Sunday, September 16, 2007

The God Delusion Part 1

I'm currently reading the popular trio of books by the "New Atheists" - Richard Dawkins' God Delusion, Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great. Actually, I've just finished Dawkins' book and I'm halfway through Hitchens.

You might be surprised to hear me say that this book was actually a pretty good read. I like his style and the format presented. Dawkins, despite his obvious dislike of religion and faith, does his best to convert the ill-informed with this book. You see, this book isn't just a diatribe against the evils of religion, it is actually a concerted effort to win over the religious with irresistible logic: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism!" I've never seriously considered the tenets of atheism, so I believe I'm up for the challenge.

Dawkins does a fine job of using the shotgun approach to the logical argument. He devotes a small section to every-single-thing-that-he-can-come-up-with-that-is-wrong-with-religion. I like this approach, though. It is probably the same way that I would attempt to explain my own faith in God. There is not one single instance or evidence which led to my faith, but rather a conglomeration of divine coincidences in my life.

He attacks the usual suspects of the religious scene - crusades, jihad, chauvinism, priestly sexual abuse, slavery, bigotry, open hostility to science, conspiracy, Biblical error/inconsistency, etc. One of my favorite parts of the book was the author's loathing of the President of the National Association of Evangelicals - Ted Haggard, pre-scandal. I can only imagine the added comments that the next edition of this book will contain concerning the recent downfall Mr. Haggard.

Though religion of any sort, and even faith in anything not evidenced scientifically, is the main object of this book's derision, Dawkins makes it clear that one enemy has done more damage than any other in the realm of religion. He specifically names Yahweh as the principle evil in the world, though admittedly an imaginary one by his own standards. He explains how Yahweh, the God of Abraham, is single-handedly responsible for the world's three major religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As such, Yahweh is also responsible for a millenia of brainwashing and destruction.
I must confess that hearing Dawkins call out God by name, by his real name even, makes me quite squeamish. I don't think I'd want to walk next to Dawkins during a thunderstorm, if you know what I mean. If this guy is looking to pick a fight, it sure isn't with me. Given the chance, Dawkins would go straight to the source, God himself. I think that is why our relationship is an enjoyable one as author and reader. I don't feel like Dawkins is attacking me. I feel like he is attacking God himself. Well, God doesn't need me to be his bodyguard. Good luck with that one, Richard.
To be continued..... This is a 3 part post, this book deserves it.


Brother Valentius said...

You make me want to pick up a copy and read it.
To be very honest with you, there are only 4 religions/belief-systems that I have much respect for (and interest in). They are Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Atheism.

Good post!

Krishnaraj Rao said...

I chanced on your refreshing blog by pure chance. I'm not a Christian, I'm a hindu who studied in a Jesuit school and read the Bible (well, parts of it anyway).

I just enjoyed the way you think through things half-seriously. I enjoy the thought process that refuses to take itself too seriously. That's what I take from your blog.

Krishnaraj "Krish" Rao,

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