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Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. (May 30)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In 2002, Hitchens appeared before a Vatican committee in the nonofficial capacity of advocatus diaboli, or "devil's advocate," to argue against the beatification of Mother Teresa. In his latest best-selling book, he adopts a similar role to articulate his case against the relevance and utility of religious belief. Once a budding theologian in short pants, the young Hitchens revolted against all things religious when one of his teachers suggested that God made vegetation green because it was more pleasing to the human eye than any other color. This teacher of firm but obtuse faith, by the author's calculation, set him firmly on the road to atheism. Hitchens takes all religions to task for their willful disregard of scientific fact, common sense, and even basic human decency. He is at his most entertaining and provocative when confronting particular faiths (his depiction of the rise of Mormonism and the canonization of the Muslim scriptures in particular), but his relentless dismantling of the creationist, or intelligent design, movement provides more substantial fare, as does his defense of a wholly secular morality, a theme that informs each chapter of the book. Given the levels of violence, intolerance, and oppression committed by and in the name of religion, Hitchens argues, the claim that religion makes humanity better-and, conversely, that the lack of religious belief destroys any foundation for a functional morality-remains a spurious one. Hitchens also proves to be a more than capable reader; his wit, erudition, and passionate unbelief could not have been conveyed as compellingly by a surrogate, though perhaps his reading of the introductory quotations that head many ofthe book's chapters might have been rendered with a little more enthusiasm. Highly recommended for all general collections.
"I am pretty sure that Hitchens's book will stand out as a leading example. How does Hitchens fare as a narrator? Quite well, at least to these unwashed ears. Hitchens has a windy prose style that is sometimes too stuffed with parenthetical qualifiers to be read easily. His breezy narration, however, makes such cluttered prose easy on the ear; we sense more of a conversational lecturer at work rather than a mere writer. Of course, Hitchens' upper-crust British accent will sound either charming or down-right intimidating. It enhanced his formidable learning and dry sense of humor." ---Winston-Salem Journal
"Hitchens also proves to be more than a capable readeer; his wit, erudition, and passionate unbelief could not have been conveyed as compellingly by a surrogate. Highly recommended for all general collections." ---Audiofile
"God is not great; brilliant"... Dennis Groves says: My Audio Book List
Putting It Mildly
If the intended reader of this book should want to go beyond disagreement with its author and try to identify the sins and deformities that animated him to write it (and I have certainly noticed that those who publicly affirm charity and compassion and forgiveness are often inclined to take this course), then he or she will not just be quarreling with the unknowable and ineffable creator who–presumably–opted to make me this way. They will be defiling the memory of a good, sincere, simple woman, of stable and decent faith, named Mrs. Jean Watts.
It was Mrs. Watts’s task, when I was a boy of about nine and attending a school on the edge of Dartmoor, in southwestern England, to instruct me in lessons about nature, and also about scripture. She would take me and my fellows on walks, in an especially lovely part of my beautiful country of birth, and teach us to tell the different birds, trees, and plants from one another. The amazing variety to be found in a hedgerow; the wonder of a clutch of eggs found in an intricate nest; the way that if the nettles stung your legs (we had to wear shorts) there would be a soothing dock leaf planted near to hand: all this has stayed in my mind, just like the “gamekeeper’s museum,” where the local peasantry would display the corpses of rats, weasels, and other vermin and predators, presumably supplied by some less kindly deity. If you read John Clare’s imperishable rural poems you will catch the music of what I mean to convey.
At later lessons we would be given a printed slip of paper entitled “Search the Scriptures,” which was sent to the school by whatever national authority supervised the teaching of religion. (This, along with daily prayer services, was compulsory and enforced by the state.) The slip would contain a single verse from the Old or New Testament, and the assignment was to look up the verse and then to tell the class or the teacher, orally or in writing, what the story and the moral was. I used to love this exercise, and even to excel at it so that (like Bertie Wooster) I frequently passed “top” in scripture class. It was my first introduction to practical and textual criticism. I would read all the chapters that led up to the verse, and all the ones that followed it, to be sure that I had got the “point” of the original clue. I can still do this, greatly to the annoyance of some of my enemies, and still have respect for those whose style is sometimes dismissed as “merely” Talmudic, or Koranic, or “fundamentalist.” This is good and necessary mental and literary training.
However, there came a day when poor, dear Mrs. Watts overreached herself. Seeking ambitiously to fuse her two roles as nature instructor and Bible teacher, she said, “So you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to our eyes. Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, or orange, how awful that would be.”
