6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2015
"The God Delusion" is a well written and persuasive argument in favour of atheism. As we head into the 21st century it is a subject that is surely more relevant now than ever before. Richard Dawkins does a very good job of listing the major arguments for Gods existence and then discussing why none of these hold water when looked at objectively. He then goes on to discuss the arguments for there not being a God, providing a more scientific rational for existence. His writing is clear and easy to read, and at times quite witty and entertaining.
Dawkins' main argument stems from the fact that a proper understanding of evolution can be used to explain the existence of all life on this planet. Religion is an outdated notion that stemmed from a lack of understanding in how the world works. He goes on to examine more specific aspects of religion such as the wrathful homicidal God of the Old Testament and questions the morality of some of the more wacky passages from the Bible.
The focus is mainly on Christianity as this is the religion that Richard Dawkins is most familiar with. However his most extreme examples of the evils committed as a result of religion all come from Islam though so it would have been helpful if he had discussed this and other religions in more detail.
I also felt that the book did not really address the main reason people cling to religious faith - because the alternative is to accept a world where they are completely alone, just another biological entity which will one day die and cease to exist. Richard Dawkins is clearly lucky enough to find beauty and joy in science, and especially in evolution (he is a biologist after all). But for most people the idea of giving up their faith, even if deep down they know it to be false, to replace it with nothing is hardly appealing. This is why religious people get so mad at him, even though deep down they know he is right, he offers nothing in return. Perhaps a chapter on all the many benefits of a world without religion would have been helpful here as surely without all the war and division religion causes we would have colonised the galaxy by now.
774 of 891 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2009
An excellent book, very well-written and thoughtfully argued. Stimulating and challenging - at times scathing - but something which definitely propels one to delve deeper into the reasons for belief - or indeed lack of them.
Dawkins' central thesis seems to be that the evolutionary process of natural selection, as propounded by Darwin and bolstered by the amalgamation of much subsequent indicatory evidence, provides a viable and real alternative to the "God Hypothesis" - indeed it blows it out of the water. But, why then - if blatantly false - is religion so ubiquitous? Evoking theories of evolutionary psychology and the human need for consolation and meaning (as well as the scientific ignorance of our ancestors), Dawkins explains the popularity of religion in purely secular terms.
But what, then, about morality? How can we derive our principles of right and wrong if not from an absolute source of incontrovertible authority (God / revelation)? Again Dawkins responds by explaining how the roots of morality have Darwinian origins and includes a chapter on how the moral lessons of traditional religion (quoting biblical scripture, although I suspect his treatment of the Quran or other sacred texts would be equally unsympathetic) are not that endearing anyway. Why be so hostile though - isn't religion a good thing, a quaint yet harmless cultural phenomenon? Well no, look at the fundamentalists, terrorists, homophobes and other fanatics being spawned by the religious project in increasingly large numbers. Dawkins is unequivocal: religion is dangerous and we need to protect ourselves from it.
So what's the solution, what do we do? Simple, answers Richard with customary gusto: take a strong dose of courage followed by an even stronger one of rationalism, then cast off these restrictive fetters we've inherited from childhood. Grow up, for God's sake (no pun intended), and breathe the fresh, fragrant air of twenty first century scientific freedom! Our experiments have revealed, after all, that there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden.
This, in a nutshell, is a synopsis of the book and something, I must say, I found to be an exhilarating read. I approached the book with an open mind, determined not to allow the predilections of my preconceptions taint my appreciation of his arguments, and was sufficiently enthused to write directly to the author (I await his response). It's always refreshing to have your beliefs challenged, and Dawkins is an expert at doing that. He also has a brilliant knack of reducing complex scientific content down to digestible chunks (peppered with generous offerings of very entertaining humour), and this adds considerably to the readability value of the text. It's not for nothing that Dawkins was the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, demonstrating his ability to explain - in simple terms - science to the layperson. Also worth pointing out is one of the key benefits of the book in the way in which it collates into a single place so many of the classic as well as modern arguments for belief versus disbelief, making it into a cutting-edge handbook for reference.
So what of the key questions the text raises? How can people of faith come to terms with the structured and forceful arguments outlined above? Can we marry faith with modern twenty first century scientific rationalism or are the two fundamentally incompatible, consigned to follow paths of mutually irreconcilable divergence?
