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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion (original 2006; edition 2008)

by Richard Dawkins

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Title:The God Delusion
Authors:Richard Dawkins
Info:Mariner Books (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Happy Heathens, Audiobook

Work details

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006)

  1. 213
    Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell (BGP, yakov.perelman)
  2. 162
    God Is Not Great : How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (hnn, BGP)
  3. 70
    Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman (robertf)
    robertf: Dawkins is passionately trying to refute an undefined hypothesis - this is perhaps one of his least succesful works. Ehrman's book does not have conversion to atheism as its aim - it is a description of the scholarly analysis of texts. The reason it is devastating to religion is that it undermines any claim to biblical authenticity by exposing contradictions between different manuscripts. It achieves what Dawkins aims to much more subtly and scientifically.… (more)
  4. 61
    Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Michel Onfray (gust)
  5. 51
    Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett (ljessen)
  6. 41
    Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by John W. Loftus (Percevan)
  7. 31
    Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up by John Allen Paulos (infiniteletters)
  8. 31
    The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John W. Loftus (Percevan)
  9. 10
    The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (yakov.perelman)
  10. 32
    Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief by Andrew Newberg (bertilak)
  11. 21
    God and the State by Michael Bakunin (BGP)
  12. 32
    What Is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live by A. C. Grayling (chrisharpe)
  13. 21
    Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker by David Eller (hnn)
  14. 22
    Talking With God: The Many Faces of Religious Delusion by Robert A. Clark (bertilak)
  15. 22
    Why Gods Persist: A Scientific Approach to Religion by Robert A. Hinde (bertilak)
  16. 00
    The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (yakov.perelman)
  17. 23
    God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox (bfrost)
  18. 34
    The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner (ehines)
    ehines: While I agree with Dawkins and disagree with Gardner about the existence of God, Gardner's open-mindedness judicious and friendly tone, even in error, serves as a rebuke to Dawkins' inability to understand or respect his intellectual opponents.
  19. 313
    The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths by David Robertson (OwenGriffiths)
    OwenGriffiths: The God Delusion offers some of the most popular, if not the most reasoned or effective, arguments "against faith". Robertson attempts to dispel a few perceived misconceptions. This is a good place to start if you wish to understand why a lot of people of (any) faith disregard Dawkins argument in this book. Robertson does not provide a total response to atheism itself, nor does he set out to do so. The God Delusion repays careful reading, because even if one may disagree with them, or argue that they do not represent the best of Atheistic philosophy, one can not deny that Dawkins represents some of the most common critiques of faith, which people of faith are forced to respond to.… (more)
  20. 212
    The Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin's Legacy by Fern Elsdon-Baker (Gavin_Hardcastle)
    Gavin_Hardcastle: Interesting Read

(see all 23 recommendations)


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English (268)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (3)  Portuguese (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Turkish (1)  Icelandic (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (285)
Showing 1-5 of 268 (next | show all)
This is like a book from an alternate reality for me. He (and his buddy the late Christopher Hitchens) has a lot of my respect, academically and professionally- however, while his brand of atheism is designed to "free" people and help them "escape" religion, when I read his reasons why and his rhetoric about it, it just made me sad. He likened people I dearly love to children playing make believe and the God whom I follow as diabolical fiction.

The voice is good to hear, and I am open to listening to him. His sources are great, though he does leave out material (as we all do) that does not support his argument.

I find myself a bit thinking about and even praying about Dawkins. I believe I understand where he is coming from, but at the same time I feel as though he is as convinced in his "non-faith" as I am in my faith. I wish people would stop arguing about God- we have politics and baseball for that.

All this to be said, I will keep this book on my shelf and I shall even read it again. Perhaps even a couple of times.

( )
  aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
Richard Dawkins pulls no punches. This book advocates strongly, and persuasively, for an atheistic world view. Some may think this type of in your face atheism is unseemly, but as Dawkins points out, he is no more strident than religious groups are at advocating for their point of view.

His arguments take two basic tracks:

1. Evidence is overwhelming that God does not exist, and that the work many ascribe to God is more simply explained by natural processes (Darwinism etc). He looks at many of the ways people try to reconcile religion and science and comes away arguing they are not reconcilable. Religion is simply not a reliable source for evidence of the creation or of evolution. If God created the universe, he argues, then who created God? A question there is no answer to.

