God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – A Review

“God Delusion” is a bestseller non fiction book, written by Richard Dawkins, a professor at Oxford.

The primary purpose of the book is to debunk the Judeo-Christian notion of God as a “superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us,” which Dawkins calls the “God Hypothesis.” His argument against this hypothesis is that a God with such abilities has to be more complex than what it has created, and hence improbable. He then raises the reductio ad absurdum question of who created God. In fact, this elaboration on the “Mommy, who created God?” question is the central argument of the book.

Dawkins’ argues that science and religion are mutually incompatible for the reason that science is all about evidence, while religion is about believing without evidence. He makes the point “morality needs no religion,” which, frankly, has been said before. He stands on the shoulders of Bertrand Russell when he says this.

My observations from reading the book

Dawkins treats “believers” with little respect. e.g. calling them ‘faith heads’ to make unwarranted, implied comparisons with ‘crack heads’. This is not necessary. On the other hand, religion has become accustomed to getting respect. So, maybe a little disrespect is not a bad tactic to get attention. Agree with his real point that there is no reason why religion should be immune to criticism or get any special treatment.

Dawkins blames religion disproportionately. Reading the book – one would be tempted to believe that if religion were to be somehow obliterated, all the world’s wars would cease. Rather dramatic and flawed since things like language and good old megalomaniacal tendencies have contributed more to wars than religion. I get the sense that Dawkins is hung up more on labels rather than religion or God itself, and is stretching to make the linkages. his point really is that religion is a ‘marker’ much like tribal membership, language, skin color etc except that we’re giving it way more (undeserved) respect than the other markers. This is a fair point but not a very useful one.

Dawkins recommends impractical and absurd measures like “children should not be given the religious labels of their parents”. Again, he unfairly picks on religion, since non-religious beliefs of parents play possibly an even more important role in deciding children’s future development. Further, children tend to grow out of their parents’ belief systems as they have experiences of their own

Dawkins makes no distinction between ‘liberals’, ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’ in religions. This may not be a minor point. Just like – not all atheists are pacifists (eg Stalin, Mao), not all theists are pacifist. So why, again, isolate religion as a sole culprit?

He is unable to pin down what he really feels is wrong with or does not makes sense about religion from an evolutionary perspective. Dawkins would be the first to admit that religion has a “utility” value in evolution, although he would qualify this by saying “even false beliefs have utility value.” False belief or not, religion’s utility appears to be there. So, what’s the problem with this? Why the hysteria against religion? This is especially disappointing given his strengths in this area.

The Verdict

Dawkins brings a great deal of passion to the book, but reading it can feel like watching a Michael Moore movie. His tone is smug, logic sloppy at times and the book occasionally includes crass phrases like “sucking up to God”. When it comes to his own specialty, evolutionary biology, there is none better. But the purpose of this book is not to explain science. It is rather, as he tells us, “to raise consciousness,” which is quite another thing. The book ends up being a unscientific polemic, in which an evolutionary biologist stretches into areas like socio-economics, politics, history, philosophy, theosophy, theology etc. where he has no core expertise. For a person who does not believe in God, he appears more obsessed with Him than the believers.

Dawkins puts forth that to be an atheist is a “brave and splendid” aspiration. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certainty that God exists and 7 is certainty that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6. “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there,” he says. An assumption, not coincidentally that has fetched him millions of dollars.

If you’re looking for a “good atheist” book, this one’s not it.

16 Replies to “God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – A Review”

  1. Hello,

    This comment may not be related to your review of the book. Lately I am also wondering about the fundamental questions that we face such as life, universe etc. I wonder whether there is really a superpower governing all of this. Science hasn’t been able to confirm or deny anything completely. Looking around things and some personal experiences make me believe that there has to be something in control of all this. I was just curious about your thoughts.
    Thank you!

    ~ Ashish

  2. Hello,

    This comment may not be related to your review of the book. Lately I am also wondering about the fundamental questions that we face such as life, universe etc. I wonder whether there is really a superpower governing all of this. Science hasn’t been able to confirm or deny anything completely. Looking around things and some personal experiences make me believe that there has to be something in control of all this. I was just curious about your thoughts.
    Thank you!

    ~ Ashish

  3. I know a youngman.He calls himself an atheist and has read Richard Dawkins.But,he says Dawkins is also yet another preacher since he seems to do what evangelists do,only in denial of a God.And,in that scale of 1to7,what are the others from 2 to 7,leaving 6?.I have heard him once on NPR long ago.A good summing up.

