Book: The God Delusion
Is religion really to blame for the world’s ills? Why is religion afforded special protection from public scrutiny – everything else can be argued about, but if you talk about religion, it’s a private matter, and not to be argued about.
In this book, (famous atheist) Richard Dawkins presents atheism as a worldview. What do atheists believe about the origin of life? In Dawkins’ case, it’s all about evolution: he offers a number of well-thought out, well-reasoned arguments for evolution, and counter-arguments for a number of the “slam dunk” theories that I’ve heard from Christians in the past.
He also spends some time talking about religion as the source of a great many evils in the world, and gives an atheist’s explanation for the origin of religion.
I’ve read a lot of books over the years, in various settings, and I have to say that this book has generated the most comments from other people. At least one atheist has asked me what I’ve thought about it, while the Christians usually express the opinion that Dawkins will be wrong, having not read the book. One person even asked (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) if I was going to drop out of college as a result of having read the book.
Dawkins devotes his opening chapter to encouraging the reader to be courageous: if you are reading the book, and become convinced of the arguments, then you should take the bold step of becoming an atheist. I’ve read plenty of Christian books that have voiced this sentiment, but never one from an atheist. Certainly I tried to read the book with as open a mind as I could bring to it.
In fact, the way of seeing the world – without God – has never been clearer to me than while I was reading this book… it is certainly a radical step away from my normal worldview.
Ultimately, though, Dawkins failed to convince me. He accuses religious people of arguing their point of view (that there is a God) starting with the assumption that they’re right, but falls into this trap himself. He gets as far as saying “there is almost certainly no God” – and even here I would have to disagree – but doesn’t reach the point of “slam dunk”.
From a Christian perspective, I found most lacking in the book any real engagement with arguments for Christianity: instead of engaging with the evidence that’s available, he chooses to resort to ridicule. I would have preferred a response based more on ridicule, and less on talking about “the fatherless man”. Instead of discussing arguments against Jesus’ resurrection (which is for me the turning point in the argument for or against Christianity), he lists it among the things that Christians believe. His reason for there not being a resurrection appeared to be “that dead people don’t rise from the dead” – starting from the point of view that he’s right, and going no further.
If you’re looking to better understand the worldview of atheism, I would consider this a useful resource, but be careful of taking his warm, considered tone as a guarantee of logical argument at every step.