2. He argues religion, rather than being a benign institution is actually dangerous, is responsible for holding back progress and as a whole, has caused far more harm than good.

Both are very persuasive. His arguments against the existence of God are sometimes hard to understand as it gets into a fairly technical (at least for me) discussion of biology.

The section of the book in which he argues religion is a harmful institution are very compelling. Not that I agree with every one of them. In my personal life I know many religious people who do not fit into the parameters of that argument. However, taken at a macro level his argument is hard to refute.

He ends the book with a very beautiful, affirmative argument for the transformational power of science. He agrees with Carl Sagan that religion actually limits the wonder one can experience when contemplating the natural world.

I personally enjoyed this book very much.

If you are an atheist it will give you more than enough ammo to engage in discussions of atheism vs. theism you may have with others.

If you are wavering this may give you the information you have been looking for to help you decide.

If you are secure in your faith this book is nothing to be afraid of.
( )
1 vote mybucketlistofbooks | Jan 10, 2015 |
Took me a couple of false starts (with quite long intervals) before I finished this book. Odd this, because I've read and enjoyed Richard Dawkins' earlier work, finding only the occasional niggle when he has sometimes moved from exposition of generally supported and agreed theories into inventing a theory and then writing at length as though it were a well researched one, fooling those who missed the occasional brief and well masked disclaimer, as when he first came up with the meme.

My problem with this book wasn't the writing, which as usual with Richard Dawkins is good; nor his theme - anyone with an interest in religion and theology should read it; and not because I'm a Christian - only the simple-minded believer need be concerned about possibly being convinced. No, my problem with the book is the way he goes to such lengths to pretend to take a scientific approach, while in fact being very selective in the evidence he presents and the conclusions he draws. Of course, he does say up front that his aim is to wean the reader away from faith (any kind of spiritually based faith) and to convert them to atheism. But someone who constantly accuses religious leaders and writers of avoiding uncomfortable material weakens his own arguments by doing exactly the same. Two examples. First, far too much of his 'evidence' against Christianity is typified by selective examples of the ludicrously stupid and wrong headed nonsense espoused by (and the policies promoted by) various extremists, such as, for example, American creationists. In decades of reading and of dialogue with churchgoers, priests and theologians I've never met anyone who challenged Darwinian evolution theory as 'sound science', or who doubted the evidence from geology about the age of the earth, or from cosmology about the nature of the universe. Such acceptance that Genesis isn't literal truth isn't of course evidence that God exists, but the fact that some batty people take Genesis literally isn't evidence that God doesn't exist. Sadly, Richard doesn't tell us - or at least avoids telling us directly - that while hotbeds of creationism may persist in parts of the USA (and be espoused by a few isolated individuals or groups elsewhere), mainstream Christianity rejects their nonsense. The same is of course true about 'intelligent design' theory, equally rejected by anyone who thinks about it for long, but equally cited by RD as 'evidence' against religion.

A second - and more significant - omission comes in Richard's comments about Jesus. As an example, he devotes a whole section to working through the allegation that "'love thy neighbour' doesn't mean what we now think it means. It means only 'love another Jew'". Oddly, he neglects to mention how Jesus responded to the direct question 'Who is my neighbour?', with the parable of the Good Samaritan. I've no doubt that Hartung and others have a plausible answer to this and to the other ways Jesus makes it clear that his message is for the world at large, including the Romans. But others have argued even more plausibly that Hartung is wrong. If one is taking a scientific approach to whether God exists, why not present both sides of the coin and let the reader judge - as Richard urges us to do in the case of children's education.

