The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Veritas Books)

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The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Veritas Books) [Paperback]

Alister McGrath , Joanna Collicutt McGrath
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 3, 2010 Veritas Books
2008 Christian Bookseller's Covention Book of the Year Award winner! World-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." The volume has received wide coverage, fueled much passionate debate and caused not a little confusion. Alister McGrath, along with his wife, Joanna, are ideal to evaluate Dawkins's ideas. Once an atheist himself, he gained a doctorate in molecular biophysics before going on to become a leading Christian theologian. He wonders how two people, who have reflected at length on substantially the same world, could possibly have come to such different conclusions about God. McGrath subjects Dawkins's critique of faith to rigorous scrutiny. His exhilarating, meticulously argued response deals with questions such as
  • Is faith intellectual nonsense?
  • Are science and religion locked in a battle to the death?
  • Can the roots of Christianity be explained away scientifically?
  • Is Christianity simply a force for evil?
This book will be warmly received by those looking for a reliable assessment of The God Delusion and the many questions it raises--including, above all, the relevance of faith and the quest for meaning.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When authors write books that criticize other books, they have usually already lost; the original book has set the agenda to which the critics respond, and the outcome is foretold. Not in this case. The McGraths expeditiously plow into the flank of Dawkins's fundamentalist atheism, made famous in The God Delusion, and run him from the battlefield. The book works partly because they are so much more gracious to Dawkins than Dawkins is to believers: Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker remains the finest critique of William Paley's naturalistic arguments for deism available, for example. The authors can even point to instances in which their interactions with him, both literary and personal, have changed his manner of arguing: he can no longer say that Tertullian praised Christian belief because of its absurdity or that religion necessarily makes one violent. The McGraths are frustrated, then, that Dawkins continues to write on the a priori, nonscientific assumption that religious believers are either deluded or meretricious, never pausing to consider the evidence not in his favor or the complex beliefs and practices of actual Christians. They conclude disquietingly: perhaps Dawkins is aware that demagogic ranting that displays confidence in the face of counterevidence is the way to sway unlearned masses. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Considering that the McGraths are dealing with someone they describe as 'one of the most successful and skillful scientific popularizers' in the world, the authors of The Dawkins Delusion? prove themselves to be worthy opponents . . . The authors do not write a defense of theism, but of reason and fairness. While refuting the claims of Dawkins, they teach the valuable lesson that we must also take care in the arguments we use." (Van Sprague, The Christian Chronicle, January 2011)

"The McGraths make refuting Dawkins look easy. In a text of less than one hundred pages, they systematically dismantle each of Dawkins' major assertions. The Dawkins Delusion? is well-written and easy to read, and it gives the reader a clear understanding of why Dawkins need not be taken seriously. It will give even the initially neutral reader the opportunity to see that real science is not the enemy of religion and that the religiously oriented interpretation is superior to the atheistic one." (Thomas P. Sheahen, The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Summer 2008)

"This book will be warmly received by those looking for a reliable assessment of The God Delusion and the many questions it raised--including all the relevance of faith and the quest for meaning." (Enrichment Journal, Fall 2008)

"[H]elps theistic people respond more intelligently to the current religion-bashing that has become a source of schadenfreude for some (though certainly not all) nonbelievers." (David von Schlichten, Lutheran Partners, July/August 2008)

"While not exhaustive (by design), the McGraths have offered us a well-reasoned critique of the atheistic arguments of Dawkins, and left us with a cogent description of the inherent weaknesses in The God Delusion. I recommend it to my friends on both sides of this debate." (Cliff Martin, Outside the Box (, June 14, 2008)

"[T]he McGraths' book is an effective response." (Mark D. Barret, Esq., in Lay Witness, March/April 2008)

"Alister McGrath provides an excellent rebuttal to Dawkin's arguments against God and religion. Scholarly, yes but also very readable for lay people." (M. F. in Libraries Alive, February 2008)

"You cannot argue with the McGraths' credentials or the content of this book. It is very well done." (Does God Exist? November/December 2007)

"You cannot help but be impressed with the depth of scholarship which the McGraths bring to this discussion--something markedly different than Dawkins." (Deinde blog,, August 18, 2007)

"Alister and Joanna McGrath offer a meaty book without all the gratuitous gristle, clearly making their points." (Jim Miller Review, June 2007)

"McGrath identifies Dawkins' flawed arguments with surgical precision. McGrath spotlights Dawkins' embarrassing biblical ignorance and exposes his religion-as-virus-of-the-mind theory as sociological naivete. This intelligent, yet accessible book is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject or for those with friends sucked under by the new current of atheist literature." (New Man, November/December 2007)

"One could hardly think of a better apologist for theism than Alister McGrath. This atheist-turned-Christian, also of Oxford, is a professor of historical theology. But as a student of molecular biophysics, he possesses the dual credibility in science and religion that Dawkins lacks. Like watching one schoolboy do another's work, McGrath's true gift is pointing out what Dawkins is obliged to show in order to make his case." (Christianity Today, November 2007)

