Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great brings literary talent to a subject all too often bogged down by abstruse philosophical language. His case against religion is primarily a moral one; he examines the practical results of religion on improving man's condition, which are not impressive. To a lesser extent, he exposes the contradictions of religious teachings, such as Moses's ten commandments alongside his order for parents to stone their insubordinate sons to death. There is little that is new in this book, but the author certainly puts known material together in a fresh, articulate way. He commands a great deal of cultural knowledge and lends an impression of intellectual authority.
Read more reviews on AmazonThere's something of a double standard, though, in Hitchens's attribution of altruism to innate human decency and barbarism to religion. It can't go both ways—our behavior either stems from religion or it doesn't. But if religion is man-made, then it can't be the fundamental source of any behavior.
Hitchens is a polemicist; he could have crafted a more eloquent title than "god is not Great" but it wouldn't have enraged so many theists. And in doing so he may have ensured he'd be preaching to the choir. Only a portion of this book—the critique of religion's logic—could steer the religious moderate away from religion, for this group is likely to feel affirmed by Hitchens's criticism of extremism. The fact is that most people nowadays don't pressure their children into believing, burn witches at the stake, or join holy crusades. They are religious because it enriches their lives with a shred of meaning and community. This is not to say that Hitchens's strategy won't work; it may be that stirring up trouble is the most effective way to bring attention to the issue.
Hitchens misses the point on Nietzsche's phrase "God is dead". Nietzsche was talking about the resulting crisis in values as Christianity was shed from the European mind, a crises that Hitchens is only partially successful in addressing. He speaks of the sense of awe and wonder at the mechanistic cosmos, which I think provides a powerful but insufficient purpose of life. As the title implies, God Is Not Great is best an argument against religion than an argument for any replacement.