And now behold what this pious old trout hath wrought. I liked Mrs. Watts: she was an affectionate and childless widow who had a friendly old sheepdog who really was named Rover, and she would invite us for sweets and treats after hours to her slightly ramshackle old house near the railway line. If Satan chose her to tempt me into error he was much more inventive than the subtle serpent in the Garden of Eden. She never raised her voice or offered violence–which couldn’t be said for all my teachers–and in general was one of those people, of the sort whose memorial is in Middlemarch, of whom it may be said that if “things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been,” this is “half-owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
However, I was frankly appalled by what she said. My little ankle-strap sandals curled with embarrassment for her. At the age of nine I had not even a conception of the argument from design, or of Darwinian evolution as its rival, or of the relationship between photosynthesis and chlorophyll. The secrets of the genome were as hidden from me as they were, at that time, to everyone else. I had not then visited scenes of nature where almost everything was hideously indifferent or hostile to human life, if not life itself. I simply knew, almost as if I had privileged access to a higher authority, that my teacher had managed to get everything wrong in just two sentences. The eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way about.
I must not pretend to remember everything perfectly, or in order, after this epiphany, but in a fairly short time I had also begun to notice other oddities. Why, if god was the creator of all things, were we supposed to “praise” him so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally? This seemed servile, apart from anything else. If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? What was so wonderful about his casting out devils, so that the devils would enter a herd of pigs instead? That seemed sinister: more like black magic. With all this continual prayer, why no result? Why did I have to keep saying, in public, that I was a miserable sinner? Why was the subject of sex considered so toxic? These faltering and childish objections are, I have since discovered, extremely commonplace, partly because no religion can meet them with any satisfactory answer. But another, larger one also presented itself. (I say “presented itself” rather than “occurred to me” because these objections are, as well as insuperable, inescapable.) The headmaster, who led the daily services and prayers and held the Book, and was a bit of a sadist and a closeted homosexual (and whom I have long since forgiven because he ignited my interest in history and lent me my first copy of P. G. Wodehouse), was giving a no-nonsense talk to some of us one evening. “You may not see the point of all this faith now,” he said. “But you will one day, when you start to lose loved ones.”
Again, I experienced a stab of sheer indignation as well as dis-belief. Why, that would be as much as saying that religion might not be true, but never mind that, since it can be relied upon for comfort. How contemptible. I was then nearing thirteen, and becoming quite the insufferable little intellectual. I had never heard of Sigmund Freud–though he would have been very useful to me in understanding the headmaster–but I had just been given a glimpse of his essay The Future of an Illusion.
One Putting It Mildly 1
Two Religion Kills 15
Three A Short Digression on the Pig; or, Why Heaven Hates Ham 37
Four A Note on Health, to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous 43
Five The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False 63
Six Arguments from Design 73
Seven Revelation: The Nightmare of the "Old Testament 97
Eight The "New" Testament Exceeds the Evil of the "Old" One 109
Nine The Koran Is Borrowed from Both Jewish and Christian Myths 123
Ten The Tawdriness of the Miraculous and the Decline of Hell 139
Eleven "The Lowly Stamp of Their Origin": Religion's Corrupt Beginnings 155
Twelve A Coda: How Religions End 169
Thirteen Does Religion Make People Behave Better? 173
Fourteen There Is No "Eastern" Solution 195
Fifteen Religion as an Original Sin 205
Sixteen Is Religion Child Abuse? 217
Seventeen An Objection Anticipated: The Last-Ditch "Case" Against Secularism 229
Eighteen A Finer Tradition: The Resistance of the Rational 253
Nineteen In Conclusion: The Need for a New Enlightenment 277
Reading Group Guide 319
Posted July 15, 2009
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As someone who was raised in a pentecostal Christian household and yet miraculously turned out completely and utterly open-minded and inquisitive, I found this book truly compelling. My current view on religion could best be described as "agnostic," and this book helped to reinforce my beliefs (and non-beliefs). Hitchens presents point after well-crafted point that the thinking individual simply cannot ignore. He tackles the "big three" monotheistic religions (and touches on Eastern philosophies as well) with the apt authority of one who really knows his enemy, so to speak. He understands the teachings and stories of the Bible and the Qur'an very well, and deftly and unapologetically points out the many contradictions and sensationalisms therein. If Hitchens' goal was to leave me both enlightened (by his thought-provoking insights) and infuriated (by the dumbfounding machinations of religion), then I can happily say he has achieved a roaring success.
