti Monster which does not make much of an appearance here.Oh well The quest continues mp.s The worst part of this book lies in the fact that it seems to be a money grab by Hitchens It seems that he is trying to cash in on his recent fame by collecting some publicly available texts, writing one or two sentences about each, and then adding a couple lackluster never before released essays by a couple friends As a side note, this book is far from portable Hitchens is one of the wittiest men of our time, and as a great writer, his taste is impeccable.I love reading essays and short pieces, but it becomes a problem when I find collections that I don t particularly like, because I don t want to buy a collection for a single essay.That is not a problem with Hitchens, who combines the fundamental originators of the atheist thought, with the writings of Hume and Spinoza, with the great leaders of the modern atheist movement, including a few essays from Hitchens is one of the wittiest men of our time, and as a great writer, his taste is impeccable.I love reading essays and short pieces, but it becomes a problem when I find collections that I don t particularly like, because I don t want to buy a collection for a single essay.That is not a problem with Hitchens, who combines the fundamental originators of the atheist thought, with the writings of Hume and Spinoza, with the great leaders of the modern atheist movement, including a few essays from my personal favorite, Professor Daniel Dennett.He includes the essentials of Russell and Dawkins, which are, of course, unavoidable in a discussion of atheism, and he makes sure to tackle the elements of atheist and naturalist philosophy.It s a wonderful collection, and anyone who wants something that they can read off and on, especially if you re in the collegiate realm where you can t focus on one thing and just slam through it, this is a great collection.I will say that Hitchens intro is not his best work, but there is something challenging about introducing a collection of arguments meant to speak for themselves It still bears the stamp of a fantastic mind, and still has its shining moments Loved the guy He lived in my neighborhood and lumbered around like a bear that had been poked by a stick I ve been following him since the 80 s when he contributed regularly to The Nation His contributions to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy and Prospect were invaluable, his prose inimitable.But when it comes to spiritual beliefs the guy was a cretin.For all his erudition he never grokked that many humans have a desire to worship something outside themselves and that desire or need d Loved the guy He lived in my neighborhood and lumbered around like a bear that had been poked by a stick I ve been following him since the 80 s when he contributed regularly to The Nation His contributions to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy and Prospect were invaluable, his prose inimitable.But when it comes to spiritual beliefs the guy was a cretin.For all his erudition he never grokked that many humans have a desire to worship something outside themselves and that desire or need does not automatically make them stupid, deluded, evil or dangerous.That was always Chris problem people s needs and weaknesses constituted a target for his rage Once, in the early 90 s at a briefing at Chapters Bookstore during the Serbian conflict he YELLED at some poor guy asking for some clarification on who was who And I mean full on Christian Bale I got quiet and slipped out the door fearing he would become insane and kill someone His righteous anger turned him into an enraged and senseless animal This just to tell you he had no understanding or observation of his personal failings, which is why he drank and smoked himself sadly into an early grave That said, he was the closest thing to a wit and an intellectual we ve had in the US From theNew York Times best selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages with never before published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali Christopher Hitchens continues to make the case for a splendidly godless universe in this first ever gathering of the influential voices past and present that have shaped his side of the current and raging God no god debate With Hitchens as your erudite and witty guide, you ll be led through a wealth of philosophy, literature, and scientific inquiry, including generous portions of the words of Lucretius, Benedict de Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, H L Mencken, Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others well known and lesser known And they re all set in context and commented upon as only Christopher Hitchens political and literary journalist extraordinaire canLos Angeles TimesAtheist Believer Uncertain No matter The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way Although, as can only be expected, it is missing some crucial works, and allows for only small excerpts of others, it an excellent collection overall The first third of the book will allow you to understand the philosophical intellectual history of atheism agnosticism Lucretius c 60 BCE , Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Mill, Marx, Eliot, Darwin, Twain, Freud, Einstein, Orwell, and