The God delusion

by Richard Dawkins

Hardcover, 2006




Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006.


A preeminent scientist asserts the irrationallity of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society from the Crusades to 9/11. He critiques God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. In so doing, he makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just irrational, but potentially deadly. Dawkins has fashioned an impassioned, rigorous rebuttal to religion, to be embraced by anyone who sputters at the inconsistencies and cruelties that riddle the Bible, bristles at the inanity of "intelligent design," or agonizes over fundamentalism in the Middle East--or Middle America.--From publisher description.… (more)

Media reviews

That was the first time I had ever considered, even in my own thoughts to myself, that I could be an atheist. I was 36. My husband was down with this—he told me he was an atheist, too. I felt it was weird we were finally having a conversation about this after being married for six years, but maybe we intrinsically knew all along.
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In The God Delusion, Dawkins argues that evolution has removed the need for a God hypothesis to explain life, and advances in physics may soon do the same for the universe. Further, the existence of God is a proper question for science, and the answer is no.
Despite the many flashes of brilliance in this book, Dawkins’s failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience.
Creationists and believers in God are right to see him as their arch-enemy. In The God Delusion he displays what a formidable adversary he is. It is a spirited and exhilarating read. In the current climate of papal/Islamic stand-off, it is timely too.

User reviews

LibraryThing member seph
For every belief system, there are fanatics, and I was disappointed to find that Dawkins is a fanatical atheist. He rails against religions with the same zeal that evangelical preachers rail against those outside of their flock. The only difference is that the book he thumps is "On The Origin Of Species...", his prophet, Darwin. And, just like any missionary greedy for converts, he speculates in a frighteningly dreamy way how ideal things would be if everyone believed what he believes. I do sympathize with the unbearable frustrations he and other atheists must face in this era when extremists and zealots seem to have the microphone, but "they started it" is a weak and sad reason for becoming that which you hate.

There are some very interesting and well-made arguments in this book, but they're drowned out by Richard Dawkins' own arrogance and venom. He seems to be in love with his own name and IQ in the way he constantly praises the irrefutable points he promises will come in future chapters, alludes to moments of brilliance included in his other books and drops the names of people more famous than him as a way to introduce quotes praising him that would be more appropriate on a dust jacket than in the middle of what's supposed to be a logical argument. Rather than simply making a clean and orderly argument for his case, he peppers his logic with an awkward frenzy of counterpoints to past and on-going disagreements he's had with people other than the reader.

What is the most distasteful is the condescending way he insists that the "educated elite" all are atheists, or if not, suggests they're conflicted and confused; the way he implies all other belief systems are for the weak minded. His "my way is the one and only truth, and anyone who thinks otherwise is dim or deluded" way of thinking is no different from that of any religion proclaiming to have the only truth, which makes it just as dangerous.

He argues that miracles are just things we don't have the science to explain yet, but that God cannot exist because our science doesn't allow for any such thing. In admitting we don't yet have a definitive library of science, the possibility must be allowed that we simply don't yet have the pieces of science that can include God. Dawkins praises the majesty and mystery of quantum-mechanics (one of my favorite playgrounds) but won't allow for for any kind of spiritual mystery. He brazenly proclaims he offers consciousness-raising arguments, while denying any kind of Universal Consciousness. If you're going to reference Schroedinger's Cat, doesn't it follow that God also is and is not until that moment we get to look into the unknown?

There are many arguments to be made in favor of atheism, and maybe now that he's vented his frustrations here, he can some day write a good book on the religion of science.
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
It is strange that at the beginning of the 21st century, people continue to defy Thomas Jefferson's sage words: "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

In "The God Delusion", noted evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins battles his antidarwinist opponents on their hometurf. While religion in Europe has ceded the ground to neglect, reason and science (religious practice being mostly ineffective, tolerant and benevolent, apart from a lunatic fringe still powerful in the Catholic clergy), America is still in a Kulturkampf, as is the modern World in general with Islam. US fundamentalist Christians (Dawkins calls them American Taliban) demand others to respect and adhere to their warped views and standards. Dawkins concentrates on Christianity because he is most familiar with it and his arguments can easily be adapted against any religion with a personal god. Dawkins arguments against a personal god are:
1. The explanations for the existence of god are intellectually weak.
2. Laplace's Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse.
3. God is complex, thus highly improbable to come into being. What immortal hand made god?
4. The social invention of God and religion can be explained.
5. Old Testament god is a nasty fellow. If he exists, he should not be worshiped.

