Wednesday, November 19, 2008 By: Suzanne

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

First of all to my Christian friends who read this and want to run away screaming at the terrible things you believe I am about to say, I'm sorry. There is no reason for that if you can keep an open mind.

So I picked up the God Delusion because I was intrigued by the premise. Did he mean that the God of Abraham and therefore Jews, Christians, and Muslim is a delusion or did he mean that ANY god is a delusion? Well, he pretty much gets that out of the way right away. He doesn't believe in any god. I don't agree with everything in the book. It seems that he makes a fairly logical argument for the most part but then when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, he grasps at just as many straws as the rest of us. He simply shades his doubt with science. The truth is, we simply don't know. If you're truly interested in my beliefs, I'll explain a few things at the end of this review. I think it might be interesting after this. By the way, this is probably my longest post ever.

Dawkins is actually very funny. He had me laughing throughout most of the book. He retells a story by Bertrand Russell called the parable of the celestial teapot:

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

Dawkins then goes on to talk about the Flying Spaghetti Monster which is a popular internet deity. Apparently there is a Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Moster. "I haven't read it myself, but who needs to read a gospel when you know it's true?...The fact that orbiting teapots and tooth fairies are undisprovable is not felt, by any reaosnable person, to be the kind of fact that settles any interesting argument...I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further."

Dawkins' main point is in chapter 4: WHY THERE ALMOST CERTAINLY IS NO GOD. He makes many points but it all boils down to the same thing in the end. If there is a being that has created the universe and therefore us, if this being also can simultaneously read the minds of millions people who are also simultaneously praying to this being for many (mainly frivolous) different things, if this being is the ultimate designer then who designed him (or her)? This being would have to have the most amazing scientific knowledge, far beyond anything close to what we have but a being this great could not just poof into existence out of nothing. A being like this would HAVE to come from somewhere and then that points to another creator. So is that creator the ultimate creator? If a being could create another being who could create a universe and listen to the prayers of people everywhere, who created THAT creator? Do you see? This is an endless loop that ultimately doesn't make sense. There can be no end. In othe words, "How do they (theists) cope with the argument that any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation that the one he is supposed to provide?"

This argument is in the middle of the book and Dawkins goes on to make some other very fine points regarding the harm religion can cause. For example, he talks of a study done with more than a thousand Israeli children, ages 8 to 14 in which they were to discuss the Battle of Jericho in the Book of Joshua:

Joshua said to the people, "Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction...But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD." Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword...And they burned the city with fire and all within it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

The children were then asked, "Do you think Joshua and the Israelites acted rightly or not?" An overwhelming majority of the children gave total approval. When asked why, their answers were all religiously based:

God promised them land, and gave them permission to conquer. If they would not...then there would have been danger that the Sons of Israel would have assimilated among the Goyim.

God commanded him to exterminate
(lovely word) the people so that the tribes of Israel will not be able to assimilate...

Joshua did good because the people who inhabited the land were of a different religion...

Genocide is condoned through religion. Where have we seen this before?

A control group was given the same story only "Joshua" was changed to "General Lin" and " Israel " was changed to "a Chineese Kingdom ." The results were opposite. This time the children, without the influence of religion, saw the terribleness of exterminating a group of people. "When their loyalty to Judaism was removed from the calculation, the majority of the school children agreed with the moral judgements that most modern humans would share. Joshua's action was a deed of barbaric genocide."

I ask another question, why exactly does God need silver, gold, bronze, and iron? What is an all-knowing, powerful deity who doesn't live on the earth going to do with these things? Why would he need to destroy a city for them? Shouldn't he just be able to take them?

I will leave you with some wonderful quotes from our founding fathers.

As the Government of the Unites States of America is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from the religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
--Treaty of Tripoli as drafted by George Washington and signed by John Adams (give that to whoever tries to convice you our founding fathers meant us to be a Christian nation).
--Also, 'Musselmen' and 'Mehomitan' were contemporary words to refer to Islam, which makes this paragraph more than a little ironic right now

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage to reason than that of blindfolded fear.
-Thomas Jefferson

Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.
-Thomas Jefferson

During almost 15 centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
-James Madison

Lighthouses are more useful than churches.
-Benjamin Franklin

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.
-John Adams

And a few others:

Religion...has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? - because you're not!
-Douglas Adams

What impresses me most about Catholic mythology is partly its tasteless kitsch but mostly the airy nonchalance with which these people make up the details as they go along. It is just shamelessly invented.
-Richard Dawkins

The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism
-Gore Vidal

So for mine? Do I believe in God? Not really. Not in the sense that most people mean. I believe we are all connected. We are all part of the energy of the universe and we are able to tap into this. Different people, based on their education and experience, call it different things. Some people tap into this energy, feel something powerful, and call it God. Some people call it magic. However, I also believe in science and I truly believe that this is something that will one day be measurable and a lot of people will lose faith because of that. The sad thing is there is no reason. That power will still be there, it's the stories they have believed in forever that won't be.


