80 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
David Robertson is a Scottish Presbyterian who ministers in Dundee. Having read Dawkins 'God Delusion' he decided to respond with a series of letters addressing the major themes of the book. These include letters addressing: the notion that atheists are the truly enlightened, intelligent ones; the impossibility of true beauty without God; the myth of atheist tolerance and...
Published on 15 Mar. 2008 by J. Brown
42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Through a Glass Darkly
Like the previous reviewer (S.Gerhard) I came to this book because I'd read The God Delusion (which I enjoyed, although it's not without its weak points) and wanted to read a Christian response. I'd already listened to a recording of a lecture given by Robertson at Queens College, Belfast and although unconvinced by the content, wasn't totally discouraged and thought...
Published on 21 Dec. 2008 by K. Haswell
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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and Flawed,
A strange little book, I picked it up because I wanted to read something that was criticising Dawkin's book and this seemed to be the best one around. I was therefore expecting somo good solid arguments that refuted Dawkins and although the book is easy to read it falls far short on may points. Just as Dawkins' book is rhetorical so is this.
However, the main flaw is its contradictions. To give one of many examples, after, quite rightly, berating Dawkins for his facile 'Who designed the designer?' argument, Robertson (on p.69) goes onto imply that the Big Bang theory for the creation of the universe is, nonsensical and beyond the realms of reason. [I have expanded my origianl review to include the full quote to show that Robertson is in fact talking about the Big Bang]
'At one point there was no universe, no time , no space. And out of that big nothing there came the Big Bang and our vast universe, tiny planet, evolution, and the human species. Such a notion is beyond the realms of reason and is a total nonsensical fantasy.'
This is fair enough on its own, but then just a few pages later (p.74) says that he believes in God, 'because of evidence, because of science'. As far as I am aware the best scientific evidence for the existence of the universe is the Big Bang, so if Roberston is going to call this evidence beyond the realms of reason he really needs to explain which science he is working with. Worse however is that on the same page Robertson uses a quote by Arno Penzias (the discoverer of background radiation who proved the Big Bang) to back up one of his own arguments. Now to quote someone whose theory you have just previously called nonsensical fantasy and beyond the realms of reason to add weight to your own ideas truly is inexscuable scholarship.
This is not an isolated incident and I found myself becoming more frustrated as I read. The bottom line is that if you're a believer then you'll love it, if you're not then you won't find it convincing in any way. Much as can be said for Dawkins' book in the first place.
[So I feel I have reviewed what was said and if the author was referring to the idea of the multiverse, and not the Big Bang, in the above quote then why did he say Big Bang and not multiverse?]
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Rebuttal,
I read "The God Delusion" some time ago. When reading it, I was flummoxed as to why a man trying to put forward, what is an already well accepted view on life (ie - atheism), had to adopt aggressive and condescending tone. His arguemnts too, seemed weak and tired; old and overused - nothing special.
And this is exactly what David Robertson expounds on in "The Dawkins letters" - a series of letters written by David Robertson, a Presbyterian minister, to Dawkins. The letters focus on a number of issues commented on by Dawkins in The God Delusion. The letters are short and lucid, very readable and with a structure mirroring that of the god Delusion - ie, a single letter addresses a chapter in Dawkin's book.
I found it to be a worthwhile response from a Theistic point of view. Robertson demonstrates a keen understanding of Christian and Atheist theology and uses these strengths to dissect Dawkins warped views on religion.
I would have given it 5 stars - but Robertson inexplicably takes a few cheap shots at Islam which seemed rather unnecessary. Nonetheless, the few minor blemishes doesn't detract from what is an excellent, albeit short, read.