My other (and more general) beef with Richard Dawkins' writing (in this and other work, nothing to do with Christian apologetics) is that too much of it appears to reflect a somewhat excessive (and occasionally perverse) desire to see almost every issue and topic through the prism of Darwinian evolution theory. For example the meme, mentioned earlier, is a classic example and duly reappears here. We read how meme theory explains the spread and persistence of religion (and other cultural or social things). We aren't told that while Darwinian evolution has been deeply researched over more than a century, and is accepted by all relevant scientists as valid (RD himself would insist on me saying 'until something better comes along'!), meme theory came from one of his own books as simply a possible explanation of how Darwinian evolution might apply in social and cultural spheres. His failure to mention equally plausible views from specialists who call the theory a "pseudoscientific dogma" and "a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution". Memes may exist and may have the kinds of effects RD would like them to have, but the jury isn't yet even in the jury room - indeed most would say that there is as yet far from enough evidence on which to think seriously about the question, let alone judge. For the avoidance of doubt, I quite like the idea. But RD harms his case (and some of his other work) when he seeks to use meme theory to prove something else.

Many years ago, in my earliest reading of RD's superb and fascinating expositions of scientic theories and findings, I was struck by the frequency and manner with which he used religious or biblical metaphors and similes. Knowing his proclaimed faith in atheism, I concluded that here was a man somewhat obsessed with God and perhaps 'avoiding God'. Now he has invested lots of time and trouble on an in-depth assault on religion, churches and the idea that there is - or even may be - a God. Not in any sense a clear win, no better than, at best, a no-score-draw! He may well now welcome it, but I do pray for him quite often. ( )
  NaggedMan | Dec 28, 2014 |
The God Delusion addresses several questions about religion from the perspective of a biologist and atheist, including: Can religion be true? If it isn't true, why it is so pervasive? Does religion serve a purpose even if it isn't true? And, is it harmful? Dawkins focuses primarily on Christianity, but with plenty of references to Islam and Judaism. Though he is English, he probably spends more time talking about religion in the United States because it both more prevalent and more powerful there than in Europe. I won't go through his arguments question by question, but will instead share some of his key points and more controversial opinions.

One point which Dawkins makes very early is that we must evaluate a religion based on what it's scriptures actually say, and not what we wish they said. As he observes, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive , bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic , racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." This god is most accurately represented, not by the harmless Christian who goes to church once a year on Easter, but by the zealot who sees AIDS as punishment from god and wants to teach our children that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Liberals can't just adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward the moderates in the hope that the fundamentalists will just somehow fade away, for it is the fundamentalists who are the essence of the religion, be it Christianity, Islam or Judaism.

As to the threat posed by religion in the modern world, this is one section where I was disappointed in the book. Dawkins spends most of his time talking about a single issue, abortion rights. Education, environmental protection, civil rights, freedom of speech, artistic freedom, health care, scientific research, public welfare, sexual freedom, and foreign relations are all mentioned, but the threat to abortion rights is given more treatment than all these other issues combined. (Birth control isn't mentioned at all, but it is a battleground that has only recently been reopened.)

The most chilling chapter, and probably the most controversial, is the one about children. There is no such thing, Dawkins maintains, as a "Catholic child," or a "Muslim child," only children with parents who practice those faiths. Labeling children with faiths they haven't chosen is one crime, indoctrinating them with dogmas they can't understand is another. Ideally children should be taught by their parents to keep an open mind until they are old enough to evaluate the claims of religious and secular thinkers on their own just as they are allowed to evaluate political ideas. But what parent will be open-minded enough to do this, especially a parent who thinks the child's soul is in jeopardy? Instead all too often parents and ministers threaten children with hellfire and eternal damnation even before they are old enough to understand the concept. One of the most telling quotes in the book comes from a woman who was sexually abused by a priest as a child and who later escaped Christianity and became an atheist. She said the sexual abuse, while it wasn't a pleasant memory, was almost inconsequential compared with the mental abuse of having been raised a Catholic.

Of course there is no way to control what parents teach their children, but government does have some control over their formal education. Religious schools where children are taught theology instead of science and myth instead of history are a legal alternative to public school in most countries. Should they be tolerated? Dawkins maintains that Western society has an unfortunate hands-off attitude toward even extreme religious groups in the name of cultural diversity almost as if we were protecting an endangered species. "A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts— the non-religious included— is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect...."

