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The God Delusion Hardcover – October 18, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The antireligion wars started by Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris will heat up even more with this salvo from celebrated Oxford biologist Dawkins. For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. But Dawkins, who gave us the selfish gene, anticipates this criticism. He says it's the scientist and humanist in him that makes him hostile to religions—fundamentalist Christianity and Islam come in for the most opprobrium—that close people's minds to scientific truth, oppress women and abuse children psychologically with the notion of eternal damnation. While Dawkins can be witty, even confirmed atheists who agree with his advocacy of science and vigorous rationalism may have trouble stomaching some of the rhetoric: the biblical Yahweh is "psychotic," Aquinas's proofs of God's existence are "fatuous" and religion generally is "nonsense." The most effective chapters are those in which Dawkins calms down, for instance, drawing on evolution to disprove the ideas behind intelligent design. In other chapters, he attempts to construct a scientific scaffolding for atheism, such as using evolution again to rebut the notion that without God there can be no morality. He insists that religion is a divisive and oppressive force, but he is less convincing in arguing that the world would be better and more peaceful without it. (Oct. 18)
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From Scientific American
Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, tells of his exasperation with colleagues who try to play both sides of the street: looking to science for justification of their religious convictions while evading the most difficult implicationsthe existence of a prime mover sophisticated enough to create and run the universe, "to say nothing of mind reading millions of humans simultaneously." Such an entity, he argues, would have to be extremely complex, raising the question of how it came into existence, how it communicates through spiritons!and where it resides. Dawkins is frequently dismissed as a bully, but he is only putting theological doctrines to the same kind of scrutiny that any scientific theory must withstand. No one who has witnessed the merciless dissection of a new paper in physics would describe the atmosphere as overly polite.
George Johnson is author of Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order and six other books. He resides on the Web at talaya.net
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Top Customer Reviews
Richard Dawkins book was extremely helpful and was the first book I have read on the Atheist side of the fence. I found Chapters 1 through 4 and 7 through 9 easy to read. Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 10 were more scientific and a hard read for the average person. I actually needed a dictionary at my side to get through those chapters. I particularly liked the section in Chapter 3 on Pascal's Wager which I had mistakenly credited to Einstein in the past.
What I had found so interesting is that he expressed ideas that I had been developing in my brain for years, but did not feel free to discuss with others. (although he can state them more eloquently than I can). The result is that I have been pushed from a 5 to a 6 on his scale of belief.
The book is not only preaching to the Atheist choir, but to all those who a truly open minded enough to form there own opinions about God and religion. If you are in this category it is certainly worth purchasing.
Previous reviews stated that Dawkins was mean spirited and blamed religion for social evils. I did not find this to be the case, and I found that he was as fair minded as someone who believes as he does can be.
Some reviewers, delighted to find their opinions supported by Dawkins, use the opportunity to bask in their superior intellects and display their generous contempt for those who disagree.
Other reviewers feel personally attacked by this book, fending it off as best they can so they can retain their illusions, which are obviously valuable and meaningful to them.
Actually, you don't even have to read the reviews to see which is which. Just look at the numbers. If you see very few finding the review useful, you'll know the review was written by someone opposing Dawkins' ideas. And if the majority find the review helpful, that means it agrees with Dawkins.
This tells me that most of the people who are bothering to read the reviews are already pro-Dawkins--and it bodes ill for his hopes that his book will convert the believers.
It won't convert many believers, not because it is wrong--it isn't--and not because it isn't well-written--it is--but because whatever else you can say about faith, it isn't easily extinguished. For those who have it, it is the only life raft on a limitless ocean. Those who don't have learned how to swim, or plan to.
The most annoying reviewers, from my point of view, are those whose remarks demonstrate they haven't read the book (such as the fellow who insists Einstein was a believer), or those who feel Dawkins doesn't have the Biblical knowledge to back up his conclusions.
He doesn't need any Biblical knowledge. None of us do, when it comes to the question of belief. Memorizing the Bible neither adds nor subtracts from our ability to feel faith.
And that's the bottom line for me. I am unable to accept an assertion of any kind supported by nothing more than faith. I need some kind of truth, some kind of evidence.
There are or might be moments when I am jealous of those capable of faith. I would love to believe, when a loved one dies, that he or she is going to a better place and that we'll meet again some day. What a lovely, comforting thought. Would that it were true, or that I could believe it. But I don't--and it makes this life and every moment in it more valuable to me.
I once asked myself how a person totally unfamiliar with religion, might choose among the world's offerings, might decide to adopt one of the world's thousands of religions. I could find no way. They all claim they're right and all the other religions are wrong. But are any of them right?
Now I'm thinking similar thoughts about God. I saw a website recently that compiled the names of all of the gods, worldwide and throughout history. They found 3800 different gods or supernatural beings. If I were inclined to believe, which one would I choose and why?
Dawkins points out that we're all atheists. We don't believe in Amon-re, Zeus, Thor, Apollo, Odin, etc., etc., etc. He just goes one god further.