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The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer

4.3 65
by Christopher Hitchens

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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


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

Editorial Reviews

Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism: British atheist Christopher Hitchens is an equal-opportunity nonbeliever. In this provocative anthology, the author of God Is Not Great draws support from famed free thinkers, including Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, and H. L. Mencken.
Publishers Weekly

Interconnecting a vast range of sources from Lucretius to more contemporary authors, Hitchens brings together a mix of naysayers and skeptics regarding religion and, in particular, God. While not all of his selections are by fervent atheists, Hitchens connects them in such a way as to explore how and why people have rejected religious beliefs throughout the ages. Additionally, he provides valuable introductions to many of the pieces, situating them for the listener in the context of his overall argument. While some provide great insight and questions for listeners, others are only tangentially relevant. Nicholas Ball has an agreeable voice, but when transitioning from introductions to the excerpt, he rarely pauses and listeners may not even realize the excerpt is being read. His timing and speed may work well with other material, but lacks the reflection and nuance needed for this diverse and complex work with many different writing styles. Simultaneous release with the Da Capo hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 29). (Jan.)

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Library Journal

Since the publication of his best-selling secularist manifesto, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens has become a visible and vocal advocate, along with fellow atheists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris, of a return to Enlightenment values and a rejection of religion. The Portable Atheistcontinues that agenda by collecting a diverse sampling of secularist literature that spans more than two millennia. Each selection includes a short introduction by Hitchens that explains its historical context, its significance, and its influence on the development of secular thought. The 47 readings here represent a broad cross section of literature by nonbelievers, with selections from poets, novelists, journalists, philosophers, and scientists. Gathered here are many of the best-known secularists, from Lucretius and David Hume to Bertrand Russell and Carl Sagan. This collection also includes previously unpublished works by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Nicholas Ball provides versatile and nuanced readings across multiple genres, from the lilting verse of Omar Khayyam's The Rubaiyatto the denser prose of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. Ball should capture the attention, if not the sympathies, of believers and unbelievers alike. Highly recommended for all general library collections, but particularly those with large religion, history, and philosophy holdings.
—Philip Bader

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.37(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. His numerous books include Letters to a Young Contrarian and Why Orwell Matters.

