Hmm, perhaps the term apatheist isn’t a clear reference, it’s a perhaps bad play-on-words with the term apathetic as what I intend to here blog about is a tentative subject which commonly gets a comment or two so I will explain. I am going to review ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, which I finished reading a few weeks ago. But I want to make it clear I am not, repeat NOT, trying to make this into another Christianity-Atheism debate and merely want to review this book from a non-subjective, an apathetic, view.
The God Delusion is Richard Dawkins in-depth discussion about the existence of God. Investigating where it comes from, what we can learn from it and, above all, whether or not God exists.
I say discussion, though it is clear even to a moron that Dawkins has firmly made up his mind on the matter, with cheekily titled chapters such as “Why there almost certainly is no God”. However, he does fairly look at the evidence that religious groups (the book is unashamedly aimed at Christianity but there are still numerous references to other religions) give for believing in God and expertly dashes them.
I’ll illustrate, the classic argument of evolution vs. creation is a point that Dawkins talks about greatly, himself being a biologist. He systematically picks up and examines each and, to my vast knowledge, every argument and “evidence” that creationists give to show that there was an intelligent force, which they choose to believe was the God of the Holy Bible (peculiar how they have to make that additional clause distinction for the “one true god”), that created and fine-tuned the planet some 6000 years ago, created animals and then humans as a superior species on the planet. Dawkins, as scientists do, picks up and plays around with the notion, toys with it, has fun and draws conclusions upon it, before he looks at the evidence that his prodding, poking and his own scientific knowledge before, with a melancholy sigh at not learning something new about his planet, setting it aside and concluding that it is not so and clearly explains why, it’s hard to fault him here.
As a side-note, it is always baffling to me the amount of hysteria surrounding Dawkins by Christian groups suggesting that he was responsible for the conception of Nazism in Germany long after his death due to his conclusions in Origins when it is Christianity that assumes that Man is superior to animals. As I said, I’m not interested in sparking off another debate but it is a noteworthy parallel all the same. Undoubtedly, that will cause somebody to say “But, weren’t Hitler and Stalin atheists?” Well, ignoring the fact that it’s never been proven, they both had moustaches too, what of it?
This leads me on, conveniently, onto morality. Some Christians repeatedly argue that we need religion to base our morals on. Though I have never bought this for a moment, Dawkins manner of illustrating this point is truly captivating, with examples that, though they sound ludicrous, tap into some inherent and base understanding of right and wrong.
The book is dedicated to Dawkins friend, writer Douglas Adams (of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as well as various Doctor Who episodes), and the wit and comic timing that Adams gives in whatever he writes (many of his comments on religion are used in the book) is channelled expertly through Dawkins, using this to great effect to simultaneously satirise and expose religions more ridiculous side, it pains me that I do not have my copy to hand (a good book reviewer I turned out to be) but it’s a very entertaining book in itself and worth reading for some Adam-esque humour.
Of course, I too must look at the dark side of this book. Simply because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean that I must agree with every word in this book, much in the same way that most modern Christians are no longer word-perfect literal about the Bible. I don’t think anyone, least of all Dawkins, would want everyone to agree entirely with him or else it risks spawning an entirely new pseudo-religion. So it is with confidence, indeed glee, that I jump into my criticism of this book, and perhaps it will unfortunately double-up as a criticism of Dawkins himself, in that he can be unbelievably scathing and cocky about some Christian viewpoints, taking his humour into the realms of bad taste. Towards the end of the book, for example, he investigates the fear of death and shows how Christians have a tendency to be far more reluctant to accept the end of their life than atheists, despite the former’s firm belief that they are venturing unto paradise. It is, I’ll admit, an interesting point, but the humour with which Dawkins injects this point, suggesting that the terminal patient should be congratulated at the news of their impending demise among other crass comments. Intriguing a point though it is, how can Dawkins honestly make a point for his views from each person’s fear of death, might not someone fear death not because they do/don’t fear almighty judgement, but because maybe they have a family that needs them. This research doesn’t, as far as I can see, take into account any variable factors besides Christian/Atheist and Scared/Not Scared, which seems to basic a result to go by.
Despite this, Dawkins writes a very persuasive, informed and entertaining book, making me eager to read more of his work. There are some points which, with their logical argument, evidence and comparable examples of the “absurd” (see Bertrand Russell’s teapot or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for examples).
Some reviews have said that this book “will not leave you unchanged” and that is certainly true. Whether it will change your beliefs entirely, in any direction, depends mainly on your current religious standpoint. My own was near enough where it is having read it, just a step or two further from the delusion that there is a God in the Biblical sense. Despite Dawkin’s confident introduction, I’m afraid I must contradict him in that I don’t feel it will change anyone’s view, fundamentalist Christians won’t listen or even want to listen to contradictory evidence, most modern Christians will listen and accept most of what he says but I doubt his arguments are persuasive enough to shake beliefs that far, but I may be wrong. Atheists will simply have more bullets in their arsenal to use when they’re next shot at to repent their wicked ways (an archaic reference I know, but illustrative all the same). Agnostics may be moved by this, but the thing that made them agnostics in the first place (namely, the fear of ‘what if I’m wrong’) is too strong a gravitational pull, I feel, to pull them out of orbit.
Overall, a delightful, intriguing and fantastic read that I recommend whatever your religious view. I cannot recommend this book any higher, read it and feel yourself thinking, emoting and considering with each word. When you put it down, the words will ring in your head and your own thoughts will rise up, revitalised by this concise and clear piece, it’ll make a thinker out of you.