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The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins
Bantam hardcover £20

review by Tony Lee

Back in February of 2006, Channel Four broadcast a two-part documentary about the dangers of religion. Presented with admirable candour by Professor Richard Dawkins, the controversial TV show was titled Root Of All Evil?

Like that programme, The God Delusion is an anti-religious polemic, and is based firmly upon clear scientific thinking, digging expertly through biblical testaments and layers of dogma to expose the deplorable hypocrisy of orthodox faiths and the outright malicious, disturbing lies of fundamentalism. It delivers a fierce rebuttal of the misleading pseudo-scientific claims for 'intelligent design' and reveals with sharply honed reason the utterly nonsensical fallacy of creationism's arguments, while citing numerous clarifying proofs and highly persuasive theories (chiefly, Darwin's famed 'natural selection', of course) to thoroughly discredit the cunning propaganda of sinister cultists, and the wishy-washy opinions of Christian apologists. The book is also a forthright counterattack upon the individuals and groups with religious beliefs who have condemned Richard Dawkins (fast becoming the world's sincerest voice of militant atheism), and claim to have been deeply offended by his frequently caustic, and necessarily unforgiving, views on their irrational and blinkered creeds.

The God Delusion pulls no punches in its assault on the unshakeably devout, especially those who refuse to even consider the various detailed theories offered by science for the existence of humanity, and the very likely possibility that God (allegedly the creator of the whole universe!) does not exist. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Dawkins' opposition to all that's holy is the assertion that, in terms of global population numbers, the most pious are mainly the undereducated and those with a low IQ. This may sound uncomfortably like elitism to certain (overly sensitive?) readers, but the unassuming Dawkins wisely retains reasonable impartiality as both a keen researcher and observer of societal behaviours in such matters, ensuring that even his most hostile statements about faith are entirely free of prejudice, and inoffensive when compared to hate mail sent to the author.

Not content with opposing the dominant influence that religions have over government (especially in the United States), Dawkins also questions the roots of morality, arguing that concepts of absolute good or evil are sheer nonsense, concocted as fake 'guarantees' by the closed minds of religion. Following his summary of the interesting results of an online survey concerned with moral dilemmas, the author suggests that philosophers of secular humanism should look elsewhere for the source of our innate sense of right and wrong. Despite the seemingly frivolous nature of anecdotal evidence culled from the web, it adds much weight to already compelling arguments that the origins and zeitgeist of morality are not to be found in religion. Further to this, Dawkins presents of a full catalogue of religion's other perverse faults, including, but not only, the subversion of scientific principles, the wilful undermining of social progress and sexual equality, and sundry inexcusable errors of societal divisiveness and the devaluation of majorities.

"Religion is an insult to human dignity."
- Steven Weinberg (Nobel prize-winning physicist)


So, according to Dawkins, is there anything inherently 'good' about religion at all? Well, like many compassionate atheists, he begrudgingly accepts that a great many 'lost souls' may derive comfort (especially in troubled times) from the false 'certainties' of scripture. But is that cause, enough, for public tolerance of the laughable irrationality of organised religions? Dawkins chastises religious people for attributing their core beliefs to 'sacred' texts like the bible, even while the believers admit that gospels and canon should only be viewed as symbolic, and not read as factual, and that faith promises rewards in the afterlife. They cannot weasel out of it that easily, of course, and Dawkins' response is that such an inadequate and blatantly facetious argument is hardly supportive of a passionate search for truth, of any sort...

Having no religious beliefs myself, reading this book is, for me, somewhat analogous to Dawkins preaching to the converted (please excuse the ironic use of that clichéd phrase). As a fellow atheist, though, I applaud his stand against those claiming that the quest for ultimate truth is a job only for priests, and philosophers, not for qualified scientists. But, evidently, The God Delusion is not aimed at unbelievers. Hopefully, the text will change the minds, if not the very lives, of lapsed Catholics, wavering Muslims, and the sufferers of other unenlightened doctrines. There's something to cheer on every page, so, roll up, roll up... Get your consciousness raised here. Politicians like Tony Blair and George W. Bush should be urged to read this book, preferably aloud on live television (so that we can watch them squirm!), but also to their children.

I prefer to trust in the godless universe that Dawkins describes so well here. Contrary to religious faith, a world without any gods is not empty. To paraphrase SETI motto "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," I would suggest: absence of the 'Almighty' is not an almighty absence. The possibilities of life are far richer without the notion of a 'supreme being'. Admittedly, though, I don't have Dawkins' facility with language. I can't match his pleasantly witty erudition on all aspects of religion, or the intellectual gravitas of this fine book's tightly constructed essays. To anyone who foolishly (and possibly insanely?) maintains archaic 18th or 19th century religious habits into the more sophisticated 21st century, I would just say, shove this up your pope and stoke it!
God Delusion by Richadr Dawkins


read our review of:
The End Of Faith
by Sam Harris



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