I, for one, remain content with my faith as a Muslim after reading Dawkins' book. Although appreciating the validity of many of his arguments, and recognising the negative impact that extreme religion can have, I'm not convinced entirely by the argument for blind and random evolution. Too many holes exist for my liking, and a "leap of faith" is required similar to what the religious person must commit to. I also found his section on the "anthropic principle" to be singularly unconvincing. Cosmology and the origin of life is something science is still stabbing in the dark at (although Dawkins says he has "faith" the answer will be found as the discoveries of science continue). I choose to have faith that the answer has been given to us, whilst fully respecting those who choose to disagree. Ultimately, it's the personal prerogative of each individual to forge an understanding of existence unique to them, whether buttressed by an accepted world-view or not. Dawkins challenges and stimulates us into believing that there is nothing outside of ourselves - we are the sum and substance of billions of years of chance occurrences and all supra-natural entities our ancestors believed in are nothing but the fictions of human imagination. What we choose to believe, though, is our individual and independent choice.
219 of 256 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2007
The other reviews of this book demonstrate what a touchy subject this is! Whatever your views I would recommend reading this book. It's fluent, well argued and engaging - although he is sometimes so angered by religious people that the fury starts to seep through and you can sense his knuckles whitening on the pen.
As with many theses the nuggets are sometimes tucked away. He casually reflects at one point how "believers" are actually atheistic about many gods (Apollo, Ra, Vishnu, Odin etc) - they dismiss almost as many gods as he does.
His scale of believing/not believing is interesting too: this isn't just a case of yes or no, there are many graduations on the way through - so, which are you? Quite atheistic but vaguely think there might be a God? Find out where you are on this handy, easy-to-read scale!
Seriously: this is a book that puts religious belief into perspective. If you are fifty like me, Christianity was probably a big part of your childhood education, and you challenged it at your peril. Like everything else your teachers believed in (corporal punishment, fair play, fitness, mind/body balance) in later life you have to assess the value of those ideas. Are you going to try to pass them on to your children? Are you sure that's right?
My tip - don't read the intro when you start: it's the angriest chapter, as it recounts the polemical (and sometimes downright horrid) attacks which have been made on Dawkins about the subject, so he's cross.
My own beliefs? Why should you care! This is an amazon review. It's about the book and whether it's worth reading. Enough with the ranting already.
on 20 August 2015
Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-founder of the theory of natural selection, with regard to the phenomenon of life, thinks: "There is in all this something quite beyond and apart from chemical changes...." (DARWINISM, ed. 1889, p. 474 et seq).
He does have a point.
Maybe God set up the universe and went away? If I was a God and I programed a simulation, I will also program a mechanism for life to select what it needs and reject what it doesn't need. Evolution is the best program because it hides God from view, and God must be hidden from the monkeys. Ill explain why.
If I programed angelic drones, or flying humanoids, like in the Greek myths, to do the work, the monkeys will see this as proof of God and so my cover is blown! Once primitive people know for certain, they won't be motivated to do science if they discover me. So I program natural selection into my game simulation.
This way, my creations, who I give the illusion of free will, will think that they are here by a random mechanism and they will feel a sense of nihilism but, as psychologists argue, it is this nihilism which is responsible for the human invention of scientific materialism in the first place.
So I create the universe, and I will write my signature somewhere in the universe so that when my monkeys become advanced, they will spot the signs.
There is a video on You Tube with Richard Dawkins struggling to explain the anthropic principle. Some say that the fine tuning of the universe is my, I mean Gods, sign!
Ii will probably not be news to most people that Dawkins' main premise is that the proofs of god's existence are flawed and the probability of god's existence is so astoundingly remote that without some quite unlikely new evidence being produced we should ignore the concept.
Expressed like that this is a very simple book and one which is very difficult to argue with. Dawkins' quite comprehensively covers most of the main theological arguments and proofs for the existence of god and quite convincingly establishes that they are flawed in some way. Believe in god as an act of faith by all means but do not try to persuade anyone that it is a logical choice let alone something that is proved. However as said that is a fairly trivial point to dismiss those arguments.
The better part of his book is where he considers the social effects of religion and illustrates the corrosive and damaging nature that religion can all too frequently have in society. Effects that mean that even if religion is long established by tradition it certainly has no automatic right to respect and the tacit assumption through much of modern society that we should respect it should be overhauled. The fact that someone believes in a particular god should far from giving them a right to impose those opinions on others be a reason to be suspicious of their motives. Is that too suspicious of religion? well consider Dawkins' arguments against religion being imposed on children and you might change your point of view. Dawkins' covers a lot of the moral, ethical etc. arguments for religion in society and reasonably easily demonstrates that far from being a moral source most religion is at best a selective reading of a few ancient texts. To follow the texts literally would be frighteningly evil so far from a moral source religion is just a synonym for whatever some section of society has decided and has little to do with what they profess to be their sacred texts.
Of course not all religious people do deserve such opprobrium and that is one of the criticisms of the God Delusion. Richard Dawkins does seem a little too keen to put all religious people in the same box, Taliban fundamentalists and parents sending their child to sunday school seem to be grouped together in the same breath. He is also a little too keen to paraphrase other peoples arguments, resorting on a couple of occasions to presenting an imaginary argument with a religious proponent which is a particularly weak way of presenting his arguments as it can easily be dismissed, if a religious person would say that he should be able to quote an example and quoting hypothetical arguments lays him open to a charge that he is misrepresenting religion.
Above all what Dawkins' does not do is prove that god does not exist. He demonstrates that god has not been shown to exist, that there are far more probable explanations and that religion where it does exist can be so socially damaging that there should be a presumption against religion rather than the tacit respect that it all too frequently is given.
An excellent book if you'll excuse two dodgy strawman presentations of religious arguments but as they're not central to his argument they do not detract too much.
333 of 400 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2006
If you're reading this, the chances are you're either a 'radical atheist' (the preferred term of Dawkins' late friend Douglas Adams, to whom the book is dedicated), hoping that The God Delusion will give you a good satisfying dose of anti-religion rhetoric; or you're a devout believer, hoping to be roundly appalled and outraged.
Either way, you could be disappointed. For the first half or more, The God Delusion is more rigorous and scientifically demanding than we have been led to expect (Jeremy Paxman in interviewing Dawkins called it 'entertaining': well, yes and no). Dawkins goes to great, and occasionally tiresomely great, lengths to detail why the existence of the universe, the development of life and the variety of creation can be comfortably explained by science and probability. And then he gets to grips with traditional justifications for the existence of God, disposing of them in his own neat way. Perhaps these sections seemed superfluous to me as someone who is satisfied that Dawkins is right and there is no God; and doubtless they will seem equally superfluous - in another sense - to those who believe in God and not in Dawkins.
(It's worth saying at this point that when Dawkins means 'God', he means a personal, supernatural creator of the religious scriptures, a God-being rather than the more progressive notion of God as something nebulous that exists in all of us. This is after all the commonly understood meaning of God, which children are taught and most Christian, Islamic and Jewish adults continue to believe in. For sophisticated modern believers, who do not take the scriptures literally, Dawkins doesn't really regard you as religious at all; and you take that as an insult or compliment as you see fit.)
All this is worthwhile but when the book was more than half over, by page 200, and we were still on "The Roots of Religion," I couldn't help wondering when it would all get going. I needn't have worried. Dawkins, who has been quite restrained up until now - his disrespect limited to the odd sneer of 'faith-heads' or referring to the God of the Old Testament as a 'psychotic delinquent' - lets fly with the passion of his true feelings once the subject turns to morality.
And it is a thrilling, invigorating display. Dawkins systematically dismantles all arguments for morality being connected to religious belief in any sense (indeed shows how diametrically opposed much religious teaching is to widely accepted morality), addresses tricky issues like the Darwinian explanation for altruism, disposes of a few sacred cows along the way (Mother Teresa is "sanctimoniously hypocritical [with] cock-eyed judgement," God an "evil monster"), and horrifies us with religion's historical and present-day cruelties and injustices.
The other principal benefit of The God Delusion is that it gives us an opportunity to see all Dawkins' religious arguments in one place, having previously experienced them only in snippets of other books, newspaper articles and TV programmes. And he wastes no time in reiterating some of his favourite rhetoric:
"I think we should all wince when we hear a small child being labelled as belonging to some particular religion or another. Small children are too young to decide their views on the origins of the cosmos, of life and of morals. The very sound of the phrase 'Christian child' or 'Muslim child' should grate like fingernails on a blackboard."
"I have found it amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and almost all the other gods that have been invented since the dawn of man. I just go one god further."
And having put the fear of, well, God into us by detailing the dark side of religious belief (Dawkins would argue that there is no bright side: if your good morals and deeds are determined solely by a God you believe in, he argues, you are an "immoral person we should steer a clear passage around"), he is too professional to leave us floundering. Instead he injects the last ten pages with a soaring essay on the passion of science, which "widens the window" on what we can see, and leaves us with a lasting taste of the freedom that can be ours if we can only dare to think for ourselves. It is reminiscent of this beautiful passage from his earlier book Unweaving the Rainbow, which seems a good place to end, letting the wonder of what's really there speak for itself:
"Fling your arms wide in an expansive gesture to span all of evolution from its origin at your left fingertip to today at your right fingertip. All across your midline to well past your right shoulder, life consists of nothing but bacteria.
"Many-celled, invertebrate life flowers somewhere around your right elbow. The dinosaurs originate in the middle of your right palm, and go extinct around your last finger joint. The whole history of Homo sapiens and our predecessor Homo erectus is contained in the thickness of one nail clipping. As for recorded history; as for the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Jewish patriarchs, the dynasties of Pharaohs, the legions of Rome, the Christian Fathers, the Laws of the Medes and Persians which never change; as for Troy and the Greeks, Helen and Achilles and Agamemnon dead; as for Napoleon and Hitler, the Beatles and Bill Clinton, they and everyone that knew them are blown away in the dust of one light stroke of a nail file."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2015
Well-written and very readable, this book seriously questions religious "blind faith" in a down-to earth and practical way. I have read a few of Prof.Dawkins' works, and this is one of the best. It should be compulsory reading in all secondary schools, and particularly"Faith Schools". Be warned though, it does hit hard at unquestioning belief and will leave the reader to a wholly new appreciation of religious folly. Thoroughly recommended!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2012
I loved this book through and through, I was reading it and thinking that I must read it again! It is a very clear and easy to read even for me whose first language is not English; clear, concise where he needed to be, straight to the point and not too technical when it came to the scientific parts (which I very much appreciated since I am not a scientist myself), loads of further reading references, and very funny, it is a must read for EVERYONE that at any point in their lives have questioned the existence of God. In my opinion the best part of it was his approach to atheism is one of pride and being able to enjoy and appreciate life without the false promises of religious believes. Thank you Dr Dawkins.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
A worth while read, being a confused believer myself for many years i was afraid to pick up this book. But i'd got to a place in my life where belief was not working for me, it just didn't hold up to scrutiny. Looking at the bigger picture i just could not get my head around the idea of a personal God when religious people claim on one hand to have their prayers answered over such mundane things, when children are dying of cancer, and starvation and God is not intervening in there lives. I also find it very difficult to look at a newborn baby and refer to it as already being 'sinful.' Anyone who is afraid to read this book because of religious indoctrine then I say if your faith is strong then why would a book be able to change it? At best your gonna understand where the arguement for there not being a god is coming from and to read it is just down to openmindedness and want of understanding. This book should also be read with the knowledge of the Selfish Gene also written by Richard Dawkins or it may be a little more difficult to see clearly where the writer is coming from. Both books take a little while to get into, but it is worth while doing so, ive read them many times over. It explains where religion came from, something some religious people do not even know about. The history of religion is very interesting and important to understanding how it developed. It gives good arguement as to why religion isn't needed to make people want to live good lives or for morality, infact it gives a good arguement as to how religion actually contradicts its so called purpose you only have to look at why most wars have been fault ie religion. It also touches on how the bible contradicts itself in many passages in order to try and make prophesies fit which clearly do not, but to see this it would only really take anyone with an open mind to read the bible for themselves. One of many being that Jesus was not a descendent from the family of David since Joseph was not his father, God was. It also points out the misinterpretation of the word virgin in greek, which actually means single woman. The contradictions in Mark and Mathews story's. He also points out the often overlooked promotion of slavery, degradation of women sending them out to be raped when men have homosexual tendencies, child sacrifice, child abuse/sacrifice, so many innocent people are murdered by God's commands in the bible it actually reads more like a war book and this is suppose to be a loving god even in the new testament christianity was spread by the sword, ie soldiers/crusades. He also gives reasons as to why people may confess to need religion ie to feel part of something, to overide death, for others to overide death and to have an imaginary friend who is loyal to them (elaborated on with the knowledge of child psychology and when a child goes from identifying with its mother to seeing him/herself as a separate person, ie humans have an I and a me we can think about the thinker). It ends with a fantastic arguement as to why non belief gives as much if not more inspiration to living this life.
