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Dawkins’ “The God Delusion:” a Must Read September 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in About God, About Religion, Religion, Science and Technology.

Roger Hollander, September 17, 2011

I am re-reading Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” one of the most important reads for me in the past years.  If you are a fan of science and reason over ignorance and prejudice, you will love Dawkins.  He is a world-class scientist (evolutionary biologist), but his prose is both literate and replete with humor, and his scientific explanations are for the most part understandable for the lay person.  A quotation he attributes to Fred Hoyle almost says it all.  When Hoyle refused to give an educated opinion to an interviewer who asked him to speculate about life on other planets, the interviewer asked him for his gut feeling.  Hoyle replied that he tries not to think with his gut.

I have reviewed “The God Delusion” elsewhere on this blog (https://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/current-posts/a-rogers-original-essays/about-religion/), here I will just give you a taste of some of the many little gems you will find in this outstanding work.

I begin with this quote from a United States Senator:

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs.  There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls the supreme being.  But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly.  The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.  They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 per cent.  If you disagree with these religious groups  on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.  I am frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person  must belive in A, B, C or D.  Just who do they think they are?  And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate.  I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans … “

At the end of this essay I will give you the name of the Senator who make this statement.  Take a guess.

Here are the mottos of the two major divisions in Christianity:

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger.  This is the disease of curiosity.  It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”  St. Augustine

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God … Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.”  Martin Luther

As for humor:

In Northern Ireland: “Yes but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?”

Citing a comedian: “All religions are the same.  Religion is guilt, with different holidays.”

You will learn from Dawkins a lot about Darwin and natural selection.  You will watch him obliterate the arguments of the so-called “creationists” and the weasels who try to disguise creationism as “intelligent design.”  He will make you think twice if you think that agnosticism makes more sense than atheism; and he will show you the distinction between the notion of a God Creator who continues to intervene in creation, and what he refers to “Einsteinian religion,” the awe inspired by knowledge of the amazing universe we inhabit.

And he has an answer for you if you argue that you have a religious belief in God but not the kind of ridiculous belief in a God with a beard in the Sky and a literal interpretation of the Bible.  The answer is that you can call yourself religious or Christian, but the overwhelming majority of those who call themselves Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) do believe in that Personal God who created it all and continues to communicate with us and intervene where He chooses (and not to intervene where He chooses not (Pope John Paul II, when he suffered an assassination attempt in Rome, attributed his survival  to intervention of Our Lady of Fatima: “a maternal hand guided the bullet.”  Watkins wonders why she didn’t guide the bullet to miss him entirely, and he speaks up for giving credit to the surgeons who operated for six hours to save him.  He also wonders why the Lady of Fatima, and whether the Ladies of Guadalupe, Medjugorje, Akita, Zeitoun and Garabandal were too busy at the time to lend a hand).

Now here is the name of the Senator who is responsible for the quote complaining about the pressures from organized religion.  You were wrong if you guessed a liberal like Ted Kennedy or Al Franken.  The answer is: Barry Goldwater, and he ended the quote as follows: “… I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.” (emphasis added).

And, oh yes, my favorite one liner of them all: “Blasphemy is a victemless crime.”














1. Aaron Ortiz - September 19, 2011

It always seems that the passion/anger displayed by Dawkins clouds his judgement. I think agnosticism is more honest than atheism (even though I believe in a God), merely because it is more humble and aware of how easily we deceive ourselves.

rogerhollander - September 19, 2011

In his book Dawkins deals decisively with these objections, about agnostism vs. atheism and about his passion. Read the book (or don’t read it and therebyt confirm his hypothesis that believers believe what they want to believe regardless of the evidence: I’ve made up my mind, don’t bother me with the facts.)

2. Aaron Ortiz - September 19, 2011

What if there is a lack of conclusive evidence? If so, wouldn’t an atheist be deciding to believe the absence of God on faith alone? That is how I think Dawkins makes the choice to disbelieve in a God. For me that is a little bit closed-minded. (Not as much as a dogmatic believer I grant). Absence of evidence does not mean something does not exist.

I am aware that my choice to believe in a God is not a choice based on anything than my own experience…hardly conclusive evidence. It is a decision based on experiences that may be self deception.

I am a theist, but only barely, I have a lot of agnosticism in me.

Thanks for recommending the book!

rogerhollander - September 20, 2011

This is a thoughtful response, but when you read the book you will see that Dawkins makes a reasoned scientific argument for the extremely high probability that a God as creator of everything who continues to intervene cannot exist. You may or may not agree with his evidence and his reasoning, but NOTHING in Dawkins is based upon faith.

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