Writer’s Wednesday: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Recently I finished reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It was actually recommended to me back in 2006, when it was first published, and I sincerely wish I had read it sooner. Not only does Dawkins clearly show the lack of any evidence suggesting the existence of a god, he also shows how the idea of a god might first have arisen in human psychology, and why belief in god can be damaging to us.
The author raises so many important questions, such as:
- Why aren’t we allowed to question religious beliefs, the way we question all other beliefs?
- Why do we automatically accept the ‘crazy’ beliefs of ‘our’ religion, when we can easily spot ‘crazy’ beliefs of other religions?
- Why do we automatically assume ‘our’ religion is the right one, when our religion for the vast majority is merely based on where we happened to be born?
- Why do we allow our children to be taught these things as the ‘ultimate truth’, when they are too young to question these beliefs?
“If the advocates of apartheid had their wits about them they would claim – for all I know truthfully- that allowing mixed races is against their religion. A good part of the opposition would respectfully tip-toe away. And it is no use claiming that this is an unfair parallel because apartheid has no rational justification. The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification. The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices. But ask a religious person to justify their faith and you infringe ‘religious liberty’.” – Salman Rushdie in The God Delusion
“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.”
“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” – Betrand Russel in The God Delusion
“Believing is not something you can decide to do as a matter of policy. At least, it is not something I can decide to do as an act of will. I can decide to go to church and I can decide to recite the Nicene Creed, and I can decide to swear on a stack of Bibles that I believe every word inside them. But none of that can make me actually believe it if I don’t. Pascal’s Wager could only ever be an argument for feigning belief in God. And the God that you claimt o believe in had better not be of the omniscient kind or he’d see through the deception.”
“If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would ‘commit robbery, rape, and murder,’ you reveal yourself as an immoral person, ‘and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you’. If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim that God is necessary for us to be good.”
Have you read The God Delusion? What did you think of it? Any favourite quotes?
Please let me know if you have any book suggestions for me.