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Richard Dawkins takes on God
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
Member Name: steerpyke
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
Date: 15/12/06, updated on 15/12/06 (348 review reads)
Advantages: an indepth and eloquent book
Disadvantages: may upset the narrow minded
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
To some people the idea of Richard Dawkins writing a book about the religious ideology and the very nature of God, may be on par with, if Enoch Powell had written a book on multi-cultural integration or Tipper Gore of artistic freedom of speech. As Britain’s highest profile Atheist, as well as being a staunch evolutionist (for which he has earned the nick name of “Darwin’s Rottweiler”) it would almost seem that the debate he has to offer would be a bit one sided and the conclusions a bit foregone. In the hands of lesser writers this may have very well been the case. What needs to be borne in mind here is that Dawkins was recently voted into the top three intellectuals worldwide, along side Noam Chomsky and Umberto Eco, indicating that this book may offer a more considered journey through the subject matter than you might expect. Indeed it does. Another consideration is the target audience. Although this is book contains a wealth of elegantly intellectual arguments and closely considered reasoning, Dawkins would probably be the first to concede that for all its heavyweight philosophising, it will still fail to dent the armour of the true believer, but then this book isn’t really aimed at them in the first place. Proof and literary critique not only has no place in true faith it is almost the antithesis of it. That is not a criticism, for faith is on one side of the coin and proof is on the other and as they say “proof denies faith”. In my opinion this is aimed at the “don’t knows”, those that maybe have a token membership to religious path, but who, if pushed, would have to say they are not sure either way and in modern society that is an ever growing quarter. To use the terminology of Chet Raymo, this is aimed at the sceptics rather than the true believers. This book may also very well appeal to the broad-minded believer, in that only by knowing the arguments can you truly be part of the debate. It is beneficial to read widely across the spectrum, after all even the devout Thomas Aquinas said “beware of a man with only one book” and he was hardly a fence sitter when it came to god.
The obvious starting point for someone of Dawkins viewpoint is “intelligent design” verses Darwinism, put more simply the biblical creation versus evolution. As I said earlier, the author is not one to dismiss the opposing view to the one that he holds out of hand. But if there is a crucial point to be made regarding the literal truth of the Bible it is this. Many people today are willing to dismiss elements of the Bible, particularly the earlier stories such as the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Flood and Moses Red Sea crossing, as allegorical teaching or parables. In their place many can accept more modern and scientific explanations for the deluge and the age of the world as a whole. But either the Bible is the unabridged word of God, divinely revealed or inspired, or it is not. If you accept some but not all of the stories, are you not then in a situation where by you are just picking what works and sweeping what doesn’t under the carpet. And this holds for every holy text, in fact through out the book Dawkins in the main manages to avoid picking on any one religion in particular and instead talks about religion with a small r.
A wealth of topics is covered in his travels through the various pathways that explore religious belief. Monotheism verse Polytheism, Religion verses Secularism, (with some interesting things to say about Americas founding fathers) arguments for and against gods existence, the differing types of agnostic and even the idea of religious thought as being the by-product of the way we are genetically programmed to obey as a child. One of the more interesting areas covered is the idea of morality, good and evil in a non-religious environment. Many of the things religions have to offer can after all be found in non-religious community environments, maybe an organised theological teaching offers a focus but it is not the only way to measure right and wrong. One of the more controversial areas that made the media for the wrong reason is, what he terms religious child abuse. The abuse he is talking about here is the idea of bringing up a child in the religion of its parents without him or her being able to have any options. After all saying an eight-year-old child is a Muslim or a Jew is surely no different from saying they are a Marxist or a Capitalist, why is one accepted and the other not. Even in the seventeenth century there was a group called the Anabaptists who believed that the religious path a person was to take should be freely chosen by them as the enter into adulthood and were experienced enough to be able to make a considered choice.
Even if you don’t agree with the overall conclusions of the book, and there are many that won’t, it is still a marvellous read for the broad-minded and the undecided alike. The debates that are worked through and the examples used are eloquent and enlightening and at no point does it degenerate into an attack on the spiritual path. Instead the thrust of the argument is to offer more logical alternatives to those offered by religion. There is even room in Einstein’s theories for God, maybe not one that the Pope would recognise, but a God nonetheless and if the architect of modern view of the universe has a place for him then maybe its not about “is there a god” but maybe more about defining what we mean by the very word. The God Delusion is a wonderfully crafted debate, a reasoned and articulate read and to those fed up with being brow beaten by the virtuous, tired of hearing that we must have faith and believe in mystery and superstition beyond our understanding, this will sound like the trumpet blast of reason. To finish on a marvellous quote from the jackets blurb, “It feels like coming up for air”.
Summary: a surprisingly balanced discussion about religion and god
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