Read The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens Titus Lucretius Carus Omar Khayyám Thomas Hobbes Baruch Spinoza David Hume James Boswell Percy Bysshe Shelley Online


From the #1 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 influentiaFrom the #1 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 can.” (Los Angeles Times) Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter: The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way....

Title : The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
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ISBN : 9780306816086
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Number of Pages : 525 Pages
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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-10-16 23:14

    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 onour 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 Here?) are dealt with as followsThe logic [of the creationists] turns out to be no more 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 thatIn 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

  • Joshua Stein
    2018-10-06 23:21

    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.

  • Michael
    2018-10-15 05:12

    I would not call myself an atheist, but a some of what is collected in this book rings true to me. However, like most atheist philosophy there is much to be desired. Much of the counter-points favoring the non-existence of god(s) can be boiled down into:1) God does not exist because there is no evidence.2) God does not exist because there is evil in the world.3) God does not exist because bad people have embellished on the myths. 4) God does not exist because there are too many gods both past and present.I'm sure that I am over-simplifying, but that is essentially the crux of it as far as I can see. All of these thoughts ring a bit hollow to me, but they all touch on a larger understanding that I have yet to figure out myself. If I had to guess, the existence (or non) of the truth of god lies in the analysis of Dawkins' Spaghetti Monster (which does not make much of an appearance here).Oh well. The quest continues.-mp.s. The worst part of this book lies in the fact that it seems to be a money-grab by Hitchens. It seems that he is trying to cash in on his recent fame by collecting some publicly available texts, writing one or two sentences about each, and then adding a couple lackluster "never before released" essays by a couple friends. As a side note, this book is far from portable.

  • Tiffany
    2018-10-11 03:20

    Loved the guy. He lived in my neighborhood and lumbered around like a bear that had been poked by a stick. I've been following him since the 80's when he contributed regularly to The Nation. His contributions to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy and Prospect were invaluable, his prose inimitable.But when it comes to spiritual beliefs the guy was a cretin.For all his erudition he never grokked that many humans have a desire to worship something outside themselves and that desire or need does not automatically make them stupid, deluded, evil or dangerous.That was always Chris' problem: people's needs and weaknesses constituted a target for his rage. Once, in the early 90's at a briefing at Chapters Bookstore during the Serbian conflict he YELLED at some poor guy asking for some clarification on who was who. And I mean full-on Christian Bale. I got quiet and slipped out the door fearing he would become insane and kill someone. His righteous anger turned him into an enraged and senseless animal. This just to tell you he had no understanding or observation of his personal failings, which is why he drank and smoked himself (sadly) into an early grave. That said, he was the closest thing to a wit and an intellectual we've had in the US.

  • Vanja Antonijevic
    2018-10-09 03:28

    Although, as can only be expected, it is missing some crucial works, and allows for only small excerpts of others, it an excellent collection overall. The first third of the book will allow you to understand the philosophical intellectual history of atheism/agnosticism (Lucretius (c. 60 BCE ), Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Mill, Marx, Eliot, Darwin, Twain, Freud, Einstein, Orwell, and Russell). The rest of the book has more modern and recent arguments, that I believe are more systematic and convincing. My favorites:(1) Hume: He takes the idea of miracles to task. (2) Mill: Rationally explains his lack of faith. (3) Marx: Ever wondered what the "opium of the people" really means?(4) Mencken: A witty memorial service to all the "dead" gods(5) Einstein: Always one of the best when it comes to collecting eloquent and humorous short quotes(6) Russell: Puts superstition to task.(7) Mackie: Discusses possible consequences of adopting atheism(8) Shermer: Excellent parody of what one would have to believe if one wishes to reconcile what we know scientifically today with the teachings of the Bible. (9) Dawkins: Probably the best presented argument for the unlikelihood of the existence of God, and a good refutation of some of the most powerful objections of theists. His book, "The God Delusion", is a more complete explanation. (10) Stenger: The best attack on the cosmological arguments for God.(11) Anderson: Wonderful summary of the type of moral things God does in the Bible, tells others to do, or simply permits. The bottom line: clearly no truly good moral person should look to the Bible exclusively for guidance. (12) Weinberg: Another cosmological discussion, but he is more sympathetic to religion. (13) Warraq: A long but devastating attack on the Quran. Also good for those that do not really understand the type of things actually written in Islamic religious doctrine (or for that matter, how these religious books came about).

  • Mikey B.
    2018-10-20 22:09

    Page 363 (my book) St. Augustine“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which man should not wish to learn.”These 47 essays are chronologically arranged from Lucretius to the 21st century. But over two-thirds of the essays are from 1900 onwards. One does get a history of atheism, and how, even to this day, it is difficult to acknowledge or admit that one is an atheist. One essay by A.C. Grayling said that the term should be “naturalist” which has a far more positive connotation.The essays are uneven. I can’t for the life of me know why some were chosen – the essays by Leslie Stephen, Anatole France, Joseph Conrad, Martin Gardner, George Orwell, John Updike and a few more were useless. Bertrand Russell’s essay on “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” was dated. The ten pages of quotes from Albert Einstein were simply repetitive.If only all the writers could have been as entertaining as Mark Twain and Carl Sagan, the book would have been a pleasure to read! At times I had literally to force myself through the words of some essays.The book is concerned mostly with Christianity and Islam – less on Judaism. Not much on Eastern religions. One also comes away with the essential ingredients of what constitutes a religion – creation and an end-time, heaven/hell, all religions intervene (don’t do this, do this, don’t touch that...). There is a riveting essay on “Revelations” by Ian McEwan.Page 353The resilience of the end-time forecasts – time and again, for five hundred years, the date is proclaimed, nothing happens, and no one feels discouraged from setting another date.Page 356The cast or contents of Revelation in its contemporary representations has all the colorful gaudiness of a children’s computer fantasy game – earthquakes and fires, thundering horses and their riders, angels blasting away on trumpets, magic vials, Jezebel, a red dragon and other mystical beasts...The apocalypse is always around the corner.Page 362Where a god makes the world, it remains in his power to unmake it.And of course there is sex. Christopher Hitchens, who cannot write a dull sentence in the introduction, says it best:Page xxiiiFrom the weird obsession with virginity and the one-way birth canal through which prophets are “delivered”, through the horror of menstrual blood, all the way to the fascinated disgust with homosexuality and the pretended concern with children (who suffer worse at the hands of the faithful than any other group). Male and female genital mutilation; the terrifying of infants with hideous fictions about guilt and hell, the wild prohibition of masturbation: religion will never be able to live down the shame with which it has stained itself for generations in this regard, anymore than it can purge its own guilt for the ruining of formative periods of precious life.Also one gains insight into the belief power of mankind that is somehow fixed to believe the supernatural. Think of UFO’s, of unending conspiracy theories – and then translate those over to religion. Many religions (past and present) have had virgins giving birth to prophets’, people today still search for Noah’s Ark and the many miracles that occurred so long ago.Page 41 (David Hume)The gazing populace, receive greedily, without examination, whatever soothes superstition, and promotes wonder.Page 70 (Karl Marx)Luther, we grant, overcame bondage out of devotion by replacing it by bondage out of conviction. He shattered faith in authority because he restored the authority of faith. He turned priests into laymen because he turned laymen into priests. He freed man from outer religiosity because he made religiosity the inner man. He freed the body from chains because he enchained the heart.There is a brilliant essay by H.L. Mencken of all the “dead” religions.Page 146They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.Carl Sagan gives us a feeling of how Christianity has “softened up”. For hundreds of years they were rounding up witches and demons – torturing and burning them. Perhaps, today, the residual affect is the abundance of horror films that keep circulating.There are also essays on God’s place in the scientific world. With findings on the universe, biological development (evolution, genetics), on paleontology and geology - some theologists are looking more toward a mechanistic God. This God would be a rather “lazy God” – what does he do exactly? But this removes organized religion out of the picture with its sacred texts relegated to “file 13”. The universe has existed for some 14 billion years. This also points out “mankinds” insignificance in this overwhelming universe, on this planet with its immensity of species (many long gone) that have evolved over millions of years, as opposed to homo sapiens 200,000 years. So perhaps people turn to religion for solace – to escape their solitariness in the wide space of time.From Woody Allen’s Annie Hall are also some interesting discussions on Jesus. Jesus demands faith, but not knowledge. In the essay by Ibn Warraq he points out that Jesus’s existence is somewhat shadowy. Most of what is written of him is 50 to 100 years after his death. So how true are these gospels – in an era where the average lifespan was short and of widespread illiteracy? Much of who Jesus was, and his words, are conjecture and hearsay.Page 280 (David C. Dennett)Try to imagine your outrage if a pharmaceutical company responded to your [law]suit by blithely replying “But we prayed good and hard for the success of the drug! What more do you want?"There is an excellent essay by Richard Dawkins refuting the faith based Intelligent Design.Page 282 Charles TempletonIn the course of our conversation I said, “But Billy [Graham], it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.”“I don’t accept that,” Billy [Graham] said.Page 306 Richard DawkinsThe cannibalistic fantasy of “drinking the blood and eating the flesh” of the leader.Page 343 Elizabeth AndersonBelievers in any one religion can offer no independent criteria for accepting their own revelations, miracles, and religions experiences while rejecting the revelations, miracles, and religious experiences that appear to support contradictory religious claims.Page 346 Elizabeth AndersonBelieving there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O, and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.Page 383 Salman RushdieIntellectual freedom, in European history, has meant mostly freedom from the restraints of the Church, not the state. This is the battle Voltaire was fighting.The longest essay is by Ibn Warraq and is scathing on both Islam and Christianity.Page 395 Ibn WarraqIs it fitting that an All-Powerful, Omniscient, and Omnipotent God should revise His commands so many times? Does He need to issue commands that need revising so often? Why can He not get it right the first time, after all, He is all-wise? Why does He not reveal the better verse first?And some essays point out that monotheistic religions are not so monotheistic – the cult of the saints, the Virgin Mary... But monotheism is intolerant – an only God is by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live – “Thou shall make no craven image.”Page 412 Ibn WarraqIt is very odd that when God decides to manifest Himself, He does so to only one individual. Why can He not reveal himself to the masses during the final game of the World Cup...

