God Is Not Great

by Christopher Hitchens

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
God Is Not Great
God Is Not Great

What are the big ideas? 1. Religion as a Man-Made Invention: The book argues that religion is a human creation and its origins are often shrouded in myth and uncert

Want to read ebooks, websites, and other text 3X faster?

From a SwiftRead user:
Feels like I just discovered the equivalent of fire but for reading text. WOW, WOW, WOW. A must have for me, forever.

What are the big ideas?

  1. Religion as a Man-Made Invention: The book argues that religion is a human creation and its origins are often shrouded in myth and uncertainty. This perspective challenges the belief that religious texts are divinely inspired and provides a more critical view of their historical contexts and cultural influences.
  2. Borrowing from Other Religions: The book highlights how Islam, in particular, has borrowed extensively from earlier Jewish and Christian myths. By examining these similarities and differences, the author sheds light on the development of religious ideas and beliefs throughout history.
  3. The Role of Religion in Justifying Violence: The book explores how religion has been used to justify violence against perceived enemies or outsiders. This analysis goes beyond general criticisms of religious violence by examining historical contexts, cultural influences, and political factors that contribute to religious conflict.
  4. Secular Pluralism as an Alternative to Religious and Secular Totalitarianism: The book advocates for secular pluralism as a way to promote individual freedom and challenge both religious and secular totalitarian regimes. This perspective emphasizes the importance of critical thinking, reason, and inquiry as essential alternatives to blind faith and submission.
  5. The Need for a New Enlightenment: The book calls for a new Enlightenment based on the study of mankind and accessible to everyone. This vision transcends prehistory and emphasizes the potential for discovery, healing, and progress through rational inquiry and skepticism. By contrasting the pursuit of truth with the possession of absolute truth or faith, the author offers a unique perspective on the role of reason and critical thinking in modern society.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One: Putting It Mildly


  • The author is an atheist and criticizes religious belief for its lack of evidence, contradictory nature, and harmful consequences.
  • Religion denies the reality of the natural world, promotes superstition, and hinders human progress.
  • Faith asserts certainty about unknowable things, disregards reason, and fosters intolerance and violence.
  • The argument between faith and reason is the foundation of all debates in philosophy, science, history, and human nature.
  • Religious people claim to know everything, but they cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers actually said or did.
  • Marx and Freud criticized religion as a source of false consolation and an obstacle to real happiness.
  • The author respects religious traditions and practices, but he cannot accept the belief that gods exist or that they have any relevance to human life.
  • Religion is man-made, it contradicts itself, and it hinders human progress. It will never die out, but we should strive for a world where faith is no longer a requirement for living a good and just life.


“My little ankle-strap sandals curled with embarrassment for her.”

“In the very recent past, we have seen the Church of Rome befouled by its complicity with the unpardonable sin of child rape, or, as it might be phrased in Latin form, "no child's behind left.”

“There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.”

“And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.”

“We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically: the disagreement between Professor Stephen Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning “punctuated evolution” and the unfilled gaps in post- Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication.”

“We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books.”

“Here is the point about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically. We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true - that religion has caused innumerate people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow.”

“I am so made that I cannot believe.”

“How much vanity must be concealed – not too effectively at that – in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan?”

“God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.”

“Past and present religious atrocities have occured not because we are evil, but because it is a fact of nature that the human species is, biologically, only partly rational. Evolution has meant that our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some unhappiness and disorder.”

“If you will devote a little time to studying the staggering photographs taken by the Hubble telescope, you will be scrutinizing things that are far more awesome and mysterious and beautiful—and more chaotic and overwhelming and forbidding—than any creation or “end of days” story. If you read Hawking on the “event horizon,” that theoretical lip of the “black hole” over which one could in theory plunge and see the past and the future (except that one would, regrettably and by definition, not have enough “time”), I shall be surprised if you can still go on gaping at Moses and his unimpressive “burning bush.”

“The most educated person in the world now has to admit-- I shall not say confess-- that he or she knows less and less but at least knows less and less about more and more.”

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.”

“I leave it to the faithful to burn each other's churches and mosques and synagogues, which they can be always relied upon to do”

“Religion poisons everything.”

Chapter Two: Religion Kills


  • Religion has a significant impact on shaping individuals' perceptions and actions towards other groups, often leading to intolerance, prejudice, and violence.
  • Throughout history, religious conflicts have fueled wars, oppression, and discrimination against various communities based on their beliefs or lack thereof.
  • The role of religion in justifying discrimination and violence is not limited to any particular faith but is a common phenomenon across religions.
  • The intersection of religion and politics can be particularly dangerous, as it often leads to the establishment of theocratic regimes that use religious dogma to justify their actions against perceived enemies or heretics.
  • It is essential to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding, encourage critical thinking and questioning within religious communities, and advocate for secular governance to prevent religious-based discrimination and violence.


“James Madison, the author of the First Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting any law respecting an establishment of religion, was also an author of Article VI, which states unambiguously that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” His later Detached Memoranda make it very plain that he opposed the government appointment of chaplains in the first place, either in the armed forces or at the opening ceremonies of Congress. “The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles.”

Chapter Three: A Short Digression on the Pig; or, Why Heaven Hates Ham


  • Religions often have dietary restrictions or prohibitions, including the ancient and persistent hatred and fear of pigs.
  • The hatred of pigs emerged in primitive Judaea and was used as a way for Jews to distinguish themselves.
  • Muslims also avoid consuming pork due to religious beliefs, despite the porcine role in Islamic literature like Animal Farm.
  • Pigs are intelligent animals that can display signs of intelligence and adaptability but are often kept in poor conditions.
  • The pig's cloven hoof became a symbol of diabolism, leading many to believe heaven hates ham.
  • Pigs share a significant amount of DNA with humans, making them one of our closer cousins.
  • Pig meat was not banned due to health concerns as trichinosis occurs in all climates and ancient Jewish settlements lack pig bones.
  • Early Semitic attitudes towards pigs were both reverent and repulsive, possibly derived from human sacrifice and cannibalism.
  • Porcophilia and porcophobia have been used for oppressive purposes, such as the Spanish Inquisition's use of charcuterie to detect heresy.
  • Muslim zealots in Europe are demanding removal of pig-related media from children's entertainment.
  • The treatment of pigs raises ethical concerns, with some advocating against factory farming and confinement.


“Nothing optional -- from homosexuality to adultery -- is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishment) have a repressed desire to participate.”

“As Shakespeare put it in 'King Lear,' the policeman who lashes the whore has a hot need to use her for the very offense for which he plies the lash.”

Chapter Four: A Note on Health, to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous


  • Religion's role in shaping human history and development cannot be underestimated, as it has significantly influenced politics, culture, art, literature, and education throughout history.
  • Organized religions have often been violent, intolerant, misogynistic, and xenophobic, causing harm to millions of people, especially children, who are indoctrinated with false beliefs and fear-mongering.
  • Religion's obsession with death and apocalypse stems from a deep-rooted human desire to see the world destroyed and an escapist fantasy where one can be spared and observe others suffer.
  • The wish for obliteration is not unique to any religion; it exists in all humans and is often exploited by religious leaders to maintain power and control over their followers.
  • Antibodies to fatalism, suicide, and masochism do exist within human nature, and people like Abraham Davenport have shown courage and determination in the face of religious extremism and apocalyptic fear-mongering.


“In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind old men as guides. —HEINRICH HEINE, GEDANKEN UND EINFALLE”

“The holy book in the longest continuous use—the Talmud—commands the observant one to thank his maker every day that he was not born a woman.”

“Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”

“It is a tragic and potentially lethal irony that those who most despise science and the method of free inquiry should have been able to pilfer from it and annex its sophisticated products to their sick dreams.”

Chapter Five: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False


  • The history of religion is characterized by a long period of coercion and violence, during which people were forced to believe in certain gods or deities under threat of death or ostracism.
  • Religions have offered consolation, solidarity, and uplift, but they have also caused immense suffering, destruction, and conflict.
  • Philosophers and theologians have debated abstract questions related to god's existence, nature, and role in the universe throughout history.
  • William Ockham was a medieval philosopher who made significant contributions to logic, theology, and the idea of "Ockham's razor" or the principle of parsimony.
  • Ockham questioned the necessity of assuming the existence of god as an explanation for natural phenomena and argued against the infinite regress of causes.
  • The "leap of faith," a key concept in religious thought, is an impractical and unsustainable notion that requires constant repetition and does not lead to genuine understanding or truth.


“One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think—though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one—that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell.”

“Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”

“Actually, the “leap of faith”—to give it the memorable name that Soren Kierkegaard bestowed upon it—is an imposture. As he himself pointed out, it is not a “leap” that can be made once and for all. It is a leap that has to go on and on being performed, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary. This effort is actually too much for the human mind, and leads to delusions and manias. Religion understands perfectly well that the “leap” is subject to sharply diminishing returns, which is why it often doesn’t in fact rely on “faith” at all but instead corrupts faith and insults reason by offering evidence and pointing to confected “proofs.” This evidence and these proofs include arguments from design, revelations, punishments, and miracles. Now that religion’s monopoly has been broken, it is within the compass of any human being to see these evidences and proofs as the feeble-minded inventions that they are.”

Chapter Six: Arguments from Design


  • The concept of a creator god is a human invention, based on limited knowledge and misunderstanding of natural phenomena.
  • The biblical account of creation is contradictory and inconsistent with scientific evidence.
  • The extinction of various civilizations, such as the Mayans and the Aztecs, was likely due to diseases introduced by European conquerors or germs that were indigenous but unknown to the conquered peoples.
  • The Burgess Shale discovery in 1909 provided insights into the early development of life on Earth and challenged the idea of a predetermined progression of evolution.
  • Recent discoveries in genetics suggest that the human brain is still evolving, challenging the idea of a fixed point in human development.
  • Religion has historically been used to explain natural phenomena and provide moral guidance, but with the advancement of knowledge and understanding, these functions are no longer dependent on the existence of a god.
  • The key takeaways are:
    • God is a human invention based on limited knowledge.
    • The biblical account of creation is contradictory and inconsistent with scientific evidence.
    • Extinction was likely due to diseases or unknown germs.
    • The Burgess Shale challenged the idea of predetermined evolution.
    • Human brain development is still evolving.


“On the other hand, and as if by way of compensation, religion teaches people to be extremely self-centered and conceited. It assures them that god cares for them individually, and it claims that the cosmos was created with them specifically in mind. This explains the supercilious expression on the faces of those who practice religion ostentatiously: pray excuse my modesty and humility but I happen to be busy on an errand for god.”

“(An astrologer of a London tabloid was once fired by means of a letter from his editor which began, “As you will no doubt have foreseen.”)”

“There but for the grace of God,' said John Bradford in the sixteenth century, on seeing wretches led to execution, 'go I.' What this apparently compassionate observation really means--not that it really 'means' anything--is, 'There by the grace of God goes someone else.”

“When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to test our faith. This cannot be disproved. Nor can my own pet theory that, from the patterns of behavior that are observable, we may infer a design that makes planet earth, all unknown to us, a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations. However, I was educated by Sir Karl Popper to believe that a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one.”

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either.”

“People keep saying, "God is in the details". He isn't in ours, unless his yokel creationist fans wish to take credit for his clumsiness, failure, and incompetence.”

“Evolution is, as well as smarter than we are, infinitely more callous and cruel, and also capricious.”

“Why do humans exist? A major part of the answer: because Pikaia Gracilens survived the Burgess decimation.”

“Thus, though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with.”