  4. I know a youngman.He calls himself an atheist and has read Richard Dawkins.But,he says Dawkins is also yet another preacher since he seems to do what evangelists do,only in denial of a God.And,in that scale of 1to7,what are the others from 2 to 7,leaving 6?.I have heard him once on NPR long ago.A good summing up.

  5. Hi Ashish, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I don’t believe that anyone has the monopoly over Truth and Reality. I also don’t know the answer to the question that you’ve raised. Nothing is confirmed or denied until your personal experience supports it. In a sense, reality is what you make of it. It may change from time to time. But it has to be of your making. I don’t mean to sound like a salesman here, but I have asked the exact same questions that you have raised often. And it led me to author a book around them. However, you don’t have to read my book. An easier option might be to read this: http://srinic.in/beliefs/ where I’ve written down my beliefs. Would be delighted to hear what you think of it.

  6. Hi Ashish, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I don’t believe that anyone has the monopoly over Truth and Reality. I also don’t know the answer to the question that you’ve raised. Nothing is confirmed or denied until your personal experience supports it. In a sense, reality is what you make of it. It may change from time to time. But it has to be of your making. I don’t mean to sound like a salesman here, but I have asked the exact same questions that you have raised often. And it led me to author a book around them. However, you don’t have to read my book. An easier option might be to read this: http://srinic.in/beliefs/ where I’ve written down my beliefs. Would be delighted to hear what you think of it.

  7. Richard Dawkins is a brilliant scientist. He has done outstanding work in science. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. At times, passion gets the better of us and we tend to begin preaching and dictating gospel to others. Dawkins has fallen prey to the “I am this mighty scientist. I’ve seen it all. I know more than you do” syndrome.

    We have to guard against our convictions and beliefs, for they can cause greater destruction than even lies.

  8. Richard Dawkins is a brilliant scientist. He has done outstanding work in science. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. At times, passion gets the better of us and we tend to begin preaching and dictating gospel to others. Dawkins has fallen prey to the “I am this mighty scientist. I’ve seen it all. I know more than you do” syndrome.

    We have to guard against our convictions and beliefs, for they can cause greater destruction than even lies.

  9. Thank you very much for replying. You have made very good points. I have not thought as deeply as you have. But from whatever introspection I have done I can comment on the first two points and my thoughts are on the same lines as yours in those points.
    A quick question: what are your thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita? Albert Einstein said – “When I read the Bhagavad Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.”
    Ohh, I also plan to read your book.
    Thanks again!

    ~Ashish

  10. Thank you very much for replying. You have made very good points. I have not thought as deeply as you have. But from whatever introspection I have done I can comment on the first two points and my thoughts are on the same lines as yours in those points.
    A quick question: what are your thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita? Albert Einstein said – “When I read the Bhagavad Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.”
    Ohh, I also plan to read your book.
    Thanks again!

    ~Ashish

  11. Thanks Ashish! Do let me know how you like the book. What can I say about Bhagavad Gita – which is the word of the Supreme One? It’s near impossible to summarize in a few words. Perhaps, I’ll try to write my thoughts on it in a future blog post?

  12. Thanks Ashish! Do let me know how you like the book. What can I say about Bhagavad Gita – which is the word of the Supreme One? It’s near impossible to summarize in a few words. Perhaps, I’ll try to write my thoughts on it in a future blog post?

  13. Dawkins’s obsession with science and evidence for the existence of God or the Creator has perhaps made him oblivious to the facts of life, which to a very great extent subsist only on faith. We need not have to go far to question his faith in DISBELIEF. A child knows its father only through faith in its mothers vouchsaying the fact and veracity of her testimony, which is itself a GREAT FAITH or belief. Democracies will cease to exist, if we do not have faith in the elected representative, inspite of proofs to the contrary. If one starts asking for evidence for any thing and every thing, one ends up losing ones mental balance. The world lives on tolerance, even the tolerance of accepting such blatant disbelief in something in which many the world over have reposed the greatest faith.

  14. Dawkins’s obsession with science and evidence for the existence of God or the Creator has perhaps made him oblivious to the facts of life, which to a very great extent subsist only on faith. We need not have to go far to question his faith in DISBELIEF. A child knows its father only through faith in its mothers vouchsaying the fact and veracity of her testimony, which is itself a GREAT FAITH or belief. Democracies will cease to exist, if we do not have faith in the elected representative, inspite of proofs to the contrary. If one starts asking for evidence for any thing and every thing, one ends up losing ones mental balance. The world lives on tolerance, even the tolerance of accepting such blatant disbelief in something in which many the world over have reposed the greatest faith.

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