The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 406 pp., notes and index. $27.00 cloth.
By now, what hasn't been said about Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion? Many have put Dawkins on a pedestal for the atheistic community--those, this reviewer guesses, who are sitting at home on the couch watching television on worship days--as their champion. Others are horrified when Dawkins's name is used, ready to collect the wood and the flame for the burning. Much ink has been spilled thanking, damning, defending, refuting, praising, and vilifying The God Delusion. Of the various themes in the book---the existence of God as a working hypothesis, the arguments for God's existence, Dawkins's empirical argument against God's existence, religion and morality, the social implications of religion, religious impact on children, and science education I every argument has seemingly been picked apart and addressed positively or negatively. What issue is left for you to address? I think there is a question still left on the table. That question is--Does It Succeed? I must be clear. I am not asking whether the arguments contained in the book are sound, but whether the goal of the book has been achieved. In other words, was the strategy successful?
In order to answer this question we must understand Dawkins's goal. Dawkins states, "[The book] is intended to raise consciousness--raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled (1)." This is the first of Dawkins's "consciousness-raising messages". The other three are:
2. Natural selection, while limited in explaining the living world, shows us that there are likely to be other such naturalistic explanatory "cranes" which will aid in our understanding of the "cosmos itself'.
3. We ought not to tack religious labels onto children. There are no, say, Catholic children, rather there are children of Catholic parents since the children are too young to know if they are religious or not.
4. Atheist Pride.
The first three of these are indeed noble. Yes, atheists can be happy, intellectually fulfilled, moral agents. Yes, we should make strides to understand and incorporate our best sciences to understand the world of which we are a part. Yes, we should not stuff children into the social pits of religious labeling. The fourth, however, is curious. Atheistic Pride? Pride in what exactly? As Dawkins fleshes it out:
"Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic...