This slim book, The Dawkins Delusion, is confusing in many ways. It is written by husband and wife team Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, but throughout it is written in the form of a personal narrative: "In my own case, I started out as an atheist who went on to become a Christian - precisely the reverse of Dawkin's intellectual journey" (p. 9). There is a brief notation that most of it was written by Alister McGrath, at one time a molecular biophysicist, but you can't tell when one person's narrative begins and the other one ends. This is irritating, not deadly. McGrath (I'll refer to McGrath as either author) reports that someone has to stand up for truth, and put the lies of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion to rest. Unfortunately, McGrath's 97 pages of text pale in comparison to the broader discussion in Dawkins' book (374 pages of text). I realize this is not a "word count" battle, but rather a battle of logic... Dawkins comes to certain conclusions and makes particular logical arguments, and McGrath selects a few of these and develops a "summary retort." Frankly, the best way to get a table to collapse is to knock out all its legs. A few kicks at one corner doesn't do it. McGrath's challenge was to deliver a knock-down punch. He, and she, didn't reach this threshold.
What does this book state?
"Religion has made a comeback" (p. 8).
"Not only is God not 'dead,' ...he never seems to have been more alive" (p. 8-9).
"...I hope I am right in suggesting that such nonthinking dogmatists [such as Dawkins] are not typical of atheism" (p. 10).
"Curiously, there is surprising little scientific analysis in The God Delusion" (p. 11).
"The book is often little more than an aggregation of convenient factoids suitably overstated to achieve maximum impact and loosely arranged to suggest that they constitute an argument" (p. 13).
"Dawkins clearly has little interest in engaging religious believers..." (p. 13).
After this introduction, McGrath attempts to destroy Dawkins' arguments. I think he is saying:
- Many more scientists believe in God than Dawkins claims. Therefore, there is a God.
- We are here, however improbable, so the improbable is not impossible. Therefore, there is a God.
- Dawkins fails to prove the nonexistence of God. Therefore, there is a God.
- Believing in God is good for society. Therefore, there is a God.
McGrath ends with these questions:
"Might The God Delusion actually backfire and end up persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant, doctrinative and disagreeable as the worst that religion can offer? (p. 97).
"Might atheism be a delusion about God?" (p. 97).
I grant that McGrath read Dawkins' book. I suspect that most readers of The Dawkins Delusion will not, and that these same readers will not have read The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, God is Not Great, or a number of other current and critical books. Therefore, the challenge is on McGrath to represent Dawkin's arguments completely and fairly. This was not done.
I wanted to return to Chapter 1: "In my own case, I started out as an atheist who went on to become a Christian - precisely the reverse of Dawkin's intellectual journey" (p. 9). If McGrath professed to believing in Zeus, or was a follower of Jainism, or confessed to wishing for an opportunity for martyrdom, would you look at this book in the same way? Dawkins, and Harris, and others argue that there is no more reason to believe those in the Olympus camp as those in the WWJD camp.
Bottom line... if you are waiting for a critical dissection of The God Delusion, no matter what your beliefs, this is not it.