Dawkins arguments against religious practice are:
1. Religious beliefs are an inconsistent mix and pick, changing with the Zeitgeist.
2. Most religious people are ignorant about their religion's full content.
3. Religious adherence is an accident of one's birthplace and time.
4. Religion beliefs lead to human suffering (science, homosexuality, abortion, etc.).
6. Religious indoctrination of children is wrong.

Dawkins is an excellent writer and he wields one of the most effective intellectual weapons, the theory of evolution. His overall mission, however, is marred by a somewhat rambling presentation and switching targets in the middle of the book. While his discussion about the improbability of a personal god is excellent, his attack on religious beliefs suffers from painting with too broad a brush. A hellbent American preacher is way more dangerous than a mild Sunday School teacher. Instead of torching everything, I find Jefferson's idea of mutual tolerance more appealing. But the bellicosity of his opponents perhaps asks for stronger treatment. The book, thus, is more effective as an intellectual armory than as a sequential text, best witnessed when Dawkins picks his arguments during a discussion.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I read this book to both be polite and to prove a point. I know a couple of atheists, and they've been interesting to talk to, and they've known a lot about Christianity and the Bible. It just seems fair to understand their point of view by reading the book most associated with atheism today. And, in an internet conversation, I backed myself into the corner of having to read it now, rather than at some vague, future date.

So it's an interesting book. Dawkins gets in his own way more often than he should have, especially with his point that atheism is the only rational choice. But he presents the basic reasons for atheism and the criticisms he has of religion in a clear way. It was one of those books I'm happier to say that I've read, than I was to actually read it, but it was informative.

If you've ever followed the topics of religion and science, even casually, probably none of the issues he raises will be unfamiliar. And much of the arguments he raises are against a fundamentalist, anti-science version of Christianity which very few Christians espouse. But in addressing some of the science of our beginnings, he does go into some very interesting areas, with clear, engaging explanations of issues involving natural selection, fascinating creatures and chemistry. He's less sure-footed on topics like linguistics, but the issues he's raised are worth thinking about. He's a polarizing guy, who expresses himself forcefully and not tactfully. It's useful to know what he actually has to say, as opposed to what people say that he's said.
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LibraryThing member ElectricRay
Zoologist Richard Dawkins made his name originally for his lucid popular science writing in the fields of biological and cultural evolution - his wonderful works The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype are still compulsory reading in this fascinating field - and more latterly for increasingly intolerant, grumpy tracts inveigling against religion. The God Delusion is the latest - and grumpiest - in the second category.

It's hardly surprising that Dawkins - an evolutionary biologist, after all - should object to religious accounts of the creation of the universe. But that he should do so as trenchantly and repeatedly as he does makes you wonder: Is it just because this stuff sells, or doth the lady protest too much? Is Richard Dawkins perhaps trying to convince himself as much as anyone else?

Science, he says, "flings open the narrow window through which we are accustomed to viewing the spectrum of possibilities". It is, to quote the late Carl Sagan, "a candle in the dark". It's the path to the truth. Without science, the universe has no meaning.

Of course, these are all things which a religious person (which I'm not, by the way) might say about God.

Dawkins says God is nonsense (there are shades of that famous exchange in graffiti: "`God is Dead' - Nietzsche. `Nietzsche is Dead' - God"), but in wishing to annex the epistemological high ground, Dawkins has engaged a piddling match which he simply can't win. The scientific method, being inductive, can no more reveal the truth about the universe than a holy scripture can. That's a formal logical proposition, by the way, and not some woolly post-modern nonsense. Brilliant philosophers and scientists, from the Descartes at the dawn of the Enlightenment to Hume at the end of it right down to post-war 20th Century writers like Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn, have all grappled with exactly that problem: How *do* we categorise science; an endeavour which seems to move unerringly toward the truth without ever having the tools to achieve it?

For all that, Dawkins is persuasive that we shouldn't forgo our own considered judgment for that of wise men in funny clothes who claim to be learned in obscure scriptures - then again, this is hardly news to anyone with a tertiary education. But in claiming science as the *true* candle in the dark, Dawkins sets his scientific brethren up to be no better: wise men, only dressed in lab coats and not habits, learned in obscure "scriptures", to whom we should defer our own judgment (if you think I'm overstating this consider: do *you* understand quantum theory, or even know what it is? Fluid dynamics? Aerodynamics? If not, and you still ride on aeroplanes, then on what basis, other than faith?).

