It’s been too many years now since I read it, so my responses won’t be fresh - though I do remember what reactions I had to it back then. Will see what others around here might think about it though. Can still share my own comments such as they are too.
But for now - as an aside … I’m not sure we can properly accuse atheists of “heresy”. That word, despite its definition as “a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine”, I still think is mainly applied toward any who self-identify as being part of the more orthodox, mainline group, but are nonetheless felt (by some of those orthodox) to have been disqualified because of some errant belief(s). Atheists who harbor no pretensions about trying to belong to any religious order are not generally called heretics I don’t think. Heresy implies (I think) some interest on the part of the accused in trying to maintain or obtain approval as members of a group and failing to do so. That is a significantly different situation than somebody else who has no interest in such group membership. It’s like accusing a professional chef of being inept at flying airplanes, when he’s never had any interest in that. His situation isn’t the same as somebody who has attempted flight school many times and always flunked out.
But … enough of that detraction. Onward to reactions to the book in question!
I’ll just start it by saying that I admire Dawkins’ writings generally, and as such an admirer think that this particular book is far from his best work. Very few of us end up looking good while in the middle of some hyper-partisan polemicist mood and Dawkins is no exception.
The only delusion is Dawkins’ own. His primary argument in that book is the basic, refuted, “if God created the universe, who created God?” - as if theists believe God is created. It’s a strawman and collapses. Also see this article showing how Dawkins is generally someone who extensively misrepresents history to make Christianity look bad.
I flipped into the middle of it in the bookstore and saw that he was relying (at that point in the book) on a distortion of what “faith” is. That didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the merit of the book.
I picked it up later and read it all the way through. Not impressed. He tackles the weakest arguments for Christianity and dismantles them without paying attention to what more intelligent people have said. He relies on misrepresentation and argument by ridicule.
More recently, I made such comments to a pretty vitriolic atheist online. He hadn’t read the book but criticized my…criticisms. I challenged him to read the book, and then we could discuss. That was the last time it came up.
I think my most poignant criticism of the book is this:
He claims that religion is an “accident of evolution” that should be discarded because it is misleading and dangerous. He ignores the positive benefits, both past and current. He also claims that the values we hold (which have “emerged in a religious context”) are ultimately also an “accident of evolution” that should be retained but does not and seemingly cannot say why! Why “hold this and discard that”?
In 2005, biophysicist-theologian Alister McGrath published a carefully reasoned rebuttal of Richard’s Dawkins’ arguments in Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life. (The Blackwell paperback edition was published in 2007.)
I agree with most of the content by volume, but disagree with some key points. I quite agree that none of the so called proofs for the existence of God are objectively sound or convincing – not that Richard Dawkin’s refutation of those proofs are particularly good or scholarly. The biggest flaw in the book is the principle premise that God can be treated as a scientific hypothesis. Nothing could be further from the truth. By that premise we should accept creationism as an alternate scientific theory for the origin of the species (which I do not agree with). And one of the more laughable aspects of the book is Dawkins absurd claim that a Christian reading the book would become an atheist. All in all, Dawkins did the creationists and other Christian reactionaries a big favor by writing this book.
Dawkins has actually written some good books. This is not one of them. “The Selfish Gene” though better than “The God Delusion” isn’t one of them either.
It may shock some, but many atheists feel no desire to read Dawkins’ books on religion. I feel no desire to, and I have talked to many atheists who feel the same. To use an analogy, most people who don’t believe in alien visitations and alien abductions probably wouldn’t have much interest in reading a book explaining why the author doesn’t believe in aliens either. If people think Dawkins is some sort of priest or leader of atheism then they will probably be disappointed. Vidal and Hitchens were worth reading once in a while, but just for their wit.
Same. Anyone who can deliver a well crafted quip at just the right moment is at least good entertainment. Hitchens makes the cut on that score based only on the videos people have posted on other sites I’ve been on.
I’m only half way through reading The Origin Of Species, inspired by the sublime The Signature Of All Things, so it’s going to take me 111 years to catch up, despite having all of Dawkins lined up and ready to go on my bookshelf. I’m a tad distracted by Steve Chalke’s redemption of Paul and Jesus at the moment (and Ackroyd’s Chatterton last thing). But I will read TGD to be able to respond here retrospectively, but I know in advance that I’ll completely agree with Richard, that no apologetic, no defense, no theodicy or critique of his perfectly rational critique of religion - a response to our being genetically pre-wired for experience - can possibly work, bar One.
‘An entertaining, wildly informative, spledidly written polemic’ Rod Liddle, Sunday Times
‘A wonderful book…joyous, elegant, fair, engaging, and often very funny…informed throughout by an exhilarating breadth of reference and clarity of thought.’ Michael Frayn
‘Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion should be read by everyone from atheist to monk. If its merciless rationalism doesn’t engage you at some point, you probably aren’t alive.’ Julian Barnes
‘Could not be more apt for our time - [Dawkins] pulls out all the stops to demonstrate the force of his thesis in this passionate new book… lively and highly readable.’ John Cornwell, Sunday Times
‘[A] passionately argued book. [Dawkins] boots all the crazy incoherencies put forward by the vicar and his ilk firmly into touch.’ Arena
‘Dawkins is Britain’s most famous atheist and in The God Delusion he gives eloquent vent to his uncompromising views… if you want an understanding of evolution or an argument for atheism, there are few better guides than Richard Dawkins.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘He is brilliant, articulate, impassioned, and impolite… The God Delusion is a fine and significant book. … Dawkins’ irreverent and penetrating work will seem a breath of fresh air.’ San Francisco Chronicle.
’He is one of the finest living writers in the English language.’ Irish Times
When Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”, first came out. I critiqued it for an Adult Confirmation class I was holding. Before judging the book, I advised the confirmandees to read (or at least consider) his earlier work, "The Ancestors Tale" which purports to show how modern humans could have evolved from simpler forms. of life. In A.T. he takes the unusual approach (from “Canterbury Tales”) of casting it as a pilgrimage from modern days to the distant past. Not surprisingly, perhaps, he devotes only a page and a half to how Homo sapiens sapiens (“wise man”) evolved from the earlier Homo sapiens. He admits that presently there was no evolutionary explanation for that “Leap Forward”, other than it was somewhat comparable to the brains’ 80 billions of nerve cells being suddenly and optimally connected, and then programmed to act as a ‘supercomputer’ , thus enabling the invention of language and transmission of abstract ideas.
Dawkins’ one and a half page of failed explanation is followed by over 600 of well written pages elucidating how each species could be seen to evolve from its most recent ancestor. This is Dawkins at his best. The God Delusion shows him at his worst.
“The God Delusion” deserves the spoof barfing emoji. It’s illogical anti-religious ranting. A major argument is that some religious people are stupid, some are brainwashed, and some are terrorists, therefore all religious people are brainwashed numbskull terrorists. The fact that some atheists are also brainwashed numbskull terrorists (certain less than competent “Red Brigade”-type groups come to mind) is ignored, as is the fact that neither atheism nor religion is a monolithic entity. There’s also the approach, also popular with YEC, of “good guys count as being in my camp and bad guys don’t”. In Dawkins’ case, it’s claiming that people he likes with a somewhat deistic religious position count as atheists, while ridiculous special pleading excuses not counting communist genocide as atheistic.
I didn’t quickly spot where my copy has gotten to. Dawkins specifically claims that Einstein counts as atheistic because sort of deistic really isn’t all that different from atheistic, while claiming that Stalin doesn’t count as atheistic. Of course, an atheist could quite rationally and honestly disavow the evils of certain atheists, such as those ruling communist governments, just as someone religious can oppose wrongs done by others professing various religions. And it is true that Einstein’s theology was probably closer to Dawkins’ than to that of people who try to claim that Einstein was an orthodox theist on the strength of his occasionally mentioning God. But Dawkins does not take the honest track of admitting that there are better and worse atheists and better and worse religionists.
Hey David. You’re a stand up guy. I can tell. Einstein was an atheist. Period. He used God as metaphor. Stalin (another genius btw) started out as a novitiate; a trainee priest. That’s when he became a full on atheist. But I am going to completely check out young Dickie, starting with TGD, and get back to you.
I have read sources which tell the exact opposite of what your claiming Klax.
Stalin a genious? For what? Persecuting christians ,muslims etc etc ,homosexuals etc etc and everyone he didnt like ? I cant see how thats a genious
Without hes close advisors to support him on the economic and other parts of his rule ,which a lot of Russian people died by the famine ,he was nothing. A zero i would say. I dont see how you support such man. Asuming we are speaking about the same stalin
Nothing in any disinterested expert commentary, by any biographer, says anthing other than that Einstein used God as metaphor for nature. I have never encountered a serious writer say otherwise. If you have please link to it.
And aye, young Stalin was a literary genius, the definitive poet of his ([Georgian] Orthodox) culture, despite and because of being brutalized by his alcoholic proletarian father [a failed shoemaker].