I finished reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion this morning. I found it clearly written and well-argued. I certainly haven’t seen anything from his critics that appears to refute his arguments, although I wonder how many of them have actually read his entire book.
Granted, I’m sympathetic to those arguments in the first place. Even so, however, I was looking for weakness and/or over-reaching in the text, and didn’t find much. I do think he might be underestimating the human capacity for justification—that is, I think he might be naive in assuming that if religion were abandoned then large swathes of prejudice in the world would fall away.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that removing one major area where unreason is accorded respect would make it harder for it to survive elsewhere. In which case, of course, the motivation for rulers to encourage religion is all too clear…
There were a few details that surprised me—I didn’t know that Islam still supported the death penalty for apostasy, for example. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me, but it does, an strikes me as particularly sick. As do the Christian fundamentalists proposing death for aldutery. I’d heard about them before, in the U.S., but it’s still really disturbing. Dawkins quotes Voltaire, who is particularly appropriate:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Bertrand Russell is also very much on point:
Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.
(Although that latter quotation may conflict with what I was getting at in yesterday’s post.)
Overall, I think that The God Delusion is definitely worth reading, and that it is ultimately uplifting, demonstrating how we can achieve tremendous understanding of and appreciation for the world (and the human being) through reason, and that we do not need deliberate obscurantism or non-thinking.
I’ll close with a link from the book to Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence.