Book Review: God is Not Great

Book Review

I’ve read this book before, but as I was saying a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted to listen through to this book as it was read to me by Christopher Hitchens himself. There is something about the way he talks and articulates his point that I find extremely engaging. His topic choices are brash, and his statements can seem rude and offensive, but what he does so effectively is to highlight just how easily a religious believer accepts and believes unsupported claims due to it being part of their faith system. He challenges us all to think about what we believe and why we believe it.

I was listening to this as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was beginning to really start causing issues in the UK with food supplies (mainly toilet roll, paracetamol, tissues and antibacterial spray and wipes).

I found myself turning to this audiobook as an attempt to switch off from the constant news alerts coming through on my phone, or the various podcasts that have been addressing the situation as it has been unfolding.

I literally have no idea at this point what the fallout from COVID-19 will be, other than to say it is going to change the face of our economy and our styles of living forever. I hope that during this time people will realise the importance of family and community. That we will begin to switch off and create space to look at our lives and what we can do to make a difference to our own ways or living, and therefore that of the future generations. I also hope that we find the space to stop and think about the religious beliefs we hold, which we rarely give critical thought to. Many Christians that I know personally are clinging to God during this time, they find their comfort there. But rather than just hoping that we will be saved, we need to see that many have not been saved and then look into the mirror and ask why we think we are more special than them, that God would step in and help us?

Anyway – back to the book.

Mr Hitchens does a really good job in this book of making people see a variety of beliefs and convictions that are held without logical and sound reasoning. Part of the problem I had with this book is that there are so many of them that it is really easy to switch off and stop engaging with what he is saying, only to be drawn back in as and when something he says about unsupported religious claims is closer to home than one would possibly like.

I was still reading the Bible, praying and preaching in my local church. This time I have stopped reading the bible, I don’t pray anymore, and I only go to the local church to support my wife, as and when she goes. I actually just left the private Facebook group that the church has – I doubt anyone will even realise. It’s been very interesting to reflect on that and listen to the words that are expressed to me within this book for the second time. A lot has changed.

I mentioned above that I have a problem with this book, and it is twofold. I find Mr Hitchens to waffle and go down various tangents and rabbit holes fairly often, arguably the whole book could be seen as containing a loose thread (religion poisons everything), vague chapter headings ‘religion kills’ or ‘There is no “Eastern” solution’, now in and of themselves I find these chapters great, but I don’t see much structure to their contents. As an ex-believer I know that this could lead a believer to think Mr Hitchens isn’t being purposeful, concise and clear in what he is trying to say and isn’t making it apply to the reader in a ‘take away’ sort of way. I want to leave a chapter or a book and see a few clear and challenging messages that are aimed at my beliefs and ideas about the world. If I am forever going down a rabbit hole and then out and into the next, I could get bored and step back.

I also find a lot of assertions within this book with very little referencing and footnoting. I know other people have picked up on this before and there are plenty of critiques and comments elsewhere, so I will refrain from homing in on them here. All I will say, is that it would have been great to have the backing of well documented resources and references so that people like me could deep dive into the areas we enjoyed in this book.

All in all, this book is a good book. It takes an overarching view of religion being abhorrent, and then as mentioned, runs down a variety of rabbit holes to draw upon specific examples.

My main take away is that people hold morally indefensible positions on subjects (such as circumcision or sacrifice) that any nonreligious person wouldn’t think is appropriate.

Religious people allow the waves of indoctrination to help them think practices are ‘godly’ or ‘appropriate’ and if we just step back, we can see there is nothing to suggest this except for their specific religious claims, which if they were fully provable, we would all believe anyway.

I really enjoyed listening to the book. Mr Hitchens reminds me of a good friend honestly reflecting, and I think he really does encourage his listeners to understand his perspective from the get-go, drawing you along as he goes. He had an amazing way with words and an amazing understanding of literature that I will always be envious of.

Defiantly work a read (or listen) as it has gone down as a classic of the current atheist ‘movement’, just be ready for tangents, waffle and assertions. But also, be ready for honest rhetoric, views and rebuttal.

Enjoy it – enjoy this journey.

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

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Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen/watch via YouTube. I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am. For early access, support me on Patreon.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂


Farewell For Now When Belief Dies

It's time to stop, even though it breaks my heart. This episode serves as my reason why.   -Sam
  1. Farewell For Now
  2. When Belief Dies #100 – 'Psychedelics, Philosophy & God' with Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes
  3. When Belief Dies #99 – 'Open and Relational Theology' with Thomas Jay Oord
  4. When Belief Dies #98 – 'The Take Over' with Daniel Kelly & Roger Bretherton
  5. When Belief Dies #97 – 'The End?' with Daniel Kelly

3 Comments. Leave new

  • I’m not sure if you take book recommendations, but you’ve enjoyed, judging by your reviews, a lot of the same books I have, so maybe you’ll also enjoy Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts.

    When I first left Christianity, I adopted a very rationalistic scientific view of the world. and that was fine, but I found myself hankering after some kind of spirituality – which I define as “the parts of reality that cannot be properly described by words”. Wisdom of Insecurity brilliantly articulated, in my opinion, this need for spirituality without prescribing a religion or philosophy like all too many such books do.

    Keep up the good work. Loving the blog entries, and I’ve enjoyed the podcasts episodes which I dip in and out of.

  • whenbeliefdies
    March 18, 2021 1:51 pm

    Hey Aaron, thank you so much for this, I will put it on my list for sure!

    Yeah I’ve been on that journey for the last year, so you will see other books coming in that hint at that, as well as next weeks podcast with the author of ‘The Contemplative Skeptic: Spirituality for the Non-Religious and the Unorthodox’, worth a look: (UK version)


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