The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Friends,

I have been meaning to read this book since I first heard of its publication by Houghton-Mifflin last year. Well, I finally have a small window of time in my reading schedule, and today I went to the library to borrow a copy. I think from time to time, over the course of the three weeks the library has granted me to possess the book, I will make a comment or two on what I read.

Having finished the preface this afternoon, I shall start my comments tonight. I begin with this paragraph from Prof Dawkins:

If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism! Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature (whether by evolution or design). Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan. (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p 5-6)

Dawkins thus begins his book with his typical feel sorry for the poor atheist who’s only trying to make a living ploy. Aww. (It’s almost like a taunt, “I dare you to read it!” But at least he confirms something I have been saying here for a while: He’s as much an evangelist as any Christian.

But there are a couple of mistakes here that I feel rather compelled to address. First, he thinks that only those who are indoctrinated from childhood are religious or acknowledge a particular god or God. He earlier argued that we are typically the religion our parents are/were so that if I had grown up, for example, in Iraq there is a very strong likelihood that I would be a Muslim. But since I grew up in America (or with my parents in America), I grew a Christian. Well, actually nothing could be further from the truth. In truth, my parents went to church because of me and my brothers! My dad was baptized because my brothers and I took him to church. My dad’s parents had no faith to speak of, and my dad certainly didn’t. And even now, to this day, my brother’s have very little Christian faith to speak of or that I am aware of.

My dad, and my mother for that matter, were essentially as atheistic as the next atheist for the better part of my life and theirs (even though they had nominal knowledge of Jesus there was no practice of Biblical Christianity). My dad didn’t become a Christian until well into his 30’s. To be sure, I went to a little country church, with mom, as a child. But as Prof Dawkins himself said, I had no idea what that meant at the time. And it was certainly nothing substantial or even salvific as is the faith I have in Jesus Christ now. Furthermore, there was, on my part, a significant running away from my teenaged faith so that I did not start living anything remotely close to my current faith in Christ until I was 21. Even then, I assure you, my parents (whom I mostly despised in my teenaged years, as most teenagers do), had nothing to do with my faith.

I may not be typical of all Christians, but I certainly think that Prof Dawkins paints far too generally with his analogy. Furthermore, I think I can safely say this: What of those who eventually convert? I read just tonight that there are at least 600,000 Christians in Iraq. How are they accounted for? Their Christian parents? I think not. My point is that Prof Dawkins makes too much of so-called inheritance faith as if faith were passed on like genes to color our eyes or hair. It is simply not true that faith works this way. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” As we grow we make a rational, conscience decision to believe and follow. Prof Dawkins is quite mistaken here.

Second, I take issue with his claim that ‘Satan’ wrote the book The God Delusion. I certainly wouldn’t claim that. Here’s my reason: Satan believes in God. He is just whip-crack smarter than Prof Dawkins. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19). No the devil is not quite so stupid as to write a book declaring such things. The devil doesn’t need to write a book declaring God’s non-existence as that would defeat the devil’s purposes. You see his purpose is, rather, to convince folks that God is impotent, a fraud, and uncaring. The devil’s purpose is to convince people of lies. No, I don’t believe for a minute that the devil wrote The God Delusion.

It was written by a man. A mere man. And no one but a man. Even the devil is smart enough not to shake his fist at God. Even the devil knows that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Yes, I am quite convinced that The God Delusion was written, and written quite well, by nothing more than a man–a complex collection of DNA molecules, cells, and other carbon based matter. The devil realized a long time ago that it was an exercise in futility to try and convince the world that God doesn’t exist–it really doesn’t take much to know, beyond doubt, that God is real. Now he (the devil) is just too busy trying to convince people that the wrong kind of god exists or, even better, that there are a whole bunch of gods and that there are a whole bunch of paths to God. Many gods, in the devil’s mind and for his purposes, are far better than no god at all.

I sense in Prof Dawkins’ book a gasp for air. I sense that the main reason he so desires people to come out of the closet as Atheists is because he senses that he is a dying breed. (Even though on page 4 he cites ‘American polls’ that ‘suggest atheists and agnostics far outnumber religious Jews, and even outnumber most other particular religious groups’ he cites no references, no footnotes, no endnotes. Thus, the reader is left to wonder ‘What poll is he making reference to?’ And, furthermore, did I detect a wee bit of impatience with ‘Jews…who are notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States’?) Perhaps this recent poll (story posted September 14, 2007 @ Christian Post.com) conducted in the UK shows that to be true:

Across all age categories, the findings revealed that 21 percent of all those polled said they had no religion or faith.

The poll revealed a direct correlation between age and levels of faith, with an increase in age corresponding to an increase in the number professing faith. Out of those in their 20s who were polled, just 20 percent answered that they had no faith. In the 65 and above age category, just 8 percent responded that they had no religion or faith.

The headline is this: 4 out 10 UK teens claim to be faithless. So what? That means 6 out 10 do claim faith! And, furthermore, what teen is in their right mind? For that matter, my own experience tells me that people are likely to be atheists when they are teens. I’m not excusing it, but atheism is almost ubiquitous with teenage-ism. It just goes to show that as one gets older, as one’s brain develops (whether by evolution or design), the ‘God-hypothesis’ takes on a whole new meaning (especially when our own teenagers begin to emerge). 

I sense Prof Dawkins is clinging to something he knows is futility. This is why he wants atheists to ‘come out of the closet’: ‘There may be a critical mass for the initiation of a chain reaction’ (p 4), (comparing them to homosexuals, another ism doomed to failure unless they evangelize!). Prof Dawkins, to borrow a boring cliche, needs some company in his misery. (He even thanks his wife for coaxing him ‘through all my hesitations and self-doubts’. I would think someone so convinced that atheism is so satisfying woudn’t have any self-doubts or hesitations at all. I’m actually touched by this.)

Well, I enjoyed the preface immensely. I’m going to post a little on the book because if I try to keep it all inside I’m likely to go mad with laughter. The preface was a cultural tour-de-force as Prof Dawkins made reference to such iconic and legendary thinkers as John Lennon (‘Imagine’, Dawkins even went so far as to charge that in America people change Lennon’s lyrics in the song; he cites a colleague, but gives nothing more than anecdotal evidence: no footnotes, no endnotes, no radio station call letters, or names of performers who do this); his wife (Lalla); Wendy Kaminer (evidently a writer at New Republic, she’s world shaper!); Robert Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance); Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial); Sam Harris; Dan Dennett; & Julia Sweeney (comedian, whose claim to fame is ‘Pat’ from Saturday Night Live, and a blog).

Prof Dawkins claims, on page 4 that ‘The status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago.” Uh, OK. I’m not sure why Prof Dawkins cares since he lives in the UK and I’m not sure which America he is talking about since most of our elected officials (he makes reference to it being hard to get elected to political office; anyone in America with half a brain knows that any loser or jackass can get elected to office in the US: See Clinton, Kucinich, Kerrey, Gingrich, Gore, etc) are practical atheists and the rest are practicing atheists. I’m not sure which America Prof Dawkins thinks is working against Atheists because I see them all over the place. I think perhaps he ought to get out more often. Trust me: atheists are right at home here in America, land of the free, home of the brave!

Well, that’s enough for now. These are my preliminary observations of this book. As I said, the Preface was great! Now, if the next 396 pages are just as good, I’m in for a very special treat indeed.

Thanks for stopping by.

jerry

PS-In case Joe drops by, I’m not being sarcastic at all.

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