"This book will be warmly received by those who are looking for a real assessment of The God Delusion." ("What's New on the Bookshelf" with Shirley Updyke, WRGN)

"Combining scholarship with a popular style, the McGraths examine Dawkins's arguments and find them wanting. They show the inadequacy of his argument on the major points, contending that Dawkins's critique of religion is based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence rather than on hard research and that he employs rhetoric rather than rationality." (Library Journal, August 2007)

"The McGraths expeditiously plow into the flank of Dawkins's fundamentalist atheism, made famous in The God Delusion, and run him from the battlefield." (Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2007)

"The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why." (Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, Department of Philosophy, Florida State University)

"Richard Dawkins's utopian vision of a world without religion is here deftly punctured by the McGraths' informed discourse. His fellow Oxonians clearly demonstrate the gaps, inconsistencies and surprising lack of depth in Dawkins's arguments." (Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and author of God's Universe)

"With rigorous logic and exquisite fairness, the McGraths have exposed Dawkins's very superficial understanding of the history of religion and theology. Because he is so 'out of his depth' in these areas, Dawkins uses his fundamentalistic scientism and atheism to constantly misjudge the possibilities for dialogue between religion and science. Thank God for scholars like the McGraths who are committed to finding truth in both." (Dr. Timothy Johnson, physician, journalist and author of Finding God in the Questions)

"Addressing the conclusions of The God Delusion point by point with the devastating insight of a molecular biologist turned theologian, Alister McGrath dismantles the argument that science should lead to atheism, and demonstrates instead that Dawkins has abandoned his much-cherished rationality to embrace an embittered manifesto of dogmatic atheist fundamentalism." (Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project)

"In this crisp and cogent book, Alister and Joanna McGrath note, among other things, how fundamentalist scientism fuels antiscientific Christian fundamentalism. They also remind us of well-documented associations between an active faith and measures of health and well-being. A must-read contribution to today's debate other whether religion spreads dangerous falsehoods or benevolent wisdom." (David G. Myers, Professor of Psychology, Hope College)

"McGrath has distinguished himself . . . as an historical theologian, [and] a generous, . . . witty writer who brings to life topics that would turn to dust in others' hands." (Publishers Weekly)

"Alister McGrath invariably combines enormous scholarship with an accessible and engaging style." (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury)

Product Details

  • Series: Veritas Books
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (July 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830837213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830837212
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
321 of 420 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor attempt July 22, 2007
At the beginning I felt this book had promise. It was nice to know that the author of the book had previously been an atheist, so I felt that he could at least bring some understanding to the table. I was also heartened by his generally positive treatment of Dawkins, especially in speaking of his previous book. For these reasons, I became interested immediately in the rebuttal McGrath would bring to the table. I was sorely disappointed.

As an over-arching theme of the entire book, McGrath claims that Dawkins fails to bring any sort of scientific rigor to the table. There is some (emphasis some) truth to that statement. But, as is generally the case with criticism, McGrath finds himself guilty of the same sin throughout. If the writing style of Dawkins is so polemic then it would be wise to take the high road and avoid it, rather than hiking up the pant legs and hopping right down into the muck.

The most frustrating thing about this book was how consistently McGrath claimed Dawkins holds certain views, then proves those views false. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the actual text shows over and again that Dawkins never claimed those arguments in the first place.

The place where this is most prevalent is in the middle 20 pages where McGrath attacks Dawkins views on where a belief in God came from. He says that Dawkins falls back on all sorts of arguments such as memes that are completely insubstantial. The funny thing is that if you read Dawkins's book, you see that he makes no claim to the authenticity of the ideas. In fact, he is quite careful to couch all of the claims as hypothesis, nothing more. Whereas McGrath claims that Dawkins is saying that these are true.
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450 of 636 people found the following review helpful
This slim book, The Dawkins Delusion, is confusing in many ways. It is written by husband and wife team Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, but throughout it is written in the form of a personal narrative: "In my own case, I started out as an atheist who went on to become a Christian - precisely the reverse of Dawkin's intellectual journey" (p. 9). There is a brief notation that most of it was written by Alister McGrath, at one time a molecular biophysicist, but you can't tell when one person's narrative begins and the other one ends. This is irritating, not deadly. McGrath (I'll refer to McGrath as either author) reports that someone has to stand up for truth, and put the lies of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion to rest. Unfortunately, McGrath's 97 pages of text pale in comparison to the broader discussion in Dawkins' book (374 pages of text). I realize this is not a "word count" battle, but rather a battle of logic... Dawkins comes to certain conclusions and makes particular logical arguments, and McGrath selects a few of these and develops a "summary retort." Frankly, the best way to get a table to collapse is to knock out all its legs. A few kicks at one corner doesn't do it. McGrath's challenge was to deliver a knock-down punch. He, and she, didn't reach this threshold.

