I suppose a warning should precede this review that if you are highly religious and offended by viewpoints that might undermine or discredit your beliefs, you probably want to bypass this review. On the other hand, I do wish that you will read it anyway and that it will prompt you to read the book for yourself. Not because I would destroy the faith and belief people have in their gods (though I don’t see a lot of harm in that and feel the world would be a better place), but because maybe it would help you understand how many of us are skeptics and non-believers and really not so demonic as we are thought to be. Which I suppose is just my own form of delusional thinking.
I must say that I am very glad that I listened to this as an audio book. It made it far more fun listening to Richard and Lalla share the reading of the text than I would have had simply reading it. And as often as I have read bits and clips of Dawkins’ writing, this is the first time I have put a voice to his words. Oh, I am sure that I have heard him speak. I just have never registered the voice with the name. So, I was more than a bit surprised to discover that he has such a soft, friendly voice. I am sure this fact has worked in his favor through the years, keeping him from being even more demonized than he already is by the words he speaks.
I would have to say that I agree with probably 95% of what Dawkins says in the book as he discusses the mind boggling biblical passages, statements from religious leaders and the sheer lack of true knowledge of what is in the scriptures that most people have. And the book explores all of this and more.
The book is primarily read by Dawkins for his thoughts, beliefs, analysis. Lala Ward generally gives voice to the quotes of others, conversations and reference offerings of others. The two voices makes the listening nice in that it often feels more like listening to a conversation rather than the reading of a non-fiction book.
Dawkins spares no sympathy in his dismantling of religious dogma and belief, using pure logic and backing them with historical examples of the abuses that have been done in the name of religion. His disgust at the recent trend of replacing evolution science being taught with creationism (which I learned is also called old world science vs. new world science) is apparent, particularly when government funds are used to support schools that teach such nonsense. Though, I believe his greatest target is the recent influx of fundamentalism in American politics. An influx that has grown ever more substantial since the publication of the book.
There is no doubt that he knows his bible and probably a good many other “sacred” texts. Throughout the book, he cites mistranslations, cherry picking and historical references about the various books. Much of the more common favored themes of the fundamentalists I was already familiar with, but he did open my eyes to a few things that I had not made the connection on. One example was the fact that Jesus demanded that his disciples had to abandon everything in their life in order to follow him. This included their families. I’m not quite sure why I never really did the math on that one before, other than I wanted to at least find some merit in the figure of Jesus.
He beautifully covers the scientific arguments, including evolution, often citing information that I only partially understand, but enough so that I have filled in further gaps on the subject. I think what I like most about his discussions regarding science is that science actually likes to find holes and gaps in their theories as it gives them a new problem to solve. Unlike Christianity that wants to use it as a reason to bring things back to “See, you can’t explain this, therefore creationism wins.” Not because they can explain it, but because it is a default. For science, it is just a new territory to explore. I have far more appreciation for the theory of exploration rather than blindly accepting.
Another one that I don’t remember was the one about Jepthah’s daughter and that she was sacrificed as payment for an oath he swore to god if he won a battle with the Ammonites. Most of the other stories he listed, I was already familiar with. I was a bit fascinated with the bit about loving one’s neighbor refers to kinship and tribe. And he doesn’t hesitate to remind all that Jesus’ tribe was that of the Jewish people. And no other.
Dawkins spares nothing in his repeated assaults on the cherry picking that takes place in the religious community on when to take the bible literally and when to read it allegorically. Nor does he hesitate to draw the comparison between the extremists that exist in both the Muslim and Christian communities. Actually, he is a bit more ruthless than I generally am in these regards as he doesn’t feel the need to draw a line between extremists and the faith in general. For, he calls out the passages in each that shows that if taken as a guide, its merely a matter of whether you follow the dictates or not.
I suppose the areas where I step away from Dawkins is that I am perfectly capable of allowing people their “beliefs” or faith, so long as they don’t impose it on others. What a person chooses as a guidebook for their life and what they want to believe is their business. What applies to the rest of the world must be inclusive of differences of belief. Also, I do understand that Dawkins has 0 belief in the possibility of there being anything else beyond this life. I am not willing to draw that line. Not that I believe in a god, certainly not the one of the Christians. I had plenty of reasons before reading The God Delusion to reject that god. I cannot but see him as a misogynistic god of hate, cruelty and double standards. But a single supreme being? Probably not. I am not sure that there is something beyond this life. I’m not banking on it. But, I would really love to find a What Dreams May Come where I can paint my own universe when I am done here. Even if its in a cloud of star stuff. But, that comes from wanting new playgrounds to romp in.
The reality is that Dawkins is a beautiful, lyrical writer. He leaves you with a dream of the beauty of life without religion that wraps around you like a blanket of many colors, drawing you into its threads and lifting you up to the heavens. And he shows you, even those people of faith who can open their minds to see a vision different than their’s, that you don’t need faith to have a beautiful soul and live a meaningful and moral life.