  • Todd Martin
    2018-10-03 02:20

    The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbelieveris a collection of essays by various authors who have addressed the topic of atheism and/or agnosticism throughout the years. Although there are a few gems to be found (Hitchen’s introduction, essays by Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain, Salman Rushdie to name a few), most of the articles are pure drudgery written by long-winded philosophers who appear to have been paid by the word (or page). I particularly hated the section from Einstein, which consisted of an endless series of two sentence snippets from letters written throughout his lifetime ... all of which repeat the exact same thing (no personal god, no afterlife, god reveals himself in the orderly harmony of the universe ... rather bland and unremarkable stuff that fails to improve with repetition). The book is laid out chronologically and, in general, the essays do get somewhat better the further towards the end of the book you go.I suspect that in putting together a book of this sort, that it is rather easy to load it up with material from dead authors - since their work is in the public domain and thus no royalties need be paid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that anyone felt the need to cull the material for unique or interesting ideas. While the book certainly contains “Readings for the Nonbeliever”, I would disagree with the premise that many of them are “Essential”. One thing I did find interesting is how many of the writings echo the sentiments put forth by the new atheists (Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens). These newer writers (who are perceived as rather revolutionary) are really just updating older ideas for the current generation of free thinkers.

  • Jenifer
    2018-10-15 05:12

    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."

  • Ben
    2018-09-29 06:18

    Although I am certainly not an atheist, I enjoyed the book. Liked having a selection of "Atheist" readings with the additional comments of the author, a renowned atheist himself. I gave the book 3 stars because, well, not being an atheist, I found the book lacking on several levels. First, the words the jump to my mind after reading this book are, "holier than thou," "dogmatic," "exclusive," and well, many others that are used by atheists against people of faith. What strikes me as hilarious, none of the philosophical arguments consist in any empirical proof whatsoever. So, let's agree that whether theologian or philosopher (including atheists), none of us can conclusively "prove" anything. We must each look at the relevant data and facts that we find in all domains of life and history and make our own decision as to what our beliefs are. Healthy debate is part of that decision making, which is why I liked reading this book. Second, I found some of the argumentation used to be confusing. I understand that being an atheist, one does not have a belief in any god of any sort. However, when making broad statements about why one doesn't believe in a god, it is entirely unhelpful and misleading to lump all faiths into one big pile. Each faith has its own merits, difficulties, and history. To lump all together is to disregard and evade dealing with the strength of argument for a particular religion. I might add that just as it is logically impossible for all religions to be correct (i.e. lead to the same place), this includes atheism. Finally, it is a bit intellectually dishonest to present some of these readings as representative of the whole of particular faiths. For example, in the George Elliot entry, the author(s) sort of pick at the person and work of Rev. John Cumming. While they my have some good points, John Cumming is not necessarily wholly representative of Biblical Christianity at all points. Thus, it is unjust to say John Cumming's beliefs and practices = Biblical Christianity, since we have picked him apart from our "correct" point of view, therefore Christianity is bunk. I expect better than this. I do understand that this book is presenting "slices" of historical readings, but the author does add his own comments, and therefore could touch on this and contemporary advances that have occurred since Rev. Cumming. We could make similar comments about his comments regarding the Catholic church.This book is for anyone who wants a selection of atheistic readings to interact with. At the end of the day, I'm not sure there is anything conclusive, although the author would have you believe otherwise. I respect his conclusion of his personal assessment of our world and the facts before him, but I come to a vastly different, equally respectable conclusion (after considering the same facts and philosophical arguments).

  • James
    2018-09-22 06:30

    The late Christopher Hitchens was a tremendous wit and man of letters, as well as an effective political and religious polemicist. This is a collection of some of the greatest Atheistic, or at least skeptical writings, selected and abridged by Hitchens with short introductions to each as well as a longer opening introduction. While that longer essay is a bit of a period piece not up to the standard of most of Hitchens writing, his shorter intros are delightful. His choices range from classical (Lucretius) to delightfully unexpected (Sir John Betjemen), to the just plain bizarre (Penn Jillette); as expected, there is quite a bit of material from his friends Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, McEwan, and Rushdie. All in all, the collection is effective and thought provoking, and variant enough that, except for a drop-off in quality towards the end, it doesn't get boring or repetitive. One hardly needs to be an Atheist or even secular to ponder over and enjoy The Portable Atheist, and the high quality of most of the material makes it one of Hitchens' best endeavors in his particular brand of argumentative secularism.

