Does God Believe in Richard Dawkins?
In 'The God Delusion,' a vocal atheist ignores more sophisticated concepts of God in favor of fundamentalist stereotypes.
Here comesRichard Dawkins
beating around the bush again.The God Delusion--
wonder what the message of the book might be. Why can't this guy just come out and say what he thinks?
I jest, of course. Saying what he thinks has never been a problem for Richard Dawkins. A professor at
In The God Delusion, Dawkins takes off the gloves, plus the scarf and the earmuffs. Faith isn't merely wrong, he argues; religion is dangerous lunacy. The religious do not deserve respect, any more than respect should be extended to crazy people raving in the streets about the Trilateral Commission. If there were no religion, The God Delusion maintains, there would have been no 9/11, no Troubles in Northern Ireland, no Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no partition of India and Pakistan, "no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money." That belief in God is a delusion is not a private matter, Dawkins writes; the religious are well-organized and influence the world's governments, and essentially all of their influence is harmful. Dawkins proposes that atheists and agnostics stop politely respecting faith and organize to discredit religion, with the goal of halting its involvement in education and public policy. Coming after Sam Harris' The End of Faith, which also argues that it is time for secular society actively to oppose religion, The God Delusion is an important book that merits close reading.
Blaming Faith for All the World's Woes
There's no doubt that all faiths contain their share of claptrap. There's no doubt religion has done the world considerable wrong in the past and will cause more wrongs in the future. There's no doubt many believers are hypocrites or can barely describe the most basic tenets of the theology they claim to cherish. There's no doubt the religious often act as though they don't believe what they profess. In one of the best passages ofThe God Delusion
, Dawkins asks why Christians mourn the righteous dead, when their faith holds that a perfect afterlife awaits, and Jesus taught not to fear death. "Could it be that [Christians] don't really believe all that stuff they pretend to believe?" he asks. (I've written pretty muchthe same thing myself
.) And there's no doubt that televangelists are a shameless, seedy group. If Jesus was moved to rage when he saw moneychangers in the temple, how would he feel about late-night religious charlatans with their 800 numbers flashing on the screen?
But The God Delusion overstates the case against religion by blaming faith for practically everything wrong with the world. Suppose we woke up tomorrow morning and found that every denomination had disappeared. The Israelis and Palestinians would still be at each other's throats: their conflict is about land, liberty, and modernity, not faith. (
Though Dawkins rightly catalogs religion's many deficiencies, he fudges or simply skips over virtues. Set aside whether or not God exists: it is factual that religion is at the core of much of the world's philanthropy. Faith has underscored many social equity movements, from abolitionism in the