This observation, which owes something to the historian Thomas Kuhn, infuriates Richard Dawkins, but I don't see any way around it. Kuhn argued, persuasively that the development of science and the particular currency of given theory is far more contingent on ostensibly irrelevant social and environmental circumstances than scientists care to acknowledge: a scientific paradigm provides not only answers to conundrums, but the questions, too, so its objective validity is impossible to measure from within the paradigm (or for that matter, from without).

The irony is that Richard Dawkins (who has avowedly rejected Kuhn's work elsewhere) drifts ever closer to it in the latter pages of The God Delusion - even citing favourably Ludwig Wittgenstein - without ever acknowledging the logical trap he's falling into.

That it's been a runaway best seller is indisputable; exactly why is harder to fathom: it's not as if it's bringing anything new to the table: Dawkins rehashes exactly the same old Philosophy 101 arguments that we all remember from those golden years at university, when there was time to argue the metaphysical toss, and self-righteously baiting self-righteous Christians passed for some kind of sport.

It's a sport that Richard Dawkins appears not to have grown out of. Nor has passing time or increasing maturity tempered his tone. But wailing dogmatically about the perils of dogma isn't going to persuade anyone who isn't already part of the congregation.

Nor is it even the most considered entry on the topic in the last year: Dan Dennett's "Breaking The Spell", published not six months previously, is a more erudite, thoughtful, intellectually stimulating and tolerant take on pretty much the same subject.
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LibraryThing member princemuchao
Why should religion get the respect that it does by default? This is the question Dawkins addresses in the opening chapter to The God Delusion. From arguing that probability can be used to argue against agnosticism to addressing the “problem” of morality without religion, this book contains many ideas that will set your own thoughts in new directions, despite the appearance of 20 or so pages that seem to have been lifted and reworded from The Selfish Gene.

Dawkins states that one of the purposes of the book is to encourage atheists to “come out”. A secondary purpose seems to be to persuade agnostics to make the final step into atheism. He claims in the preface that another goal is to convince open-minded believers but, not surprisingly, this book will not change a devout believer’s mind any more than Dawkins’ other books – he just can’t seem to speak the truth without doing so with an unmistakable arrogance that doesn’t bother ME too much (after all, I agree with him), but would not be persuasive to someone who disagrees strongly.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there are other books for that – but Dawkins is such a careful and intelligent thinker and writer, that I sometimes wish he would write a kid-glove book that I could recommend to believers… and after the first chapter, I thought briefly that this might be the one.

If you are an atheist or an agnostic, I definitely recommend reading this book.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
If you are tottering on the fence of whether to believe in God, I invite you to read this book, and possibly be able to step down to the ground. If you are incontrovertibly secure in your faith, I invite you to test it with this book. If you are already an atheist, I invite you to read this for the talking points and excellent arguments it affords for when you inevitably encounter someone who wants to know why you've decided to be a heathen.
Or, read it just for a laugh. Because, for such a dense text full of science, logic, reason and rhetoric, it is also incredibly funny. Dawkins is deft with a phrase and has made some highly specialized information palatable for the layperson.
Really, I wasn't aware I needed this kind of confirmation, but I am so glad that I have it.
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LibraryThing member janey47
I dislike being preached to by the "saved," whether they are "saved" by religion or "saved" by atheism, "saved" by right wing fanaticism or "saved" by left wing fanaticism. I strongly dislike hyperbole in nonfiction. I hate the shrill voices of smug self satisfaction of the converted true believers, irrespective of what they believe in. So it's no surprise that I found this book to be utterly worthless.

This book is an embarrassment to the scientific community.

I'm shocked by the bias and the shadings and the lack of research and the bizarre methods he has of defining religion. If he likes it, it's not religion. If he doesn't like it, it is religion and is evil.

What a huge waste of money.

I'm disappointed and angry that Dawkins, who purports to be a scientist and indeed bases his claims to crediblity on that fact, has abandoned scientific method in this book.

You should know that I have only read about the first third of this book at the time of this writing. I had to put the book down for a little break, because he's really bugging me and I want to actually finish it.

