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God is Not Great
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I started listening to Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great on audiobook (read by the author) a few days ago. I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed. Hitchens can be a good speaker. He can also be extremely boorish, pompous, and obtuse.

I could handle that reasonably well, but this is one of the worst audio recordings I've heard, based on Hitchen's speaking style. He has a horrible tendency to start out his sentences speaking very loudly, and then trailing off into mumbly silence at the end. I love audiobooks, but their quality is often highly dependent on the reader and the quality of the recording. Since many people listen to them in their car, it's often against a noisy background. Anyway, the production sucks. The director should have done a better job with Hitchens, or they should have modulated the volume after the fact.

As to the content, I'm less likely to be kind because of my agitation with the sound quality, but being objective as possible I'm finding it the least notable of the recent books on atheist I've read. The End of Faith by Sam Harris has to be the best of the lot for clear, reasonable argumentation (although it gets a bit soft and weird at the end when he starts going on about Buddhism and happiness).

What makes GING so limp, I think, is that Hitchens relies far too much (at least so far) on the "look at all the bad stuff religious people do" argument, which really isn't that great an argument. It's easily countered by "you can't judge a religion by the bad things its adherents do", which has a few problems, but is about as sound a reply as the original argument.

It also doesn't help that he makes snide asides about topics such as the recent Catholic child molestation epidemic, cracking unfunny and crass jokes like transposing "No Child Left Behind" to something like "No Child's Behind Left". Way to be off-putting and not very funny at the same time.

I prefer arguments based on good old-fashioned reason, like Dawkins' riposte to the argument by design by pointing out that a designer needs to be even more complex than the things it designs, so the whole premise collapses.

Hitchens doesn't start out on firm footing along these lines. He actually begins the book with an anecdote about a teacher of his who pointed out that so many things in nature were green because god had made them that way to be pleasing to our eyes. He says even though he was very young "he just knew" without knowing anything about Darwin or chlorophyll that she was off her rocker. So...he just knew? Well that's reasonable. I'm sure most of the other kids in class just knew she was right. His appeal to his own grade-school instinct to counter religion is pretty feeble.

Anyway, I'll keep listening to it. For all his circumlocutions he occasionally does say something very funny and/or brilliant.

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