Review: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

In my early teens we studied Greek and Roman mythology in school.  I vividly remember the point when I first thought, “so why are these stories ‘myths,’ and the Bible is ‘truth’?”  That was my first step on a path of theological inquiry, which sounds more advanced than it was.  For most of my adult life, I’ve been involved in some form of “organized religion,” but have not blindly followed the doctrine laid before me.  Instead I’ve gravitated toward faith communities that appreciate and encourage continuous revelation and discovery.

And so I found myself reading The God Delusion, which takes the “Bible as myth” argument one step further, seeking to prove that there is, in fact, no God.  If we have labelled ancient Greek & Roman stories as mythology, and discarded those gods, why do so many of us believe in God?

Dawkins also used scientific arguments to uphold Darwin’s theory of evolution and refute intelligent design and the concept of a “designer.”  I had no trouble with this; I tend to come out in favor of science in most situations.  Then how is it that I have professed belief in God, when there is no scientific basis for this belief?

Dawkins then discussed how religion has been used in ways that harm others:

Even if religion did no other harm in itself, its wanton and carefully nurtured divisiveness — its deliberate and cultivated pandering to humanity’s natural tendency to favour in-groups and shun out-groups — would be enough to make it a significant force for evil in the world.

It’s in the history books, and it’s happening today:  Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Christians, some Christians against other types of Christians, you name it.  In what way is this good for society?  And why does religion play such a super-ordinate role in so many people’s lives?

Dawkins articulated his points well and his analysis was quite thorough.  He made sense to me in many places and was a bit “out there” in others.  And he completely lost me in the last chapter when he discussed quantum mechanics.  Early in this book, Dawkins described a spectrum of belief from 1 (“strong theist”) to 7 (“strong atheist”).  Your place on this continuum will greatly influence what you take away from this book.  In my case, I found it very thought-provoking and enjoyed the mental and spiritual challenges presented by Dawkins’ ideas.

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6 thoughts on “Review: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

  1. I live in a predominantly Catholic nation — we don’t even have a separation of Church and State here, which is, ya know, presumptuous of the Catholics — and the Church is as much a political player as the government and the people. Laws are fought over, our President has been threatened to be excommunicated for endorsing a Reproductive Health Bill that, essentially, only seeks to tell people that, yo, you have options! This is how not to have babies, if you’re down with that. It makes me hopping mad — and I do realize I have info-dumped on you.

    That said, carelessly [almost matter-of-factly] raised a Catholic, I early on found out that I could break away from a movement that, at best, I don’t care for, at worst, gives me the heebie-jeebies. But I’ve still been pretty silent about because, well, I don’t know how to articulate my non-belief — in the religion, in God. Although, yes, though you and I may have differing opinions and beliefs, thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I want an education on non-belief, so, yes, I will go into this biased, but, still. I will take what I can get. And you endorsed it, too, haha.

    The other day, I bought Richard Dawkins’ book on evolution, River Out of Eden a few days ago. Mostly because, again, I needed back-up in explaining and articulating my overpowering certainty in the science.

    [I have taken over this comment box, my goodness.]

    • Sasha, I loved your comment, thank you so much!

      I, too, was raised Roman Catholic (in the US). My father is Presbyterian but because my mother is Catholic they were required to raise their children in the Catholic church (don’t get me started …). I became disenchanted with Catholicism in my teens, largely because of the church’s position on women’s issues (and, well, women in general, IMO). I became involved in my dad’s church and was active in other Presbyterian churches until my late 30s. But during the Bush administration, religion in America got downright weird, and I’ve been struggling with the whole thing ever since.

      I may have to look for Dawkins’ other book.
      Thanks again for visiting!

  2. I’ve got this one on my shelf. It’s one that I’ve been aiming for, with my (relatively-new) efforts to incorporate non-fiction reads alongside my beloved stories and novels. I appreciate his clarity and attention-to-detail.

    • I don’t read very much non-fiction either . I don’t really have an “effort” underway, but I do have one more NF I’m planning to read this year, and a few more gathering dust. So I could do better.

  3. Pingback: My first dip into Dawkins « Sasha & The Silverfish

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