He ridicules religion for being simplistic -- but can't even get the facts straight on what a saint is in Catholicism, or the role of Mary. Simplistic but not worth researching?

He writes about how much of a pass we give religion in legal jurisprudence -- and cites a 2006 Supreme Court decision for it, while NEGLECTING to mention that the 06 ruling overturns a long, long line of decisions barring the conduct allowed in the 06 ruling. The problem is that you can't just cite this case for the facts of the case. You need to see *why* the SC overturned its prior line of cases and in fact the SC is probably, in this case, shaking its finger in the face of a Congress that it thinks is being too lenient on religion and showing us what the consequences could be.

He writes about how bad religion is for the world today, but he backs up his statements with inaccurate and oversimplified generalizations about current affairs and with citations to 4th century theologians and the Crusades and the like. So, first, don't tell me about the Crusades or the Inquisition, dude, we ALL agree they were bad.

But second, if you're going to talk about current affairs, get the role of religion in them right:

If you're going to object to the phrase "ethnic cleansing" (which, by the way, I object to as well), don't replace it with an even more euphemistic and incorrect term ("religious cleansing"). Use the real word: Genocide. Maybe the reason that Northern Ireland's combatants are called "nationalists" and "loyalists" is because that's a more accurate term than Catholics and Prots. We all know perfectly well that the "troubles" there were caused by Britain, just as the civil war in Iraq is not a religious war but a political one, the opportunity for which arose when the US came in and scrambled the political structure.

He focuses on Christianity "because it's the religion {he is} most familiar with." I say he should do his research rather than relying on his impressionistic memories. Asshole.

He gives Buddhism a pass because, as far as I can see, he just doesn't want to do the work to look into it. I try to practice it as an ethical framework, but I have had plenty of arguments with people who say with a straight face "It's not a religion" even as they sit on a dais in front of statues of the Buddha and of Kwan Yin, to which offerings of food have been made and before which people are bowing. smh If all religion is bad, go for it. But don't say that all religion is bad and then define stuff you like as "not religion." That's intellectually unsound.

And for that matter, he says that the Church of England is the least distasteful, and I think he desperately needs to examine his reasons for that. Maybe, just MAYBE it's because the C of E is the one he's had the most real experience with, and maybe, just MAYBE he could examine whether this experience could indicate that the better you know a religion, the less evil it seems.

I'm an atheist, too. But I dislike the shrill voice irrespective of what side it's on. If you say that you know the truth because you're a scientist, then subject all your arguments to the intellectual rigor that science demands. Either that, or don't try to draw parallels between scientific method and your biased and prejudicial statements.

I'm disgusted.

Sam Harris does the same shit.

I think that if your hypothesis is correct, it will convince people on its merits. I don't think you have to use hyperbole or shading or bias. I think that *weakens* your argument. I think Dawkins is a terrible representative of atheists -- the group he claims to stand for.
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LibraryThing member puritanreformed
A book designed to convince only Empiricists who know next to nothing about epistemology, theology, and moral philosophy. Logical fallacies abound in this book. If this is the strongest the New Atheists have against the claims of Scripture, I have nothing to worry about.

An example of one such fallacy occurs with Dawkins' attempted defence of morality. After meandering around in statistics, which prove little about religion and can be manipulated in the case of peoples (ie. Lies, Lies, and Statistics), Dawkins pulls out his argument against religion according to morality by toying with the idea of Kant's Categorical Imperatives. It would have been laugheable if it was not serious, since Dawkins proved he is way out of his depth by not even interacting with the problems with Kantian ethics. Instead, Dawkins decided that the best way to attack religion in the are of morality is to point out how he thinks the Bible promotes atrocities. Of couse, it is simply sadly amusing to see Dawkins pontificate about the interpretation of biblical events and show his utter ignorance of theology in the process, as if his eisegetical interpretations are embraced by anyone at all.

Throughout that section, Dawkins assumed the categories of "right" and "wrong" without even defining how these categories could exist at all in his worldview consistently. Instead, he engages in circular reasoning whereby what is right is defined by Darwinian social conventions. So what we know what is right is because "right" has been defined by social conventions which evolved in a Darwinian fashion. However, we know that these social conventions which evolved in a Darwinian fashion are right because we have just said that they are right.

