Friday, June 22, 2007

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I am now reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins”. Dawkins is a proud atheist and this book is aimed at proselytizing religious people away from their faith in a god to a faith that there is no God. The first chapter takes care of laying some ground work. He begins by making the case, using Albert Einstein, that there are many well know and respected scientist who, when quoted out of context, can sound as if they themselves believe in a god. He points out that this "god" is not a supernatural god. He finds this confusing, and so do I, and I agree with him that these scientist shouldn't do this. He also says that “it is possible that religious readers will be offended by what [he has] to say, and will find in these pages insufficient respect for their own particular beliefs…[and] It would be a shame if such offence prevented them from reading on...[also there is] A widespread assumption…that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect…”(pg23) I scratched my head initially on this one. Then I thought of the respect that one religion is given and I found myself agreeing with him on this as well. He went on to make this same case himself using the recent events in Denmark. The last sentence of the first chapter disclaims “I shall not go out of my way to offend, nor shall I use kid gloves…”. The first sentence of the second chapter he calls the “God of the Old Testament…jealous…petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticide, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”. For someone to hate the God in which I have faith doesn’t offend me; my goodness how would I make it through the day? But for the people he is presumable trying to enlighten, I wonder why he thinks they will continue to read after a diatribe like that?

Incidentally, I found myself as a Christian agreeing with him more than I ever thought I could. This is so because his arguments are, by his own admission, against religion. This makes sense because as an atheist that’s all that remains. I am not an atheist and I don’t have respect for religion, so I’m sure as an atheist he has even less.

I've only read two chapters but there’s nothing surprising so far. All such books, as far as I can discern, are about the same thing: power. The main thrust is that religious people should not vote because they are deluded. I think it was Voltaire who said “if there is no God, all things are permissible”. If there is no objective basis for morality, then the only question that remains is'n't what is right and wrong, but rather who gets to decide? The secularist then finds democracy problematic because of what he sees as the deluded ignorant superstitious religious voter imposing his beliefs of right and wrong onto society. In the end it all comes down to amassing raw power. While reading this book I put letters in the margins to aid in later research; P for power, R for religion, and E for evolution. The P’s already outnumber all the other letters put together, and I suspect this trend will continue because P is all that’s really left if there is no God.


Tina said...

what a great post Danny! I must admit I cringed terribly when he described his version of the God of the OT. Good thing you have a thicker skin than I have.

What made me really sad is the hate mail he received from other "believers". Ya know, if that is his idea of a Christian, I don't blame him at all for hating it. Thankfully, God saw to it that I had some real, loving Christians in my life, otherwise I would probably be an atheist too.

And as for the other religion you refer to that gets such respect, it would be downright scary if I didn't know Who wins in the end!

Keep posting as you read it. I will enjoy reading your thoughts.

Tina said...

But for the people he is presumable trying to enlighten, I wonder why he thinks they will continue to read after a diatribe like that?

Oops I forgot to say to the previous comment a hearty

Penless Thoughts said...

I choose not to read that type stuff. I know some would say that is being "closed minded" but my position is I choose not to ingest poison in the food I eat in my natural body and I choose not to take in poison into my Spirit. I make a real effort to guard my "eye gate" and my "ear gate". Not making a judgment call here, Danny....just stating how I view it for ME!!!
I must say....I enjoy your posts greatly but your "Genius" is way over my head some times. :o) What is that saying about genius here!!

ChrisB said...

While I can appreciate the approach of those, like Penless Thoughts, who choose to use their limited time to read things that are edifying, I am surrounded by people who read this stuff (or come up with it on their own). So to be an effective representative of the King, I have to be familiar enough with this stuff to provide as thoughtful an answer as I can. I have, however, learned to pace myself. I read Da Vinci Code, God Delusion, and Misquoting Jesus all in pretty rapid succession, and it was terribly emotionally draining. That's why I simply refuse to read Hitchens' new one -- I need time to recharge my batteries.

Regarding The God Delusion, what passes for an argument in this book is easily refuted. But there is very little argument. Instead he waves off some of our best material with little more than a sneer and then launches into what I can anecdotal ad hominem. One chapter in particular I finished wondering if there had been a point. You'd think his editor would have demanded a little better.

That said, I agree that I had to feel for him regarding his treatment by professing Christians in the past. It's easy to get nasty when he gets nasty, but we are called to respond to cursing with blessing. I pray we'll (and I'll) get better at that.

Incognito said...

A case could be made against organized "religion". Most wars are rooted in religion and religions do have a tendency to be divisive, which isn't very charitable, but to not believe in God I find very sad. Atheists will be in for a rude awakening when they meet their Maker.

Pat Jenkins said...

great tackle dw, i would like to see someone argue against a God not on the basis of relgion, which most will do, and instead try to disavow one who is intimate with, and being creation. it may make the task tougher!!!

danny wright said...

Tina-I hate it that he lumps all religions together, but as I read I'm beginning to understand why he does it. He is just attempting to be consistent with his atheistic view. Still, As a Christian it seems wrong that we get lumped in with Muslims. Sense 9/11 I've asked this question many times at work, If it had been Christians, do you think so many non-Christians would have been standing up shouting that Christianity is a religion of peace like so many non-Muslims have? The response is always the same, it is as if a light comes on in their heads.

danny wright said...

Penless, I'm anything but a genius. If I were really a genius nothing I say would be over anyone's head. :) I think rather it is me not doing a good job of explaining. But still, thanks for the complement!!

Chrisb, thanks for the comment. In a weird way this book is actually strengthening my faith. It really is a toothless lion. It is easy to see his down right hatred of what he would deem the simple-minded. Robert Bork talked about this but I've never seen it so open and blatant.

