BoatGirl’s #CBR4 Review #48: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Hey you. Yeah you, you’re reading this. Go buy this book and read it immediately.
The God Delusion will make you a smarter human being, capable of more nuanced thought and less likely to be taken for a chump by the world around you.
What’s that, you’re a devout <Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Pastafarian, whatever>?
I don’t care. This book has given me the confidence to say that your religious beliefs do not take precedence over basic human intellect and morals.
Disclaimer: I’m a big ole’ atheist, bred and born, so I did go in expecting to enjoy this book. I actually come from a long line of atheists (true, it’s even mentioned in some geneaology my great-aunt put together). It’s tough living in a society where so many people would perceive me as morally subpar because I don’t have an invisible friend. This book has helped provide me with the wording to explain myself and think about why I believe I am a good person, even though I don’t believe an omnipotent being is watching me.
This book helped crystallize and focus my thoughts about what is problematic with religion, any religion.
Dawkins very carefully discusses all different angles of religion and how it affects people and why no god/s exist (he’s not just picking on Christianity). I especially enjoyed his arguments about morality and about what the devout misunderstand about science. With regards to morality, he produces both scientific studies and common sense about how people decide right from wrong, and compares them to both biblical teachings and religious background of the individuals to find that lo and behold, atheists and religious alike will generally agree on right and wrong for hypothetical situations and approaching situations as described in various holy books would often get you arrested in today’s world (see: Abraham and Isaac; Lot giving his daughters to a mob to rape). His strong point is certainly science and he excels at explaining where misconceptions occur, why people misunderstand and thus fall back on saying evolution couldn’t be possible, must be god. He also provides tons of other resources for anyone who wants to look further at any of the subjects discussed in more detail.
Early on, Dawkins sets out his intent in the book, the topics he will cover and that he is trying to write it not as a rant, but rather as a scientific response to religion. I think he succeeds admirably, although I imagine that someone who is devoutly religious could feel very offended at seeing all their beliefs so easily and credibly dismissed.
The only minor nitpick I would have is his repetitive talk of “consciousness raising.” Early in the book, he discusses how feminists in the 70’s used consciousness raising to make people understand the importance of using gender neutral language to avoid marginalizing women, and he argues the need for the same type of effort now with respect to religion. While I understand and agree, the term “consciousness raising” used over and over seemed to me to be a throwback to the 1970’s and made the idea slightly ridiculous.
(I guess in a certain sense, my non-religious consciousness was raised years ago when I read Merlyn Stone’s When God was a Woman which made me realize how the misogyny inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition has negatively impacted so much of our society in ways that we don’t even think of and how different a society that worshipped a female deity might behave. Don’t get me wrong, When God was a Woman is a terrible book in many ways, poorly researched, hyperbolic and downright silly in parts, but absolutely a game changer for the basic concept of how a male deity reflects the society that created it.)
The God Delusion made me feel happy and hopeful and pumped up. It made me question and think and look critically at the world around me. I learned new things and ultimately feel like a better person for having read it. I think it will have to be reread maybe yearly for a while.