Chapter Seven: Revelation: The Nightmare of the “Old” Testament


  • The Old Testament's account of the exodus from Egypt and the events leading up to it, as described in the Book of Exodus, cannot be historically verified.
  • Archaeological evidence does not support the biblical narrative, as no artifacts or remains have been found that can be definitively linked to these events.
  • The Old Testament contains numerous inconsistencies, anachronisms, and implausible elements that raise questions about its historical accuracy.
  • Some passages in the Old Testament advocate for horrific acts, such as massacres of entire populations, and contain disturbing sexual undertones.
  • The idea that Moses wrote the books attributed to him is unlikely, as they contain inconsistencies and anachronisms that suggest a later authorship.
  • Deuteronomy, in particular, contains numerous anachronisms and contradictions that point to a late date of composition.
  • There is no evidence for the existence of manna or for the events described in Numbers 12:3, which portray Moses as meek above all men.
  • The Old Testament's descriptions of God and his actions are often violent, vengeful, and inconsistent with a benevolent deity.
  • The Old Testament's portrayal of women is problematic, with numerous passages advocating for their subjugation or outright violence against them.
  • The Old Testament's depiction of history is narrowly focused on the concerns of a particular people and reveals a limited understanding of the world beyond their immediate environment.


“The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.”

“In The Future of an Illusion, Freud made the obvious point that religion suffered from one incurable deficiency: it was too clearly derived from our own desire to escape from or survive death. This critique of wish-thinking is strong and unanswerable,”

Chapter Eight: The “New” Testament Exceeds the Evil of the “Old” One


  • The Old Testament contains numerous dreams and astrology references, and stories of prophets who believed themselves to be gods or sons of gods.
  • The New Testament also includes references to stars and dreams, as well as accounts of Jesus performing miracles through magic and casting out demons.
  • Many of Jesus' teachings are unintelligible or contradictory, with some appearing immoral or absurd.
  • The story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3–11) has numerous inconsistencies and is not found in our oldest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of John.
  • Many of the sayings and teachings of Jesus are hearsay upon hearsay, as they were passed down through generations and recorded long after the events they describe supposedly occurred.
  • The idea that Jesus was divine or the son of God is a non-sequitur, as it does not logically follow from his reported teachings or actions.
  • It is possible that some personality similar to Jesus may have existed, but the holy texts provide insufficient evidence and contain numerous inconsistencies and fabrications.

Chapter Nine: The Koran Is Borrowed from Both Jewish and Christian Myths


  • The origins of Islam are shrouded in myth and uncertainty, making it difficult to establish a definitive historical record.
  • The Koran, as the sacred text of Islam, is believed by Muslims to be the final and unalterable word of God. However, its compilation was a complex process with many versions and variants, and there are numerous contradictions and inconsistencies within the text.
  • The hadith, which contains sayings and actions attributed to Muhammad, is another important source of Islamic belief and practice. However, the reliability of these sources is questionable due to their oral transmission and the long chains of witnesses required to authenticate them.
  • Islam's claim to be the final revelation is problematic given its borrowing from earlier religious traditions, such as Judaism and Christianity, and its inconsistencies and contradictions.
  • The physical existence of Muhammad and his descendants has made Islam more tangible and relatable, but it also introduces human fallibility and the potential for hereditary conflicts and disputes over succession.
  • While there are spiritual and Sufi versions of Islam that focus on inner transformation and personal piety, the core claim of Islam's unalterability makes it resistant to critical inquiry and reformation. This has led some to argue that Islam lacks a 'reformation' in the sense of Christianity or Judaism. However, there are ongoing debates and discussions within Islamic scholarship regarding the interpretation and contextualization of its sacred texts.


“To all those who I do not know, and who live in the worlds where superstition and barbarism are still dominant, and into whose hands I hope this little book may fall, I offer the modest encouragement of an older wisdom. It is in fact this, and not any arrogant preaching that come to us out of the whirlwind: "Die stimme der vernunft ist leise". Yes, The voice of reason is very soft, but it is very persistent. In this, and in the lives and minds of combatants known and unknown, we repose our chief hope.”

Chapter Ten: The Tawdriness of the Miraculous and the Decline of Hell


  • Religion is a human invention, created by our ancestors to explain natural phenomena and provide moral guidance in an often chaotic world.
  • The origins of religion can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China.
  • The major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, share common themes but also have distinct differences in belief systems, practices, and cultural contexts.
  • Religion has been used throughout history to justify war, oppression, and the subjugation of women and marginalized communities.
  • The scientific revolution, particularly the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, challenged religious beliefs by providing rational explanations for natural phenomena.
  • The argument from authority is a weak argument, as it relies on trusting sources that may be unreliable or biased.
  • The loss of faith can be compensated by immersion in secular literature and art, as well as by embracing the wonders of the natural world and the potential for human progress.
  • Acknowledging the man-made nature of religion does not diminish its historical or cultural significance, but rather allows us to learn from it while also striving for a more enlightened and compassionate society.


