Saturday, August 18, 2007

The God Delusion

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins' broadside against religion has been the surprise literary hit of the last year. I waited for the paperback, needing little convincing that religion is an understandable but illogical way to comprehend the world and deal with its everyday problems. Fortunately I've now had the chance to read this hugely enjoyable ode to science and atheism.

Dawkins has long been an excellent science author (The Selfish Gene and Climbing Mount Improbable are engrossing explanations of evolution and should be read by anyone who wants to understand how the natural world works). The God Delusion turns this talent to the supernatural claims of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the world's other faiths. Dawkins shows that simple scientific method can demonstrate to be highly improbable claims of supernatural beings, afterlives and other widely-believed superstititions. He patiently demolishes a long list of religious nostrums, especially demands that we "respect" bigotry against non-believers, free speech, homosexuality, women, and the rest of the long list of targets of sections of the Bible, Qur'an and other sacred fairy tales:

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, meglomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can become densensitized to their horror. A naif blessed with the perspective of innocence has a clearer perception. (p.51)

Along the way Dawkins shows why morality can (and should) exist independently of religion; the negative impact of religious belief upon society; and why children should be allowed to make up their own minds about their parents' faiths. He (and I) are horrified that the UK government is promoting further sectarian divides by financing new schools segregated on religious grounds.

This book should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum, both for its dissection of religion and its crystal-clear exposition of the scientific method and critical thinking. We are fortunate to have such a powerful thinker and communicator stand up for science in this age of theocracies (including parts of the US government). And as Dawkins says in the preface: "Blasphemy is a victimless crime."

1 comment:

FishNChipPapers said...

Amen ;-) to that. I listened to it as an audio book read by Dawkins which just served to embellish the content. I would also recommend Sam Harris "End Of Faith"