Sunday, May 29, 2011

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (review)

Dawkins seems to belong to a small “sect” which includes Christopher Hitchens, the former Nation correspondent who capitulated to the war-hawks but retains a totally imcompatible (with most war hawks) point of view on religion, expressed in his provocative title, God Is Not Great. I think both books are great fun in their merciless unmasking of those who, with a solemn and perfectly straight face, embrace perfectly nonsensical ideas. They do not spare the “respectable” middle of the road church-goer their mocking analysis as they challenge societal assumptions about belief. Dawkins is particularly annoyed at the near-requirement that we must “respect” those who “faithfully” refuse to question whomever reaches them first, the religion they’re raised under. He even suggests that to indoctrinate children into religious belief is a form of abuse.

I get frequent emails from “faith-based” groups requesting signatures for anti-war petitions, which I sign with some trepidation since I have zero faith, in the sense that the “faithful” seem to embrace. I agree with Dawkins’ question, why should believing nonsense without question give more weight to my opinion?

Politicians are frequently pressured by fundamentalists to throw them a bone, like the “under God” addition to the pledge of allegiance, or the movement to “put God back in our schools” – meaning, force all students to endure religious indoctrination. I always try to point out to those who complain that we can no longer pray in school that any student can pray anytime they want to, they just can’t force everyone else to join them. And that is the point Dawkins gets most agitated about, the forcing of unquestioned “faith” that he sees as extremely tiresome, yes, but also dangerous, as illustrated by doctor-killing anti-abortion fanatics (I won’t accede to their propaganda brigade by calling their position pro-life) and of course the jihadist, if that’s what they’re called, martyrs of 911. Dawkins sees this refusal to question, faith, as at the center of what the church teaches, needs to teach to perpetuate itself – otherwise it would become science, but which prepares the ground nicely for the scourge of demagoguery and war. I don’t think Dawkins has the whole picture here but he’s got a good bit of it.

1 comment:

  1. his is the most refreshing read I have had for decades. No more pussy-footing around religion, this book systematically and rationally dismantles all the spurious scaffolding underpinning the world's religious faiths. 'The God Delusion' is destined to herald a social watershed the likes of which we haven't seen since Darwin's 'Origin of Species' forever changed the way we understand the world and our place within it. Buy this book and give it to every intelligent person you know. Finally, it's not only OK not to be religious - it's the only sensible place to be.