As a matter of principle, I like to remain open to nearly all plausible metaphysical possibilities, including the
existence of God. Nevertheless, it has been many years since I believed in the kind of personal creator-god found
in most religions, particular those of the Judeo-Christian variety. I read The God Delusion not expecting to gain
much by it, as I consider myself to already be very much a part of the choir that Dawkins is preaching to.
However, while most of the book only reinforced my existing beliefs rather than offer anything new, I did find it to
be a valuable and worthwhile read.
The book is meant for those who are not devoutly religious but who nevertheless practice religion anyway
because of custom or habit, or the fear that losing one’s faith will cause estrangement from one’s family or have
other undesirable consequences. The book will certainly not sway the devoutly faithful, most of whom will refuse
to read it anyway, or who will read it only to look for ways to attack it. But if you fit into the category of religious-
by-default, you really ought to read it, and if anyone you know fits in this category you ought to recommend it.
The first half deals with arguments regarding the existence of God, while the second deals with the pros and cons
of religion itself. Dawkins begins by addressing the kind of theism that I can accept, in which God is identified as
something completely transcendent and unknowable, as nature or the universe itself. This is God as Einstein or
Spinoza understands it, and Dawkins admits that such an understanding is perfectly reasonable and rationally
defensible, yet those who hold such a view of this transcendent force really ought not call it God. The “God”
which is Dawkins’ subject of attack is not this highly abstract entity but the personal creator-god of religious
doctrine, the kind of God who hears everybody’s thoughts and judges them, who not only created the universe
with humans in mind but actively gets involved in their lives through the divine intervention of answering prayers. It
is this kind of God that Dawkins argues, quite compellingly, almost certainly does not exist. Anyone who believes
in the Einsteinian or Spinozian God may as well call themselves atheists.
So thanks to Dawkins I have decided to stop labelling myself an agnostic and start thinking of myself as a full-
blown atheist. The fallacy of agnosticism, as Dawkins points out, is to treat both propositions “God might exist”
and “God might not exist” equally, when in fact the latter is almost infinitely more likely to be true than the former.
If this universe really is run by an omnipotent and omniscient deity, this would be an extremely unlikely entity
indeed. It is far more likely that no such deity exists, so why remain agnostic and act as though its existence is just
as likely as its non-existence?
For those who would say that its existence actually is likely, perhaps because of the appearance of design in living
organisms or the anthropic principle (the physical laws of the universe have to be just right in order for it to be
suitable for life) Dawkins has a slew of inescapably logical and rational counter-arguments to show why it is just
the opposite—that any solution to these problems that involves God is far more unlikely than solutions that do
not. For instance, natural selection is a far better solution to the problem of the complexity of life on earth than
intelligent design, as the latter requires that we posit the existence of a designer, which itself must be more complex
than anything it designs! This is only one of the many excellent points Dawkins makes in response to every
conceivable argument that has been or can be put forward in favour of God’s existence. There is no need to
recount them all here.
Enjoyable as it was, the book’s second half had little effect on my pre-existing opinions, as I already believe that
religion is a terrible source of evil and that human beings, contrary to popular belief, do not derive their morality
from scripture. One of the most enjoyable sections of the book is Dawkins’ ferocious assault on Yahweh, the
God of the Old Testament, who is one of the most immoral, despicable, monstrous characters ever conceived!
The fact that so many people still claim that the Bible is the infallible word of God and the source of all morality
only proves that these people have not actually read the Bible, or they would all continue to own slaves, sacrifice
children, and stone to death anyone who works on the Sabbath. Perhaps it’s best that they don’t read it.
Finally, the most important thing I think to be taken from the book is Dawkins’ call to raise our collective
consciousness in terms of how we refer to the children of religious parents. He believes that in the same way we
recoil from sexist remarks or racial slurs because of the feminist and civil rights movements, we ought to recoil
whenever we hear someone refer to a “Christian child” or “Muslim child.” Children, he quite correctly points out,
are not old enough to be capable of forming their own opinions on theological matters, just as they are not old
enough to form their own political opinions. It would be absurd to refer to a 4-year-old as a “Capitalist child” or
a “Fiscally-conservative child” so why do we not see the same absurdity in referring to a child’s religion? Simply
by insisting upon the phrase “child of Christian parents” or “child of Jewish parents” we can raise our collective
consciousness and begin to view religion from a very young age as a choice that we make when we are old
enough to do so, rather than something we automatically inherit from our parents.
Dawkins concludes by attempting to show that we as a species do not need God, and he tries to do this by
pointing out how much more spectacular and wondrous the scientific view of the world is than that of any religion.
Unfortunately, this is the most disappointing section of the book, as impassioned poetic language is not Dawkins’
strong suit. But luckily, there are plenty of other writers, most notably Carl Sagan, with an incredible talent for
inspiring rhetoric regarding the wonder of the natural universe as science understands it. Dawkins does offer a
rather poignant analogy, however, of the religious view as a mere one-inch slit in a burka miles long, while science
is constantly prying open the slit to show us just how much more fascinating the world is than its traditional
illustration as a 6,000-year-old piece of land somewhere between Heaven and Hell. For anyone sitting on the
fence with regards to religion, this book will undoubtedly help to push them in the proper direction away from that
narrow cosmology of wilful ignorance and domination by a cruel and judgmental God, and toward the far more
inspiring worldview of infinite complexity and total freedom from the oppression of divine authority.
The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins - 2007