Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
This book is aimed at what Dawkins sees as a growing population of closeted non-believers -- people who associate themselves with a religion or profess some vague spirituality, but don't, in their heart of hearts, really believe that there's a God. The God Delusion is his attempt to empower that population to take the small step to unapologetic, open atheism.
Dawkins goes through many of the expected arguments, detailing the lack of evidence for any definable God, particularly one who matches the scriptural Judeo-Christian deity. Frankly, I think that most of what he says in early chapters is common sense. We know from science that the Earth and life on it appeared without any direct creator. We know that supernatural miracles don't happen in the real world. No proof of a human afterlife exists. Religion's myths when examined closely, often make little sense, and conflict with science. Religious morals can be simplistic and inconsistent, and different sects of the same faith can't even agree on major points of theology. Religion often justifies intolerance, oppression, and violence. Religion demands special privileges and considerations that are seldom given by modern societies to similarly unprovable non-religious ideas.
As an agnostic, I thought that Dawkins successfully laid out all the pieces of reasoning that it took me several years to assemble on my own, as a young, disillusioned Catholic. Perhaps I would have abandoned that creed earlier, had a book like this jump-started my thought process.
Still, Dawkins' entire view of theology doesn't quite line up with mine. For one thing, he's a bit smug and self-righteous, going so far as to blast faith as a form of mental illness, and ignoring the fact that the basic human compulsions that draw reasonable people to spirituality can be quite powerful. He unfairly includes famous intellectuals arguably better described as agnostics (such as Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein) in the atheist camp, and lambastes agnostics as being unreasonably non-committal, which, as an agnostic, I didn't care for. I don't agree with his easy disposal of ultimate questions -- when considering an infinite, eternal chain of universes, there???s simply no way for the human intellect to explain its origins, whether through top-down Creation or bottom-up Evolution. There???s no reason to believe that this cosmic continuum doesn???t contain god-like entities, that we aren???t part of some larger universal consciousness, or that the laws of the greater multiverse, beyond our small, localized window of awareness, are remotely within our ability to understand. I still believe in transcendence and transcendent experience.
All that said, I think this book accomplishes something valuable in promoting unapologetic skepticism to the mainstream. Its talking points, though I don't agree with all of them, are a necessary part of any honest discussion about the roles of faith and religion in the modern world.
I am reading a lot of books about the negative effect of religion these days. I started out with no intention to read any of them, but first tackled Sam Harris’ The End of Faith because an online discussion was just too interesting not to participate. I found the Harris book an eye opener. The number one idea I took away from it was that it doesn’t make sense to exempt religious ideas from any sort of logical argument. Our culture tacitly agrees that anyone can believe anything they want and the result is often that once someone interjects a religious sentiment into the argument or discussion, the debaters silently slink off, whether they agree or not, on the theory that the person is “entitled to his belief”. Believe it or not it had not occurred to me that that practice was not exactly correct. It was tolerant and humane. Harris convinced me it was also dangerous. I think he also convinced me that religion was dangerous when it was “moderate”. Then I read Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy which was notable primarily for the statistics on the numbers of Americans who believe literally in the Bible and the growth of fundamentalist believers and churches—at the expense of the mainline protestant denominations like the one I was raised in. In the interim I read several articles and speeches such as the one by Bill Moyers on why Christians in thrall to The Rapture don’t care about conservation because they expect the world to end soon anyway. (I see he’s even published a short book on the subject called Welcome to Doomsday). The God Delusion is my third read on this topic in less than a year, despite the fact that I would not say that religion is one of my priority topics.
I must say that while my response to Dawkins’ book was a series of "buts", in all honesty I must stay that he had anticipated my responses and gave answers that satisfied me. Which is not the same thing as saying I loved the book.
I am in agreement with many of the reviewers here who really appreciated this book. I just have a few additional comments:
1) The two-narrator format seemed odd to me at first until I realized it was like a two-person play. Then I really enjoyed listening to the narrators play off each other.
2) Richard Dawkins is a superb reader of his own work, which is not something you can say for everyone.