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Posted November 18, 2007
Although a Christian, i found this book pretty engaging. Hitchen makes some valid and interesting points that i've never even bothered to consider. Overall, while this is a controversial book, i would recommend it to others, as I believe everyone should be open to new ideas and gather insight to the other side of the argument.
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Posted June 20, 2009
If you're a religious person, it gives one pause. If anything it will provide you a different point of view about the basis of your thinking. It's a calm, rational, and well thought out argument for a point of view supporting agnosticism, and atheism. He doesn't push, but the points made need to be considered which challenge your point of view. If you subscribe to a faith, it will give you pause to reflect on how you rationalize your point of view with his. You need to approach the book for what it is; a well presented, rational but different point of view of religion(s), and belief in a "supreme being" regardless of which religion you subscribe (actively or not).
Trying to tackle his rational approach with platitudes, and edicts from your religion, is a waste of your money and time. He's not trying to get you to "convert" to anything; just a scholarly presentation of a point of view that isn't mainstream, but does reflect faith based actions of individuals, groups, and current religions.
If you're not, it is a different way of thinking, with many rational points of view presented, that are difficult to refute.
Personally, I share his point of view, but was never able to crystalize it as succinctly and with the background research he provides to move this point of view forward.
Religion has always been a practice of mysticism.
It was an enjoyable read.
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Posted June 21, 2009
This book NEEDS to be read by everyone out there to show once and for all that each and every religion is invented even the so-called good book. It's all nonsense when it comes down to belief in a superior being and author Hitchens is dead on accurate in what his book reveals which is the TRUTH. When we die, we're buried and that's it. Get this wonderful book and learn the truth! god didn't invent us, we invented him.
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Well researched and written. A fun read for all non-fiction fans, atheists and theists alike. Although an atheist myself, I would think this book to be an entertaining read to the theist/deist as well. But theists beware, this man does not keep his gloves up in the argument. As the title suggests, there is a huge bias against religion within the confines of its cover, but that should not suggest the author's assessment to be an incorrect one.
The esoteric vocabulary in the book could be a little dissuasive to a newbie on the subject. So, if this is your first book on these matters, I would recommend having a smart phone with a dictionary app close by to help you along.
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Posted November 23, 2008
Hitchens puts forth a very convincing argument but he tends to make the same point over and over again. He could have written one chapter and gotten his point across extremely well. After four chapters I threw down my iPod (figuratively speaking) and said "enough already!" <BR/><BR/>And his superior, holier-than-thou-sounding attitude doesn't help matters any. There's no doubt that he's brilliant and that he has a logical, thoughtful argument to make - but it really sounds like he's throwing it in our faces.
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Posted April 11, 2009
I Also Recommend:
After 25 years of bible study I have finally given up believing that the bible is based on truth. I bought the unabridged CD version and Christopher speaks in plain language why religious belief makes a person biased. Simple daily facts are called "good" or "bad" by religious people and the end result is always to isolate somebody else for what they do or what they are. He explains that all belief in GOD is really bad for society as a whole. This is a great book to stimulate your thinking.
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Besides the fact that Hitchens equates his BELIEF in a non-existent "God" with religion -- which is far from the truth -- his writing is far too pseudo-intellectually written in faux Old English, circa 1700. Very, very difficult to read. You'll have to read every sentence 3 times. (And I have a post-graduate degree.) His thoughts are all over the place. He refers to things like "it," or "that" and we have no idea to what he is referring. <BR/><BR/>He gets his facts wrong. For example, on page 113, he refers to "Barbelo" in the Nag Hammadi Library as "a heavenly destination, a motherland beyond the stars." It is correctly defined as a non-visible, feminine intermediary ASPECT of the divine, a "REALM" from which "Christ" comes--or IS. (It is actually a very poetic reference to something very real, something you can find out about in detail in an Amazon book that CHANGED MY LIFE forever: "BRAINMAN-HOW ANCIENT MAN USED FORBIDDEN BRAIN SCIENCE TO CONTACT TRUE GOD & INVENT THE HOLY GRAIL.")<BR/><BR/>Strangely, Hitchens refers to God and Jesus by name and as He as if they existed, which he doesn't believe. This is contradictory to his principles. Perhaps the only thing he is correct about is that religion is HARMFUL. Unfortunately, he also equates religion with God, which is NOT correct. Religion is NOT God, God is NOT religion, and God is not religious. <BR/><BR/>God Is Not Great? Which God? See, like most atheists, he actually DOES believe in only one God--the God the religious define as God--and then proceeds to reject it. This not only doesn't make sense, but precludes pursuing any OTHER G*d, as yet unknown by most, like the one from / in "Barbelo" as defined in gospels banned as heretical by the Catholic Church because they conflict with their exclusive trademark on God.