June 22, 2007
The good news: according to the (subscription-only) Wall Street Journal, Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is one of this summer’s surprise bestsellers. Seven weeks after being launched with an initial run of 40,000 copies, the book now has 296,000 hardcover copies in print, and Hitchens is set to earn at least $1 million for debunking America’s One True Deity™©.
The bad news: apparently the religious crazies are snapping up copies. It’s not clear whether that’s because they care about knowing thine enemy, or plan mass book burnings.
Whatever: the past year has probably seen the strongest sales of atheist books in history. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion has 500,000 hardcover copies in print, Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation has 185,000, while anti-religious books by Daniel Dennett and Victor Stenger account for another 120,000 or so between them.
Hitchens, meanwhile, is winning friends and influencing people during a marathon U.S. publicity tour:
An estimated 1,000 turned out in Miami to listen to Mr. Hitchens challenge a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. “I now wish I hadn’t participated,” says Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. “He was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show.”
Mr. Hitchens says he purposely focused his tour on what he describes as “the states of the Old Confederacy,” in part because he says that people in the South are more generous-spirited and less religious than generally thought. He also knew that religion was of particular interest. “Everywhere we had to turn hundreds away,” he says. “I wouldn’t say that I won or lost those the debates, but the audience was much more on my side than people predicted.”
… Mr. Hitchens says he has received surprisingly little hate mail since his book was published. What does he think readers have learned from “God is Not Great?” “That your life is probably better led after you’ve outgrown the idea that the universe has a plan for you,” he says. “The cosmos isn’t designed with you in mind. You might as well just consult an astrological chart.”
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