This totally subjectivist view of ethics is logically incompatible with the absolutist stance of Dawkins on various issues like his insistance that is is absolutely wrong for "children to be indoctrinated". Perhaps it is the case that our "evolved Darwinian social conventions" actually says that it is right for "children to be indoctrinated", in which case Dawkins is wrong. Judging by the numerical superiority of those who are religious compared to those who are not, Dawkins' absolutist stance on this issue is logically incompatible with his supposed "embrace" of Darwinian social conventions defining what is and is not right. After all, if what is "right" is defined by Darwianin evolution of our social norms, then what is "right" is defined by the majority of society. Therefore, not only on the issue of "indoctrination of children", but also on whether religion is good etc, Dawkins is wrong on these issues according to his own subjectivist system of ethics.

If Dawkins truly believes that what is "right" and "wrong" is defined by Darwinian evolution of social norms, let him stop his anti-theistic and anti-Christian screed and follow the norms regarding the rightness and wrongness of religious behavior held by the majority of the people in the world. Otherwise, we have the opportunity to see a visible display of Ps. 14:1 - "The fool says in his heart: there is no God &c"
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
Richard Dawkins is a scientist and materialist. His worldview, apparently, looks at everything in pseudo-scientific terms-- that much is evident from this book.

I say "pseudo" scientific because if he used the same thoroughgoing processes demanded by the scientific method upon the substance in his book, I would like to think that it would have been significantly re-written. It is painfully evident when Dawkins strays from the range of his proficiencies. Look for the very unscientific words "might," "possibly," "suggest," "perhaps," and many other such qualifiers on much of the argumentation used to attempt to "explain" religion and religious phenomena.

There's not much new here. The same atheistic arguments are peddled that have been provided for over a hundred years. "Evidence" against religious claims, especially regarding the Bible, are uncritically accepted. As is expected, Dawkins focuses on the Old Testament and not really the New-- for if he spent more time in the New Testament, divorced from Anglican dogma that he was taught, again, the book might be quite different.

While he might deny it, Dawkins is an atheist fundamentalist and a man of sincere faith in the dogmas of post-Enlightenment triumphant rationalism. Everything is laughably simplistic, and one gets the strong impression that while Dawkins strongly encourages skepticism in regards to religion, he hasn't quite been skeptical enough of his own presuppositions and worldview.

His assumptions regarding the lack of existence of anything beyond that which is material are not as evident as he would like. He enjoys playing to the extreme as much as those whom he despises. His arguments often assume their own proof. It's painfully clear that it takes more faith to accept Dawkins' alternatives for origins than to believe in a Creator. He proves more than willing to question the design paradigm, but there's no evident questioning of the evolution/materialist paradigm.

His handling of Zeitgeist is equally deficient-- if it undermines religious claims, it would equally undermine the claims of rational thinking and reason as alternatives. He tries to give "Darwinist" explanations for morality, but gets nowhere near handling how "Darwinist" explanations for deviation from morality would flatly contradict such things.

This is a work of a highly smug and militant atheist who is perfectly willing to let his own operating assumptions slide without critical review while he mocks and derides the operating assumptions of the majority of people who have ever lived and who live today. Poor form.

His argument about the raising of children is exceptionally naive. All children are, to some extent, "indoctrinated" by some kind of ethical/moral code of conduct, be it through religion, the lack thereof, or some other ideology. I don't disagree that children should be taught how to think and to value critical thinking, but to assume that such can be done after they are brought up in a moral/ethical vacuum is laughable.