Anonymous said...

Are you feelin' my energy? Can you tap into it? What? What was that? Oh - right. Maybe I should go get another cup of coffee first - I'm not really feelin' the energy either.

Pst! I didn't run away screaming because I'm a big girl (in more ways than one - hehehehe).

Tonya said...

There has been an interesting discussion going on over at Facebook because of this post and I wanted to share it:

KA wrote at 11:17pm yesterday
So I read your post. I believe in God. Not as a power to be tapped into, but a firm belief that He is there. That's part of Faith...not needing proof in order to believe.

I know it's beyond understanding for most people. But then what isn't? Science can be proven most of the time...but then who said it was science? What makes an apple an apple and who named it? Is Earth really the Earth? Of course it is...someone told us it was. We've seen pictures of it and it is in all the books...that must mean it is true. After all, everything we have learned in this life has come from a long line of story tellers. Whose to say in all those thousands of years some of the very basis for our civilizations hasn't been jumbled and mixed up by an overzelous persone in need of attention.

You can't prove or disprove anything in this life because there is simply no basis of fact about anything other than written history and some old guy's word on it. day there was dirt and no one knew it was dirt...then suddenly they say it's dirt and everyone believes them...takes their word for it. Seriously? Seriously!

It's Faith! Faith that what I'm even typing is language. Faith is believing that anything at all I've been taught is fact and not fiction. It takes faith to go to go to sleep at night and know you'll awaken in the morning. "I saw a guy yesterday go to sleep and he never got up....maybe I shouldn't go to sleep cause it has been proven you don't always wake up!"

So, to some believing in God is foolish. To some believing in anything is foolish. But, in our our human comprehension...there is a beginning and an end to everything. God in our understanding cannot be understood. But then, we don't really have to understand do we? No, we just have to have Faith that what we've been taught, believe and feel is the truth.

Thanks for posting this. Gives us something to talk about over Thanksgiving.

JR wrote at 11:56pm yesterday
Yeah, I can believe that a plane with one wing, no fuel, half the wheels missing, no engine, and a drunk pilot, will take me to Cheboygen to see my auunt Ruth. No matter how much faith I have... That plane will not get me there. And what's this BS about proving that an apple is an apple!?!? OF COURSE ITS A FUCKING APPLE! If it didn't display the properties of an apple, it's would be called something else... like... a horse. If an apple displays all the properties of a horse, you don't call it an apple, you call it a horse. This is NOT rocket science. We are not re-inventing the whell here. It's just that somewhere along the way, humans forgot how to think rationally. SO HOW IS THERE NO BASIS OF FACT!?!?
I also dodn't see how you can reduce thousands of years of scientific discovery to "some old guy" in a book told us this was true. Isn't that what the Bible is? (continued)

JR wrote at 12:09am
so you believe in the existance of an invisible man in the sky because some old dude from a book told you, but you don't believe that an apple is an apple even thought several people have told you, AND, you can see an apple with your own two eyes!
So, I ask yo this. If there IS a God, and he DID create us... He certaily created us with the ability to think rationally. So... how does he expect us to suspend that gift of rational though with which he so graciously endowed us, and resort to blind faith in whatever superstition seems to be prevelant in the culture into which we so happened to be born?
when you go to start your car in the morning... try driving it to work without putting the key into the ignition. JUST HAVE FAITH!
Report - Delete

Tonya wrote at 6:20am
John, this kind of angry reply is exactly what I expected, but from the other side of the argument! LOL You actually made me laugh and it's 6 in the morning. Very difficult to do that early.

Again I bring up this quote because it constantly seems to be relevant: Question even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

Kelley the truth is that you CAN prove or disprove many things in this life. If we couldn't, if the world were in such a constant state of flux that nothing was ever fixed then it would be pure chaos. We wouldn't even be able to have this discussion.

Tonya wrote at 7:27am
Would you two mind if I posted your discussion in the comments section under the actual blog? I think it would be good to show the two opposite points of view.

KA wrote at 10:04am
It's fine if you post what I said there, I don't mind. As far as people being angry, it's what I expected as well. The fact that some want to chop the Bible and God up to some fictional story with no basis of any evidence whatsoever has always been and always will be. But, when you throw that exact type of argument back at science those same people become angry.

If you had read through what I said with an open I did with what Tonya would have understood what I was saying.

Where you there when the apple was named? Where you there when language was put into practice. Where you there when Hebrew was translated to English? Where you there when science was put into practice....the wheel discovered....when the world began? I didn't think so.

So...if life and all that is in it has, as we believe, a beginning and and end...then somewhere along the way there was a first time for things to be discovered and named. Just because some caveman called a flat circle a wheel doesn't mean it really is such. Just cause we call it flat and a circle doesn't mean it is. It just means that at some point that is what someone called it and so that is what it is. It's just like a person being given a name upon birth. They have that name because it was given to them.