  • Sandy b
    2018-09-22 23:09

    Religion is the most perverse ,dangerous and destructive force in the world,and even God,s favorite David of the bible implored: open mine eyes lord, so that I will know thee with my heart ,mind ,and whole beingSo this call to use your mind and critically examine,both the argument for and against religion,is wise councilAnd I have spend more than 40 years in earnest search for the truthI have broken the shackles of religion,and the freedom of atheism is highly recommendedThis important book will help you work through some of the questions on this complex but important subject,but it is your business and your decision ,which way you decide to vote?Nobody can convince you of the truth either way,but I found overwhelming evidence I choose atheist!

  • Dan Gladwell
    2018-10-21 02:18

    This would be more properly titled "The Portable Anti-Religion: Essential Readings for the Angry Atheist". I really despise books and arguments that portend to be atheistic but are really just arguments against religion. When you are arguing to be atheistic, you should start from the assumption of atheism, instead of spending a whole volume arguing against it. This book clearly wasn't written for the "non-believer" because it spends the entire span of the book arguing against religion and trying to convince readers of its evil. Don't waste your money, unless you are looking for an argument to be an atheist, and you can come up with plenty reasons on your own.

  • Muthuvel
    2018-09-28 01:08

    Lot of insights from the notions of several great thinkers. Irrespective of your views on Atheism, it's essential to read through some of the essays to get a lot better ideas and visions on life. Hitchens was surely a great person with his sheer witty erudite personality. Since my inception on curiously knowing about the world (mostly western, which I was oblivious of) I had found a lot of wonderful, wiser brave persons.Glad this book actually helped me find more. This book contains 47 essays of people who lived on diversified eras and with diversified visions. one of the common connections is all of them were/are free thinkers. Almost every essay was so beautiful thought provoking and at even sometimes wondering (Lucretius' from BCEs). “Kuhn is thanking God because he has not been chosen. Kuhn is out of his senses. Does he not see Beppo the Greek in the bunk next to him, Beppo who is twenty years old and is going to the gas-chamber the day after tomorrow and knows it and lies there looking fixedly at the light without saying anything and without even thinking anymore?Can Kuhn fail to realize that next time it will be his turn? Does Kuhn not understand that what has happened today is an abomination, which no propitiatory prayer, no pardon no expiation by the guilty, which nothing at all in the power of man can ever clean again?If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn’s prayer.”- Primo Levi"In the book in which God explained how He did all this, in one chapter He said he created Adam and Eve togetherout of the dust at the same time, but in another chapter He said He created Adam first, then later created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. This caused confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt, so God created theologians to sort it out."- Michael Shermer **Some of them really deserves to be reread especially from Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Einstein, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, Sam Harris, Shermer, Sam Harris, Carl Sagan, Sigmund Freud, George Orwell, Steven Weinberg, Penn Jillette.October 19 - November 2, 2016

  • PaulPerry
    2018-10-15 23:01

    An outstanding collection of essays and extracts from godless and freethinking writers throughout the ages. Amongst the highlights are the pamphlet for which Shelly was thrown out of university and contributions from Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine. Some, such as Thomas Hardy and HL Mencken consign gods to the grave of history, while others argue strong cases for a morality that does not rely on the promise of reward or the threat of punishment from a creator. While some of the writings are distinctly anti-theistic, others argue for the wisdom of agnosticism. Nearly all are thoughtful, wise and thoroughly worth investigating, irrespective of the reader's own position on the spectrum of belief.

  • Dennis
    2018-10-01 23:02

    This compendium will last a while, but dipping in here and there seems the best approach. There are some interesting essays from the early part of the last century that were important in convincing my father to get over believing in god(s).I wasn't planning on buying the book, but just happened to be browsing it at Powell's when my friend Chris Faatz, one of our great free-range intellectuals (and a Buddhist), stopped to say hello. He knew the book and pointed several essays that recommends. I was sold. By the way, that was a classic example of "hand-selling" that is lost in superstores. In fact, Chris almost had me buying a shelf of books to go with this one. And I'll be back.

  • Shaun
    2018-10-01 05:21

    The Portable Atheist is an astounding 'tour de force' of critical writer's critique of Religion, citing the diverse religious arguments in detail.Containing 47 selections from some very famous and non-famous people on the value of atheism, this book is indeed a storehouse of many thought provoking pieces, including a brilliant 14 page fiery introduction by Christopher Hitchens.Hitchens takes liberty in introducing us to each contributing piece in this provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages. This book is wonderfully edited by chronologically organizing the evolution of atheism ( or nontheism), from historical perspectives to current day thought.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 many diverse thinkers.To mention a few : - Lucretius, - Benedict de Spinoza,- David Hume - to more of a middle stage, consisting of : - Charles Darwin, - John Stuart Mill, - Mark Twain,- George Eliot,- Bertrand Russell,- Emma Goldman,and then to modern-day critics like: - Albert Einstein,- Carl Sagan, - Victor Strenger, - Daniel Dennett,- Sam Harris,- Penn Jillette, - Richard Dawkins, and many others well-known and lesser known writers, even including never-before-published pieces by: - Salman Rushdie,- Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali . . . . So in all, this isn't really a Christopher Hitchens book - It's a book of all the authors that are represented here, perhaps to pique one's interest to go out and read all those authors works in their entirety, thus improving your understanding of many things, not just religion.I think it would also be a good read for any theist who want to understand more about the "atheist" position . . . It is important to note that some of the writings that were included despite not being written by self-proclaimed atheists, but Hitchens is good at pointing these out and giving his reasons for including them - so all in all, the book is probably the better for it.Don't let the title mislead you, this 500 page paperback is "portable" only in the sense that this anthology is compacted with an abundance of informative content."The Portable Atheist" is a fascinating and captivating collection of Atheist writings that one can simply pick up at any point, wherever one may be, and choose a reading of their interest - whatever length or format they wish.Great reading, instructive, and, most of all, provides hope that clear thinking might just have a chance . . . All beliefs aside, the selections in this book are powerfully argued and well written. as many people have the common misunderstanding that atheists are pessimists or discontented with. I'd recommend it to anyone with a hunger for the truth and an open mind.