The most lamentable part of the book, however, is the parts where Dawkins is entirely correct about the way that many people have acted on account of their religious ideologies. If there is value in this book, it is here-- the testimony at how the faith is blasphemed because of the ungodly conduct and attitudes of believers.
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LibraryThing member KendraRenee
Fabulous book, I read it in 3 days. Dawkins does justice to his greatest love--science--in EXPLAINing things about the universe and human nature to his readers, where we previously only had religion/God to write on the dotted line. As someone who grew up consistently discouraged to question or discover things for myself, I fully appreciated Dawkins for opening my eyes and giving me a window to crawl through, out into the realm of critical and rational thought. He supports everything he says with so many helpful citations, making him, in my opinion, a near-irreproachable author. (And I only say nearly because I know many people will doggedly invent reasons to find fault with him.) Though not one to enjoy slogging through scientific textbooks, I tolerated the textbook-like chapters in this book that left me feeling faintly dazed and disoriented, because the rest of them were easy to read, funny, and refreshingly BOLD in its denouncement of "delusions."… (more)
LibraryThing member GlennBell
This is an excellent book. Richard is articulate and his arguments are well thought out. I agree with Richard's analysis and am embarrassed that was duped by religion for a significant period of my life. I also commend his courage to state his opinion in the face of a largely religious population, who take offense to such information. Unfortunately, the religious tend to be some of the most militant people when it comes to a critical view of their beliefs. I strongly recommend this book. It is a shame that most people will not read the book and come to a more logical approach to religion.… (more)
LibraryThing member capetowncanada
Really Good. I had put of reading this book because I had read that Dawkins tone and attitude were very rude and condescending. But I did not find that to be the case at all. I think this would be a good book for any one who thinks they can live a good and fulfilling life without religion. This book covers many topics and if you are already someone who identifies themselves as an Atheist or someone who is starting to lean that way then I recommend reading this.… (more)
LibraryThing member melydia
I imagine this book rankles a lot of people. The mere title is sure to raise hackles, calling their cherished lifelong faith a delusion. But it's not nearly as mean-spirited as the title may suggest. The book begins with an explanation of the difference between supernatural religion and Einsteinian religion. Einstein, though he often mentioned "God" did not actually believe in a personal, supernatural god. He was talking about the universe as a whole. Though not something to be worshipped, the same awe and reverence usually associated with religion is unquestionably felt by atheists.Dawkins then proceeds to address large numbers of arguments for the existence of a personal creator-god. Most of his rebuttals against the creator-god boil down to this: if the universe is so complex that it must have been designed, then the designer must have been even more complex, and using that same logic, must therefore also have been designed. He also responds to famous arguments such as those from Thomas Aquinas and Pascal's Wager.The chapter "why there almost certainly is no God" goes through various probability-based arguments, most of which return to the fact that natural selection is not random chance but rather a series of tiny changes over thousands or even billions of years. With the exception of the very first spark of life, nothing just spontaneously appeared over the course of evolution. That initial spark is then argued for using the anthropic principle. This idea, when applied to the origin of life, is that we know that though the odds of all the conditions being just right for life are infinitesimal, we know that they are non-zero because we are alive to ask the question. I can't refute it, but it's a terribly unsatisfying argument.Dawkins then moves on to address the roots of religion and morality in Darwinian terms. That is, if there is no god, why does religion pop up in all cultures? If there is no god, what's the point in being good? Dawkins discusses both of these questions thoroughly and concisely.After a chapter about why he is so hostile to religion and one equating childhood religious upbringing with child abuse (though he does believe that religious books should be taught as part of literature, just as the Greek myths are currently), Dawkins closes with a discussion of why we as human beings don't actually need religion to be happy. Though religion has traditionally been expected to fill our needs for consolation and inspiration (among other things already addressed), there are plenty of other sources for these. The book ends with a revisit to the Einsteinian religion with various descriptions of the amazing, the mind-boggling, and the inspiring in our universe. The more we know, the more we yearn to know. Life is beautiful even without the supernatural.This book has given me quite a lot to think about, some of it rather uncomfortable. I'm not going to get into my own personal beliefs in this review. I don't agree 100% with everything Dawkins has to say, but I do believe this is an extremely important book and something people should read. It's not that reading this will necessarily turn you into an atheist (though I suppose it might), but I do believe that one cannot really hold convictions without having considered thoughtful and concise arguments to the contrary. Otherwise it's not a conviction at all, just mindless parroting of whatever you've been told. Even if this book doesn't change your mind about anything, it should help you focus on why you believe what you do.… (more)
LibraryThing member shawnr
Dawkins is probably one of the most intelligent folks writing today. His work in evolutionary biology has been important and valuable, but his work in favor of athiesm is absolutely vital. Pointing out the insane madness of religion is, on some level, easy work, but providing scientific counters to hysterical religions fantasy is absolutely invaluable. I came away from this book with fodder to defend my convictions, and I am thankful for that.… (more)
LibraryThing member sfhaa
This book seems more of a token pop at denouncing Christianity for stocking-filler book buyers than a serious argument against the existence of god. Atheism is just a belief requiring explanation, much like its theist counterpart. For me, Dawkins just doesn't do enough to explain the nature of belief, regardless of what someone believes IN, which leaves a long-winded book, rich in ideas, but essentially arguing, inconclusively, that what cannot be proved cannot exist. Of course, ultimately Dawkins is unable to prove god DOESN'T exist, and this book goes no further than to underline this age old question in the same way as any other of its kind.This is obviously a huge topic of argument, and I am not suggesting this is not a good read. Just don't be surprised to find it more of an attack on freedom of belief than anything else. I'm agnostic simply because for me, a world devoid of any esoteric belief and a society where all "facts" are refined for human consumption through scientific filters, seems like a very dull place...… (more)
LibraryThing member psiloiordinary
A stimulating read from a master of his craft. His craft being logical argument backed by evidence.

