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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Practice what you preach, 30 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Paperback)
This short book is several times longer than its content justifies.
In 'The God Delusion' (TGD) Richard Dawkins (RD) clearly states 'That you cannot disprove the existence of God is accepted and trivial.'
He even has a chapter 'Why there is almost cerainly no God.' He also clearly states that religion is not 'the root of all evil'.
Alister McGrath (AM) devotes over half of 'The Dawkins Delusion' (TDD) to arguing that (1) you cannot disprove the existence of God and (2) religion is not the root of all evil, and then has the chutzpah to claim this as a triumphant refutation.

He seems deeply confused over the nature of atheism. He makes a great deal of his conversion from atheism to Christianity - 'I was an atheist in the late 1960's' and 'the truth and relevance of atheism as a young man.' AM was born in 1953 - in the late 1960's he was in his early to mid teens - certainly a schoolboy, barely a youth, and certainly not a 'young man'. His ideas of atheism seem locked in at this level of maturity - how else could he commit such a howler as RD 'preaching to choirs of God-hating atheists.'? How can you hate something which does not exist? He continually refers to faith and fundamentalism as applying to atheism - but these relate to a belief system - and atheism is hardly a belief system - unless you call asking 'where's the evidence?' one.

When AM admonishes RD for doubting the sincerity of Freeman Dyson becuase 'he was a Christian who wasn't particularly interested in the doctrine of the Trinity', he is being economical with the truth. FD actually stated 'I am content to be one of the multitude of Christians who do not care much about the doctrine of the Trinity or the historical truth of the gospels' and 'I do not make a clear distinction between mind and God.'
There will be many who doubt that FD is a 'true believer', - but what interesting ommisions by AM.

AM also degrades both himself and FD by endorsing - by repeating - FD's statement that 'Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were avowed atheists.'
AM and FD sem to equate anti-Christian with atheism.
It is easy to find quotations from Hitler showing him to be (1) a committed Christian and (2) a dedicated anti-Christian, - but his belief in providence and/or destiny never seems to have wavered - concepts which imply a guiding higher power - hardly atheistic.
Stalin was almost certainly an atheist, but his atrocities were directed at a competing authority system, not simply because he was an atheist. Even today, you are much more likely to be killed because of your beliefs by a believer of another faith than by an atheist.

AM is also selective when he quotes RD.
'The God I know and love is described by Dawkins as insipid, summed up in the 'mawkishly nauseating' idea of Gentle Jesus, meek and mild. While some readers will take offence at this description, this is probably the mildest criticism of religion in the book.'
RD actually wrote 'To be fair, this milksop persona owes more to his Victorian followers than to Jesus himself. Could anything be more mawkishly nauseating than Mrs C F Alexanders 'Christian children all must be/ mild, obedient, good as he'?
RD also wrote 'Indeed Jesus, if he existed (or whoever wrote his script if he didn't) was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history .' and 'Perhaps because I don't live in America, most of my hate mail is not quite in the same league, but nor does it display to advantage the charity for which the founder of Christianity was notable.'

When RD gives his now-famous description of the God of the O.T. - every word of which can be easily justified, AM writes that this is not the God that he, or anyone he knows, knows. Maybe not, but 44% of Americans (Gallup 2008) believe thatb God created human beings pretty much in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years. Some high-level evangelists attributed hurricane Katrina to divine judgement on the lifestyles in New Orleans. AM classes these as a lunatic fringe. Lunatic maybe.

AM also accuses RD of being selective in his treatment of the O.T. If so, it is as nothing to AM's transgressions. He claims that the Pentateuch shows forgiveness and compassion, setting limits on acts of revenge (whatever happened to 'an eye for an eye') and prohibiting slavery - Leviticus 25.
Leviticus 25,39-42 does prohibit slavery, but only for fellow Jews. Leviticus 25,44-46 instructs (not merely permits) the aquisition of slaves from 'the nations that are round about you' and 'the children of the strangers that sojourn among you' and emphasises that these are possesions, to be passed on as an inheritance.

AM also shows an apparent lack of biblical knowledge when he mocks RD and memes. 'Yet has anyone actually seen these things, whether leaping from brain to brain or just hanging out?' The only implication - if you cannot see it - it doesn't exist. John 1,18 'No man has seen God, at any time' Own-goal McGrath scores again!

AM claims that Jesus did not display an in-group mentality - Matthew 15,24 comparing a Caananite woman, and all her tribe aa dogs.
He also claims that Jesus never hurt anyone - but he cursed to sterility a fig tree which had no figs - though it was not the season for figs Mark 11,13-14 and 20-21. What sort of person would cut down an apple tree because it bore no fruit in mid-winter?

AM describes 'Dawkins method : ridicule, distort, belittle and demonize. Still, at least it will give Christian readers an idea of the lack of scholarly objectivity or basic human sense of fairness which now pervades atheistic fundamentalism'

Ridicule memes
Distort Dawkins view of Jesus
Demonize Hitler and Stalin as atheists
Belittle RD's biblical knowledge (almost as bad as AM's)
Scholarly objectivity and fairness systematic, selective partial quotations.

Again and again AM levels accusations at RD which are not only false, but easily shown to be so. The ones listed above are only a representative sample - try comparing the two books regarding Einstein, Swinburne and Rees.
These accusations include ' substituting turbocharged rhetoric and highly selective facts for careful evidence-based thinking.....let readers draw their own conclusions about the overall reliability of his evidence and judgement.'

AM is dscribed as a prolific author. Perhaps if he wrote less and read more - I suggest he starts with The God Delusion
and the Bible - he would shoot himself in the foot less often. As it is, he hasn't a leg to stand on.
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Initial post: 7 Sep 2012 09:57:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Sep 2012 10:07:44 BDT
Astrodan says:
A good, pithy review. I've since got a copy of this after reading 'The God Delusion', and am struggling to find the willpower to finish it.
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