<BR/><BR/>In the end, Hitchens merely presents more and more individual, unprovable BELIEFS and THEORIES rather than fact. What we need now is FACTUAL PROOF and we finally got it in "BRAINMAN-HOW ANCIENT MAN USED FORBIDDEN BRAIN SCIENCE TO CONTACT TRUE GOD & INVENT THE HOLY GRAIL."<BR/><BR/>And, like most atheists, Hitchens is just as firm in his BELIEFS as religious people and far from open-minded. He places extreme FAITH in his understanding of present-day science, making the assumption that science knows everything. It DOESN'T. (In fact, everyday scientists announce that they were wrong about another thing, having discovered something new, which tomorrow they will recant.) For someone to place 100% faith in science is just as irrational as placing faith in the dogma of an organized religion claiming to magically turn wine into blood and unleavened bread into flesh of a 2000-year-old, dead god-man. Apparently, Hitchens is unaware of the fact that, in the middle ages, the Catholic Church banned scientific study of various things and persecuted and executed those who disobeyed. This was an attempt to erase a science that science now knows nothing about, and distance "religion" from science, especially this FORBIDDEN science--which REVEALED the actual "realm of 'Christ'" (very different from Church dogma).<BR/><BR/>Hitchens's own scientific credentials? He is a liberal arts professor at the New School and a part-time writer at the highly scientific magazine Vanity Fair. Please! Amazing how someone so unschooled in science can place so much FAITH in it.
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Posted June 23, 2009
I've been a fan of "Hitch"'s from hello, so excuse the partiality.
Though a lot of the subject matter has been covered before, Hitchens
reframes it in a very logical way, introducing the reader to new scholars one has never heard of before, thereby encouraging further inquiry.
This was such a good read, it made me forget the clock while reading in bed. If it was a cigarette, I would've burned my house down! Oh, and the paperback is more pliable for bed.
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Posted April 11, 2009
This is completely retarded. I may be religious but my best friend is staunchly atheist. We have argued over this subject often and we have both come to the agreement that in the end it doesn't really matter whose wrong and whose right. Ignorant people like Christopher Hitchens will have to realize that religion in one form or another has existed almost all the way throughout our history as humans and for better or worse it's here to stay. Furthermore, I find it disturbing that Hitchens says religion is evil and immoral. Religion does so much good for so many people. Go ask the kids who come from the ghetto and childhoods of violence who found salvation through religion about the evils of religion. My biggest pet peave is how so many people put religion and science on two different sides. Why can they not be on the same side? Did God just wake up one day and say, "O i feel like throwing together some humbo-jumbo universe today." NO. Why could God not create a world that makes sense and has an underlying order? Is there some science law that states that if a world is made by a deity that it has to not be made by scientific laws? I am glad that Hitchens wrote this book to show people the ignorance of some of those around us. I won't say that religion is without fault. The church has made some questionable actions as well. The church is made of people, and no matter who you are humans are imperfect. That does not go for rapists, by the way. The priests who did those horrible things to children and others are not affiliated with the church in my mind. I believe that God is real, but I admit that I don't know. That's the whole point. None of us know so we cannot with certainty say that either side is right or wrong so why spend so much time and effort trying to prove each other wrong. I am a strong believer in letting people make up their own minds about what they believe and just let that be that.
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Posted August 24, 2008
Difficult at times for me to understand without looking things up on the internet, however for the most part it is easily understandable if you read carefully. I am in fact an atheist, but my personal views aside, do not condemn this book simply because the title disagrees with your beliefs. Read the book first (if anything it should give you an informative insight of the alternate point of view) then make your judgment.
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Posted December 6, 2007
Mr. Hitchens 'God Is Not Great' is quite the controversial book. Christopher talks mainly about the three main religions but also goes into the smaller ones and provides such a mound of evidence against all of them that its jaw dropping. He talks about the threats on him and his family for writing this book as well. Pretty much the book is his experiences and outlooks on religion. I really enjoyed the book. Its use of real world examples and facts build an unbeatable case against religion. I personally disagree with religion and although i have quite a few good reasons against it Mr. Hitchens's book gives me an arsenal to use against it. I think a book like this has been long overdue and the fact that books like this are starting to get more frequent show me that people are starting to see the problems with established religion. Up until only about 100 years ago anyone who spoke out against the church would just be killed but the times have changed and this book is the best proof of that.
