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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 10 August 2010
One of the things I thought while reading The God Delusion is that:
"Surely this book is not unprecedented. Surely there have been other identikit books where the author goes through the arguments for God one-by-one & knocks them all flat..?"

Although there are apparently other books that do this, this one is not one of them and instead it is basically a collection of essays, rather than a complete demolition of the God hypothesis. Russell uses many arguments to dismiss elements of Christianity, but there is no one essay that completely grasps the nettle (although the title essay does a pretty good job).

The essays essentially range over bits and pieces of religious dogma and there are several themes that crop up notably:
1. Christians often differ from Christ's teaching (and Christ's teaching was not especially merit-worthy).
2. Religious movements (be they Christian or Soviet Communist) are no substitute for reasoned, independent thinking.
3. 1920's attitudes to sex were prudish in the extreme and unhealthy for Children and society.
4. Most philosophical arguments brought forth for God (e.g. the universe needs a cause and God is the basis of morality) are deeply flawed.

All of these are interesting in their own right, and there are also other pieces about Thomas Paine and 2 sections on the 'New York College' controversy (where Russell was refused an academic position due to the actions of religious zealots in positions of power.)

Sadly though, as these essays are a collection of Russells writings on religion, they tend to repeat certain themes & are not as quotable or applicable as modern non-believers would desire. Indeed I could only find one quotation (from the end of the title essay) which is in wide circulation, compared to the rash of Hume and Voltaire quotations doing the rounds.

That is why I can't fully endorse this book and feel slightly frustrated that Russell never did one grand Magnum Opus to collect his thoughts on religion in one authoritive tome (with the arguable exception of History of Western Philosophy).

So, if you (like me) are after things to enhance your perspective on atheism, then do read this book. However, if you are after bulletproof arguments and answers to the deeper questions, then I recommend you finish the latest works of the 'Four Horsemen' (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) first...
Oh, and also try the Tao Te Ching - proof that not all ancient literature was God-based or backwards...

P.S. On a lighter note, if you want to hear a satire from the 60's of Bertrand Russell and his philosophical musings, try Portraits From Memory (Bertrand Russell) by the inimitable Jonathan Miller.
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