  • Steve
    2018-10-13 00:14

    In The Portable Atheist, Hitchens has assembled a surprisingly diverse collection of first rate writing by non-believers. From medieval poets and enlightenment philosophers, to twentieth century scientists, this is most definitely not 500 pages of people saying the same thing in the same way. Representing a broad sweep of styles and perspectives - science, politics, philosophy, poetry, autobiography, literature, and more - about the only thing they have in common is their willingness to stand up and challenge the great behemoth that is religion. The entries by Carl Sagan, Anatole France, and the always dependable Bertrand Russell are a real treat. Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali lift the cloak on Islam, Ian McEwan and others reveal the unsavoury episodes in the history of Christianity, and the poet Shelley gives us an early refutation of creationism. The writers and the writing truly are the cream of the crop. Also welcome in this volume are selected writings by Albert Einstein, whose eleven pages of letters and notes remove any lingering doubt about his repudiation of a god that takes an interest in human affairs. So much for the religiosity of the world's most famous genius. The brief introductions by Hitch to each contribution are pitched just right: concise, illuminating, a little droll, but never nasty. He prefaces the whole collection with a longer piece that has all the passion and wit we've come to expect from him. Very few religious people will be drawn to read this book, but that's fine - this isn't that kind of book. (Those readers might like to try Guy P Harrison's excellent '50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God'.) As others have said, Hitch's compendium is considerably less 'portable' than the average paperback, but if you compare it with a whole bookshelf from which these extracts have been taken, you start to appreciate the aptness of the title. Whether you're an atheist, an agnostic, or just someone who appreciates fine writing, The Portable Atheist is highly recommended.

  • TJ Shelby
    2018-10-06 00:01

    I suppose that the first, and most important, thing to say is that I recommend this book to everyone. I already feel like I have forgotten so much of it that I want to start over again. I stole the following from another post and while it isn't comprehensive, I liked it:(1) Hume: He takes the idea of miracles to task. (2) Mill: Rationally explains his lack of faith. (3) Marx: Ever wondered what the "opium of the people" really means? (4) Mencken: A witty memorial service to all the "dead" gods (5) Einstein: Always one of the best when it comes to collecting eloquent and humorous short quotes (6) Russell: Puts superstition to task. (7) Mackie: Discusses possible consequences of adopting atheism (8) Shermer: Excellent parody of what one would have to believe if one wishes to reconcile what we know scientifically today with the teachings of the Bible. (9) Dawkins: Probably the best presented argument for the unlikelihood of the existence of God, and a good refutation of some of the most powerful objections of theists. His book, "The God Delusion", is a more complete explanation. (10) Stenger: The best attack on the cosmological arguments for God. (11) Anderson: Wonderful summary of the type of moral things God does in the Bible, tells others to do, or simply permits. The bottom line: clearly no truly good moral person should look to the Bible exclusively for guidance. (12) Weinberg: Another cosmological discussion, but he is more sympathetic to religion.(13) Warraq: A long but devastating attack on the Quran. Also good for those that do not really understand the type of things actually written in Islamic religious doctrine (or for that matter, how these religious books came about).

  • Can Ender
    2018-10-16 04:11

    Thanks to two nights with no sleep, I had the sufficient time on consecutive two nights to read this elegantly written book that never ceased to surprise me to the very end.I would recommend it to anyone interested on the subject, not depending on at what level they may come informed on this very broad topic. The book is so well written by a person who is (or was) one of the -undisputedly I presume- best minds of our times that it would equally appeal to a curios reader looking for an interesting summer read, that it would to a deeply inquisitive one well aware of the both sides' arguments.Don't miss this chance of walking along with this brilliant mind in this book, which is one of his works that is above ordinary even by his standards.

  • Naftoli
    2018-10-20 22:23

    This is an outstanding compendium of human thought. It's difficult to comment on it since it is comprised of dozens of essays/contributions from ancient to present. One nice aspect is that many of them are short, even a few pages, so you can read an essay and close the book with a sense of completion before opening it up a few days later. With a novel that's hard, at least for me, because it disturbs the flow of the story. No matter what one's beliefs are - pantheist, panentheist, theist, athiest, agnostic, or what have you - I think it's important to deal with these issues. Sharpening one's mind with these important essays helps one to talk to (or even ignore) all the crazy, religious fanatics who wreak so much damage and promote so much divisiveness.

