The God Delusion: Richard Dawkins--eminent biologist and bete noire of creationists--endeavors to show that belief in a supernatural being that created and designed the universe is a pernicious delusion (31,108)

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Date: Summer 2007
From: The Midwest Quarterly(Vol. 48, Issue 4)
Publisher: Pittsburg State University - Midwest Quarterly
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,528 words
Lexile Measure: 1280L

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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 406 pp., notes and index. $27.00 cloth.

Richard Dawkins--eminent biologist and bete noire of creationists--endeavors to show that belief in a supernatural being that created and designed the universe is a pernicious delusion (31,108). As one would expect, Dawkins makes his case with cleverness, pugnacity, and flashes of brilliance. The first 160 pages attack theistic arguments as "spectacularly weak" and argue that it is overwhelmingly probable that God does not exist. In the remaining 200 + pages, Dawkins sketches a theory of religion as the misfiring of something useful (like children believing what their parents tell them), traces the Darwinian origins of our moral sense, denies the relevance of religious beliefs to sound ethical principles, lays bare the mischief done by absolutist religion (especially harm to children), and waxes eloquent on how science can inspire us. Dawkins promotes his book as a "consciousness-raiser" for "atheist pride." He hopes that religious readers follow the examples of Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and others who became atheists after reading Dawkins's earlier books (5, 116-117, 322).

Much of Dawkins's project can be endorsed by intellectually responsible theists. For example, if "is" and "ought" are not conflated, few theists would object to exploring the evolution of our sense of right and wrong. Or again, Dawkins omits to mention that many theists embrace the Socratic dictum that an act can be good whether or not it is loved by God. Thoughtful people of faith will join Dawkins in bemoaning evils done in the name of religion. They might add that religiously motivated individuals are often--but not often enough--in the vanguard of social justice movements: think of William Wilberforce on slavery and animal cruelty, Dorothea Dix on the humane treatment of the mentally ill, and Martin Luther King Jr. on civil rights. In recent memory, the Anglican theologian Norman Pittenger advocated full acceptance of homosexuals and lived openly with his partner. Theists also agree that the study of sacred writings is integral to a literary education (340f). Finally, theists, no less than atheists, can appreciate the grandeur of the world as revealed by science. Teilhard de Chardin was fond of saying that research is adoration.

Where, then, is the battle...

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