[Book Review] The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

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I started on this book since last August, but only finished it yesterday.  I had no reason to pick up this book considering the internet itself is the richest resource for atheism and secularism, with a large variety of sites capable of presenting and organizing arguments in more convincing ways. Page by page I flipped, expecting heated arguments and attacks against God which many attributed to Dawkins. But all I see here is a picture painted with soothing reason and passion for science and humanity, mellowed up with humor.   

Introduction

The God Delusion is a collection of arguments for atheism and counterarguments of counterarguments for theism and religion, supported with common philosophical discussions, real life examples and scientific explanations for the existence of religion. It doesn’t attack contemporary religion and believers directly (which it was often accused for), but gives rather fair comments on both of them. It also offers the need for atheism and the ways the ‘gap for God’ can be filled.

Author

Richard Dawkins. Famous for having impulsive Twitter posts, but in The God Delusion he is a patient and compassionate writer and doing his best to edge out of his comfort zone of evolutionary biology to discussions about gods and religion. From being concerned about academia and the education of science to passion for a more humanistic and secular society, Dawkins offers an interesting and one of the most holistic perspectives onto the phenomenon that is religion.

Content Review

The most striking part of the book is, Dawkins actually attempts to follow the line of thought of a average public individual and clarify his potential audience.

Dawkins is careful to begin with two steps. One is to address as much potential criticism right even before he goes into the main content so that readers with certain preconceived notions cannot dismiss the book right off the bat. The other is to carefully define God and clarify the usage of the word when it comes to pantheists and deists (who are often cited to support theological arguments). Then, he proceeds to describe the possibility of an existence of a god (The God Hypothesis) and the varying states of belief and disbelief.

Following next is a compilation of arguments for why god is unlikely to exist or unneeded for our world, and proceeds to discuss on why religion is so prevalent globally despite the unlikelihood of god’s existence. This proceeds to link to 2 chapters about morality and how religion is not necessary, if not counter-intuitive for personal morals.

If the book is followed to this point without disagreements, one might ask is it necessary to ‘stand against religion’? Dawkins proceeds to point of the disservice that blind faith can do to us. Then the last few chapters proceed to talk about how childhood indoctrination can be equivalent to child abuse. Lastly, Dawkins attempt to provide solutions to fill the psychological gap that religion used to occupy.

Personal Comments

I love this book and enjoyed almost every moment of it. Let’s start with where the book lacks. The God Delusion falls a little short when it comes to the solutions offered by atheism. It talks a lot about the shortcomings of religion and how disbelief can be a better choice, but the implications of a person committing to disbelief is not sufficiently covered. Perhaps this book was not meant for that in the first place as Dawkins is no life coach or social worker. God is likely a delusion, but arguments for how being godless is better are not very clearly explained, although explored. There is also the fact that the book didn’t spend enough time talking about individual religions and analyzing their scripture (although he did justify why he chose not to go down the route of tearing theology apart in his introduction), so the book may fall short of satisfying if the reader desires that approach. Lastly, quite some of his conclusions are rather rushed (I forgot to jot down which, perhaps his comments on science and religion being irreconcilable). It is quite easy to follow if one has committed to getting over the fence, but a determined reader who is wary and skeptical about atheism may not buy some of the arguments. I still find them reasonably sound and coherent with most of others’ works available online. 

Now let’s move on to the good parts. What I mentioned aside, The God Delusion is likely one of the most complete atheist collection of arguments and discussions, and could be considered New Atheism’s equivalent of scripture (if one chooses to put it that way!). It was written with humor, wit, and cold hard logic, fueled with some touching narratives that have some elements of sadness and pity, but it is not blinded by dislike and hate. It is a polemic, a critique on religion and blind faith, but it was well reasoned with well meaning. Ultimately, I have to say that The God Delusion is THE atheist book to read with more contemporary concerns. There may be other titles out there such as God is Not Great and The End of Faith with varying writing tones and subtly different motivations, but The God Delusion will be the safest to start.

I shall not spend too much time here on the narrower aspects of the book as I will be writing a lot about my own personal atheism soon, and I expect that The God Delusion will be a major basis for them. 

Likes

-Humor

-More practical implications on aspects like social rights and education

-Wide coverage on all aspects of religious critique

-Well meaning and brilliant writing

-A lot of thought given into content

-Easy to follow line of thought and coherent reasoning

-Unlike what I had expected, it wasn’t radical per se, I can imagine why it may be unpopular but I could not pinpoint anything radical about it *

Dislikes

-Tries to be pragmatic, but falls short of providing clearer solutions on the individual level

-Philosophical discussions can get lengthy and easily lose attention

Wrap Up

I felt glad that in a society plagued with all forms of religion and the call for each other to coexist through ‘respecting’ each other, there are writers like this willing to stand up against popular opinion and keeping the religious on their toes. It is fortunate being able to come across this title and similar voices of reason in this life. There are similar books out there, but as of now I feel that The God Delusion provides the most coverage.

Recommendations

Basically everyone brave enough to contemplate the possibility of no god. It is actually less useful for strong gnostic atheists who have already gone through many articles. The best audience for The God Delusion will be those on the fence: agnostics and wavering believers. It will be a little difficult for full on believers to digest fully, but if they are willing to pursue the world of atheists (without getting flak on from some unfriendly people online), even if merely for intellectual reasons, The God Delusion is an awesome book to start on.

Personal Rating

9/10. Biased probably, but very impressed, and may continue to be impressed for a long time.

*Perhaps it is me who hold more radical views? Not really sure, as much as I try to be moderate and reasonable, I have the tendency to sympathize with Dawkins on various matters, be it Twitter responses or feminism.

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