3) This book is NOT a rant, as others have said. We always accuse others of ranting when we cannot answer their arguments.
4) It is not absurd to say that raising a child to be religious is a kind of child abuse. Many people wonder about this, especially those in the particularly guilt-inducing varieties of religion. I've known many folks over the years who wonder what damage they may be doing to their kids.
5) Dawkins makes it clear at the beginning that he does not expect to win over true believers. He is instead giving people permission to be atheists. This is an important distinction and is based on his experience with readers and students over the years. I teach about human evolution and can verify that many people don't even realize they have a choice when it comes to the ways they think and live in the world.
6) Dawkins is right that so many people who are anti-evolution do not understand how it works. He is also right that really understanding evolution is a life-transforming, consciousness-raising experience.
7) This book is very witty and in some parts, downright funny. But it is also compassionate and nurturing in many ways.
In "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins is witty, poignant, and inspiring. I have listened to most of it in a very short amount of time because I have a hard time putting it down. If you're looking for proof that belief in a personal God is irrational or an explanation to why so many people believe in God, this book will do the job. Dawkins' book is thought provoking, eye opening, and enjoyable to listen to. I'd love to see more of his books (and books like it) on this site. It is now one of my favorites.
The book sometimes is infantile, with performances mocking other points of view.
However silly the opposite argument may be, I expected more than nanananana from a leading biologist.
The content itself is great and there's some amazing logic there, I just wish I could edit out that bullying.
My Atheist friends find this book much more convincing than I, as a believer. A good book, nonetheless, but many arguments presented are not strong enough.
I probably would, but would prefer a condensed version of several of his books to this one.
Dawkins' performance was excellent, but Ward's came off as condescending and trying too hard to force opinion. Changing the tone of voice to make a statement come off as ridiculous may sway some, but not an intellectual looking for a solid argument.
YouTube Mr. Deity (there is an even funnier cartoon series but I cannot remember the name)
Bottom line - if you're already a non-believer then this book can give you some extra debating points. If you are already a believer this book doesn't have the solid evidence required, unless you are truly looking deep down for a reason to change.This book is the opposite of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, whose book, although the arguments are much better presented, doesn't contain the evidence required to make one believe. However, just as in Dawkins' book, if you deep down want to believe what the book is trying to sell you already, then the book may be all that is needed to convince you.
The writing not having been so condescending.
No, I love the topic. And also am a fan of earlier works by Dawkins.
The shifting between the two narrators I found distracting and at times trite.
Frustration is what I felt - frustration that an important message for our time is being so forcefully and with little finesse shoved via books like this. His other book, "The Magic of Reality" (a beautifully illustrated hardcover and equally awesome App experience) is likewise condescending and put me off. However, don't shy away from the "Selfish Gene".
Atheist's out there: Read/listed to something about science and just learn how the world works (like "Big History").Non Atheists looking for a book from the "other side": I would NOT say this gives any justice to the topic unless you like being bludgeoned with opposing viewpoints which treat you as a child.
I think this is a great book. I'm sorry it took me so long to come across it. I've been atheist for a long time, now I no longer feel ashamed to say so. (It's a good thing I'm not a politician, that would be the end of my career.)
This is a good scientific based analysis and presentation of religion as an evolved human adaptation or behavior, and the idea of religion as a meme - a replicating and evolving component of our environment that uses humans as a vector for reproduction. Think of the cold virus.
This is an engaging and enjoyable book that makes a strong case for abandoning the wishful thinking of religious belief and embracing reality to the best of our ability. I found it bracing and thought-provoking.
The two-reader format was bit distracting. At first I thought the female voice (Lalla Ward) was reading only quoted passages, while Dawkins was reading the bulk of the text. However, it turns out that the readers change apparently at random intervals. Ward, though a clear reader, often took a somewhat disdainful tone that wasn't so apparent in Dawkins's voice. However, this is a minor niggle that did not detract much from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Looking back on my own conversion to atheism and how difficult it was to abandon my religious upbringing, I hope this book will make the struggle easier for those who are just starting down that path. The book makes clear the fact that, by opening our eyes to reality, we see a universe much more awe-inspiring than what is allowed by religious mythology.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
I read this book a few years ago, but I’m a big fan of Richard Dawkins so I decided to ‘read’ it again. Even though I was familiar with the material, I found it just as compelling, if not more so, the second time around. I’m addicted to Dawkins’ crisp logical arguments and his brilliant use of analogies and examples.