Incog, I believe a case could be made for or against anything, including atheism. All one has to do is pick from history only those things that make the desired case, something that Dawkins is actually doing in this book as far as religion is concerned.

Pat-I'm not sure what you mean by one who is intimate with, and being creation. As I mentioned, in the beginning of the book he deals with many scientist that look at the order of things in nature and call that God. He thus gives them a pass.

Tina said...

My hubby and I just started to read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (Dawkins best friend :):)
And then we are going to read Letter From a Christian Citizen by Douglas Wilson. Somebody from church lent them to us.
He is a little nicer than Dawkins and it is a much shorter read. But so far there is nothing new in there.
I agree about faith being strengthened after reading these! Mine has too.

Penless Thoughts said...

Hi Danny - Just came back to read the further comments. Very interesting.

I am one who hates to draw the line in the sand on too many issues. If you notice one of the quotes on my sidebar is "If you keep things simple they'll stay pure". I believe this, at least for myself.

I can understand other people wanting to be more informed on certain topics and I appreciate Chrisb's point.

I just wonder where you all put this scripture

I Timothy 6:20 – O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: (21) Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

janelle said...

Very good post. Reading stuff like those type of books always strengthens my faith. It also makes we ask, "Why Lord, did you ever choose me?"

terryd said...

"If there is no objective basis for morality, then the only question that remains is'n't what is right and wrong, but rather who gets to decide?"

Excellent summary statement! The implications in government, society at large and even the church are chilling.

I've wondered about the quote you attributed to might be a Dostoevsky, although in Brothers Karamazov (which I've never read) it goes like this:

"If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted." Chptr. 6

Maybe that's a different one. In any case the idea is apropos.

danny wright said...

Penless- This is a good question. I'm still thinking about it.

Janelle- me too!

Mr. D thank you for dropping by. I am truly honored, and thanks for the correction.

ChrisB said...

I just wonder where you all put this scripture
I Timothy 6:20 – O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:...

I put it the same place as all the rest ;)

This passage begs for a word study that I just don't have the time or energy for tonight. I suspect it's related to 4:7, but that's just a hunch at this point. It probably refers to chasing every new doctrine that comes along, not opposing them.

When we set about to interpret this verse, we have to remember that the man who wrote these words stood on Mars Hill and quoted pagan philosphers. This passage also coexists with 1 Peter 3:15 and Jude 3-4, among others, so I'm not going to lose much sleep worrying that it's unbiblical to train myself to go toe-to-toe with men who teach those weak of mind or soul that Jesus never rose from the dead.

Grace, peace, and goodnight.

Tina said...

I finished Letter to a Christian Nation last night and have started Douglas Wilson's response, which is so far devastating to Harris' reasonings.
I plan to post the whole foreward to Wilson's book on my blog over the next couple days.

In light of Susan's comment, I think for me, it came down to needing a reason to know why I believe what I do. Reading these things has solidified it for me.
I do also think we need to be able to intelligently answer questions put to us. Some questions they ask are fair questions and should get as intelligent response as possible. We can't do that if we are not informed of their position. For instance, those seminars armed me with the information I need to put the burden of proof back on them. I would never have known so much of their "evidence" for evolution is false if I had never been informed that it was. They have so many people fooled into thinking that it is a proven scientific fact, when it most assuredly not.

But let us not forget that this is a spiritual battle and the weapons we need in our warfare. We need to be fighting this battle on our knees more than anywhere else.

Livingsword said...

Interesting article, I grew up as an atheist with no Christian influence in my life, became a follower of Jesus in my late 20’s, now I am in my early 40’s. I found your comment about how the book in a strange way has strengthened your faith. Before I was a Christian I read the Quran 6 times (this is pre 9-11) and more the ten Bios on Muhammad and it convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not from God.

I read two books edited by Isaac Asimov (big time atheist); he collected the works of “great atheists” to debunk the Bible. One was on the OT the other on the NT; they worked their way through the Bible pointing out “errors”. After reading the books I thought it took more faith to believe in their excuses than in what the Bible said!

I am wondering if you could come to my blog and make a comment on my recent article, your perspective would be interesting.

ChrisB said...

Livingsword's comment reminds me of the comment G.K. Chesterton made that it wasn't reading Christians that made him a Christian but reading the anti-Christians. One said Christianity was too emotional, another too cold; one said it was too chaste, another obsessed by sex. In the end he decided that they must all be wrong and that the real thing was worth looking at.

Pat Jenkins said...

dw, i would describe that, may statement, in terms of God as one who is alive and a being, The God of Abraham and Issac. if those who argue against one in this manner it will make for a tougher arguement. once again a solid post!!!

danny wright said...


I've really wrestled with your question. I've written at least ten answers and erased them all. I did a word study and agree with Chris in the matter of doctrines or false "special" knowledge. But consider this on the matter. All children that go to a government school are basically being taught the contents of this book and worse.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Thanks Danny for the astute observations,,comlex topic!

Brandon Muller said...

Two comments (which will probably never be read since I stumbled upon this way after the initial posting):

Tina says, "In light of Susan's comment, I think for me, it came down to needing a reason to know why I believe what I do. Reading these things has solidified it for me."

That just about says it all. Believe first and THEN figure out the reasons behind it. I've heard this from many religious people.

And from livingsword: "After reading the [atheist] books I thought it took more faith to believe in their excuses than in what the Bible said!"

Hmm. Interesting. It takes "more faith" to believe what atheists believe. Sounds like livingsword is using the idea of faith as an insult. Sounds like, deep down, livingsword understands what faith really is--believing in something for no good reason at all--and that's not a good thing. And yet, faith is something that Christianity hails as the greatest thing ever.

Go figure.