26 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewel in the crown,
I have read a lot of books relevant to the so-called Dawkins debate but this is the jewel in the crown. Not only is it very thought-provoking and well argued but it is at the same time a very witty and entertaining read. If you have read Dawkins' `God Delusion' read this and make your own mind up. If you have not read Dawkins read this anyway. You will not be disappointed. A genuine and unexpected delight.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended,
A very good book for the ordinary person. Very clearly explained and easy to read.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a thoughtful response,
There is a fundamental question. Can anyone respond to the God Delusion? For some it is the last nail in the coffin of faith - some of the reviews seem to make that clear. For others it is an opening up to debate, and so a reading of the responses (especially Christian reponses given that Dawkins himself accepts this is a country with Christian heritage) is important. David Robertson writes a thoughtful book. It's style is very accessible, and David Robertson is willing to engage in comments on thsi website - surely a big plus!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
This review is from: The Dawkins Letters: Revised Edition - Challenging Atheist Myths (Paperback)
Challenging reading but endorses my original understanding
16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the converted,
I purchased this book from Amazon marketplace, for less than the cost of the postage, and it was certainly worth the money. I have read several of the books inspired by the God Delusion, and thought this would be a good one largely on the basis of some of the reviews here. Having read it, and then re-read some all of the reviews here, it is hard to believe we are all talking about the same book. I can say with confidence that this one will definately not change anybody's mind, whatever their current stance, and I am fairly confident that the author is not even seriously trying to do this. It is clearly preaching to the converted, which the author argues is exactly what Dawkins is doing. Not that I found it any the less interesting to read as a result of this, particularly as it was cheap to buy, short, and easy to read. However, potential readers should be aware of this, and not buy it hoping to read a well-argued, balanced, response to Dawkins.
I think it is an honest, genuine response to TGD, and I like its honesty. It is not an intellectual or scholarly work, and I do not think the author is trying to pretend that it is (see introductory letter). I do not wish to rehash the comments made by earlier reviewers. My main criticism is that I felt a lot of the time Robertson was just as prone to the kind of things for which he criticises Dawkins, e.g.
-Preaching to the converted is a major one, and the reviews here seem to polarise nicely between Christians, who unsurprisingly like it, and non-Christians, who do not. I particularly liked the review which states that this book shows the flaws in Dawkins arguements, and then follows it up with the statement "I haven't read TGD yet".
- Being inconsistent (other reviews have covered this). In chapter 3, he puts forward the view that atheists are in fact neither rational nor tolerant. He focuses on homophobia (I assume he does not consider himself homophobic), and cites an example on p.38, of the Christian Union in Birmingham, which was suspended for refusing "to amend its literature to include references to gays, lesbians and those of transgender sexuality". He then follows this by asking what was the logic "for leaving out polygamists, bestialists or paedophiles". With this statement, the clear implication is that he considers homosexuality in some way equivalent to beastiality or paedophilia. I do not see how this question can be seen as anything other than homophobic.
- Being patronising to those who do not share his viewpoint, e.g. p. 42 "So I do pray for you and for all those who have been deluded into thinking that there is only material, and that their Creator does not exist". How are statements like this any less patronising than referring to Christians as deluded?
- Attributing attrocities to atheists, which were in fact carried out by non-atheists. Hitler is probably not a good example, because there is obviously strong disagreement about whether he was atheist or not. However, on p.81, Robertson cites the burning of 77 Norwegian churches by "over-zealous young atheists". Well, those who responsible who voiced a particular stance, claimed to be Satanists. How can self-proclaimed Satanists possibly be atheists?
- Getting his facts wrong, and misrepresenting the literature. He acuses Dawkins, and other atheists, of doing this with the bible, but then does exactly this in chapter 8, when discussing a Darwinian explanation of morality. I am always uncomfortable when I read the words Darwinian and genetics, as genetics was not incorporated into evolutionary theory by Darwin, whose hypothetical mechanism for heredity was pangenesis. However, the serious problem with this chapter is on p.90, where Robertson states criticises evolutionary explanations of altruism as deterministic, to the extent that "There is no concept of free will, choice or responsibility". He says this approach ligitimises any behaviour, by claiming it is all in the genes. This is completely misrepresenting the facts. There is not a single evolutionary biologist, psychologist or behavioural scientist of any profession who argues for this.