“The suspicion that a calamity might also be a punishment is further useful in that it allows an infinity of speculation. After New Orleans, which suffered from a lethal combination of being built below sea level and neglected by the Bush administration, I learned from a senior rabbi in Israel that it was revenge for the evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, and from the mayor of New Orleans (who had not performed his own job with exceptional prowess) that it was god’s verdict on the invasion of Iraq. You can nominate your own favorite sin here, as did the “reverends” Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell after the immolation of the World Trade Center. In that instance, the proximate cause was to be sought and found in America’s surrender to homosexuality and abortion. (Some ancient Egyptians believed that sodomy was the cause of earthquakes: I expect this interpretation to revive with especial force when the San Andreas Fault next gives a shudder under the Gomorrah of San Francisco.)”

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. This is even more true when the “evidence” eventually offered is so shoddy and self-interested.”

“Thus , dear reader, if you have come this far and found your own faith undermined—as I hope—I am willing to say that to some extent I know what you are going through. There are days when I miss my own convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.”

Chapter Eleven: “The Lowly Stamp of Their Origin”: Religion’s Corrupt Beginnings


  • Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have received golden plates from an angel and translated them into the Book of Mormon. However, the translation process involved multiple scribes, and there is no evidence that these plates actually existed.
  • The Book of Mormon contains significant borrowing from the Old and New Testaments and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews.
  • Mormonism emerged in a time when many people were seeking new opportunities and religious movements, creating fertile ground for its growth.
  • Mormon beliefs include the idea that the natives of America are descendants of Israelites and the belief that black people are not full humans, which was later revised.
  • The Mormons have faced criticism for their historical fabrications and racist doctrines, but they have also made significant advancements in genealogy and religious inclusivity.
  • Religion can be a source of both harm and good, with the potential to provide comfort and community as well as to justify violence and oppression.
  • The study of religion raises questions about the motivations and beliefs of religious leaders, their followers, and the role of belief in belief itself.

Chapter Twelve: A Coda: How Religions End


  • Sabbatai Sevi, a Jewish mystic in the 17th century, claimed to be the Messiah and attracted widespread followings across the Mediterranean and beyond.
  • His claims were based on his interpretation of Kabbalistic texts and resulted in passionate debates among scholars and learned men.
  • Sabbatai's arrival was met with hysterical reception from some Jewish communities, while others remained skeptical.
  • The Ottoman imperial authorities and the Muslim religious authority recognized Sabbatai as a secular and religious challenge and handled him with caution.
  • Sabbatai was eventually denounced as an immoral and heretical figure, leading to his trial by ordeal and eventual conversion to Islam.
  • His followers divided into factions after his death, adopting various beliefs about his continued existence and return as the Messiah.
  • The Sabbatai Sevi religion survived in a tiny syncretic sect called the Donme, which conceals a Jewish loyalty within an outward Islamic observance.
  • Sabbatai's claims of being the Messiah were not unique, with other religious movements also making similar claims and resulting in schisms and excommunications.

Chapter Thirteen: Does Religion Make People Behave Better?


  • The role of religion in causing or preventing violence is complex and debated.
  • Some religious leaders have incited violence, while others have worked for peace.
  • Religious beliefs can be used to justify violence against perceived enemies or outsiders.
  • Religious communities have been the victims of violence and persecution.
  • The relationship between religion and violence is influenced by historical, cultural, and political factors.
  • Some argue that religious belief can promote peace and charity, while others contend that it can fuel conflict and intolerance.
  • The Pope John Paul II made apologies during his papacy for past wrongs committed in the name of Christianity, but did not apologize for the Rwandan genocide or other major atrocities.


“Christian reformism arose originally from the ability of its advocates to contrast the Old Testament with the New. The cobbled-together ancient Jewish books had an ill-tempered and implacable and bloody and provincial god, who was probably more frightening when he was in a good mood (the classic attribute of the dictator). Whereas the cobbled-together books of the last two thousand years contained handholds for the hopeful, and references to meekness, forgiveness, lambs and sheep, and so forth. This distinction is more apparent than real, since it is only in the reported observations of Jesus that we find any mention of hell and eternal punishment. The god of Moses would brusquely call for other tribes, including his favorite one, to suffer massacre and plague and even extirpation, but when the grave closed over his victims he was essentially finished with them unless he remembered to curse their succeeding progeny. Not until the advent of the Prince of Peace do we hear of the ghastly idea of further punishing and torturing the dead. First presaged by the rantings of John the Baptist, the son of god is revealed as one who, if his milder words are not accepted straightaway, will condemn the inattentive to everlasting fire. This has provided texts for clerical sadists ever since, and features very lip-smackingly in the tirades of Islam.”

“[T]o believe in a god is in one way to express a willingness to believe in anything. Whereas to reject the belief is by no means to profess belief in nothing.”

Chapter Fourteen: There Is No “Eastern” Solution


  • The term "faith" can refer to any belief that is not based on evidence or reason, including religious beliefs and political ideologies.
  • Many Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, have been used to justify violence and oppression throughout history.
  • The idea of a "holy land" or "sacred text" can be used to exclude and marginalize certain groups of people.
  • Religious leaders have a history of making baseless assumptions and using emotional appeals to manipulate their followers.
  • The concept of "faith" can lead individuals to abandon critical thinking and rational inquiry, making them more susceptible to manipulation and deceit.

Chapter Fifteen: Religion as an Original Sin


  • The idea that humans bear original sin, which requires redemption through Jesus's sacrifice, is a fundamental tenet of Christianity but is morally problematic as it collectivizes guilt and implies that humans are responsible for events they had no control over.
  • The concept of eternal punishment for sins committed in this life is immoral and unjust, as it goes against the idea of free will and individual responsibility.
  • Religions often impose impossible or immoral rules on their followers, such as forbidding thoughts or actions that are natural and essential to human beings, leading to hypocrisy, spiritual police states, or both.
  • The rule against lending money at interest is an example of a rule that attempts to restrict human initiative but is impossible to obey without causing economic harm.
  • The concept of free will raises the question of who devised the rules that humans must follow but also must not, such as those regarding sexuality, and whether these rules have any true scriptural authority.


“The essential principle of totalitarianism is to make laws that are impossible to obey.”

Chapter Sixteen: Is Religion Child Abuse?


  • Religion has historically played a significant role in shaping attitudes toward sexuality and reproduction.
  • The Bible contains numerous instances of genital mutilation, including male circumcision and female infibulation.
  • The religious justifications for these practices include fulfilling a covenant with god, ensuring ethnic solidarity, and weakening the sexual organs to reduce pleasure and promote chastity.
  • The practice of male circumcision has been defended on the basis of hygiene and health benefits, but these claims have been debunked by modern medicine.
  • Religion has also played a role in promoting sexual repression and taboos, such as the prohibition against masturbation, which have caused harm and suffering to individuals throughout history.
  • The Catholic Church's handling of child abuse scandals is an example of the harm that can result when those in positions of power and authority are allowed to control vulnerable populations without accountability.


“Nothing proves the man-made character of religion as obviously as the sick mind that designed hell.”

Chapter Seventeen: An Objection Anticipated: The Last-Ditch “Case” Against Secularism


  • Totalitarian regimes, whether secular or religious, seek to replace religion and offer a total solution for all aspects of life.
  • Religion's emphasis on blind faith and submission can lead to authoritarian and even totalitarian tendencies.
  • Anti-Semitism has been closely linked with totalitarianism and religion, as various groups have sought to justify their exclusion or persecution of Jews based on biblical or racial grounds.
  • The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa's support for apartheid is an example of how religious institutions have played a role in enforcing racist ideologies and totalitarian regimes.
  • The connection between religion, racism, and totalitarianism persists today, with examples such as the Islamic State and its interpretation of sharia law as a justification for extreme violence and oppression.
  • Secular pluralism, or the defense of individual freedom to believe or not believe, is an essential alternative to both religious and secular totalitarian regimes.