Russell The rest of the book hasmodern and recent arguments, that I believe aresystematic and convincing Although, as can only be expected, it is missing some crucial works, and allows for only small excerpts of others, it an excellent collection overall The first third of the book will allow you to understand the philosophical intellectual history of atheism agnosticism Lucretius c 60 BCE , Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Mill, Marx, Eliot, Darwin, Twain, Freud, Einstein, Orwell, and Russell The rest of the book hasmodern and recent arguments, that I believe aresystematic and convincing My favorites 1 Hume He takes the idea of miracles to task 2 Mill Rationally explains his lack of faith 3 Marx Ever wondered what the opium of the people really means 4 Mencken A witty memorial service to all the dead gods 5 Einstein Always one of the best when it comes to collecting eloquent and humorous short quotes 6 Russell Puts superstition to task 7 Mackie Discusses possible consequences of adopting atheism 8 Shermer Excellent parody of what one would have to believe if one wishes to reconcile what we know scientifically today with the teachings of the Bible 9 Dawkins Probably the best presented argument for the unlikelihood of the existence of God, and a good refutation of some of the most powerful objections of theists His book, The God Delusion , is acomplete explanation 10 Stenger The best attack on the cosmological arguments for God 11 Anderson Wonderful summary of the type of moral things God does in the Bible, tells others to do, or simply permits The bottom line clearly no truly good moral person should look to the Bible exclusively for guidance 12 Weinberg Another cosmological discussion, but he issympathetic to religion 13 Warraq A long but devastating attack on the Quran Also good for those that do not really understand the type of things actually written in Islamic religious doctrine or for that matter, how these religious books came about Page 363 my book St AugustineThere is another form of temptation, evenfraught with danger This is the disease of curiosity It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which man should not wish to learn These 47 essays are chronologically arranged from Lucretius to the 21st century But over two thirds of the essays are from 1900 onwards One does get a history of atheism, and how, even to th Page 363 my book St AugustineThere is another form of temptation, evenfraught with danger This is the disease of curiosity It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which man should not wish to learn These 47 essays are chronologically arranged from Lucretius to the 21st century But over two thirds of the essays are from 1900 onwards One does get a history of atheism, and how, even to this day, it is difficult to acknowledge or admit that one is an atheist One essay by A.C Grayling said that the term should be naturalist which has a farpositive connotation.The essays are uneven I can t for the life of me know why some were chosen the essays by Leslie Stephen, Anatole France, Joseph Conrad, Martin Gardner, George Orwell, John Updike and a fewwere useless Bertrand Russell s essay on An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish was dated The ten pages of quotes from Albert Einstein were simply repetitive.If only all the writers could have been as entertaining as Mark Twain and Carl Sagan, the book would have been a pleasure to read At times I had literally to force myself through the words of some essays.The book is concerned mostly with Christianity and Islam less on Judaism Not much on Eastern religions One also comes away with the essential ingredients of what constitutes a religion creation and an end time, heaven hell, all religions intervene don t do this, do this, don t touch that There is a riveting essay on Revelations by Ian McEwan.Page 353 The resilience of the end time forecasts time and again, for five hundred years, the date is proclaimed, nothing happens, and no one feels discouraged from setting another date.Page 356 The cast or contents of Revelation in its contemporary representations has all the colorful gaudiness of a children s computer fantasy game earthquakes and fires, thundering horses and their riders, angels blasting away on trumpets, magic vials, Jezebel, a red dragon and other mystical beastsThe apocalypse is always around the corner.Page 362 Where a god makes the world, it remains in his power to unmake it.And of course there is sex Christopher Hitchens, who cannot write a dull sentence in the introduction, says it best Page xxiii From the weird obsession with virginity and the one way birth canal through which prophets are delivered , through the horror of menstrual blood, all the way to the fascinated disgust with homosexuality and the pretended concern with children who suffer worse at the hands of the faithful than any other group Male and female genital mutilation the terrifying of infants with hideous fictions about guilt and hell, the wild prohibition of masturbation religion will never be able to live down the shame with which it has stained itself for generations in this regard, any than it can purge its own guilt for the ruining of formative periods of precious