What does this book state?

"Religion has made a comeback" (p. 8).

"Not only is God not 'dead,' ...he never seems to have been more alive" (p. 8-9).

"...I hope I am right in suggesting that such nonthinking dogmatists [such as Dawkins] are not typical of atheism" (p. 10).

"Curiously, there is surprising little scientific analysis in The God Delusion" (p. 11).
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105 of 149 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...even for a Christian February 11, 2008
As a Christian who takes this debate seriously I am almost insulted at the level of argument that is presented by the McGraths. Since reading the God Delusion I had been hoping someone would take on Dawkins. I was extremely disappointed to find that this book falls far short of its claim to do exactly that. I can't say that every one of Dawkins' points are well founded...but at least they are presented clearly and directly. Time after time the McGraths avoid, ignore, side-step, misunderstand or manipulate what seem like fairly straightforward points from Dawkins. Instead of countering Dawkins' arguments, their consistently poor reasoning seems to add weight to his stance. I can't help but ask why they have such a hard time addressing Dawkins' points directly. Is it naivety or inability? Either way, the believer's side of the debate is weakened by such a lackluster book.
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92 of 134 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars McGrath misrepresents Dawkins November 2, 2007
All you really need to know about this book is that the first sentence claims that according to Dawkins, "God is a delusion--a 'psychotic delinquent' invented by bad, deluded people." Following the footnote, I found this sentence from Dawkins' book: "Compared with the Old Testament's psychotic delinquent, the deist God of the eighteenth century Enlightenment is an altogether grander being..." In other words, Dawkins is saying that God need not be conceived of as a psychotic delinquent, almost the exact opposite of the view McGrath attributes to him. I couldn't help but wonder: would it have killed McGrath to wait until the second sentence before misrepresenting Dawkins' views? Incidentally, McGrath never addressed the Old Testament passages that provoked Dawkins' characterization, such as the divine orders to massacre children.

Such tactics are par for the course in McGrath's book. To recount all the details would be boring. At the book's halfway point, I was tempted to give this book five stars under the "so bad it's good" rationale, but by the end McGrath has worn out his welcome--and the book is only 100 pages.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! Anyone familiar with Richard Dawkins must give ...
Excellent book!
Anyone familiar with Richard Dawkins must give this a read! See who's really deluded about our dear God.
Published 1 month ago by RadhaKrsna
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of time and money
This book wasn't thought out very well apparently
Published 3 months ago by dorian fernandez
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good, though somewhat redundant in points made. Still I found it quite helpful.
Published 3 months ago by Mike Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good response!
There are actually some factual errors in the edition I read. However, I had read a newer edition of Dawkins and he may have corrected some things, because the page numbers... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard Robinett
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good book
Nice to see some real though posed on the subject. McGrath and Dawkins have gone back and forth before, and to be fair, both make some good arguments. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Adam Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great answer to Dawkins's atheist message.
Published 5 months ago by sunny
1.0 out of 5 stars Will this stupidity ever stop?
This is a stupid book, written by an obvious idiot, for thoughtless ignoramuses.
Published 8 months ago by Kathleen S. Slagle
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, the best feature of the book is the actual text is only 90...
The best feature of the book is the actual text is only 90 pages (this is the main reason I gave it two stars rather than one), so if you're interested you can get it from your... Read more
Published 9 months ago by P Michael Spagnuolo
5.0 out of 5 stars readable and good. Thanks
I received it on time. Well packaged. It's clean, readable and good. Thanks
Published 11 months ago by GERALD I AKATA
1.0 out of 5 stars No real evidence presented
Disappointing. Having read Dawkins, I was interested to read an opposing critique and have my own opinions challenged, and I assumed that McGrath, with his athiest history,... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Clydicus
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More About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.

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The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Veritas Books)
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Does Richard Dawkins Exist?
Thank you. I agree this book seems to have been rushed into print as an antidote to Dawkins' book. I also agree with you that Sam Harris is more positive than Dawkins - at least in the books concerning religion. Dawkins is very positive in other books, though not with respect to religion. His... Read More
Aug 1, 2007 by JMB1014 |  See all 26 posts
"Atheist Fundamentalism"
Thank you for your encouragement; it is well appreciated. To answer your question, no, the mythos of Christianity does not technically HAVE to have any truth behind it. Of course I believe that the biblical narrative is true indeed (at least in communicating what it set out to communicate:... Read More
Feb 13, 2010 by C. Lambeth |  See all 4 posts
How is Dawkins qualified to talk about God (Theology)?
One can study a subject outside of an academic institution and become as well versed in it as someone with a degree. The question, therefore, should not be "how is Dawkins qualified to talk about God?" the question should be "what is the quality of Dawkin's writing about... Read More
Jan 11, 2008 by J. D. Mack |  See all 40 posts
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