The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins

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2006, Houghton Mifflin Co., 374 pgs.
Dawkins is a celebrated evolutionary
biologist who, along with Sam Harris (The End of Faith), has emerged as one of the better known proponents of atheism in contemporary literature.  Both books have been New York Times best sellers.

In my own work, New Pilgrim Chronicles, I have likewise argued for the critical need of the species to evolve from faith to reason:

  “Faith, as the antithesis of reason, is a barbarous relic that 
   must be discarded if civilization, much less any prospect for
   freedom, is to emerge.”—from Chapter 5, New Pilgrim

Apparently, being in favor of reason is the right thing to be these days: even Al Gore is getting into the act come spring of 2007 with The Assault on Reason.

Dawkins’ main thesis is the natural world and even sentient beings such as ourselves are accounted for by natural explanations.  Thus, God is not a requirement for and has a vanishingly small probability of existence.

Dawkins’ approach is mainly to counter various arguments that have been made for the Supreme Being, e.g.:

• Thomas Aquinas’ propositions
• Arguments from morality and beauty
• The ontological argument
• Argument from personal experience
• Pascal’s Wager

His writing is crisp and clear, kindly devastating every common claim; the presentation is thoroughly enjoyable.  He assembles some wonderful quotations from brave thinkers:

 “There is in every village a torch — the teacher: and an extinguisher — the clergyman.” —Victor Hugo

 “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings.  To
 say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to
 say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels,
 no soul.  I cannot reason otherwise.”—Thomas Jefferson

 “I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or
 anything that could be understood as
 anthropomorphic.”—Albert Einstein

The Jefferson quote brings me to the objection that Dawkins doesn’t start by defining God.  If he had done so, he probably would have determined—as Antony Flew did in the classic God and Philosophy—that the standard definition of God from the Book of Common Prayer makes it difficult for the concept of God to get off the ground at all.

But this isn’t an argument for or against God, only a book review.  And I truly appreciate what Richard Dawkins contributes on the subject of superstitious faith, even in the areas of psychology and sociology.

Finally, he leaves us with an inkling of what future human spirituality may be more akin to when he quotes a scientist in front of the last chapter, A Much Needed Gap?:

  “What can be more soul-shaking than peering through a
   100-inch telescope at a distant galaxy, holding a 100-
   million-year-old-fossil or a 500,000-year-old stone tool in
   one’s hand, standing before the immense chasm of space
   and time that is the Grand Canyon, or listening to a
   scientist who gazed upon the face of the universe’s creation
   and did not blink?  That is deep and sacred…”
   —Michael Shermer

The God Delusion: one of the more hopeful signs of the times.


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