life.Also one gains insight into the belief power of mankind that is somehow fixed to believe the supernatural Think of UFO s, of unending conspiracy theories and then translate those over to religion Many religions past and present have had virgins giving birth to prophets , people today still search for Noah s Ark and the many miracles that occurred so long ago.Page 41 David Hume The gazing populace, receive greedily, without examination, whatever soothes superstition, and promotes wonder.Page 70 Karl Marx Luther, we grant, overcame bondage out of devotion by replacing it by bondage out of conviction He shattered faith in authority because he restored the authority of faith He turned priests into laymen because he turned laymen into priests He freed man from outer religiosity because he made religiosity the inner man He freed the body from chains because he enchained the heart.There is a brilliant essay by H.L Mencken of all the dead religions.Page 146 They were gods of the highest standing and dignity gods of civilized peoples worshipped and believed in by millions All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal And all are dead.Carl Sagan gives us a feeling of how Christianity has softened up For hundreds of years they were rounding up witches and demons torturing and burning them Perhaps, today, the residual affect is the abundance of horror films that keep circulating.There are also essays on God s place in the scientific world With findings on the universe, biological development evolution, genetics , on paleontology and geology some theologists are lookingtoward a mechanistic God This God would be a rather lazy God what does he do exactly But this removes organized religion out of the picture with its sacred texts relegated to file 13 The universe has existed for some 14 billion years This also points out mankinds insignificance in this overwhelming universe, on this planet with its immensity of species many long gone that have evolved over millions of years, as opposed to homo sapiens 200,000 years So perhaps people turn to religion for solace to escape their solitariness in the wide space of time.From Woody Allen s Annie Hallhttps www.youtube.com watch v 5U1 OThere are also some interesting discussions on Jesus Jesus demands faith, but not knowledge In the essay by Ibn Warraq he points out that Jesus s existence is somewhat shadowy Most of what is written of him is 50 to 100 years after his death So how true are these gospels in an era where the average lifespan was short and of widespread illiteracy Much of who Jesus was, and his words, are conjecture and hearsay.Page 280 David C Dennett Try to imagine your outrage if a pharmaceutical company responded to your law suit by blithely replying But we prayed good and hard for the success of the drug Whatdo you want There is an excellent essay by Richard Dawkins refuting the faith based Intelligent Design.Page 282 Charles Templeton In the course of our conversation I said, But Billy Graham , it s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation The world wasn t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago it has evolved over millions of years It s not a matter of speculation it s a demonstrable fact I don t accept that, Billy Graham said.Page 306 Richard Dawkins The cannibalistic fantasy of drinking the blood and eating the flesh of the leader.Page 343 Elizabeth Anderson Believers in any one religion can offer no independent criteria for accepting their own revelations, miracles, and religions experiences while rejecting the revelations, miracles, and religious experiences that appear to support contradictory religious claims.Page 346 Elizabeth Anderson Believing there is no God gives meroom for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell O, and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.Page 383 Salman Rushdie Intellectual freedom, in European history, has meant mostly freedom from the restraints of the Church, not the state This is the battle Voltaire was fighting.The longest essay is by Ibn Warraq and is scathing on both Islam and Christianity.Page 395 Ibn Warraq Is it fitting that an All Powerful, Omniscient, and Omnipotent God should revise His commands so many times Does He need to issue commands that need revising so often Why can He not get it right the first time, after all, He is all wise Why does He not reveal the better verse first And some essays point out that monotheistic religions are not so monotheistic the cult of the saints, the Virgin Mary But monotheism is intolerant an only God is by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live Thou shall make no craven image Page 412 Ibn Warraq It is very odd that when God decides to manifest Himself, He does so to only one individual Why can He not reveal himself to the masses during the final game of the World Cup Although I am certainly not an atheist, I enjoyed the book Liked having a selection of Atheist readings with the additional comments of the author, a renowned atheist himself I gave the book 3 stars because, well, not being an atheist, I found the book lacking on several levels First, the words the jump to my mind after reading this book are, holier than thou, dogmatic, exclusive, and well, many others that are used by