- Simply taking something Dawkins has said, and then attempting to simply twist it round and apply it to atheism, e.g. in Chapter 10, he suggests that many atheists do not believe in heaven, hell and an afterlife because they take comfort from that viewpoint. This is clearly just a little fantasy in his head, as he cites no evidence to suggest that a single atheist actually does think in this way.
I will stop there, as this is turning into a far more negative review than I intended. This book has a place, as it does outline a particular form of Christian belief, and I would rather people read it than ignore it. But I cannot help thinking that it inadvertently ends up strengthening Dawkins position, rather than weakening it. I have no doubt that a well-argued, response to TGD, capable of really challenging what is says is possible: but we are not there yet.
14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Debate books just don't do it,
It's an amazing skill to write such grand ideas in such a clear and accessible style and to cram them all into such a small volume and Robertson doesn't disappoint.
Does he tackle and refute with clarity what Dawkins ascertains to be true: in my opinion, NO. All too often Robertson is guilty of quoting Dawkins out of context to push forward his ideas. In particular a quote from one of Dawkins scientific works where he struggles to write to a lay-audience about the theory of evolution is taken out of context and is used to show that all atheistic thinking leads to nihilistic conclusions.
Above all the book is too short to be worthwhile. It lacks in depth philosophy, always answering each question with God, instead of thinking maybe if there wasn't a God how could I answer this problem. In reading these debate books (on both sides) I'm amazed at how few show knowledge of epistemology or fail to capitalize on its importance. And Robertson seemingly shows little awareness of it. He accepts the bible is true merely because the book itself says it's true. Robertson is guilty of poor philosophy; always failing to ask one more question.
He berates Dawkins for not mentioning the number of theistic scientists in our community while he says nothing about the number of ex-Christian theologians and biblical scholars who litter religious academia throughout the world. A prominent example of one is Bart Ehrman the infamous agnostic (often called - to his face - an atheist without balls).
All too often questions go unanswered. I was looking forward to the chapter of the myth of the cruel Old Testament God. The answer: ah, but it says in Psalms that he really is good. I was looking forward to the problem of infinite regress answered. The answer, God is eternal because it says so in the bible. Again, this is poor philosophy.
But best of all is the final chapter where he gives the evidence for belief - this is needed because he ascertains earlier in the book that faith is not as Dawkins describes it, "belief in something due to lack of evidence or even despite evidence to the contrary". And here it comes, something that is rarely talked about: evidence for faith, a kind of non-faith. Ah but wait, after reading that I'm disappointed. Extremely. I could use the same arguments against God. This is poor philosophy. Robertson firstly fails to ask if there were a God what kind of evidence would there be that would prove him and then let's look for it scientifically.
Dawkins has a tough job - trying to prove something doesn't exist. He does this by saying that it is philosophically impossible to prove that God doesn't exist and we can only show (due to current scientific knowledge) the probability of the existence of God.
Robertson on the other hand tries to prove that God exists, well, because he does and because of personal experience, beauty, Jesus, morality, the bible, history, the church, religion and creation.
In short, my conclusion is that debate books just don't do it. What we need is personal, open and sustained dialogue between theists and atheists.
16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In there somewhere....,
If you can search through the breathtaking hypocrisy, fallacies and continual 'God of the Gaps' arguments then actually there are some good points made against Dawkins by Robertson to be found. As an atheist i firmly recommend this book as worth a read, a lot of the points raised are valid and should promote thought even if the subsequent arguments are appalling.
18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Athiests should read it too!,
An excellent reply to Dawkin's book. I think the structure of the book is especially good, as it allows you to read Dawkin's book and then this author's response chapter by chapter. The arguments were clear and respectfully expressed.
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The Dawkins Letters: Revised Edition - Challenging Atheist Myths by David Robertson (Paperback - 20 May 2010)