Friday, November 14, 2008

Day Fourteen: Book Review - The God Delusion

"Am I the only one seeing this shit?"

I just finished having an extremely frustrating conversation with a "free thinking" friend of mine. We were having an argument about religion and, to my surprise and his, I found myself in the position of defending the faithful. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while should be familiar with my thoughts about organized religion and its various and sundry practitioners. Although I'm no Bill Maher, (who spits in the faces of the pious every opportunity he gets) I am also, by no means, a proponent of blind faith. However, to be honest, I normally grow weary of those who share my irreligiosity. More often than not, these folks, like my buddy, are the kind of angry, virulent atheists that delight in intentionally offending people of faith. That's really not my bag. I prefer not to engage in that kind of unremorseful douche-baggery.

Our conversation brought to mind a book that I read some time ago. Since I've been meaning to get around to including book reviews on this blog, I figured now was as good a time any to provide a very quick and dirty review of Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion.

In his latest book, The God Delusion, (which could reasonably have been subtitled F_ck God and the Idiots Who Believe He Exists) world-renowned British evolutionary biologist, author and enthusiastic atheist Richard Dawkins traces the arc of religious-oriented aggression – from the Crusades to 9/11 – and determines that all religious belief, no matter how personal, is both delusional and perilous.

Dawkins begins by circling the wagons around atheism. In four "consciousness-raising" declarations, he defends non-belief as evidence of a healthy, intelligent and independent mind. Had he chosen to stay on this path The God Delusion may have been a welcome addition to the socio-religious debate. But Dawkins’ coherent defense of atheism quickly devolves into a slanderous rant – one that indicts both religious moderates and dogged fundamentalists alike.

The tragedy in this book lies in its rigidity. Dawkins laments the fact that Southern slave-owners used religion to justify their pro-slavery position, but refuses to acknowledge that enslaved African-Americans and abolitionists used religion to bolster their arguments against human bondage (most African-Americans, as a point of fact, continue to find strength in religion today.) Indeed, Dawkins’ rejection of religion as anything but a tool of oppression or opiate of the masses is the major irredeemable flaw of the book. It is not enough that Richard Dawkins is himself an atheist. He wants everyone else to be one too. Dawkins comes across as intolerant and unyielding – an absolutism that is usually the terrain of the very zealots whom he derides.

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At 2:50 PM , Blogger Tha L said...

Hmm...interesting, but it sounds like a book i won't be picking up anytime soon, based on your poignant review. *wink*

At 8:29 PM , Anonymous eddwest said...

Hey man, I read this book like 4 months ago. Felt the same way about it. The feeling I got from the book was the perspective from another religion. I could have been reading about Islam with the exception, that a book on Islam would not have been slamming and slandering other religions. One interesting note...I don't know why I bought the book but a person who was concerned about me also give me right there in the book store a book titled, "God is My CEO". It actually is pretty good. Like Tony Dungy's part in the book. Keep up the good work.

At 5:16 PM , Blogger Son of Baldwin said...

Atheism is a religion, too.

At 5:37 PM , Blogger Son of Baldwin said...

But I do have to say that I think there is something inherently judgmental and oppressive in most organized religions. While I agree that Christianity played a role ending slavery (after first playing a role in justifying it), the very people whom Christianity freed are now using it to freely oppress homosexuals.

It is apparent to me that--after years of study and participation in both western (Southern Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist) and eastern (Islam) religions--organized religion requires an enemy in order to function. And leaders of organized religions are all too anxious to assign that enemy status to whatever group would best galvanize their parishioners, best encourage them (out of fear and judgment) to invest economically in the place of worship.

As someone who is both black and gay, I would prefer not to participate in any organization that supposes to have it on divine authority that I should be destroyed. I prefer to say that I'm spiritual with no specific religious affiliation. It's much safer and much more self-affirming.

At 2:44 PM , Blogger BLESSD1 said...

I respect your choice to be an atheist, and appreciate your decision to not beat people up and call them stupid b/c their beliefs don't conform with yours. I am a Christian, but have never wanted to beat people about the head with Christ until they believe. I also won't tell people that their faith isn't the right one; only that it's not the right one for me, and that I've drawn my line in the sand in terms of what I believe. I've always prescribed to the belief of allowing people to seek that which is true for them, and if it makes them a better person, even better. It's the zealots who often drive others away with their logicless, impassioned, and ultimately futile browbeating. As usual, great post.

At 3:22 AM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Mark - I want to be clear. I'm not an atheist. I'm just not big on traditional religion.


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