God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

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A Year in Reading: Alex Rose


Alex Rose is a co-founder and editor of Hotel St. George Press. He is the author of the The Musical Illusionist and Other Tales, praised by Library Journal as “a potential cult classic” and the Village Voice as “uncanny.” His stories and essays have appeared in the Reading Room, McSweeney’s, the North American Review, the Forward and the Providence Journal, among others. As a filmmaker, Rose’s short films and videos have screened in over two dozen festivals worldwide, as well as on many television networks, including HBO, ShowTime, Comedy Central, the BBC and MTV.Of the many atheist manifestos to hit the shelves within the past few years – among them, The End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, and God is Not Great – none have been so deliciously rewarding as The God Delusion, by the world-renowned evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins.It’s to his credit that Dawkins has never been concerned with the tactics of the science vs. faith debate, with strategic savvy and political niceties, but simply with determining what is true. He believes that the “God hypothesis” falls in the realm of science in much the same way that other matters, such as the chemical composition of stars, or the mechanics of visual perception were once considered unanswerable until clear-headed investigation proved otherwise. Similarly, he claims, if we are genuinely concerned with the universe, with what exists and what does not, we should want to use modern methods and reasoning to reach a conclusion, as we do with nearly every other practical endeavor, rather than resort to myths, atavisms and soothsayings.Because he is smart, Dawkins is careful not to state unequivocally that no omniscient deity could exist, only that the likelihood is so low that one may just as reasonably presume the existence of Zeus, Thor, or the “flying spaghetti monster.” The case he makes for this position is exhaustive, factoring in countless examples from biology, philosophy, history, politics and human rights.As punishing as he can be, however, Dawkins is no provocateur. Indeed, his approach is neither superior and exasperated (like Hitchens and Harris), nor apologetic and kiddy-gloved (like Dennet). Not since Bertrand Russell has the balance between criticism and tolerance, between intellectual rigor and deeply felt compassion, been so masterfully struck.More from A Year in Reading 2007

2007 National Book Award Finalists Announced

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This year’s National Book Award finalists have been announced. In the fiction category, the big name is Denis Johnson, who immediately becomes the presumptive favorite for his novel Tree of Smoke. Joshua Ferris, meanwhile, makes a splash with his debut effort Then We Came to the End. And in the nonfiction category, let’s not ignore “The Hitch.” Not making the cut are notable novelists like Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Don Delillo, Junot Diaz, and Richard Russo. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:Fiction:Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski (excerpts)Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis (briefly noted)Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (excerpt, a favorite of TEV’s, a “most anticipated” book)Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (excerpt, a “most anticipated” book)Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard (excerpt, Apparently, Shepard’s publisher forgot to submit his books for NBA consideration in 2004)Nonfiction:Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat (excerpt)God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (excerpt, Atheism Hits the Bestseller ListUnruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton (excerpt)Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad (excerpt)Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner (excerpt)Poetry:Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson (excerpt)Time and Materials by Robert Hass (poem)The House on Boulevard St. by David Kirby (excerpt, Kirby’s colorful website)Old Heart by Stanley Plumly (excerpt)Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt (poem)Young People’s Literature:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (excerpt)Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One by Kathleen Duey (excerpt)Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin (excerpt)The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (excerpt)Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (author blog)

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