The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on August 11, 2009

The God Delusion
By Richard Dawkins
Review by D.B. Lee

Encouragingly or discouragingly, depending on your position, recent polls have shown a marked increase in United States citizens identifying themselves as religiously unaffiliated, agnostic or atheist.

This is certainly encouraging news to Dr. Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Previously best known for works on evolution (geared toward the general reader), Dawkins has seemingly never altered his language and positions in an effort to avoid controversy.

Woody Allen once quipped, “You cannot prove the nonexistence of God; you just have to take it on faith.” Dawkins expands: “What matters is not whether God is disprovable (he isn’t) but whether or not his existence is probable.” Toward that end, Dawkins explores the ancient and updated arguments for God’s existence, then counters with a chapter entitled “Why there is almost certainly no God.”

Before his untimely death in 2002, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould developed a position placing religion and science as “nonoverlapping magisteria (NOMA),” whereby science reveals the workings of the natural world and religion deals with “ultimate meaning and moral value.” (A modern update of 16th century Cardinal Baronius’ statement that “The Bible was written to show how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”) Dawkins, who loved parrying with Gould on interpretations of evolutionary theory, won’t have any of this NOMA nonsense. He leaps for religion’s jugular, going so far as to define childhood inculcation of religion as abuse.

The God Delusion is part of the “Unholy Trinity” of best-selling anti-religious books. (The others being God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.)* While TGD may not change the minds of most believers, it clearly presents powerful arguments that will require equally powerful responses from religious apologists.

*See also Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel C. Dennett.

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