I still do not understand how people live there life by book written in an era when there was lack of understanding, that which we have today, yet these same people will wholeheartedly except medical help from science to prolong there lives, another question asked Why if heaven is so great? Mr Dawkins does not fundamentally preach athetism he is not shoving it down our throats you make a choice to pick up this book, actually he is a calm and collected individual who though strong in his views does not engage in name calling or 'condemning anyone to hell.' He does state religion does have a place in history as historical relevance, and that the writting in some parts of the bible is beautifully written. Dawkins also admits to the fact that if evidence for a God/creation showed up tomorrow he would wholeheartedly admit he was wrong. Dawkins does touch on evolution but this is mainly covered and made more amazing in the Selfish Gene, so maybe this book should have been called the Religious delusion.
My own journey in reading the bible has listed many questions but as a starter in Genesis the Cain and Abel story,Cain was afraid of the consequences of killing Abel out of jeolousy, (how others would react to him murdering his brother) who were these others if Adam and Eve were the mother and father of creation there would only be the 3 of them on the planet? So God put a mark on Cain, but again who was God and Cain afraid of if Adam and Eve were the mother and father of creation then there wouldn't be anyone to be afraid of. The author of the bible has forgotten why he was writting the book in the first place ie as an explanation for our existance. He then goes on to say that Cain left to the land of Nod and Married, again where did she come from? so this proves there was other people in existance so the bible cannot be an explanation for the creation. Another point is all the way through the old and new testament it says God makes the good for the good and the bad for the bad, everything that happens is Gods will, right up to the jews crucifying or in some parts hanging Jesus from a tree depending on what part you are reading, so based on this where does self will come into it? Doesnt make sense does it? Either God plans everything or he doesn't. I can't think of a more purposeless reason for living than to be gods playthings, what is the point? this then also discounts any reason for prayer. All i can say is reading Dawkins and the bible, freed me up.
44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2007
This book will surely attract agnostics and atheists as its majority audience so it is saying what a lot of us already know and think. The book says a lot we'd all like to have said publicly and globally, like atheists don't murder thousands of people by flying planes into buildings, etc., so it is a gratifying agent for saying what needs to be said and heard. I continue to be amazed at how many religious people don't actually know the contents of their Bible and Quran and/or do not question it. I am one of those people who doesn't close my door to Jehovah Witnesses, I give them time and alarm them with the Bible's stories of Jephthwa, Elisha, Lot and Abraham and query whether this is the behaviour of righteous people or the barking mad who would be committed to mental asylums if they were around today. (The last JWs that came to my door actually had no knowledge of Elisha's God-invoked murder of children in 2 Kings as punishment for them laughing at his bald pate.) So, if so many theists don't even read their own holy texts it's difficult to see how many will rush out to read this book. It's like the majority of fundmentalist Muslims supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie without having actually read The Satanic Verses.
Which brings me to a few failings I see in this book:
- It doesn't hit its stride until circa page 200 when it starts looking at the absurdity of the Bible by reference to its content, especially the Old Testamant. That's a long wait to get serious in a 370-page book.
- The narrative is meandering and fragmented. Dawkins repeatedly walks into subject areas then quickly puts the subject aside saying he will come to that later. This resembles a University lecture where the lecturer has the basic backbone of what he is lecturing on and an end game but wanders off at tangents as he goes. The book would have far more punch and cogency had a good editor been allowed to structure it and give it more coherence.
- Dawkins does get emotional on the subject via a plethora of exclamation marks and italicised words that dilute the power of the arguments that would be stronger without them.
- At times he resorts to ridiculing his adversaries, at one point even using the schoolyard "Nar-nar-na-nar-nar". Again: formidable, objective reasoning isn't enhanced by child-like language.
- And finally, Dawkins can be self-indulgent with copious name-dropping and mentioning his wife reading the book aloud to him from cover to cover which was a little wincing.
Without these distractions, its intended audience of reasonable and reasoning theists prepared to question their beliefs would have a better platform to debate and engage from.