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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever [Format Kindle]

Christopher Hitchens

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From Publishers Weekly

Hitchens, an avowed atheist and author of the bestseller God Is Not Great, is a formidable intellectual who finds the notion of belief in God to be utter nonsense. The author is clear in his introduction that religion has caused more than its fair share of world problems. "Religion invents a problem where none exists by describing the wicked as also made in the image of god and the sexually nonconformist as existing in a state of incurable mortal sin that can incidentally cause floods and earthquakes." The readings Hitchens chooses to bolster his atheist argument are indeed engaging and important. Hobbes, Spinoza, Mill and Marx are some of the heavyweights representing a philosophical viewpoint. From the world of literature the author assembles excerpts from Shelley, Twain, Conrad, Orwell and Updike. All are enjoyable to read and will make even religious believers envious of the talent gathered for this anthology. What these dynamic writers are railing against often enough, however, is a strawman: an immature, fundamentalist, outdated, and even embarrassing style of religion that many intelligent believers have long since cast off. It could be that Hitchens and his cast of nonbelievers are preaching to the choir and their message is tired and spent. However, this remains a fascinating collection of readings from some of the West’s greatest thinkers.


In books such as GOD IS NOT GREAT, the militant anti-religionist Hitchins bangs his drum so loudly that he gives even us fellow atheists a headache. Here, happily, he has compiled an extensive and thought-provoking anthology of skeptical literature, modern and ancient, from the likes of Lucretius, Omar Khayyˆ°m, Spinoza, Hume, Darwin, Mark Twain, Marx, and Rushdie, to name a few. He begins with an overlong introduction, rehearsing his own complaints against organized religion and faith, then proceeds more succinctly to introduce each selection. Narrator Nicholas Ball gives an Apollonian reading in a mellifluous, resonant baritone. His mannerisms, though pretty, often obscure meaning. He delivers the words accurately and obeys the punctuation without expressing the relationship of the thoughts expressed with one another, or even making the individual thoughts coherent. Y.R. 128/130 © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1044 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 528 pages
  • Editeur : Da Capo Press; Édition : 1 (10 décembre 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5  280 commentaires
608 internautes sur 628 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The best anthology of atheism I've come across 12 novembre 2007
Par J. Benishek - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
The Portable Atheist, edited by Christopher Hitchens, is a great selection of how atheism has transformed into what it is today. Hitchens' introduction itself is an astounding tour de force that should not be skipped. In his introduction alone, Hitchen's lays out the foundation and positive attributes of atheism. This is crucial as many people have the common misunderstanding that atheists are pessimists or discontented. He also makes the genuinely important point that in order to believe in one of the three major monotheisms, you have to believe that the heavens watched our species for at least one hundred and fifty thousand years with "indifference, and then- and only in the last six thousand years at the very least - decided that it was time to intervene as well as redeem." He concedes that it is preposterous to believe such a heinous thing - for it would be cruel if true. His introduction is intelligent, convincing and witty - and it doesn't stop there.

The selections in this book show the evolution of atheism (or at least nontheism) from early critics of religion such as: Benedict De Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes and David Hume to more of a middle stage (Darwin, George Eliot, Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell) and then to modern-day critics like: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg, Daniel Dennett, Carl Sagan, Victor Stenger, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and many more. Another great thing is the book is helpfully arranged in chronological order. All beliefs aside, the selections in this book are powerfully argued and well written. I'd recommend it to anyone with a hunger for the truth and an open mind.
493 internautes sur 521 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Pulls together some terrific sources. 22 octobre 2007
Par Saganite - Publié sur
Christopher "Hitch" Hitchens is the literate jackanapes of the New Atheism, an unofficial affiliation that includes Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, Victor Stenger, PZ Myers, and others. Hitch once quipped that Dawkins had been invited, along with him, to present atheism so that the audience could also get a more moderate view of the position. (If you don't know why that's funny, read Dawkins's "The God Delusion," which is uncompromisingly immoderate.) Hitch's book, "god is Not Great" cemented his reputation as the Sweeney Todd of antitheism, for whom words are razors and arrogant ignorance is the prey. This was the guy, after all, who several years ago wrote a slashing diatribe against Mother Teresa.

The introduction that Hitchens writes for this volume is just excellent. Funny, barbed, witty...a real showcase of his rhetorical skill. And the selections made for this book are uniformly excellent. It's easy to quibble that this should have been included or that could have been left out, but on the whole, this volume represents a compendium of some of the best literature in atheology. From Hume to Penn Jillette, Hobbes to Salman Rushdie, some of the most brilliant, sharpest criticisms of the notion of gods and the practices of religion are represented.

I know too many believers to think that something as mere as reading a great many genius writers making mountains of sense could change their minds; but certainly this tome presents a substantial challenge to easy assumptions, and a buffet banquet for thought. It is a tribute to this book that it winds up on the favorites lists of several bloggers, including one who defines himself as a "secular Catholic Buddhist": [...]
214 internautes sur 228 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Portable Atheist-The Perfect Pocket Defense Against Irrationality 6 décembre 2007
Par Samuel Edwin Fry Jr. - Publié sur
In a world being swamped with 6000-year earth age advocates and mind-numbing religious attacks on science, with some U.S. presidential candidates in the lead, The Portable Atheist is an island of sanity and respite from irrationality and the unending barrage of misinformation from "believers". From the Taliban to the fundamentalist and evangelical command posts, whether on "Christian" TV and radio or the minaret, temple, or store front hotbeds, common sense, science, and rational thinking have never been so daily assaulted. Revel in the words of those who have fought the good fight against Bronze Age morality and intellectual dysfunction. The Portable Atheist is a companion you will want by your side. Great reading, instructive, and, most of all, provides hope that clear thinking might just have a chance.
87 internautes sur 93 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Collection About a Major Problem - Religion! 26 décembre 2007
Par Loyd E. Eskildson - Publié sur
Hitchens prefaces his book by telling us that the prehistory of our species is ridden with episodes of nightmarish ignorance and calamity, for which religion is used to identify not just the wrong explanation but the wrong culprit as well. The few men of science and reason and medicine had all they could do to keep their libraries and laboratories intact, or their very lives safe from harm.

Today's typical "justification" for religion involves charitable or humanitarian work - obviously this says nothing about the veracity of the belief systems involved. All religions must, at their core, look forward to the end of this world; atheists, on the other hand argue that this world is all we have and that it is our duty to make the most of it.

It is one thing, per Hitchens, to believe that the magnificence of the natural order strongly implies an ordering force; quite another to say this creative force cares for our human affairs, and it is interested in with whom we have sex and how, as well as the outcome of battles and wars (and even athletic contests). Even accepting Jesus' birth, it still does not prove he was more than one among many shamans and magicians of the day.

Einstein took the view that the miracle is that there are no miracles.

Everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god in which he does not believe - atheists simply go one step further and add another god to not believe in.

Sadly, there are the seemingly endless wars and persecutions that go on in the name of religion. It is almost comical that as the Iranians pursue the imminent return of the Twelfth Imam and reinforce their apocalyptic talk by acquiring doomsday weaponry, Jewish settlers hope, by stealing the land of others in accordance with biblical directions, to bring Armageddon in their own way, while their chief backers (American evangelical fundamentalists) are simultaneously trying to teach pseudo-science, criminalize homosexuality, forbid stem-cell research, and display Mosaic law in courtrooms. At the same time, the Pope maintains that condoms are worse than AIDS.

The bulk of "The Portable Atheist" consists of readings from mostly eminent minds, going back to the early Greeks. My favorites were Elizabeth Anderson, Bertrand Russell, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Summarizing, the biggest take-aways of this book were to show how tenuous the belief in religion is, the almost laughable inconsistencies involve, how it has blocked progress through the ages, and the almost unlimited misery it has brought to mankind - throughout the ages.
31 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Looks Like A Commercial Follow-Up 30 janvier 2008
Par Douglas Doepke - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Come to think of it, I've never seen anyone passing out atheist tracts on a street corner or in a parking lot or anywhere else, for that matter. Nor, when the doorbell rings, do I have to worry about being hammered with some unbeliver's version of the atheist's bible. No, a person pretty much has to seek out ammunition for unbelief on his own. For darn sure, no big name foundation, is going to set up a TV channel or any other promotional that goes against the nation's number one industry-- organized religion. So, as atheists in a nation officially "under God", unbelievers are pretty much on their own.

But organized or not, deniers have been around for some time, as Hitchens' collection of heretical writings demonstrates. Now, I'm not very conversant about the myriad selections available to him, but it looks like the volume is heavy on 20th century works, such as, the literary (Orwell, Conrad, Updike, et al.); the scientific (Sagan, Einstein, Dennett, et al.); the philosophic (Russell, Ayer, Grayling); along with intellectual troublemakers from the world of Islam (Rushdie, Warraq, Ali). It's this latter cateory that distinguishes the collection, since many of the others are oft anthologized. What's generally missing (except for Mencken) are selections from the rabble-rousers, such as Darrow, Ingersoll, and Bradlaugh whose pulpits did so much to fend off past generations of Bible-belters. Also, readers looking for material on the classic proofs of god's existence (ontology, cosmology, et al)--. including the classic disproof from the existence of evil (theodicy)-- should probably look elsewhere.

Now, I respect Hitchens as a public figure for using his high-profile to press the case for unbelief. He's stuck his neck out on the airways big time. But it looks to me like this collection was rushed out in the wake of his previous success with God Is Not Great. The entries follow one another in roughly chronological order which means they're not grouped by topic. This may amount to an expedient way of ordering the material, but chronology also scatters the topics instead of concentrating them. Thus readers wanting to focus, say, on morality's basis in religion or miracles and natural law, must do their own sorting. Also absent is a bibliography or explanatory footnotes that could be helpful to the less initiated. In short, the work is not researcher-friendly. Then too, Hitchen's introductory comments are brief, of varying quality, and follow no particular format. Readers may need no introduction to Einstein's credentials, but I'd sure like to know who Elizabeth Anderson is and what she's published. Her essay on morality and religion qualifies as a modern classic in my little book.

Anyway, I'm glad there's a readership large enough to follow up on Hitchens' polemical earlier book whatever the purpose. And while I don't expect to see pamphleteers on the sidewalk anytime soon, it looks like interest is growing.
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