I have to admire the courage of a man who doesn’t pull any punches in his criticism of religion in general, and especially of religious fundamentalist fanaticism (both Christian and Muslim). I’m sure this has put him in some danger of reprisal from these groups, but he doesn’t hold back because he’s passionate that religion is a force distorting human thought and behaviour to a massive extent.
He emphasizes that children are indoctrinated with religious beliefs at a vulnerable age, an age when young minds are ‘programmed’ by natural selection to believe things that adults tell them, especially when those adults are very solemn and emphatic about the message in question. For example, in modern times an adult would be very emphatic and serious when cautioning a child against jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool or crossing a busy street. The child knows when the adult means business, and these messages tend to hit home. This tendency in children to obey and believe adults when in this serious mode would (in our ancestry) have been favoured by natural selection, because those children would be more likely to survive and pass on their genes. But, Dawkins argues, this leaves the way open for a by-product, a ‘virus’, a meme to hijack the receptive mind of the child. If an idea such as ‘god is watching you all the time and will punish you if you sin’ is impressed upon the child in this solemn way, then the child will grow up and pass this idea on to his children, and so the religious meme can take hold and a vicious cycle may prevail.
Another of his main points is that the truth, or otherwise, of any religious proposition should be open to question as if it was any other ordinary subject. He doesn’t believe that religion should be protected from having to defend its veracity by having a special privileged status as ‘sacred’. This is an unfair advantage. It should be fair game for robust debate.
And a third point that I like is his identification that when people consider the fact that there either is or is not a god, they perceive the probability to be 50/50, because this is a binary choice. Dawkins explains that the binary choice is not 50/50. His example to illustrate this point is the existence of the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy either exists or not, and this is also a binary situation, but here we can see that the probability of this existing, or a unicorn or the god Zeus, are much smaller than 50%. We should apply the same reasoning to the existence probability of any God, but it becomes yet more unlikely the more specific and detailed (and farfetched) are the proposed properties of this deity (e.g. he created the world less than 10,000 years ago, he killed everyone in a flood, except for a few humans and animals saved in an ark, he had a son via a virgin birth on earth, the son was crucified and came back to life after being dead 3 days, this god knows all the thoughts of all people at all times and answers prayers, he sends good ones to heaven and bad ones to hell etc. etc.).
Dawkins does sometimes go off at a bit of a tangent with some slightly convoluted and tenuous arguments to support his ideas. For example, when discussing the human psychological need to be consoled by a god (‘a god-shaped hole in the brain’), he explains this by alluding to a child’s need for an imaginary friend (specifically, ‘Binky’ in a poem by A.A. Milne). I sort of see what he is getting at, but I think a less sympathetic reader might find this easy to mock and dismiss. It isn’t every child that has an imaginary friend, and those that do have them grow out of them, so to my mind this isn’t all that strong an argument. Personally, the times when I would like there to be a god are when I’m afraid or grief-stricken; those lonely scary times at 3 a.m. when I think about my own death or that of a loved one. At other times I don't feel the need to believe in god.
Dawkins has been criticised as being too fanatical in his atheist position, so that his opponents can point to him and say that he’s just another variety of fundamentalist, just as bad as the religious ones. However, although Dawkins does sometimes stray into very controversial territories, reinforcing the idea that he is an extremist and a ‘fundamentalist’, I believe that his occasional excesses are just the result of his passion and commitment to a phenomenally worthy cause, which is to help people to use reason, logic and the evidence of their senses to determine the likelihood of the existence of supernatural beings and to decide whether or not they should live their lives according to rules laid down in ancient scriptures.