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Archive for the ‘The God Delusion’ Category

Author:  Richard Dawkins

There is one thing that this book clarified for me in fairly short order: I find “passionate” atheists nearly as irritating as fanatical religionists!

Having said that, I actually quite enjoyed reading it (well, parts of it anyway) and found it quite thought provoking.  It does, however, read like an updated version of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian, which was published in 1957.  Dawkins, like Russell, expends a lot of ink and effort railing about the absurdities of various religious beliefs, but mainly about the crazier versions of Christianity.  He also spends a lot of time writing about absurd or outdated notions, which could have been dealt with in a sentence or two.  For example, he devotes a whole chapter to demolishing arguments for God’s existence put forward by (for example) Thomas Aquinas, or from scriptures, or from personal experience, Pascal etc, when really these are notions from another age, with little or no credence in today’s world.  Why bother? 

Likewise, there is a chapter on why, as far as he is concerned, there is almost certainly no God, in which he focuses on the ideas advanced mainly by creationists, such as irreducible complexity and the like and it seems to me he is tilting at wholly juvenile and/or unsophisticated notions of God. 

 In chapter five, The Roots of Religion, he endeavours to explain man’s propensity for religiosity in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory.  I found his arguments wholly unconvincing.  Not that I am rushing to defend religion here, heaven (oops!) forbid, I simply think he has strayed out of his area of expertise into the realms of psychology, anthropology and sociology and applies present day thought and understandings to the social conditions of the distant past. 

Once he gets on to discussing questions like the roots or morality, why are we good, changing moral standards over time and what really is wrong with religion, he produces some very good, thought provoking discussion.  Some of the things he relates: responses, ideas, attacks etc from fundamentalists, are either jaw dropping in their craziness or stupidity, or unspeakably vile. 

Dawkins has been criticised for not being “fair” to religionists, or not being balanced in his considerations of religion.  Well… true… but then again, why should he be?  He is, after all, an avowed atheist, who views religion as pernicious and the idea of God as a delusion.  He could hardly be expected to be supportive or “balanced” towards that which he finds unacceptable.  That would be rather like asking a feminist to speak from the perspective of a wife beater. 

Still, I think it is unfortunate that he passes over belief systems like Buddhism, and Confucianism, describing them as “… not religions at all, but as ethical systems or philosophies of life”  (hmm a bit simplistic there) and makes no real mention of Taoism, or Yogic or Hindu conceptions of God and the like.  There could have been a richer discussion, I think.  And, he puts forward, in his preface, what I would consider to be an astonishingly naive imagining, that without religion there would be no suicide bombers, no crusades, no witch hunts, no persecution of Jews, no beheadings of blasphemers etc etc.  Oh really?  Perhaps I’ve associated with the seamier side of life too long, but I can’t help but think – they’d find a reason, Richard.  They’d find a reason.

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