Prior to starting this review I glanced through the reviews already on LibraryThing and would recommend that you do the same - a wide range of dis/approval ratings are apparent. Some very eloquent reviewers seem completely blind to their own prejudices. While they happily agree that such and such a religion is bad and then go on to loftily point out that of course their own religion is not bad or at least not as bad and so Dawkins doesn't know what he is talking about.

Personally I enjoy his science writing much, much more but that is because his usual subjects are set in a stimulating and fascinating world and I find that fact is always stranger and more interesting than fiction (religion).

There are no mysterious atheist spells laid on this book - true believers will not be in danger from reading it - they are of course immune to logical evidence and conscience anyway. It is those that are not fully immersed in the non-logic and non-thought of faith who may be prompted to examine their own beliefs.

Dawkins covers the subject matter methodically and with step by step sections which, while ultimately the only way to organise such a comprehensive case does prevent a real narrative/polemic flow from building up. His turn of phrase and gift for the English language are just as evident as usual but its just that pointing out the errors, inconsistencies and dangers of religion is not as inspiring as describing the intricacies of evolutionary theory. But then I have been an atheist for a long time so most of the arguments were familiar to me and I suppose that covering the dangers of unfounded belief is simply not as inspiring as understanding how the natural world developed.

A must read for anybody.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Sadly, the people who need to read this book most won’t. Ostensibly this tries to explain why humanity clings to superstition and why it has evolved to be so prevalent; what evolutionary advantage does it have. Unfortunately it doesn’t do that very well and is largely a giant rant against the religiously minded. Granted, I think they’re delusional as heck, but I also don’t think my brain can encompass every nuance of the universe. Dawkins does. But I knew that going in and basically read this to satisfy some need to hear someone else bemoan the destructive power of religion. Nothing else on earth has caused more pain and suffering than religion. Of all types, but mostly of the Abrahamic stripe; Islam, Judaism and Christianity. If you are a weak agnostic or an atheist, this book will appeal to you. If you’re a religious person struggling with your “faith” this will help you. If you’re already inoculated in religion by your parents and scorn the unbelievers and heathens, this book will make you really angry. Mostly because it challenges stuff you can’t really defend or explain rationally and boy does that tick religious people off. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.… (more)
LibraryThing member JeffV
Dawkins is in top form, refuting all of the common (and not so common) justifications people make to reconcile a believe in god in spite of evidence that challenges the plausibility of it all. Particularly funny is how he uses their own weapons against them. In challenging the argument that morality is impossible without the structure of religion, Dawkins reminds the reader that the coveted "10 Commandments" applied only to Jews. It was perfectly fine to kill your neighbor if he wasn't one of the "chosen people", and in fact, there was much encouragement to do so. Dawkins also reports on studies that show a highly negative reaction to some of the events in the bible when the perpetrators were not disclosed -- most, for instance, found Joshua's campaign of genocide reprehensible. However, when the biblical characters were identified, suddenly, the story met with much approval. Society has a seemingly infinite capacity to accept hypocrisy when it comes to religion.

Dawkins overall point is that while one might certain concessions to logic to accommodate their religious indoctrination, in all cases, this represents nothing more than a willing delusion. The lengths some will go to are comical to behold -- all the way up to urban legends with no factual basis cited by religious apologists as canonical truth. The God Delusion is a terrific read and will buttress any lingering disregard one has for "the word" regardless of who is delivering it.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Masterful. Just terrific. Humorous and deadly serious, all at the same time. Dawkins is calling on the atheists to stand up and be counted with this one. Count me in! As one would expect from 'Darwin's Rottweiler', there were countless interesting insights regarding natural selection and religion. I especially liked his point-by-point refutation of the most common arguments for a supreme being. The recitation of scary, evil, immoral things done by God (as described in the Bible) was hilarious, too. There were plenty of easy potshots at religion, some of which made me laugh so hard I wept. "There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting... But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it's true." Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member phred
I planned to actually write a long blogpost about this book as I did many many notes while reading.
I'm professing christian since 10 years - so I'm certainly biased.

