I originally picked up Richard Dawkins’ book because it has gained quite a bit of popularity, which comes mostly from athiest circles. It seemed interesting enough though.
Before I go on with a review, I must give a little bit of my religious background. I grew up in a protestant Christian family. I have a grandfather who preached his entire life, and eventually became a bishop of the church he belonged to. I also have an uncle, that grandfather’s son, that is a preacher. So, I grew up in a religious family.
Given that, I still have different religous views than my family. For one, I see the religion, the Bible, and spirituality/faith as three separate entities — you can have any of the three without the other two. Granted, without religion, there would be no Bible, but I won’t get into that. I also believe that organized religion creates much of the evil in this world, and can agree with much of what Dawkins has to say on that. I am by far not a nonbeliever though. That’s a little bit of my background so that you will know where I’m coming from as I review this book.
Basically, this book is Dawkins’ argument against religion and against the existence of God.
What might turn many readers who do believe in God away from this book is his immediate attack on religion. Using an almost child-like name-calling system throughout the first couple of chapters he hardly makes any points. The points may be hidden in there somewhere, but it would be hard for any believer to see past his attack on religion.
He starts hitting a stride when he gets into some of his arguments against the existence of God, but loses ground when he switches to more technical terms. At times, his wording would make a bad translation of Aristotle’s Nichomean Ethics read like a Stephen King novel. His argument of the “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit” is sound however, as are many of his other arguments. Instead of staying with his more simplistic writing style, he veered, and that is essentially his downfall in a few of the chapters.
At about the midpoint of the book, his style is much easier to read. Whether this had to do with getting used to his style or a definite change in language use is hard to tell, but I felt I definitely understood him. He attacks religion on multiple angles, attacking the Old Testament (which isn’t hard to do), religious logic (or lack thereof), and childhood abuse.
He pulled verses of his choosing out from the Bible, much the same way a preacher would, and formed his arguments. He is knowledgeable of the Bible and the history of religion. The best argument he puts forth is how religion is bad for society. With religious wars, abortion clinic bombings, and Fred Phelps, making religion look bad is almost too easy.
The most important thing I carried away from this book is his view on children and religion, and I’ve never thought about it quite in the way he puts it. “If you hear anybody speak of a ‘Catholic child’, stop them and politely point out that children are too young to know where they stand on such issues, just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics or politics” (2). Call them “a child of Catholic parents” (2). He make further points on this issue in chapter 9.
Although it is an entertaining read, it’s definitely lacking what it needs to complete his overall argument. He’s lacking the evidence to prove God doesn’t exist, but he doesn’t have to actually prove that. If anything, believers have to prove God’s existence — you know, hypothesis, scientific process, etc. He does make a good argument against religion itself and what it’s doing to our society. He raises several key points by using what he calls conciousness-raisers.
I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to religious people because of the religious bashing. Dawkins wants to make himself sound smarter, but only seems childish at times. Although most of it is meant for laughs, he might want to reconsider if he wants to change believers’ minds. When you get past the verbal abuse, there are some sound arguments.
Overall, he uses reason to conclude most of his arguments, and that is one of his strong suits. I can only say this to believers who decide to read this book, “Check your religion at the door.” Otherwise you won’t make it through the first chapter, and see some the good this book offers in the later chapters.
I can honestly say my conciousness has been raised.