Aside from the fact that Dawkins seems rather preoccupied at times with his own reputation, The God Delusion is very well-written and enlightening book. There are numerous URL's in the footnotes and appendix for those wishing to read the papers and studies he mentions or do further reading. His no-holds-barred approach is likely to be polarizing, but there are theists who have escaped (to use his term) religion after reading the book. For those already comfortable with atheism The God Delusion provides a better understanding of the phenomenon of religion and arms them with facts and arguments to use in debate. ( )
2 vote StevenTX | Nov 20, 2014 |
This 2006 best-seller by Richard Dawkins wouldn’t have made it on my reading list under normal circumstances. I carried around a bag dislikes about Dawkins, some of which were holdovers from my old creationist mindset. My friend suggested reading it for our next “book club” meeting so I obliged. I went into it expecting to have my biases confirmed and find the entirety of the book annoying. While there were moments of frustration and confirmation of biases, I found much of this book not only enjoyable, but agreeable. I picked the book up with an attitude and put it down humble and with a greater respect for Dawkins.

The main premise of the book is that the existence of God is a scientifically testable hypothesis. Therefore a person can come to the reasonable conclusion, based on evidence, that God does not exist. It also seeks to show that religion is undesirable because of the physical and psychological damage that is can and has caused. Finally Dawkins attempts to fill the “God shaped void” by showing that belief in a deity is not necessary to be happy, act morally, or be fulfilled intellectually.

The first section of the book was by far the weakest and most frustrating section for me. Dawkins completely rejects the notion that God’s existence is a philosophical or theological question. Instead he insists that God’s existence can be scientifically accepted or rejected. To prove his point he shows how particular aspects of God’s nature or actions fail scientific testing. In one example he asserts that God answers prayer. After testing that assertion through “clinical” blind tests he concludes that most prayers are not answered, there God does not exist. He also tackles many well-known medieval and modern proofs for God’s existence including those of Thomas Aquinas.

I think his premise that God’s existence is a scientific hypothesis is fundamentally flawed. To test these assertions Dawkins has to rely on the work and statements of philosophers and theologians. Despite Dawkins insistence otherwise, God is a philosophical/theological concept. Without philosophy or theology nothing testable can be said about God’s actions or nature. I agree with Dawkins that it is irritating when theologians make ignorant claims about science. Unfortunately he jumps headfirst into the same swamp and begins lobbing mud balls. This opening section unfortunately confirmed some of my biases against him. Mainly that he can be arrogant, rude, and a zealot.

After offering his rebuttal to the various “proofs” of God’s existence, Dawkins turns his attention to Darwinian evolution. This was where my attitude towards Dawkins took a turn for the better. In this section he shows how Darwinian evolution can offer an explanation for not only creation, but morality as well. Dawkins is a brilliant and engaging biologist. His explanations of evolution were absolutely beautiful and as a reader I could sense Dawkins own wonder, joy, and humility in sharing this. He left me with an increased sense of awe and wonder for the world. While I was familiar with evolution, his explanations stretched me beyond what I knew.

Unfortunately during the explanation of cosmological Darwinism he made the same ‘priori’ mistake he had previously scolded believers for making. Evolution provides a solid explanation for biological diversity. However for evolution to begin, reproducing biological life is required. Dawkins tries to explain how this might have happened by offering different possible evolutionary paths of the cosmos itself (planets, stars, galaxies). Eventually he admits that the odds of a reproducing life forms arising from the primordial goo are billions and billions to one. Not to be deterred, he concludes that since humans exist and are the product Darwinian evolution, then it must have happened…..besides it only had to happen once!

I found the evolutionary explanations of morality very interesting and believable. It did a fine job of explaining the base morality we share as humans as well as the moral distinctives across cultures. But while I found it wholly believable, I found it’s morality lacking. Darwinian evolution only seems to create a morality that is self-centered and competitive. Even things that appeared selfless on the surface were at the core selfishly motivated. Darwinian morality doesn’t hold a candle to the morality expressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. I believe that evolutionary morality has gotten us to a point, but I believe in a God calling beyond evolutions competitive and selfish morality. I believe that God is evolving my morality into something better than it would be otherwise. All in all the experience of this section was consciousness expanding (as Dawkins said he hoped it would be).

