Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I recently finished the book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Upon completion, another "D" word came to mind commonly used by the philosopher Homer (Simpson)...D'oh!

I had heard many great things about Dawkins' past writings. As such, I felt his most recent offering would be a good place to start to learn a little more about the criticisms of my faith. After completing the nearly 400 pages, it was rather anti-climactic. There were times where his arguments made me stop and think -- for example, the discussion of parsimony and whether Darwinian evolution can be pulled from biology and used on a cosmic scale (in short, complexity [i.e. God] cannot beget simplicity). Dr. Alvin Plantinga does a superb job of responding to these points here.

When Dawkins steps out of his element (biology) and into other fields (philosophy, history of the church/Bible, psychology) things begin to go downhill fast. His uses too many "could," "possibly," and "mights" for someone who espouses the virtues of science, reason and evidence. These sections of the book are mostly written with emotion and theatre rather than convincing arguments (think political debates or commercials -- mostly show, but little substance).

Furthermore, he uses the most extreme and unflattering examples of religious persons and situations and uses them to pass judgement on all religion (I touch on this more in a moment). To make matters worse, as was pointed out by Alister McGrath in his book "The Dawkins Delusion," Dawkins never really provides a good definition of religion in the first place. While he mostly criticizes Christians, Muslims and Jews, it is possible to be religious without believing in a god (Buddhism, for example). Some also eschew religion and still believe in a god. What is the commonality or universal traits amongst all religions that he so desperately hates? Dawkins fails to point them out, but he knows it when he sees it! We are then left with a book the rails against a nebulous evil that he gets to define as he goes.

This leads me to my next point regarding the evils of religion. As I noted, Dawkins selectively portrays religion in a very poor light -- abortion clinic and suicide bombers, etc. His use of radical examples, rather than interviewing persons who can more adequately articulate points, such as Francis Collins, Dinesh D'Souza or even Alister McGrath, show his true motivations (in fact, he interviewed McGrath for a television documentary, but oddly the interview never made the final cut). That which is good can be perverted, including Christianity. It is naive to think that replacing religion with universal atheism would somehow eliminate most fighting/suffering in the world. The ivory tower concept that people who look to reason and science would not resort to violence or evil is equally naive. Humans will always find a reason or a cause to attach themselves and act out their selfish desires.

I had seen much praise for this book and expected more from its 400 pages. Perhaps I should go back and read his earlier works to find more persuasive arguments, as I have gotten more from some of the free blog sites I have visited.

1 comment:

William Petruzzo said...

Interesting review. I've been circling Dawkins and McGrath stuff for a little while now getting a birds eye view of things.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.