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( Download E-pub ) à The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-believer ç From The New York Times Best Selling Author Of God Is Not Great, A Provocative And Entertaining Guided Tour Of Atheist And Agnostic Thought Through The Ages With Never Before Published Pieces By Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, And Ayaan Hirsi Ali Christopher Hitchens Continues To Make The Case For A Splendidly Godless Universe In This First Ever Gathering Of The Influential Voices Past And Present That Have Shaped His Side Of The Current And Raging God No God Debate With Hitchens As Your Erudite And Witty Guide, You Ll Be Led Through A Wealth Of Philosophy, Literature, And Scientific Inquiry, Including Generous Portions Of The Words Of Lucretius, Benedict De Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, H L Mencken, Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, And Many Others Well Known And Lesser Known And They Re All Set In Context And Commented Upon As Only Christopher Hitchens Political And Literary Journalist Extraordinaire CanLos Angeles TimesAtheist Believer Uncertain No Matter The Portable Atheist Will Speak To You And Engage You Every Step Of The Way Christopher Hitchens, why so angry This is an interesting collection of essays, fiction, articles and arguments, compiled by the acidic and immature Hitchens When Hitchens is NOT speaking, this proves evocative reading When he is, it s annoying like listening to a teenage girl on a cell phone on the train fighting with her boyfriend of the week about I know you are, but what am I Shut up no you shut up you stupidhead meanyperson. THE UNAPPEALING ATHEIST PROPOSITIONOne early medieval story says that humans are like a bird who flies in one window of a great hall where a vast banquet is in progress The bird only has time to catch a glimpse of all the festivities before it flies out of the other window That s us we rapidly pass from non existence to non existence Is that going to be a message many people want to hear No Is that why religion with its vivid promises of afterlife joy for you, and, hopefully, misery for your enemies may still be attractive to most people Yes That and about a thousand other reasons.It s a good thing that atheists are now making themselves heard after centuries of oppression but I don t like the way the argument has gone THE PROBLEMS OF THE WHOLE ATHEIST DEBATE THING1 At the heart of it there is a meaningless question do you believe in God The believers don t or can t define what they mean by the word Everyone appears to assume that the word God has the same meaning for everyone That is not true A lot of these debates are between people who never define their terms, so what they re talking about is anyone s guess.2 The nature of belief the majority of believers have not converted from one religion to another, they were born into a particular religion They have never for one second considered the possibility that a different religion might actually be the true one The very idea is obviously absurd for this great majority of all believers of all religions How can a debate be had within such a confined space 3 I have been waiting for a thousand years to be able to say this That s what it sounds like when you read these bitter, angry litanies of the horrors inflicted by the Christian Church on the people of the world In essay after essay they are trundled out like the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds a famous waxworks exhibit in London I bet you knew that And after they get done with the followers of Jesus, the current grisly gang of jihadis provide many non Christian examples of religious bloodlust Okay, it probably needs to be said but Christopher, not 15 times over but this is not a debate about belief.AND ANYWAYThe atheists denounce Christianity and Islam the two main disturbers of the peace in this book as if, with their suppression, none of this xenophobic, misogynistic and fratricidal violence would ever have happened If these two religions had just fizzled out, like thousands of others, then mild pleasantness would have descended and scientists would have been busily inventing motor cars and packet soup before the 13th century But what would have happened instead of Christianity and Islam Imagine that the Roman religion persisted in the West and the local animist cults continued in Arabia and the Middle East, alongside Zoroastrianism Would humans have avoided wars of conquest, disease, ignorance, slavery and all the rest of it Not at all There would have been different names on the shops but they would have been selling the same bloody goods The atheists are cynical about religion but uncynical about human nature 4 And then there s being caught in the crossfire the non specialist reader of the atheist debate will be scoffing aspirin very quickly, to ward off the throbbing headaches caused by the sesquipedalian jawbreakers of the cosmologists, the theoretical physicists and the biologists on the one side and the theologians on the other side If I wrote what I know about quantum uncertainty, Planck time and fructose on the back of an average sized postage stamp I would still have room left over for the ten commandments and the lyrics of Like a Rolling Stone A lot of this stuff is above my paygrade.SEMI USEFULSo, this book is only semi useful and sporadically entertaining Christopher himself can always provide a few zingers To be charitable, one may admit that the religious often seem unaware of how insulting their main proposition actually is.Or religion is based on our willingness to be persuaded against all the evidence that we are indeed the centre of the universe and that everything is arranged with us in mind. And I did really enjoy Richard Dawkins leaping all over the anti evolutionists two favourite topics first, The Worship of the Gaps, which refers to the gaps in the fossil record, which allegedly prove that evolution is wrong RD says that when a new fossil is found which fits in one of these gaps, the creationists then proclaim that there are now two gaps where before there was only onE And second, irreducible complexity The creationists difficulties with things like the human eye or Venus Flower Basket, or Dutchman s Pipe Aristolochia trilobata all examples taken from a book by the Watchtower Society called Life How Did it Get Hereare dealt with as follows The logic of the creationists turns out to be no convincing than this I insert own name am personally unable to think of any way in which insert biological phenomenon could have been built up step by step Therefore it is irreducibly complex That means it was designed MAYBE THERE ARE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR TIMEThere are always interesting bits and pieces in a collection of essays by such big names as these In one, Ian McEwan casually tossed out that one poll showed that 53% of Americans believe that the universe is less than 6000 years old I boggled at that He was then quick to point out that In Pennsylvania, Kansas and Ohio the courts have issued ringing rejections of Intelligent Design and voters have ejected creationists from school boards.He also explains the enduring appeal of the belief that The Apocalypse will happen in your own lifetime 44% of Americans he says that this is an indication of how difficult it is for many people to accept that they aren t special You see this in the harmless fatuousness of generational narcissism kids of today, they don t know what music is but when people really expect The End of Times to be about to really happen it s like I m not going quietly When I go,the whole of time and space is coming with me A Venus Flower Basket
The Portable Atheist is a compilation of rather intriguing, incisive material, primarily essays, written by a variety of famed skeptics throughout the ages Below is a link to the book s table of contents many of the pieces can be found online, if you d like to try a few on for size these impressive contributors, I found the following to be the most memorable Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Mark Twain, H.P Lovecraft, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and Penn Jillette.The topics under discussion are wonderfully diverse, and include psychological bases for religious thinking, the value of reason, the issue of morality, the Big Bang, the role of natural selection and evolution, the problem with resorting to a God of the gaps, substantial concerns regarding Christianity and Islam including but not limited to historicity, ethics, plausibility, and the questionable benevolence of that kind of god , miracles what would they look like, and what would they be capable of proving , the cosmological argument, the problem with near death experiences, and quite a few others besides.Overall, this book was decidedly formidable Nearly all of it was thought provoking to some degree, and many of the arguments were intelligent, highly persuasive, and admirably rigorous There was, however, a slight issue with the same intellectual ground being trod in multiple essays, and hence a feeling of repetitiveness, but that s to be expected in a collection such as this, and wasn t overly bothersome here Also, my problem with a couple of the perspectives included in this volume is that dogmatic atheism can be just as noxious and irrationally inflexible as dogmatic religion Though I myself am inclined to think atheists are probably correct, I will not make a leap of faith and say I believe that atheism is the definitive answer, either The opposite of a rigidly held belief is not, to my mind, an equally rigidly held disbelief I think it s better to avoid jumping to conclusions that simply aren t yet provable one way or the other, and to instead keep your mind open, and look around at life usually in utter bafflement , and just admit that none of us has any real clue what the shit is going on here Even the religious have to agree with that to some extent if they knew for a fact that their god created all this, then their faith, which is generally an essential component of their religion, would cease to exist Uncertainty is all that s certain I fail to comprehend why people fail to comprehend this So, I ll have to stick with agnosticism for the present, concurring for the most part with this excellent point, which was presented early in the collectionOf all my seeking this is all my gain No agony of any mortal brainShall wrest the secret of the life of man The Search has taught me that the Search is vainOmar KhayyamAnd yet, even though it s proven somewhat futile thus far, we definitely shouldn t stop searching for answers The quest for and better knowledge is something we ought never neglect Our relentless curiosity and refusal to settle for the far fetched creation myths of old is part of what I m most proud of in a growing number of members of the human race If nothing else, this fine collection of the writings of brilliant minds grappling with our most fundamental questions has motivated me to look around , to reconnect with that innate sense of wonder and inquisitiveness at all of this existence, and to question the preconceived notions I ve unconsciously allowed to accumulate in my head over the years In that sense, this was a most inspirational volume, and I recommend that everyone explore at least some of its challenging, stimulating contents. Hitchens is one of the wittiest men of our time, and as a great writer, his taste is impeccable.I love reading essays and short pieces, but it becomes a problem when I find collections that I don t particularly like, because I don t want to buy a collection for a single essay.That is not a problem with Hitchens, who combines the fundamental originators of the atheist thought, with the writings of Hume and Spinoza, with the great leaders of the modern atheist movement, including a few essays from my personal favorite, Professor Daniel Dennett.He includes the essentials of Russell and Dawkins, which are, of course, unavoidable in a discussion of atheism, and he makes sure to tackle the elements of atheist and naturalist philosophy.It s a wonderful collection, and anyone who wants something that they can read off and on, especially if you re in the collegiate realm where you can t focus on one thing and just slam through it, this is a great collection.I will say that Hitchens intro is not his best work, but there is something challenging about introducing a collection of arguments meant to speak for themselves It still bears the stamp of a fantastic mind, and still has its shining moments.