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Posted January 21, 2010
I like Christopher Hitchens. I like his style. I like his insights. I like his political commentary. He certainly is provocative. He takes some extremely valid shots at all religions (though the only one with which I can claim any personal experience is evangelical Protestantism, among whose adherents I've been numbered for 37 of my 62 years). And he got me to read Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not a Christian"(1927). Frankly, I found him simplistic or simply misinformed on some central themes of the Christian faith. His generalizations are breath-taking, often hilarious, and sweeping(that's the nature of generalizations). So I'll label him with one of my own...his "trump card" for converting(or confirming)the reader to the author's point of view seems to boil down to "I'm smart; if you don't agree with what I say simply on the basis of me being the one who said it, you're not". That, by the way, is also my take on Bertrand Russell. As I said earlier, Hitchens does make some good points, but to throw the baby out with the bathwater does not seem to me to be a satisfactory answer. And that's about all he has to offer.
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Posted April 16, 2009
Many reviewers are merely expressing the fact that they didn't read Hitchens book by attacking merely the title. If you can't handle criticism, Christians, don't make statements about reality that you can't prove.
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Firstly, anytime you flat out reject any opinion or belief, you are not open minded, you are closed minded, because you do not have 'room' for another belief,opinion,point of view. Get it? So all you people saying you're so open minded b/c you don't believe in anything, get it right. It is impossible to believe in something or to not believe in anything and be open minded. We are all closed minded. Secondly, if you don't believe in anything, then does it matter if other people do? There are good people and bad people in this world, and to lump it all in one closed minded, broad ball and say religion/christians are all bad and only cause bad things? What 'intellegent' person would buy into this? There are good athiests and bad athiests, there are good christians and bad christians. Human nature is NOT perfect.But I would be an idiot to say that because I saw an athiest mug an elderly woman on the street that now, all athiests are lawless criminals.America was FOUNDED on christianity and who can say that one of the ten commandments of thou shalt not kill, isn't a just, good, law? There is nothing in the Bible but love, morals, and justice.Now,if you wanna go bark up another tree, bark up on Islam, where is clearly states in the quran that you will be rewarded to kill in the name of Allah. Powerhungry, wicked people have done their bidding under a viel of supposed righteousness and faith,and what those select people have done throughout history is wrong. My brother is a pastor and missionary. He has traveled all over the world feeding the hungry, funding medical care, and building structures for people who are less fortunate.He does it because he loves people, because he believes in God and believes that, as the bible says, you should love your neighbor as yourself.
seriously. blame the person,not the religion. it's like blaming the raindrops for falling.
This guy is smart. But I definately don't recommend his works.
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Posted January 16, 2010
His examples of evil done in the name of God (Allah, Yahweh or any of the multiple gods of antiquity) are right on the mark.
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Overall, God is not Great was an interesting read. I think that Christopher Hitchens had some very good points to make about religion, especially organized religion. I particularly enjoyed some of his personal experiences with various religions that he included in the book. He also presented some factual information that I was not aware of before reading God is not Great. However, his wrting style was bit tedious at times. It almost seemed to ramble at points. I also feel he made some large generalizations about religion and the religious that were a bit unfair. Nevertheless, there were points in the book where he actually gave religion its due and that has to be brought out as well. An interesting addition to the atheistic view.
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Posted December 23, 2007
I think Chris Hitchens is one of the world's most intellectual journalists, but this book reads like a choppy narrative. There are only a handful of chapters that are insightful (and understandable), but a credit to him, you may need to read up on your religious histories to get a full understanding of some of the topics he discusses.
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Posted January 9, 2010
Christopher Hitchens hits the nail on the head with this well documented account of how organized religions have caused immeasureable damage to mankind for thousands of years. He debunks all religions as "wish thinking" with no basis in fact. A good read for anyone who wants to learn and understand why religion is poison. One of the underlying premises asks why human beings are so willing to give up their innate ability to think for themselves by handing over that right to religions and so called religious leaders.
A MUST READ!
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Posted June 13, 2009
Christopher Hitchens knows how to get straight to the
point and takes on this topic with relish and unbridled
bluntness. This is a great book for discussion or study
groups. Wether you are a person of faith or not, this book
gives you an opportunity to use critical thinking and leave
your prejudices at the door.
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