There are some interesting chapters - especially when he speaks about evolution which is his field.
But the rest is - to my understanding - quite unscientific. Many arguments seem very thin and are easily refutable. Many things he didn't research but just assumes...

Then he is pretty unfair in taking bad examples. Surely there are a few christians that serve as bad example - and it's pretty easy to pick those - which he does.

To me it sound like he wants to win the arguments by just being loud and not listening to what christians are saying.
I really hoped to get some good arguments for atheism but I was quite disappointed!
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LibraryThing member Janine2011
This is the book that made me realize that I was an athiest. It is my favourite book written by Dawkins. In this book he describes how science can be used to prove or disprove god and how he is almost certain that there isn't one. He also takes on the events in the bible. It is very well written and he doesn't talk down to you at all. I am not college educated and I had no problems understanding the concepts that he wrote int his book. It will make those who are believers uncomfortable. You need to have an open mind to read this book as it will challenge some widely held belief systems.… (more)
LibraryThing member annagloria
I wish I could have given this book more than three stars. Dawkins presented many cogent arguments which stood to reinforce my own atheist stance.

However, I feel as though he is trying too hard to convert people to atheism. He goes so far as to say that all religion serves as a backdrop which can be used to support extremist movements, therefore the world would be a better place if we simply outlawed it. (Please excuse the rash paraphrase.)

In the end though, what really irritated me and turned me off of the book was his pompous and self-righteous tone. It certainly got in the way of a rational, open discussion. He seems to assume that his opinion is the only correct opinion, with very little room for change. Really now, isn't that what you were crying out against in the first place, Mr Dawkins?
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LibraryThing member Cole_Hendron
If I believed in a god, I would get on my knees and thank her that I live in a free society where this book can be bought and sold legally. Since I don't, I can instead read some of the pathetic criticism leveled against it with mixed feelings of awe and disgust. BTW youtube has many supplemental videos from Dawkins, taken from various forums and interviews that are also worthwhile.
Most importantly, Dawkins teaches us that religion and the religious are not a topic to be taken seriously, offered any respect, airtime, money, or diffidence. If you want to see a fundamentalist totalitarian society, go visit Saudi Arabia or Kuwait to understand how it feels to have thoughts and beliefs controlled. This is the Christian Right's vision, and Dawkin's book knocks the wind right out of their sails.
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LibraryThing member Nandakishore_Varma
Even though I am not a believer, and agree with most of Dawkin's points, I found the book only "so-so". Why? Well, it's a case of "the lady doth protest too much".

Dawkins is so angry with religion and God that he overstates his case to the point of nausea. He dismisses all concepts of God as nonsense: and Buddhism, a religion without a God, he says "cannot be called a religion but an ethical system of philosophy". He reduces all religions to reflections of the monotheistic one he's attacking, then uses the most extreme examples of the same to debunk it. Talk about straw men.

The author throws away a chance to present his argument constructively, and uses the same polemic of his opponents. He must have alienated a lot of open thinkers in the process.

Read it if you hate God and would like to listen to someone ranting against Him. Otherwise, you might be a tad disappointed.
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LibraryThing member John_Hardy
Well written but sloppy and naive
The best part of this book is the engaging writing style. It is an easy read. The content though is sloppy. For example many of the quotations are not from the original sources. The worst example amongst many is a four-line quote which on investigation turned out to be a disgraceful cut-and-shut from a page of text which entirely alters the meaning.

The handling of some of the biblical text is also naive. For example, the story of Abraham and Isaac was not written by, or primarily for, 21st century western academics. It was written at a time when human sacrifice was commonplace. To the original hearers, the shocking part of the story was not God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (all Gods did that), but that God said "stop!" at the very moment that he was about to get the ultimate sacrifice. This story has arguably done it's job. The three Abrahamic religions have wiped human sacrifice, once so common, from the face of the earth. To condemn God as a monster on the basis of a narrow ethnocentric reading of this story says more about Professor Dawkins than it does about God.

By all means read this book, but look up the originals and check every assertion
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