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Review of The God Delusion

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on November 23, 2008 by Joe

Rating: B+

[Book cover of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion]

As I stared at the cover of this delightfully bright, silver book, I expected grandeur. The book has sold over one and a half million copies, and has been cited by atheists for just an unholy amount of times. The author, Richard Dawkins, is a renowned ethologist and evolutionary biologist; known not only for his preeminent achievement in science, but also for his clear logic, high quality prose, and sharp wit. The God Delusion is currently perhaps the most controversial book arguing against religion, but I ponder whether it lives up to the high-standards so convincingly set forth by atheists.

It certainly has its faults. Chapter three, so titled “Arguments for God’s existence”, is almost embarrassing. I can only deduce that Dawkins wanted to preach to the choir when he employed such abusive labels as “perniciously misleading” and “infantile”. And when he employs a mocking “Nur Nurny Nur Nur” it is hard for a reader not to cringe. If I were religious, Mr. Dawkins would have needlessly offended me. The religious people who picked up the book should be eased in — not pissed into throwing the book away in anger!

Furthermore, Dawkins puts very little effort into his counterarguments. They are the same counterarguments people who have educated themselves on the religion debate have heard a million times. Indeed, I found myself increasingly bored throughout chapter three, as I slowly turned the next pages to find I had correctly predicted the route of his arguments.

In short, religious arguments are (admittedly) easy to refute, but if Dawkins wanted to convert more religious people, he should have gotten his act together, ceased using mockery, and started to take his refutation more seriously.

Chapter four, so titled “Why there is certainly no God”, does not get much better. But it certainly does get better. Dawkins correctly refutes the idea that a creator who has set up all the world’s variables, who simultaneously whispers in the ear of every religious person, and who maintains every single electron in every single atom in every single world is far more improbable than our universe either being spawned by black holes or being part of a system of an infinite number of multiverses.

In this chapter, the literary technique employed by Dawkins will induce many mini-epiphanies in the minds of his readers, especially if they have not studied the essence of our universe; however, Dawkins, once again, continues to be abusive. Not only that, but he begins a whole new list of No-Noes — a list that includes needlessly attacking many no-name religious individuals, and confusing the existence of a non-interventionist God with the Christian God.

Thankfully, the following chapters give a breath of fresh air. They deal with the psychology of religion, important case studies (the “Cargo cults” section is a must read), a discussion about the changing of morality, the indoctrination of children to religion, and a convincing argument as to why organized religion should be abolished. I spoke of “mini-epiphanies” in reviewing chapter four; well, chapters five through ten will leave your mind utterly engaged, perplexed, and bedazzled. Chapters five through ten are Dawkins at his best — it is when he forgets the devise of abstract arguments (which he unfortunately remembered for chapters two and three), and gets down and dirty with the cold hard facts. His ideas are nothing but elegant, and his original thoughts will fascinate.

After reading the book, I conclude that it has failed at its vital intention — to disprove the existence of God. Those two chapters contained so little substance that Dawkins resorted to petty personal attacks. But I believe it has succeeded, miraculously, at something perhaps unintentional. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, examines, investigates, and makes vital conclusions about religion.

His thoughts on religion dominate. Why is it that only one in twelve children deviate from their parents’ religious beliefs? How is it that religions have so much in common? How can atheists be moral without religion? Why should religion exclusively define morality? How and why does religion evolve throughout the ages? Dawkins answers all these questions — and more — in his book.

So sure, I was disappointed at first, because I expected a discussion on the existence of God. But mid-way through the book, I gave up my initial expectation, and I discovered a “wholly” different type of book. And that book was good.