Writer’s Wednesday: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

the-god-delusion1Recently 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?
I greatly recommend this book, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It is very well-written, easy to read and well-researched. And yes, I also recommend it if you are a religious person. Allow yourself to question your beliefs, especially if you are merely following in the footsteps of your parents, at least take an honest, genuine look at what the ‘opposite’ side has to say.

 Quotes

“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.”

Questions

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.

10 Comments

  1. I love Dawkins. 🙂 I haven’t actually finished anything by him, because I have a tendency to get angry at how dismissive and disrespectful he can be towards religion, and some things he just doesn’t understand about it. But I always come back, and ultimately I think his good points easily outweigh the things that annoy me about his work. I’m currently reading “The God Delusion” and listening to “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and both are very interesting.

    My response to things like the teapot example or the invisible pink unicorn is that those things may well exist. Sure the people who invented them meant them to poke fun at believers and don’t actually believe in them, but to say that there is absolutely no possibility those things exist somewhere is just as ridiculous as it is to say that they do. If believers are too willing to accept things without evidence, skeptics are too unwilling to consider the possibility that things outside their experience and understanding might be real. I think it’s just two ways of experiencing the world: Some people need to constantly question and have their experiences backed up with rationality, some people need to constantly be open to unseen possibilities and rely more on imagination and experience than on proof.

    I think that last part could be easily misunderstood, so I should probably clarify that “imagination” doesn’t mean we make it all up. Imagination is the beginning of invention, it’s the creativity to think outside the box and see the possibilities beyond what we know (or think we know). So when someone experiences the presence of a god, they could assume that there’s a scientific explanation and that it’s just chemicals in their brain making them feel that way, they could ignore scientific explanations altogether and insist that what they believe is the truth, or they might take a middle ground – maybe the brain chemicals that give us that spiritual feeling actually open us up to experience the spiritual world that is always there, or maybe praying and putting ourselves into a spiritual mindset draws the presence of a god, and that presence causes those chemical changes in us. There are many ways to interpret things, and just like Dawkins can’t make himself believe in what he can’t see, I can’t make myself stop believing in things just because I can’t see them.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment Sanil!

      Aside from a few articles here and there I haven’t (yet) read much else by Dawkins.

      Yes he is dismissive, but I don’t personally find him disrespectful. I think people too often confuse scepticism and questioning religion with disrespect, because we for some reason have decided that religion is above questioning.

      I am definitely a person that need to question things, and things have to make sense logically. My journey away from religion happened because of these things (ironically I always believed that I would find God through my questions, that the all-mighty, all-knowing God I was taught about in my childhood could of course stand up to my questions.

      I think my problem with people who won’t question their faith and their beliefs, is that they are not only living their life according to ‘what they feel’ is true, but they’re (often) making rules for everyone else – or trying to, and that just isn’t fair in my opinion. It’s not fair to me, that people are using their religious beliefs as justification to make laws that affect everyone else – when there are no sound, rational basis for those religious beliefs.

      What I don’t understand is the need to give everything a supernatural origin, when rational and logic explains these things perfectly well.

      Like

  2. LK

    I kind of agree with Sanil. He is fascinating but his sometimes disrespectful manner can be irritating. Like how I found CS Lewis’ disrespectful manner toward unbelievers in Christianity irritating. However, Dawkins is thorough and rather interesting. And at least his opinions come from actual research, unlike CS Lewis where it was all opinion.

    Have you read “The Belief Instinct” by Jesse Bering? Its a little dry but its a scientific look at why human beings are prone to believing in a higher power. Breaks it down by how our brain works and how this type of belief overrides some of our natural tendencies. Again, its horribly wordy and dry but rather fascinating at the same time. And written by a psychologist. Its interesting because its not advocating for belief or disbelief. It merely examines whether or not there is scientific, psychosocial, and sociocultural reasons for belief or disbelief.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment LK! Like I said to Sanil, I often feel like being sceptical and questioning religion is equated with disrespect, just because we for some reason have decided religious beliefs are above questioning. Again, aside from ‘The God Delusion’ I haven’t read much else by Dawkins, but so far I haven’t experienced him being disrespectful.

      I haven’t read ‘The Belief Instinct’ by Bering, but if it’s dry I’m not sure I’m going to 😛 I felt that the chapter in ‘The God Delusion’ which dealt with scientific explanations of humans need to believe and how religion might’ve started was incredibly fascinating – and the explanation made complete sense to me.

      Like

  3. Thanks for sharing about this book!

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Beyond Belief… INSPIRATION! « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci
  2. Books of 2012 « Becky's Kaleidoscope
  3. Secular Sunday: Losing My Religion, Part 4: Coming Out as an Atheist | Becky's Kaleidoscope
  4. Link Love (2016-06-04) | Becky's Kaleidoscope

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: