Book review: “The God Delusion”

May 24, 2007 at 6:22 am | Posted in atheism, culture, religion, Richard Dawkins, society, terrorism | 5 Comments

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

God Delusion Book CoverI bought this book to use for school – a humanities assignment. The assignment was to analyze a medieval document using a modern critical theory. While I doubt Richard Dawkins would describe himself as a theorist, I used his arguments and analysis nonetheless. I’ve included my paper in the link above.

It’s worth mentioning right away that Richard Dawkins is a great writer. His arguments are very clear, well explained, and anticipatory. The book is laid out very well and is a pleasure to read. There is nothing worse than picking up a book that looks interesting and then having to force yourself to finish it – this is definitely not one of those.

Also worth immediate mention is that he is an atheist (just in case you were not already aware). His book is intended to expose “the God delusion”, show that God does not exist, and demonstrate that society can function without religion or any gods. I share his atheist perspective and views on religion, so the book for me was very affirmative and was great in developing my own thoughts. I have lots of ideas about why people insist on believing in God and many opinions on the damage that religion does to our society, but I’ve never been able to articulate my thoughts to the extent that Dawkins does in his book.

Dawkins clears up or clarifies some famous scientists usage of the words God and religion. When Einstein and Sagan referred to God or when someone tells you that Sagan converted on his deathbed, Dawkins describes how they are manipulating these great men’s words to suit their own purpose. He then goes on to point out the “undeserved respect” that religion is afforded, especially here in the United States. I’m guilty of this. That is, respecting one’s religious viewpoints and therefore placing little value on my own. I live in North Carolina, what many would describe as a definite member of the “bible belt”. Many here seem to be drenched in religiosity and at times I fear for my job or my life lest I tell too many others that I am an atheist. But consider one very well-made point by Dawkins: why is it that native Americans can consume “illegal drugs” on the grounds of religion while someone dying of cancer can’t have a joint to ease their suffering? Because religion trumps everything!

Dawkins continues by describing what he terms “the God hypothesis”. You’ll read about all the different hypotheses for God’s existence across time and cultures and, of course, Richard Dawkins’ countering viewpoint. I do have one problem with one of his arguments, however, that I would be grateful if someone could clear up for me. Dawkins states that this book will “advocate an alternative view…any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution (31).” So if a God is an end product of evolution, couldn’t that evolution have taken place somewhere else? I’ll state again, I’m an atheist, but Dawkins should have left this argument out or tweaked it a little. Think about the movie The Matrix. My favorite quote from this chapter (only because it so accurately illustrates the dominant self-serving faith that seems to be all around us) is: “There are athletes who believe God helps them win – against opponents who would seem, on the face of it, no less worthy of his favourtism. There are motorists who believe God saves them a parking space – thereby presumably depriving somebody else.” (60)

Dawkins goes on to describes the ill effects of religion on today’s world and culture. Whether it’s terrorism, abuse, or morality, he covers it all. And for me, he even does a relatively decent job of explaining why as an atheist I shouldn’t be silent. For so long I have kept my mouth shut trying to be respectful of others, but now I’m not so sure. Now I may be more willing to challenge someone’s blind assumptions or factless beliefs.

No matter your viewpoint, no matter your opinion, you should definitely check out this book. I knew what I was getting into when I bought it and like I said before, it has really helped me deal with a lot of the feelings and inclinations I already had. I can’t wait to read his next book!

Advertisements

5 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. A good review. I’ll get back to you for clarification on page 31 issue. I would be happier if you have already quoted the lines.

    from whatever I can remember : he’s pointing that a designer has to be complex (like a human being) to be able to ‘design’ at least something. So, a more complex God, has to be a result/end product of ” an extended process of gradual evolution” – implies, God has to be created at the first place.

  2. You are right that a god “could” have evolved, but there is no such claim on the God of Abraham in the bible or in any literature. His issue is with supernatural entities. An evolved god would not be supernatural. I believe he points this out, or something similar somewhere in the beginning chapters (I read it a while ago, so I do not recall exactly the spot). Aliens could appear as gods to us as well, and this is a similar concept, where the aliens are so advanced that they could create their own universe.

    I enjoyed the book as well. I appreciated is explainations of agnostic vs. atheist, the god of Spinoza (Einstein’s “god”), and his point near the end of the importance of reading the bible so that one can appreciate Western literature.

    Perhaps this will help expand your knowledge in this area and answer some of your questions:

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Godless/Summary.htm

    I highly recommend this book (parts are summarized on the link above):

    God: The Failed Hypothesis
    How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
    by Victor J. Stenger

    and
    ‘Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,’ by Daniel C. Dennett

    Daniel Dennet has written several wonderful books.

    Regards from Upgrade01a.wordpress.com
    I have a few more links here as well and the beginnings of a short story with a lot of links to interesting conceptual and technological sites, as well as an attempt to be entertaining.

  3. Well, it turns out that you’re both right. I went back to page 31 and re-read the passage I quoted. What I didn’t quote is as follows:

    “There exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us.”

    This supports both of what you guys said and does complete his argument. If a superhuman, supernatural intelligence does exists, they could only be the product of evolution and therefore could not have created or “master-minded” the universe. But what about the ideas put forth in The Matrix? What if our universe was created? Granted some other universe must have produced the creator of our universe, but this brings the argument right back to “the beginning” that so far seems to elude human intelligence.

    Either way, I really enjoyed this book and it’s so nice to know that there are many others out there like myself. The statistics on this post have been amazing. Thanks to everyone for stopping by!

    Upgrade01a, I’m definitely going to order those books. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  4. “But what about the ideas put forth in The Matrix?” – Richard Dawkins used this particular example as just another case that he cannot disprove and also said that it is impossible to disprove this theory.
    I know it’ll be tough to understand for you, still, I would refer you to a link :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28Hinduism%29
    The concept of Maya in Hinduism is exactly the thing you’re pointing to.

  5. The Matrix was one of my favorite movies. I only own … I’d guess 5 at most and this is one of them.

    Wikipedia is one of my favorite web sites. I reference it often. Thanks so much for sharing the link!

    I appreciate that some of our strange loop particles can collide in such interesting ways through these blogs. I found this blog via the “Dawkins” tag.

    This weekend, I will lay back on my flexchair, rest my feet up on my antique Aerogel coffee table and ponder all of this a bit more (unless the damn pager goes off and I must return to the office, since it is my turn for production support, or someone floods me with meme viruses)

    Take care!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: