He critiques 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. In so doing, he makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just irrational, but potentially deadly.
Dawkins has fashioned an impassioned, rigorous rebuttal to religion, to be embraced by anyone who sputters at the inconsistencies and cruelties that riddle the Bible, bristles at the inanity of "intelligent design", or agonizes over fundamentalism in the Middle East or Middle America.
©2006 Richard Dawkins; (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.
"Richard Dawkins is the leading soothsayer of our time....The God Delusion continues his thought-provoking tradition." (J. Craig Venter, decoder of the human genome)
"The God Delusion is smart, compassionate, and true....If this book doesn't change the world, we're all screwed." (Penn & Teller)
"The world needs...passionate rationalists....Richard Dawkins so stands out through the cutting intelligence of The God Delusion." (James D. Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, author of The Double Helix)
If you've read much Dawkins, (The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, Climbing Mount Improbable, and others) it will come as no surprise to you that he is no fan of religion. What is new in The God Delusion is that the evolutionary biologist goes beyond rational disagreement with those who believe, and argues that religion is dangerous and should be opposed on nearly every front. He recognizes that religion has been an important force in art and literature, but gives it credit for little else in the realm of good.
Dawkins makes no distinction between radical evangelical Christianity, the Taliban and Jihadist Muslims. The worldview of each is equally intolerant of any other belief, and so ultimately equally dangerous.
Dawkins spends about half the book examining historical and philosophical arguments for the existence of God. In doing so, he takes apart the reasoning of many men, noble and ignoble, most of whom are dead. In a historical review such of this, arguing with the dead is unavoidable. Dawkins spends a bit too much time arguing with the more recently dead Stephen Jay Gould, a fellow evolutionary biologist and sometimes nemesis, than is strictly necessary.
One thing that particularly rankles Dawkins is the concept of children being born into a religion. They grow up, typically, thinking that their parents' religion is the one true faith. How lucky for them. Dawkins seethes at calling a four-year-old a Catholic or Muslim child. We do not call them a Democrat or a Republican based on their parents' convictions. They are allowed to make that choice for themselves when they mature. Religion should be a matter of choice, not indoctrination, according to Dawkins. Of all his contentions in this particularly contentious book, this may be the least likely to gain traction.
Because religion in its multitude of forms is so widely practiced, Dawkins assertions will seem radical. They will not, however, seem irrational.
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.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
I always enjoyed that line between humanist and believer. I remember when I was a Mormon missionary reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. After finishing it, I immediately felt I needed to read Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. I don't have a real problem with agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc. I think the competitive nature of belief is important. I think religion NEEDS to be able to thrive under scrutiny. It can't be comfortable. It can't be too protected. It needs to offer something if it is going to continue to be relevant. But I just can't get too excited by Dawkins, Harris, and Maher's forms of Atheism. While I like and respect their ability and desire to look at facts, adore skepticism and the scientific method, etc., their tone seems to have been lifted from Fundamentalist Christians.
Perhaps, it is their evangelical nature I am rejecting. But it can't be that exactly. I loved Christopher Hitchens. It wasn't like he was just soft and kind. But he came off more like a drunk rationalist than I pious prig. Perhaps that is my main beef with Dawkins. When he is in positivist mode, he is exciting. I love reading his stuff about evolution and science and the scientific method. I just don't think he is very good and criticism. He seems to smug. Too cocky. To be fair to Dawkins I felt the same way about overly smug members of my own belief system, or Christians who seem more interested in bashing other's beliefs than showing the benefits of their own. Don't smash Buddhists, SHOW me what you have to offer. Don't smash belief, show me what skepticism has to offer.
As far as the narration, the back-and-forth narration between Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward was a bit distracting. The male/female, twisting narration helixes through the entire book, but I can't quite see the point of it. Perhaps it was just so that Dawkins didn't have to narrate the whole book himself. But why, in the middle of a paragraph, would you switch narrators. It was odd.
I've read a couple of Richard Dawkin's works: The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion.
First of all, let me praise Mr. Dawkins, and Lalla Ward for a captivating reading of his work. They make a good oratory team, very pleasant listening. I was hoping for a bit more "meat" to chew on in God Delusion but to me, Richard simply sets up straw men then slays them magnificently. Like a skilled surgeon, he seeks out the most tumorous examples of mankind's failures in the name of religion then portrays them as an evil perpetrated by faith in God. I share his disgust for religion as we know it, having been corrupted by corrupt men, but that comparrison is just as useless as blaming a firearm for murdering someone. From a more positive perspective, Christians, especially church leaders and clergy, should read TGD, not so much for what it reveals about atheism but for what it reveals about how religion is perceived by non-believers. It is to their shame the message of The Cross is lost in the cacophony of religious infighting and corruption.
A reasonable counterbalance to TGD is Ravi Zacharias' Can Man Live Without God?, a collection of speeches given by Mr. Zacharias. Ravi sets up his own straw men for battle and does an eloquent job of doing so. Of course, he's coming from the perspective of one who believes in an almighty Creator so he manages to raise questions that Mr. Dawkins didn't seem to think of. Where Dawkins attempts to appeal to logic, Ravi focuses more on the philosophical aspects of the state of mankind. My personal, and totally biased opinion, is that Zacharias gets a head start in the debate simply because he addresses the heart of man, rather than the mere mind of man.
To those who are convinced in their positions, whether it be for or against God, neither of these orators will sway you from your stance. If you're genuinely on the fence, read both books.
i am a christian, and i found this book to be brilliant (with the exception of the section on memes, which i found to be pedantic)... i believe that anyone -- religious or non-religious, young or old -- should read this book... whether you agree with the conclusions Dawkins draws, these are important questions that have bearing on all of humanity, and this is a very well considered, cohesive, and enjoyable treatise on matters of origin and existence... its a bit slow at times, but on the whole i cannot recommend this highly enough...
This book was a life-changing experience for me. I always knew I was not a believer, but I never could articulate what I was. I owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Dawkins for his rational, elegant, and passionate dissection of the intellectual fraud we call revealed religion. You could say that Dawkins gave me the courage to come out of the closet and put my HL Mencken quotes up on the wall for all to see.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is the moral outrage it no doubt causes among believers, so many of whom probably haven't read (listened) to it.
Once I started listening to this book, I could not stop until the last word was spoken. This is the only audiobook I've listened to twice.
I picked this up after seeing the author on the Daily Show - I must admit he was preaching to the choir with me. I like a good debate on religious sociology but even though I agreed with the theory I found this book condescending. Maybe it was just the narrators but everytime they brought up an opposing theory it sounded snide and pompous. I probably also missed the point of the book - because rather than discrediting all other theories I thought they would make a case for their theory. Overall disappointed with the product as I was quite looking forward to the book.
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.
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.
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