Finally Dawkins asked if the ‘Good Book’ is really all that good. Biblical interpretation has been an area of interest for me as I’ve shed my own fundamentalist assumptions about religion and the bible. I’ve increasingly found the literalist interpretation of scripture to be inconsistent, souless, mindless, and even dangerous. He points out many of the inconsistencies inherent in a literal reading of the biblical texts and also how it almost inevitably lead to a violent God and violent followers. While he does give a slight nod to more progressive and literary interpretations, his point is clear, to read the bible as the fundamentalists do is untenable and unsafe. He and I found much to agree about in this area.

The book closes with a chapter entitled The Mother of all Burkas. Dawkins takes the burka, a symbol of religious oppression, and (in a very Jewish prophetic way) redeems it for the beauty of something greater. He says:

“Our eyes see the world through a narrow slit in the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light is a chink of brightness in the vast dark spectrum, from radio waves at the long end to gamma rays at the short end. Quite how narrow is hard to appreciate and a challenge to convey. Imagine a gigantic black burka, with a vision slit of approximately the standard width, say about one inch. If the length of black cloth above the slit represents the short-wave end of the invisible spectrum, and if the length of black cloth below the slit represents the long-wave portion of the invisible spectrum, how long would the burka have to be in order to accommodate a one-inch slit to the same scale? It is hard to represent it sensibly without invoking logarithmic scales, so huge are the lengths we derisorily tiny compared with the miles and miles of black cloth representing the invisible part of the spectrum, from radio waves at the hem of the skirt to gamma rays at the top of the head. What science does for us is widen the window. It opens up so wide that the imprisoning black garment drops away almost completely, exposing our senses to airy and exhilarating freedom.”

While his philosophic arguments frustrated me at times, Dawkin’s captured me with the beauty and humility he used to described the evolutionary process. He makes strong and valid claims against religion and strongly calls into the question the nature of belief in God. I think most believers, particularly fundamentalist ones, would do well to sit at the feet of Dawkins and listen to the charges he levels against their us and our faith. In my opinion his voice is a prophetic one. He is speaking back into the fundamentalist religions that have shape all of our worlds in various ways.

While he and I may disagree about the belief in God, we have much to agree about about religion. I think Dawkins would be okay with this disagree. He admits that there is no proof that will change the mind of someone claims a personal spiritual experience. His hostility towards religion lies with believers who rudely impress or forcefully oppress others. I imagine he and I might even be friends who could share some light-hearted ribbing about our world views over a beer. ( )
  erlenmeyer316 | Nov 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 268 (next | show all)
That was the first time I had ever considered, even in my own thoughts to myself, that I could be an atheist. I was 36. My husband was down with this—he told me he was an atheist, too. I felt it was weird we were finally having a conversation about this after being married for six years, but maybe we intrinsically knew all along.
added by paradoxosalpha | editDaily Kos, boofdah (Oct 28, 2011)
In The God Delusion, Dawkins argues that evolution has removed the need for a God hypothesis to explain life, and advances in physics may soon do the same for the universe. Further, the existence of God is a proper question for science, and the answer is no.
added by Taphophile13 | editThe Age, Barney Zwartz (Nov 24, 2006)
Despite the many flashes of brilliance in this book, Dawkins’s failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience.
Creationists and believers in God are right to see him as their arch-enemy. In The God Delusion he displays what a formidable adversary he is. It is a spirited and exhilarating read. In the current climate of papal/Islamic stand-off, it is timely too.
added by ghilbrae | editThe Guardian, Joan Bakewell (Sep 26, 2006)

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Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

'Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?'
First words
As a child, my wife hated her school and wished she could leave.
Deserved Respect
The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands.
Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.
But hate only has to prove it is religious, and it no longer counts as hate.
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.
I am no more fundamentalist when I say evolution is true than when I say it is true that New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere.
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You believe in God.
I believe you've been deceived.
I will tell you why.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618918248, Paperback)

A preeminent scientist -- and the world's most prominent atheist -- asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.

With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Argues that belief in God is irrational, and describes examples of religion's negative influences on society throughout the centuries, such as war, bigotry, child abuse, and violence.

(summary from another edition)

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