Yeah, yeah. I know God is Not Great (Christoper Hitchens) wasn't the next book on my reading list but I found an audiobook of it cheap and it's a lot easier to listen to something walking to campus and back than it is to read (unless I want to wander into oncoming traffic).
So listening to an audiobook was new to me. It's a very different experience and I'm not all together sure how much it affects the perception of I have of the book, so I'll pretend it didn't in any large way.
Anyway, contrary to what you'll probably expect, I ended up finding God is Not Great to be a pretty worthless book. Perhaps it was the experience of listening to an audiobook, but I didn't find a single passage that was noteworthy enough to quote (which if you've paid attention to my other reviews is a startling exception).
The book started off well enough. It introduced the danger religion poses: Encouraging people to do downright stupid things due to a lack of critical thought under the guise of "faith". And worse, the disasters it causes are supposed to be tolerated. The best example given was a Jew performing circumcisions followed the instructions given in the Torah which calls for the foreskin to be bitten off. In the process of doing this, the practitioner passed along herpes to the children he was circumcising. One died and another suffered brain damage. Was this in a backwater village? No. Modern day New York. And instead of protesting this act, the mayor called for it to be respected. Another of the early chapters looked at how some religious beliefs are just plain stupid. Namely, this chapter focused on the demonization of the pig of some religions.
Salman Rushdie's plight was another major point that Hitchens made that was particularly good. Rushdie, whose fiction novel, The Satanic Verses sparked outrage in the Muslim community has had death threats and even attempted assassinations leveled at him due to a fatwa issued. As with the herpes transmission before, instead of condemning this, many instead blamed the victim thinking the order to murder over a work of fiction as something that was somehow inherently worthy of respect because it was religious.
The argument against the nonsense that religion makes people behave better was addressed very well, showing that many of the figureheads of the better behaving religious weren't really all that great. For example, Ghandi may have been kindly, but tried to (and in some manners succeeded to) drag a country down into a new dark age after secular powers had worked to gain independence.
In anticipation of the reverse of that argument, Hitchens attempts to address the other side of that coin: Atheism makes bad people (a particular favorite of the trolls here), pointing the finger squarely at Stalin, Pot Pol and Lenin. Hitchens' response was not at all convincing. The short version is that those that are often pointed to have little to do with what we typically consider atheists, meaning people who stick to a material philosophy and rule out the supernatural. Rather, they built themselves and their empires into their own gods, supplanting religious ideas with nonsense like Lysenkoism. As such, they had more in common with the religious counterparts than typical atheists. What Hitchens manages to miss however, is the more fundamental point: None of them every claimed to undertake their programs because of their atheism. Thus, trying to point to that as a cause is as rational as pointing to the fact that they were all white men. The same can not be said for their religious counterparts. So it seemed to me that Hitchens fumbled a strong argument there.
But aside from these few highlight, the book took a serious turn for the worse. The supporting arguments tended more towards personal testimonies which were rather ineffective and not suited for the grand generalizations Hitchens often drew from them. The main argument of chapters often became hopelessly lost in the rambling narratives Hitchens digressed into. The argument that the "miracles" espoused by religion is the equivalent of parlor tricks when compared to that which science has brought forth was cute, but not especially convincing.
Overall, out of 19 chapters, only five or six were particularly interesting and even then, only in parts. After "reading" this book, it seems strange that theists should get so upset about it given that it's not even that good.