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87 of 124 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Second Act, 11 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Dawkin's God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life (Paperback)
Dawkins God has a great first act. It generously sets out Dawkins' case, even if a bit distorted, and sets up the possibility of an exciting dialogue -- McGrath states this to be his intention -- between belief in a Supreme Being, and those who object to, or have no need to put up with, the very concept of one.

Unfortunately, the second act is an utter letdown. Not only does McGrath fail to answer Dawkins, what objection he does give, on the level of "Oh-yes-there-is a-God-and-you-can't-prove-there-isn't", falls into heard-it-all-before assertions of those for whom an "oceanic feeling" is accessible. This "oceanic feeling" (cf. Civilization and its Discontents) sometimes confused with "awe", undoubtedly exists. For some people. But McGrath never really explains why those who get along perfectly well without such a feeling, like Dawkins, are wrong, or mistaken, or missing out.

McGrath's generous treatment of Dawkins (whose Achilles' heel is his "meme" theory --best ignored) never even hints at "shrill" (the word most used by critics of Dawkins), but this only increases the disappointment on seeing a Professor Of Historical Theology At Oxford University fall into the time-worn trap of pointing at the "secular" regimes of, say, Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Kim-il-Sung as examples of "atheist" or secular atrocities balancing any inhumanity the religious world had or has to offer.

In other words, some of us are good and some us (most of us, according to Thales) are bad. Sometimes we're worse. Nazism, Communism, and the Terror were all religions, and behaved as such. Their followers showed the same idolatry, the same fanatical intolerance of disbelievers and heretics, and the same kind of pomp and regalia as anything Rome, the Orange Order, or Islam could put on display.

The fact that God was forbidden by these "secular" regimes only proves they were anything but "atheist"; that "Dear Leader" or " Der Fuehrer" was simply another word for Lord Of The Universe.

Missing, too, is how regimes of the ancient world got along perfectly well -- and perfectly badly -- without monotheism, and how Buddhism manages without the concept of a Deity.

The greatest disappointment of the book is in McGrath's avoidance of Dawkins' real argument: not that organised religion does more harm than good, or that God doesn't exist, but that the concept itself is utterly unnecessary.

McGrath keeps telling us that Dawkins' attack on religion is naive and outdated, which would be an interesting point if he showed what the sophisticated and current religious position is, which he does not. It still falls to the late Joseph Campbell to remind us that religion cannot be more -- or less -- than a metaphor, a springboard into that which can't be articulated.

John ("Chinese Room") Searle is Mills Professor Of the Philosophy Of Mind And Language at Berkeley. In response to a South African Nobel Laureate in Neurology arguing that, because there was no physical evidence of God or Love in the brain, that these concepts existing outside mere biology was "a miracle." In reply, Searle went through a detailed description of what happens when the human eye sees an apple. After listing the possibilities for eating, cooking growing, painting and writing about the apple once it had reached Broca's Area, Searle asked the Nobel Laureate, "Isn't that miracle enough for you?"

The last word to Dawkins, who, at the conclusion of a largely excoriated two-part TV program in the UK, showed a Blue Planet-type series of scenes of the earth: seascapes, underwater marvels, mountains, etc., at the end of which he asked the viewer, "What more do you want?"
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