The God Delusion
Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 406 pp. $27
First of all, how many books come bearing laurels from both Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker and nihilistic Tricksters Penn and Teller? Then too, when's the last time a distinguished Oxford professor (in this case, of the "Public Understanding of Science") felt the need to supply a five-page appendix of names, addresses (snail and e-mail), phone numbers, and Web sites for beleaguered skeptics all around the world--to contact bastions of apostasy from the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia to the Humanist Society of New Zealand (that's for the North Island, unbelievers in Christchurch have their own conventicle)?
This quirky phenomenon is evidently part of the growing response to the intense politicization of religion (and the ensuing jihads) in our time. The days when Humeans and Homoousians mostly stayed out of one another's hair are gone, it seems, forever. (See the latest blast from the Landover Baptist Church on whitehouse.org, or Dawkins's own triumphal appearance on The Colbert Report.) Dawkins, who first caught the world's attention with The Selfish Gene over thirty years ago, largely sets biological explication aside here and instead trots out a motley throng of commonsensical arguments against God to stiffen les incroyants and assure them that they are not alone. It makes for a good show.
Dawkins starts by protesting against the "abnormally thick wall of respect" that today's etiquette has thrown up around religious faith, and that requires everybody, from whatever position along R.D.'s seven-part spectrum from "strong theist'...