The God Delusion

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is a spirited, fair, rational, engaging, and vigorous explanation of why God is not there. It methodologically tackles various objections, explains historical quarks, and his reasons for writing such a direct/hostile book.

Read: 1x | First: December 2020

As someone who beliefs himself to be a rationalist, this book touched all the right points for me. It goes through various objections and cuts them down without resorting to anything else but reason.

Dawkins has been known to speak his mind, to be a great explainer of science, and one who doesn’t back down in the face of resistance. At the same time, he seems to have developed positive relationships with those from the other side of the argument who are willing to listen, even if they don’t agree on the outcomes.

One may also ask: What good does a book like this do? Does it not speak only to those who are already convinced? Dawkins also dispels this notion and informs us that many religious people (including leaders) have found his arguments compelling and have left the faith.

This book pairs well with Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett.

Introduction for the 10th anniversary edition

Life has come forth through (Darwinian) evolution: cumulative natural selection. But that is hard to believe, is there nothing that makes all of this special? A designer? A grand scheme?

That is what theism claims, that there is a God (or gods) that have caused the universe to exist (and made/controlled it to varying degrees). This book explains that there is no ground for such a claim. We don’t need it to explain evolution, humans, nor morality.

Of those who identify as Christian (in the UK), many are completely unaware of what is written in the bible (why doesn’t the church encourage reading it more?). When asked about why they believed, 18% indicated they believed in its teachings. A much larger 46% said it was because they were christened/baptized into religion (see chapter 9). Or in other words, many who identify as Christian, don’t actively engage in behaviour or belief that match the central tenets of its faith.

See this survey here for a primer on the data.

… you could plausibly argue that the best antidote against all of the three Abrahamic religions is a thorough reading of their holy books. The nasty bits are seldom mentioned in churches or Sunday schools.”

Chapter 1 – A deeply religious non-believer

Dawkins has been described as religious, but a better description would be naturalist (students of the world), atheist (there is no supernatural power, no miracles).

As ever when we unweave a rainbow, it will not become less wonderful.”

A theist is someone who believes in a supernatural intelligence that has created the universe and is actively managing it.

A deist only believes that a supernatural intelligence has set up the laws of the universe.

A pantheist only uses God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature (or Universe). (“Pantheism is sexed up atheism”)

This book will speak/criticize only a supernatural God (i.e. not when using God as a metaphor).

Religion should not be protected, it should not be a reason why you can discriminate (against homosexuals) or get special exemptions (taxes, drugs).

Chapter 2 – The God Hypothesis

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

That is quite the statement to start this chapter, and one that gets often quoted. Later on Dawkins points towards all the place in the Old Testament which justify such a paragraph.

God Hypothesis: “there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us.

Alternative: “Any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.

Also see Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (to review) by Daniel Dennett.

America was founded on secular grounds, but alas because religion ‘evolved’ outside the state, it became such a large (and influential) institution on America.

Being an agnostic is not something we can confidently be when talking about the God Hypothesis. It’s not something where there is no evidence or no priors (e.g. the change of intelligence life on other planets).

We are all atheists, when considering the gods Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, etc. Why not go one God further?

One experiment to prove the existence of God was the Great Prayer Experiment. Without bothering with the details, the ones who were prayed for and who know that this was the case – did worse on medical outcomes.

Chapter 3 – Arguments for God’s existence

Chapter 4 – Why there almost certainly is no God

Chapter 5 – The roots of religion

Chapter 6 – The roots of morality: why are we good?

Chapter 7 – The ‘Good’ Book and the changing moral Zeitgeist

Chapter 8 – What’s wrong with religion? Why be so hostile?

Chapter 9 – Childhood, abuse and the escape from religion

Chapter 10 – A much needed gap?

Afterword by Daniel Dennett