  • Rosiehope
    2018-10-06 23:29

    I'd been avoiding reading this as I didn't want to hear him whingeing on about how oppressed he feels as an atheist or whatever, but I was pleasantly surprised that you don't hear much from him beyond the introduction. It's a collection of atheist-ish writing from great thinkers throughout history and is really well put together. I found it easier to get into some than others (skipped past some) but some lovely stuff. I particularly enjoyed the Omar Khayyam section, which was just beautiful. I have the Rubaiyat in the house and may well read the whole thing now.

  • Donald
    2018-10-17 06:01

    Some thoughts from reading snippets of this tome for my job . . .1. At 500 pages and a few pounds, this is anything but "portable"2. For people who don't believe in a God, they spend an awful lot of time and energy talking about Him.3. If this is a true representation of atheists, then they are egotistical, arrogant, vile, cruel, hate-filled, and generally depressive people.

  • Jake
    2018-10-13 22:09

    It's hard to rate a compilation of essays and excerpts. My favorite 5 star sections were by Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, H.P. Lovecraft, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I also liked Ibn Warraq's section from "Why I Am Not a Muslim". I know little about Islam aside from propaganda and the selections from the Koran were eye-opening. Interesting bunch of heretical writings.

  • Naomi V
    2018-10-11 22:22

    i've avoided this type of book for years, thinking that it would just be 'preaching to the choir' (as it were) and that i wouldn't really get much out of it. turns out that i have a lot to learn! this is like a 'primer' for skeptics, agnostics, and atheists.

  • Book
    2018-09-29 00:01

    The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever edited by Christopher Hitchens“The Portable Atheist” is the philosophical journey of atheist thought through time. The late great Christopher Hitchens selects forty seven essays by some of the most influential atheist/agnostic minds. This 528-page book is composed of forty seven essays by some of the most influential atheists/agnostics including heavyweights like: Einstein, Sagan, Russell, Darwin, Twain, Hume, Spinoza, Mill, Dawkins, Harris and many others.Positives: 1. Great and diverse selection of atheist/agnostic essays.2. Thought-provoking and fascinating views on religion.3. One of the best introductions, I’ve ever read. It alone is worth the price of this book the rest is a bonus. 4. Hitchens provides a few introductory words for each essay.5. The recurring theme of dismissing superstitions and myths.6. David Hume provides great perspective on miracles and an interesting interview.7. Quotes, quotes, quotes…great quotes throughout. “Questions of fact can only be solved by examining facts”. Here is another one of my favorites, “All logical arguments can defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically”. 8. Great lucid minds providing much needed wisdom.9. Deism refuted.10. The problem of evil. Many examples. “If evil predominates here, we have no reason to suppose that good predominates elsewhere”.11. Cosmological argument put under the scrutiny of great minds.12. Religious history was never more interesting. Luther’s impact is duly noted.13. The argument from design and Darwin’s view of it. You get Carl Sagan’s view of this as well.14. The clearly stated position of an agnostic.15. The great mind of Spinoza taking Hume’s position of miracles to another level.16. The evil of slavery and its link to Christianity…oh my. Fascinating stuff.17. “Thou shalt suffer no witch to live…” it’s amazing the impact a few words has on humanity.18. The philosophy of atheism…a very good essay.19. Great insight on morality. “There is no moral obligation to believe what is unbelievable any more than there is moral obligation to do what is undoable”.20. The concept of revelation and concise arguments against it. 21. The great thing about reading is that you are bound to learn something new. This book provided me the best understanding of why the concept of an afterlife diminishes our one and only real life. Thank you.22. The great Einstein and his “religious” beliefs.23. Supernatural births of gods. So many gods so little reason.24. Bertrand Russell’s essay is an intellectual treat. Science versus faith. The absurdities of Aristotle.25. The Anselm’s ontological argument discussed.26. The purpose of life…the big philosophical questions. The moral consequence of atheism.27. Nothing fails more than prayers. 28. Richard Dawkin’s essay a great refresher. Evolution it does a specie good. 29. Victor Stenger advances the argument that we know enough to discard the god hypothesis. Great use of physics and cosmology to base his arguments.30. Elizabeth Anderson provides one of the strongest essays of this book. It’s an essay about how humans can possibly conduct themselves without a belief in the gods. Excellent!31. The moral inconsistencies of the Bible and the lack of archaeological evidence.32. Eschatology...always a fascinating topic.33. The advantages of atheism are recurring throughout book, “to choose unbelief is to choose mind over dogma, to trust in our humanity instead of all these dangerous divinities”.34. Ibn Warraq provides an excellent albeit long essay on why he is not a Muslim. The essay is actually from his book.35. Sam Harris provides a hard hitting essay about some of the evils of religious dogma. “Whenever a man imagines that he need only believe the truth of a proposition, without evidence – that believers will go to hell, that Jews drink the blood of infants – he becomes capable of anything.”36. A horrifying look at witchhunts and anti-Semitism.37. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s emotional and insightful essay on why she became an infidel.Negatives:1. The book is clearly uneven. Some essays are very long while others way too short.2. Some of the essays are poems and well some of the messages and thoughts are lost on me. 3. At over 500 pages, it does require an investment of time. 4. As is always is the case with essays and in particular this book, some essays are of more interest than others. Some essays are more accessible than others.5. Very few essays from women but I’m happy to report that the few provided are very good. 6. This book is anything but portable. 7. Hitchens introduction was so good that very few essays were able to live up to those standards. 8. Some essays just didn’t belong. The essay on Hegel and Germany by Karl Marx comes to mind.In summary, a great set of thought-provoking essays. You are guaranteed to learn something new and fascinating. Some essays like the poem-based ones didn’t really work for me and some others didn’t feel like they belong. The great thing about a book about essays is that you can skip over the ones you don’t like. The introduction of this book is one of the wittiest and thought-provoking writings and many other provided plenty of food for thought. The intro and some of the essays are five-star material but others drag it down the book to a four. That being said, you can cherry pick and go through your favorites. A recommended buy!Further suggestions: "Why I Became an Atheist", "The Christian Delusion" and “The End of Christianity” by John Loftus, "Sense and Goodness Without God " and "Why I'm Not a Christian" by Richard Carrier, "Man Made God" by Barbara G. Walker, ""The Invention of the Jewish People" by Shlomo Sand, "Godless" by Dan Barker, "Christian No More" by Jeffrey Mark, “A Universe from Nothing” by Lawrence M. Krauss, “Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion” by Phil Zuckerman and "The Invention of God" by Bill Lauritzen.

  • Matt
    2018-10-06 03:15

    Ugh. I wrote an entire review and then it got deleted before I could save it.Okay, quick points then:First: This volume and a lot of the other work of the "new" atheists are extremely useful to those who are halfway between belief and unbelief. This books has the dissections of scripture - the contradictions, the immoralities, the absurdities - which, for someone who hasn't been convinced to leave religion behind, would be eye-opening. But for confirmed atheists, the fight should not be specifically against religion. As plenty of people have noted, it's hard to build a life around a lack of belief.This isn't to say atheists don't have belief systems: it's just that they're varied and lack elements of the supernatural. Atheism is a very wide field, and you can have anti-theists like Hitchens, libertarians like Penn Jillette, or socialist humanists like Vonnegut all in the same category. What atheists should be doing, alongside deconstructing the absurdities of religion, is developing a rational belief system for people to come to. Otherwise, atheists are just tearing homes and then requesting a thanks for making the residents homeless.The new home has to be built. Atheists can no longer focus all their attacks on destroying faith. They have to be constructive as well. There are a few prominent unbelievers who have done this pretty well: Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kurt Vonnegut. But these guys don't get as much attention as they probably should. Instead, it's on the firebrands like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris.And yes, I realize the irony of an atheist complaining that the loudest, most extreme voices are the ones getting the most attention.Second, we need to start recognizing that a fight against religion is a fight against a symptom, not a disease. Economic, racial, and social injustices in the form of lack of access to education, or adequate social support are often at the core of religious belief. It's no coincidence that countries with higher social safety nets and higher levels of education have larger proportions of unbelievers. To fix these social issues is to do half the job.I had more, but I lost it because I clicked outside of this damn box. I might add more later.

  • David
    2018-10-08 01:27

    The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, compiled by Christopher Hitchens, is not a novel, as such, but a collection of essays, quotes and short critiques on the subject of religion and god(s), written by notable figures across the centuries. TPA will quickly get you in touch with dozens of the world’s most influential nonbelievers of the past and present, rather than having to scour a myriad of books in order to find their essays – all thanks to Hitchens.Among the essayists chosen are Karl Marx (this comes as no surprise, as Hitchens himself was a former Marxist), David Hume, Charles Darwin, Mark Twain,H.L. Mencken (who writes an hilarious essay dedicated to the memory of all of the abandoned gods), Sigmund Freud, George Orwell, Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and many others. There is even a rather amusing essay by Penn Jillette – the larger, more loquacious half of the comedic duo Penn & Teller.Here is a favorite passage of mine, which comes from the poem God’s Funeral, by Thomas Hardy:And tricked by our own early dreamAnd need of solace, we grew self-deceivedOur making soon our maker did we deemAnd what we had imagined we believed.It is difficult to ascertain if TPA is perhaps just a collection of Hitchens’ favorite atheists, rather than the definitive volume of non-believing luminaries, but each selection is deliciously well-chosen and represent a compendium of some of the sharpest literature in anti-theology. Hitchens himself has also written an enjoyably barbarous introduction to the book, as well as brief introductions to each of the selected authors.The Portable Atheist is really more of a handy reference to keep on the bookshelf, if, say, you happen to be looking for a particularly powerfully-delivered sermon on the evil tenets of the Old Testament, versus a good summer read to tote to the beach. But the book will definitely allow you to become more familiar with these amazing writers, both classical and modern, and will save you the effort of having to seek them out yourself – saving you both time and money.P.S. The title is a tad misleading, as at a daunting 499 pages, the book’s girth makes it anything but “portable.”

  • Alex Yard
    2018-10-09 04:14

    I sought out this book because the bits of writing I'd seen in the past by Christopher Hitchens were extremely insightful and articulate, and to honor his recent passing away I figured it was time to read one of his works. Only upon checking out this book from the library did I unfortunately realize that this is a compilation of a variety of authors' writings on non-belief, with a foreword by Hitchens at the start as well as brief contextual prefaces to each individual piece. I decided the book was still worth reading, though now I still need to get my actual Hitchens fix. There were a lot of well presented arguments in this anthology, even with some moments of humor. One short but great piece in particular by Mark Twain explained how the presence of the fly (insect) on earth is proof against God's existence- it was funny and entertaining, but completely logical in making its good points. There were a lot of good points that I thought were so worth remembering that I wrote them down for future documentation. However, the anthology format has its drawbacks. Some authors' styles I preferred over others, and after growing fond of one author's presentation: boom, done, time for the next selection, back to square one. And because these pieces were (obviously) not written with this entire collection in mind, there are some concepts that get revisited by multiple authors, so it has its repetitive moments. I will freely admit that there were portions of this book that I skipped. This included sections written in verse- I ain't trying to decipher several stanzas of noise in my free time. And some of the earlier passages I just couldn't understand while reading them, written in an inaccessible Middle English or whatever, so I skipped over them to the next one. I'm sure they were very important to the development of modern thought, so I can appreciate their relevance, but as a personal, practical reading experience, it had little to offer me. This book is nearly 500 pages; I probably read about 75% of it.

  • Shay
    2018-09-21 22:04

    If you read about atheism, you are probably familiar with the work of the late Christopher Hitchens, and his most famous contemporaries, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett. In The Portable Atheist, Hitchens offers readers the opportunity to expand their horizons with an anthology containing 47 essays and excerpts on unbelief. Dawkins, Harris and Dennett are all represented, but Hitchens’ selections range from Greek philosophy (Lucretius) to English poetry (Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin) to modern scientific treatises (Victor Stenger). This collection offers dozens of arguments against the existence of a deity, but it is also a book about the evolution of unbelief in Western culture. By arranging the readings in chronological order rather than by theme, Hitchens creates a history of non-theism which contextualizes the current state of affairs. While the language and style of some of the older readings may be challenging for the modern reader, their contents can also be startling in their continued relevance. Although there are some leavening humourous pieces (Michael Shermer), the book leans towards a scholarly tone. The book weighs in at a hefty (and somewhat less than portable) 499 pages and yet undoubtedly could have included many more selections. Notably absent are Nietzsche, Voltaire and Bakunin to name only a few. Hitchens briefly introduces each reading in his customary style, but is sometimes sparse on biographical details, perhaps due to space constraints. The index is likewise somewhat cursory for such a lengthy text. As noted by Hitchens himself, the selections are heavy on white men, and Oxonians. Excellent writers from the Jewish and Muslim traditions, including Steven Weinberg, Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are included, but the collection predominantly assumes a Christian background. However, the volume does reflect the wide variety of non-belief from atheism to agnosticism to humanism that has arisen from within these confines.

  • Tulpesh Patel
    2018-10-03 05:16

    The Portable Atheist is a compilation of extracts from the canons of many famous philosophers, scientists, and writers (47 in all), assembled by Christopher Hitchens. Each has a short introduction by Hitchens providing a little context for the choice, which I found far less intrusive than Richard Dawkin’s efforts for the Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing.I read this just after reading Christian Evangelist Michael Ots’ What Kind of God, and I’m sure that I feel in my core the same wonder and peace that comes from reading science as he does from reading the Bible. The extracts range from a couple of pages, for example Charles Templeton’s Questions to Ask Yourself (‘if God is a loving father, why does he seldom answer his needy children’s prayers’), to poems (the paraphrased translation Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a piece of 10th century Persian poetry, is a delight), and longer extracts, such as that from Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim, which is a devastating 50 page deconstruction of the Qu’ran. There are dry philosophical discussions - of all the extracts, only Karl Marx had me wanting to skip a couple of pages – and more obtuse entries, such as Micheal Shermer’s hilarious scientific retelling of the creation story and Mark Twain using the seemingly inconsequential fly to undermine our admiration of the Almighty. Reading Ayaan Hrsi Ali’s piece on how she lost faith in Islam is both devastating and life-affirming at the same time. As with many anthologies of this type, I found it an excellent gateway to a whole host of new writers and thinking and I’m basically going to use the contents page as an extended shopping list. Weighing in at 500 pages, the book itself isn't exactly portable, but, without sounding trite, the some of ideas presented by some of the greatest minds to have tackled man and God’s place in nature, are ones that I will carry with me for a long time.