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Book review: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

The God DelusionThe God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, makes the case that religion is not only a foolish relic of the pre-scientific past, but an outright evil because of its closed-mindedness. He says religion prevents rational, critical thinking and blames it for intolerance, slowing scientific progress, and causing unnecessary bloodshed throughout history. If you’re religious, I recommend this book for understanding the atheist arguments and motivation against religion.

Dawkins lumps all religions together as delusional; “major” religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, minor faiths such as Mormonism and various tribal religions, and even extinct religions such as those of the ancient Greeks. He sees no difference between extremists and moderates. Christians in the United States draw his condescending ire the most.

Dawkins says that religion was an early human invention for coping in a pre-scientific world. As a Christian, I believe that all religions are a perversion of the true religion, Christianity (with its Old Testament, Jewish roots), which mixed with human myths over millennia. I don’t have the time in this review to explain my reasons for believing that only one religion in all history is truly legitimate, but an atheist would probably find them preposterous anyway.

Dawkins makes several good points about many illogical defenses of religion and embarrassing attempts to reconcile faith and science. This is warning to Christians that we must be consistent in our beliefs. Many people practice selective faith, choosing which parts of the Bible are historical, which miracles really occurred, and which of God's commands to obey. It can be difficult to determine in all cases if a text is to be interpreted literally or figuratively, but we must try. When Christians treat their faith as à la carte religion, atheists understandably smell blood in the water.

The book addresses the roles of religion: explanation (how things work), exhortation (morality), consolation (comfort), and inspiration (purpose). According to Dawkins, science can fill all these roles, eliminating the need for religion. He says there’s no evidence or need for a Creator because science reveals the origin of the universe and life. He claims that morality and altruism have no supernatural origins, but arose from natural selection, and persist because of society and culture.

I disagree with Dawkins that creationists are lazily ignorant and don’t research. Admittedly, I’m a layman, but I’ve found that creationist organizations like the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis embrace modern scientific tools and techniques in their studies. Yes, they have a different worldview than their secular counterparts, but I don’t agree that it invalidates their scientific work.

The book contains many interesting statistics, such as the inverse relationship between education and intelligence levels and religious beliefs; in general, the higher a person’s education and IQ, the lower their self-professed level of faith. Also, there’s no statistical difference in morality between atheists and theists. In the US, “red” or conservative states tend to have higher crime rates than the “blue” liberal ones. Dawkins admits that there may be additional factors at play, and that such relationships may point more to correlation than strict causation.

I liked the book’s final chapter, which includes an interesting discussion of matter and energy, the unfathomable scale of the universe from the quantum up to the astronomical.

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Italia said…
The God Delusion perfectly illustrates his viewpoint to make the reader understand his perspectives concerning religion and needlessness of it. He breaks it down in simple terms and while there may be some "scholarly" language that might be hard for the average person to comprehend, he stays on track and delivers a thought-provoking insight into Atheism and the benefits for a lack of faith -- not only in an individual, but in society. Some may say that he came off "too harsh" regarding religion and its followers, but that is to be assumed that those accusations were inevitable. Richard Dawkins is a leader and this book proves it beyond just a theory.

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