• The Portable Atheist read by Nicolas Ball
  • Reprinted from THE PORTABLE ATHEIST, by arrangement with Da Capo Press.
  • Christopher Hitchens The Portable Atheist Book Cover by aigaboston, via Flickr
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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever


"The Portable Atheist" was a novel released by Christopher Hitchens in 2007 that was sort of a counter to that of "God is Not Great". While "God is Not Great" focused on religions and the issues therein, "The Portable Atheist" provided a closer look at atheism and atheistic viewpoints. In fact, Hitchens writes comparative responses to a number of essays included within the novel by other great authors, scientists and philosophers that happened to be atheist, such as Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain and Charles Darwin. Original essays are also included by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie and author Ian McEwan. This anthology of essays and articles provides by him and others about atheism are varied and cover many points of view. Hitchens describes at one point what he wants from life, stating "Death is certain...Life on this earth, with all of its mystery, and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more."

Hitchens in his introduction to the portable atheist makes some interesting comments upon our society.
One of the statements made by Hitchens which strangely sound new, like most Christians never went to school to study history, is relative to who were the scapegoats in times of pestilence, or when something went wrong, because the good Christians were always good to blame someone else for their stupidity and ignorance. Obviously in times of pestilence the good Christians would kill Jews, Heretics, or Witches to give someone in sacrifice to their good loving God!
Then Hitchens makes a challenge to religious people which I believe is quite interesting:
Name an ethical statement or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever.
Then there is another statement which is also interesting and worthwhile reading more than one time, especially today when there is the debate on public health, believing that doctors will really care more about their patients:
Medical men have always been in attendance of torture sessions and executions together with the clerics who brought an air of authority to the scene!
The worst offenders in the Final Solution were Doctors! None was ever threatened by the Church with excommunication!
And here I add one thing which should be clear, since Christians always point out that Hitler was not a Christian, like the other Nazis. But here is my question, since we can find the baptism of Hitler, as document, as well as of other Nazis (and of course of the rest of the German population which committed those crimes) but can Christians who object that Hitler was not a Christian to find a document which shows his excommunication? Or the excommunication of all the other Germans Nazis and not who were directly involved in slaughtering human beings in concentration camps?
Obviously we also have the photos of the clergy with the Nazis, and everyone seem quite comfortable near each other, because between pigs they comfort each other.


The Portable Atheist - Listen Up! Vermont

Atheism's stock is high right now, as is Hitchens's, whose recent book, God Is Not Great , has given rise to much discussion and controversy. It is no surprise that Hitchens and a willing publisher might be intrigued by the possibility of cashing in on his recent success. The Portable Atheist , however, is a rather messy ragout of widely disparate readings—all provocative and entertaining but hardly a coherent statement. Lucretius, Thomas Jefferson, Emma Goldman, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and many writers and thinkers as impressive as these all gave voice to their doubts, but as Hitchens does not seem to understand, they believed and disbelieved rather different things and argue from and for very different premises. The perceptive reader will feel much sorrow for the thousandfold human follies perpetrated in the name of religion and condemned here, but no case against God does The Portable Atheist make. Still, valuable for most collections.