The undesirability of religion and the improbability of god's existence: a review essay

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Author: Gabor Ittzes
Date: Dec. 2007
From: European Journal of Mental Health(Vol. 2, Issue 2)
Publisher: Semmelweis University
Document Type: Book review
Length: 16,311 words
Lexile Measure: 1530L

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Dawkins, R. (2006) The God Delusion (London etc.: Bantam) [6]+406 pp., 24 cm, ISBN-13 978-0593055489, 20 [pounds sterling]. (1)

Is atheism good for mental health? Absolutely if you think, like Richard Dawkins, that religion is but a form of insanity. His latest book, The God Delusion (2006) purports to be a frontal attack on religion in all its forms, Christian or Muslim, polytheistic or trinitarian, fundamentalist or moderate alike. He takes issue not only with creationism and the religious right, considering them, as many European mainstream or liberal Christians do, an aberration. For Dawkins, religion itself is an aberration, no matter in what form or guise it might appear. Religious education, for him, is a form of mental child abuse. The attack is carefully orchestrated, the evidence assiduously gathered, the arguments tirelessly expounded. The message, of course, is not entirely negative. Dawkins strives not only to abolish religion but to raise consciousness for secular humanism or, as he prefers to call it, atheism. He hopes to convince readers that religion can be abandoned, that it is not too late to turn their backs on their childhood indoctrination and start breathing the fresh air of science. The whole case is presented in language that is rhetorically powerful and wittily entertaining, passionately engaged and eminently readable.

Richard Dawkins (b. 1941), an evolutionary biologist by trade, is one of Britain's leading intellectuals and arguably the most outspoken secular humanist today. Recently, he has been selected as one of the world's one hundred most influential people by Time magazine (BEHE 2007), while in a poll organised by Prospect and Foreign Policy he was elected, after Noam Chomsky and Umberto Eco, among the top three public intellectuals in the world. (2) He studied at Oxford, taught in California in the 1960s and worked with Nikolaas Tinbergen, who later won the Nobel Prize. He first acquired international renown by his book The Selfish Gene in 1976, which, still in print, has been translated into more than two dozen languages and followed by numerous best-selling titles. A Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature (since 1997) and the Royal Society (since 2001), he is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, where he has been teaching since 1970. The professorship, endowed with 1.5 Million [pounds sterling], is so conceived that the incumbent is freed from the bulk of the usual academic commitments like lecturing to undergraduates or advising doctoral students, not to mention administrative responsibilities. They can, instead, devote their time, energies and creativity to the popularisation of the scientific understanding of the world through public lectures, books, television and radio productions and whatever media they find suitable and effective. Dawkins' performance, whom Simonyi explicitly recommended to be the first to hold the chair, has certainly not been disappointing in that regard. Since his inauguration, he has published five books, including The Ancestor's Tale (2004), which many consider his magnum opus--and is not likely to be superseded by The God...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A441402569