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Portable Atheist 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
ProfDave More than 1 year ago
Occasionally, I require a well documented collection of works on a single subject. Hitchens' The Portable Atheist is just one of those books. As a journalist and commentator (Columbia Missourian and InkandVoice.com) I need to have a broader reach than my own feeble library can give me, and I do not have graduate students to do the research I need. The information found in this text is supportive of Hitchens' personal truths and of what Victor Stenger calls "naturalism" and some call "sciencism." You will find nothing here to support any of the world's great or minor religous beliefs. For those in search of the "meaning of life," Hitchens does not provide a spiritual or mystical answer. His collection of writings, from ancient to modern, science and philosophy, is designed to make the unsure think, the nonbeliever grounds for support and the believer new arguments. What the reader will find missing in this collection is the anger that is usually found in Hitchens and other new atheist writings. By selecting works of others, the reader can forgo the evangelical zeal associated with the new atheist movement as they can avoid the zeal of the neo-Christian and Islamic movements. Do not think about reading this in a single sitting or, for many, from front of back covers. Hitchens maintains the integrity of language and thought and does not provide commentary or interpretation; he leaves that up to the reader. If your goal is theological, philosophical, scientific or political argument, persuasion or understanding, this is a must for your personal research library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A thought-provoking compilation of writings from scientists, philosophers, writers, and other great minds. Hitchens' brief introductions to each author's writings are witty and brilliant as usual, as is his main introduction to the book. Wonderful, compelling writing that expounds on the rationalist view and highlights the importance of the use of reason as a test for all of our ideas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
an excellent collection, and a worthy read. it will make you think, so if you are uncomfortable in thought, do not read this book.
anookcantcook More than 1 year ago
If you feel alone in your disbelief, this book can be a good touchstone. I find myself reading through it a few times throughout the year. This book's collection of freethinkers' essays is a must in the library of those who are not sure about a god or are sincerely certain there is no god. Good reading and thinking to you.
Shaad Abdullah More than 1 year ago
Religion is absurd, this book does justice in favor of reason and logic. Very well researched.
Lynmo More than 1 year ago
Despite the fact that Mr. Hitchens is a bit too impressed with himself and condescending towards others this book is well researched and thought out. It has sparked several conversations in my household.
PDFryer More than 1 year ago
The late, great Christopher Hitchens has left us an enormous, now parting gift. Ever wonder what were the underpinnings of atheism? We see examples from history and philosophy, psychology, sociology, and much from organized religions. Examples from literature, art, music and politics abound. My only quibble is in the uninspired titling and lack of artwork. Maybe in a revised edition?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Someone ask: who is Chistopher Hitchen's audience 'another review'? It is academia or his peers and the rest of us secondarily by necessity. His sentence expressions can be a struggle, but to anyone intelligent he is a disciplined thinker and assimilates ideas from renowned contributors. Few of us experience the kind of scrutiny, nor possess the drive to achieve what Mr. Hitchens has accomplished. Some of us try. I am an obsessive golfer and just average plus, despite my best efforts. Players do golf under par, but few, and it requires total physical and mental effort to bring down their score. That does not mean a wider audience cannot appreciate the achievers that do exhibit rare expertise and persuasive skills either in a frivolous game or on a profound topic. To digress a little more - I am reminded of what Bobby Knight 'coach' said during an interview '60 Minutes' as he discussed Indiana's recruitment of High School Standouts. He mentioned that one such standout asserted that he was going to help them out. Mr Knight responded to him in a way that was classic: 'no we are going to help you out!' We should not be so smug, most of us are not as smart of good as we think we are. An open mind affects one's ability to study and/or learn something that is hard to digest or grasp and will also add to one's presence. The theory of biological evolution falls in the category of complex subject matter. I would recommend the PBS series on Evolution for a great introduction 'Netflick has all this educational type stuff'. This kind of learning is different than dogmatic script and so are the rewards. On another point, and I can speak for the world, many of us 'not me but a few relatives and friends' are screwed up so completely that we may be doomed before our time. Believe me, if bad things happen, it won't be due to the predictions in Revelations, but mankind's assult on mother earth. Mr. Hitchen's appeal for sanity from all this whackyness is refreshing 'Includes politicians too!'. For those individuals with their heads full of nonsense with esoteric group think, you might want to ponder this question: Is this where I should be in my brief life? Incidentally, I'm a christian whose bible has been picked nearly clean by scientific discovery and reason, but there is still some good stuff left. However, I'm sure that I no longer meet the fit, no real Christians seem to accept me, but they have changed too, it used to be worse - think inquistion, etc. Anyway, keep up the courageous work Mr. Hitchens, truth to thyself matters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good base of knowledgeable and logical thoughts for non believers. Not surprised religious people bash it, but dont let it keep you from reading it if you use your frontal lobe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the strength in his writing. This opens the door for follow up reading in the bibliography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This great man had somthing to say. He always said it and said it well.i dont know the next time someone like him may come about. I recomend you read this and anything eles he put out. It will raise your contiousness and expand your mind. Thank humanity for Christopher Hitchens.
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This well-chosen selection of humanist and atheistic source material ranges in difficulty from the easily understanable but emotionally evocative story of a young female Muslim apostate living with the ramifications of her realization that Allah is a hoax to the elevated philosophical arguments of Spinoza and Hume which bear reading and re-reading to divine the subtleties of their logic. Hitch remains out of the spotlight for the most part, content to serve as a literary master of ceremonies in introducing each selection. This is most definitely a worthy reference volume for atheists and freethinkers who seek a bit of a challenge, but will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation for the power of human reason.
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