“it is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or Nazis or Stalinists”

“The idea of a utopian state on earth, perhaps modeled on some heavenly ideal, is very hard to efface and has led people to commit terrible crimes in the name of the ideal.”

“In order to be a part of the totalitarian mind-set, it is not necessary to wear a uniform or carry a club or a whip. It is only necessary to wish for your own subjection, and to delight in the subjection of others.”

“The North Korean state was born at about the same time that Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, and one could almost believe that the holy father of the state, Kim Il Sung, was given a copy of the novel and asked if he could make it work in practice. Yet even Orwell did not dare to have it said that "Big Brother's" birth was attended by miraculous signs and portents - such as birds hailing the glorious event by singing in human words.”

Chapter Eighteen: A Finer Tradition: The Resistance of the Rational


  • The ancient Greeks made significant contributions to philosophy, science, literature, and the arts, which were later suppressed during periods of Jewish oppression and self-imposed isolation.
  • The Maccabean revolt in 165 BC led to the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty and the observance of Hannukah, but it also resulted in the violent suppression of Jews who had adopted Hellenistic culture.
  • The rift between Athens and Judaism had far-reaching consequences, contributing to the rise of Christianity and eventually Islam.
  • The Jewish people could have carried the torch of philosophy instead of monotheism, but their history was marked by fear, superstition, and self-imposed isolation.
  • The influence of the ancient Greeks on Judaism and its subsequent development has left a lasting impact on Western civilization.


“Philosophy begins where religion ends, just as by analogy chemistry begins where alchemy runs out, and astronomy takes the place of astrology.”

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”

“Even the great Thomas Paine, a friend to Franklin and Jefferson, repudiated the charge of atheism that he was not afraid to invite. Indeed, he set out to expose the crimes and horrors of the Old Testament, as well as the foolish myths of the New, as part of a vindication of god. No grand and noble deity, he asserted, should have such atrocities and stupidities laid to his charge. Paine’s Age of Reason marks almost the first time that frank contempt for organized religion was openly expressed. It had a tremendous worldwide effect. His American friends and contemporaries, partly inspired by him to declare independence from the Hanoverian usurpers and their private Anglican Church, meanwhile achieved an extraordinary and unprecedented thing: the writing of a democratic and republican constitution that made no mention of god and that mentioned religion only when guaranteeing that it would always be separated from the state.”

Chapter Nineteen: In Conclusion: The Need for a New Enlightenment


  • True value lies in pursuit of Truth, not possession of it
  • We cannot "choose" absolute truth or faith; skepticism and inquiry are better options
  • Religions can be seen as "fossilized philosophies" with questions left out
  • Aquinas' belief that god would scrutinize his work before levitating was misguided
  • Iran's belief in the occulted Imam's need for updates through a well is an example of religious superstition
  • The confrontation between faith and civilization has taken on new significance with nuclear weapons
  • Islamic mobs' violations of diplomatic immunity and threats against civilians should not have gone unchallenged
  • Prayer studies have shown no correlation with patient recovery
  • Discoveries in science and reason are making advances, while religious forces seek to impede progress
  • Religion offers either annihilation or false promises instead of the potential for discovery and healing
  • A new Enlightenment is needed, based on the study of mankind and accessible to everyone
  • We must transcend prehistory and prepare to fight against those who want to drag us back to the past.


“To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”

“Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by easy electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone. However, only the most naive utopian can believe that this new humane civilization will develop, like some dream of “progress,” in a straight line. We have first to transcend our prehistory, and escape the gnarled hands which reach out to drag us back to the catacombs and the reeking altars and the guilty pleasures of subjection and abjection. “Know yourself,” said the Greeks, gently suggesting the consolations of philosophy. To clear the mind for this project, it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it.”


What do you think of "God Is Not Great"? Share your thoughts with the community below.