David Baltimore in American Scientist praises The God Delusion, an anti-religious book by Richard Dawkins, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. In his review, Baltimore notes that “Dawkins doesn’t ever come to terms with the large number of scientists who are comfortable believing both [in] evolution … and that there is a God.” He then goes on to suggest that Dawkins’s “core reason for writing his manuscript was to change the status of atheists in America to one of tolerance if not ultimate acceptance.”

It appears that Dawkins has written this manuscript as an attempt provide fodder for both the secular and scientific worlds as they take on those religious sects that want to rule the masses through the political arena. He believes this is necessary in order to reduce the political turmoil caused by religion, which does little other than make it harder for world communities to live together peaceably. However, I have a hard time subscribing to Dawkins philosophy that belief in a supernatural creator is nothing short of delusional, which he defines as a persistent false belief in the existence of God despite strong contradictory evidence. While I tend to believe that God is from an advanced planet somewhere outside of our universe, I cannot buy into evolution nor fathom how man could exist unless we were brought here by a higher power.

To prove his points Dawkins, in The God Delusion, incorporates four “consciousness-raising” messages, the first of which states that Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled. Secondly, that natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to the theory of intelligent design. Thirdly, that children should not be labeled by their parents’ religion and lastly, that Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind. What is amazing, however, to this reviewer, is that Dawkins displays a religious enthusiasm for science which he explains away as “Einsteinian religion”, referring to Einstein’s use of the word “God” as a metaphor for nature or the mysteries of the universe. Apparently Einstein’s “God” is ok since it is not focused on a supernatural creator who man worships. Thus showing no respect for conventional religion Dawkins continues his rant by concluding that religion is given a privileged and undeserved immunity against criticism incorporating a quote by Douglas Adams to illustrate his point. The quote states that “Religion … has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever.” What Adams intends this to mean is, “Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about”.Dawkins then precedes to list a number of examples of religion being given privileged status, such as the ease of gaining conscientious objector status; the use of euphemisms for religious conflicts; various exemptions from the law; and the Muhammad cartoons controversy. 

By chapter 2 Dawkins attacks God directly when he describes “Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, as arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction which basically came down to His being a malevolent bully.”He continues by suggesting that the existence of God is merely a hypothesis like any other, one that should be treated with as much skepticism as evolution or any other proposed hypothesis.  

Then in chapter 3 Dawkins turns his attention to the five proofs of Thomas Aquinas the main philosophy behind our believing in the existence of God.  Dawkins argues throughout this chapter that the first three of Aquinas’s proofs are based on infinite regresses and states, “it is by no means clear that God provides a natural terminator to the regresses”. He then suggests that Aquinas’s fourth way, the Argument from Degree, is “fatuous” by way of an overload objection of the “pre-eminently peerless stinker”. However, he reserves the fifth proof, the Argument from Design, for later discussion in the next chapter on evolution, which he considers its ultimate refutation. However, Dawkins isn’t content to stop there but takes on as many of the arguments as he can in his short manifesto to explain why there almost certainly is no God.

By chapter 4 he is ready to tackle evolution by natural selection and to demonstrate that the argument of Intelligent Design is wrong. He contends that a hypothetical cosmic designer would require an even greater explanation than the phenomena of natural selection. He uses an argument from improbability, to suggest that “God almost certainly does not exist”: stating, “However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.” The “Boeing 747” reference alludes to a statement made by Fred Hoyle: the “probability of life originating on earth is no greater than the chance that a hurricane sweeping through a scrap-yard would have the luck to assemble a Boeing 747”.  

In chapter 5, Dawkins explains that the roots of religion were an accidental by-product of human’s susceptibility to religious memes and was therefore able to spread like a “mind virus” across societies. This leads into chapter 6 where Dawkins addresses the subject of morality, maintaining that our morality has a Darwinian explanation: “altruistic genes that have been selected through the process of our evolution.” Chapter 7 continues the morality theme insisting that moral Zeitgeist continue to evolve in society, often in opposition to the warped and brutal influence of religious morality.  

Towards the end of the book, Dawkins states that his hostility toward religion comes from religion’s efforts to subvert science, its ability to foster fanaticism, encourage bigotry and influence society in other negative ways. He supports his message by providing examples of cases where people have been accused of blasphemy only to find themselves sentenced to death and how people in the name of religion have picketed at the funerals of gays or gay sympathizers. Dawkins further shows how the Bible was manipulated by southern preachers to condone slavery and how during the Crusades, anyone who refused to convert to Christianity were murdered.  

Dawkins even manages to draw a parallel between childhood, abuse and religious training of children by equating religious indoctrination of children by parents to a form of mental abuse. If Dawkins had his way people would cringe whenever a young child was taught about God rather being allowed to develop their own independent views on the cosmos and humanity’s place within it. Finally, his argument suggests that the world would be a better place if everyone maintained an atheistic viewpoint so that no one had to struggle with religion’s unsatisfying “answers” to life’s mysteries. 

Overall, Dawkins may be right in his assertion that religions themselves are potentially dangerous, and that religious zealotry is neither necessary nor sufficient for suicide bombers. However, his fervor is no less dangerous and his thesis shows a superficial knowledge of the Bible and an intolerance towards theists that is no less dangerous. The physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, suggests that an unrelenting attack upon people’s beliefs might be less productive than “positively demonstrating how the wonders of nature can suggest a world without God that is nevertheless both complete and wonderful.” As far as religious training of children being child abuse I can definitely see instances where that was the case but for most rational human beings God is relayed to children as a benevolent persona that is non threatening, by loving parents, and can in no way be viewed as detrimental to a child’s mental health.

[tags]God, delusion, The God Delusion, book, non fiction, Richard Dawkins, Oxford University, book review, child abuse, Intelligent Design, Creator, Yahweh, religion, suicide bombers, atheism, atheist, scientific, [/tags]