Friday, June 14, 2013

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins

The God DelusionFirst sentence: The boy lay prone upon the grass, his chin resting on his hands. 

"A preeminent scientist -- and the world's most prominent atheist -- asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to /9/11. With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster."

Argh...I have a few problems with this book. It's certainly fascinating, and it makes a lot of good points, but I kind of think that Dawkins crosses the line a little bit in the beginning. If you thought The Greatest Show on Earth trod upon other people's beliefs, then wait until you read The God Delusion. In the very first chapter, Dawkins talks about this and says that people always avoid arguing about religion, and it's generally fine to argue about other things, but people never argue about religion. Which is true to some extent, but for many people, it is okay to argue about religion. As long as you do it respectfully. I mean, if you're talking about politics, you can say that Mitt Romney is a moron, but that really isn't a valid political argument, unless you have facts to back it up. It's the same thing (or practically the same thing) with religion. You can call religion evil and any other nasty names you like, but that's not going to make religious people listen to your argument. You have to back it up. Which is what Dawkins is attempting to do in this book. But I still really think that religion is a sensitive issue, and it ought to be treaded carefully around. Not around, I guess, but through. It would be silly to not talk about it at all, but it's very important for some people, and you're liable to offend them if you call the goodness of their religion into question. However, it was only the preface that seemed to me liable to get somewhat offensive. 

That said, I agree with a lot of what Dawkins has to say. He's also definitely a better writer than Christopher Hitchens was; although Hitchens was witty, his writing wasn't that great. Dawkin's writing is very good. He's humorous at times, but he also demonstrates his keen skill for research and includes quotes from both political parties and many sides. Although I'm sure that just like everyone else, he sometimes manipulates people's words. I thought the section on the founding fathers was particularly interesting; I had no idea that many of them were possibly agnostics and maybe even atheists. The following section discussing atheist injustice was very telling too; a man tried to demonstrate peaceably against a group which was telling patients to throw away their insulin and chemotherapy and let God decide. He went to the police station to make sure that he would be protected, whereupon when told that he would be protesting against the group, he was threatened by six or seven different policeman. It's ridiculous. If a presidential candidate confessed atheism or even agnosticism, it would be political suicide. Dawkins argues correctly that this is not what the founding fathers would have wanted. 

I had at first thought that The God Delusion would be mainly about how awful specific religions are, but it's better than that. Dawkins talks about religion in general, and why you can argue for its non-existence, and why a God would be a terrible thing. I definitely learned a lot from The God Delusion, and it definitely expanded my thinking. I think it's a book that everyone should read, because it is really, really fascinating, no matter whether you're religious or not. If you are, it probably won't change your mind (although you never know), but it will be interesting, that I can guarantee. If somewhat jarring. 

I went into The God Delusion expecting something very different, and I ended up really enjoying it, both for its humor, great writing, and interesting content. Dawkin's writing is not dry at all. The book goes surprisingly quickly. 

Each of the chapters in The God Delusion is fascinating in its own right, and this is a book that's well worth reading, whether or not one agrees with some aspects of it. I certainly learned a lot, and in the end, I think that Dawkins succeeds in writing a book that's better than just saying religion is evil. He discusses things in a meaningful way, and I loved this one. It was much better than god Is Not Great

374 pages.

Rating: *****

No comments:

Post a Comment