atheists against people of faith What strikes me as hilarious, no Although I am certainly not an atheist, I enjoyed the book Liked having a selection of Atheist readings with the additional comments of the author, a renowned atheist himself I gave the book 3 stars because, well, not being an atheist, I found the book lacking on several levels First, the words the jump to my mind after reading this book are, holier than thou, dogmatic, exclusive, and well, many others that are used by atheists against people of faith What strikes me as hilarious, none of the philosophical arguments consist in any empirical proof whatsoever So, let s agree that whether theologian or philosopher including atheists , none of us can conclusively prove anything We must each look at the relevant data and facts that we find in all domains of life and history and make our own decision as to what our beliefs are Healthy debate is part of that decision making, which is why I liked reading this book Second, I found some of the argumentation used to be confusing I understand that being an atheist, one does not have a belief in any god of any sort However, when making broad statements about why one doesn t believe in a god, it is entirely unhelpful and misleading to lump all faiths into one big pile Each faith has its own merits, difficulties, and history To lump all together is to disregard and evade dealing with the strength of argument for a particular religion I might add that just as it is logically impossible for all religions to be correct i.e lead to the same place , this includes atheism Finally, it is a bit intellectually dishonest to present some of these readings as representative of the whole of particular faiths For example, in the George Elliot entry, the author s sort of pick at the person and work of Rev John Cumming While they my have some good points, John Cumming is not necessarily wholly representative of Biblical Christianity at all points Thus, it is unjust to say John Cumming s beliefs and practices Biblical Christianity, since we have picked him apart from our correct point of view, therefore Christianity is bunk I expect better than this I do understand that this book is presenting slices of historical readings, but the author does add his own comments, and therefore could touch on this and contemporary advances that have occurred since Rev Cumming We could make similar comments about his comments regarding the Catholic church.This book is for anyone who wants a selection of atheistic readings to interact with At the end of the day, I m not sure there is anything conclusive, although the author would have you believe otherwise I respect his conclusion of his personal assessment of our world and the facts before him, but I come to a vastly different, equally respectable conclusion after considering the same facts and philosophical arguments Christopher Hitchens does not do anything lightly This is full on conversion therapy, an intellectual ambush on the believers and the doubtful He presents daunting critical reasoning and analysis written by the best of the classic and modern literary masters Twain, Updike, Shelly, Hardy, Orwell philosphers Marx, Mills, Russell, Mencken and the scientists Darwin, Dawkin, Einstein, Weinberg.4.5 stars despite it s excellence, it was challenging to comprehend, retain and apprecia Christopher Hitchens does not do anything lightly This is full on conversion therapy, an intellectual ambush on the believers and the doubtful He presents daunting critical reasoning and analysis written by the best of the classic and modern literary masters Twain, Updike, Shelly, Hardy, Orwell philosphers Marx, Mills, Russell, Mencken and the scientists Darwin, Dawkin, Einstein, Weinberg.4.5 stars despite it s excellence, it was challenging to comprehend, retain and appreciate all of it at one time I did have to go back and repeat readthan few chapters This is an important and a definitive read although an exhaustable one and I am sure to go back and re read from time to time Religion is the most perverse ,dangerous and destructive force in the world,and even God,s favorite David of the bible implored open mine eyes lord, so that I will know thee with my heart ,mind ,and whole beingSo this call to use your mind and critically examine,both the argument for and against religion,is wise councilAnd I have spendthan 40 years in earnest search for the truthI have broken the shackles of religion,and the freedom of atheism is highly recommendedThis important book will Religion is the most perverse ,dangerous and destructive force in the world,and even God,s favorite David of the bible implored open mine eyes lord, so that I will know thee with my heart ,mind ,and whole beingSo this call to use your mind and critically examine,both the argument for and against religion,is wise councilAnd I have spendthan 40 years in earnest search for the truthI have broken the shackles of religion,and the freedom of atheism is highly recommendedThis important book will help you work through some of the questions on this complex but important subject,but it is your business and your decision ,which way you decide to vote Nobody can convince you of the truth either way,but I found overwhelming evidence againstso I choose atheist