Do you see where I'm going? The reason it doesn't make sense to question those things is because if we did, where would it stop? So, no science can only be proven to a point. We can only test things to a point...the point where those things were discovered in the first place. There is actually no way to go back to the very beginning of it all and Fact check it. What we have and know is only as valid as those that taught it to us in the first place...

KA wrote at 10:05am
That being said...there is proof of many things in the Bible are true and that those people did in fact exist. So to completely disregard it and it's contents yet take an 8th grade science book as the gospel truth is in itself contradictory.

All I'm saying is that everything we base our facts, history, language, the Bible and so on...well, it all began somewhere. So to believe the story the scientist tells and disregard that which a historian passes along is foolish. There is argument and unbelief in everything. There are scientists who argue points and have disagreements about things....same with historians and even with theologists. That's just the way it goes. We aren't going to agree and believe everything we are told.

Therefore, you can't shove your scientific fact is fact cause I read it in a science book beliefs down my throat anymore than I can shove my theological Biblical beliefs down yours. You are free to believe what you want as am I and anyone else.

But to throw an insulting tantrum and be a jerk about it is just pretty sad. You don't have to agree with me...and I certainly didn't expect you to. However, I have a right to my opinion and though it isn't the same as Tonya's, or yours obviously, I do not intend to yell and crucify you over it. I'm not calling names. I think the way you're acting pretty much does it for me.

I have my FAITH. You don't have to agree or understand it. What you should do is what I am doing. Respecting the fact that people believe differently and have the right to do so. Tonya, I respect the fact that you put this out there knowing that some would disagree with you...and that you respectfully disagree. It's unfortunate that everyone can't have the same maturity.

Tonya wrote at 11:05am
The thing is that many of the people themselves CANNOT be verified. There were people that lived at the times the Bible describes but you would be hard pressed to say that a specific person (unless a king or other type of official) named in the Bible can be proved to have existed in the time and place that is mentioned. Even Jesus is only named in the Bible during the time that he is mentioned. No where else in any historical documents has he been shown to have existed. In the time that he caused such an uproar among the Jewish people and took on the council, in the time that he apparently gathered so many followers that he was seen as a threat, there is no record of this happening in any place other than the Bible. We cannot take one source alone as fact. Any other sources come long after Jesus died and are mainly based on Biblical writings. I'm not saying this proves he doesn't exist, but you cannot use history as an argument here. Many other figures are documented many times over in the times before and after he was alive.

As for science, the only way something can become fact is for it to be proved by many different sources. No one is going to take one experiment and say that proves anything. You must be able to show the same results with the same experiment done by different people. It is much more reliable than history. History can be distorted and has been. The well known cliche of "history is written by the winners."

Tonya said...

Ahhhh, this is so much fun. I just love these kinds of discussions! I love making people uncomfortable!

KA wrote at 12:13pm
Is this really about proving or disproving God? Or was this book about the dangers of "extremists"? Because I think it's safe to say, extremism is dangerous in any capacity. (People using religion as a cover to advance their desires onto others.)
(Hitler, Cults, KKK, and on and on and on.)
And...on the history of those in the you said History can be distorted. If the groups that felt threatened by Jesus and Christians in general killed Him to stop Him...then why wouldn't they wipe Him from the existance of History itself?
This arguement could go on and on. That's why God is mysterious. If He could be proven scientifically in our capacity of thinking, then we wouldn't need Faith to believe in Him. It would be easy. At that wouldn't be believing at all. It would be to follow or not to follow.
Science is easy. History is easy. Faith in anything is not easy. Faith in a relationship isn't easy...there are no guarantees that the other person is who they say they are. There are no guarantees that you won't get hurt. That doesn't mean you stop believing in relationships. It doesn't mean that you stop believing in people.
My question to you is, why is it okay to believe in "energy" and "magic" but it's not okay to believe in God? Isn't the belief in those things just as silly as the belief in God where science is concerned? Just curious.

Tonya wrote at 1:46pm
I disagree, I believe that faith is easy. It's always the answer when people push "why" or "how" to the point that they simply can't answer.

I didn't say I believed in magic. I said it's what some people call the energy that connects us, just as some people call it God. I believe in this energy because I have felt it. Touch is a very powerful sense. I don't need faith when I have felt it.

JR wrote at 3:34pm
I have been in many religious conversations. I have had these conversations with people that use 'backwards logic' in an attempt to make faith sound ligical. They use all of the contrived theorems to try and prove why God exists or whatever else they want to prove. Then, when I question their line of thinking and point out all of the holes, they TEHN revert back to the old cop-out. "Well, you have to just accept in on faith." which brings me to the question. If religion, particularly christianity, is all based on faith.. then why do people go through all this trouble to try and find proof of the things in which they believe? Why does the Christian Scientist school even exist in the first place? Just accept the fact that it all sounds completely absurd and you don't logically understand why any rational thinking human being would want to believe in such tomfoolery. Instead, I am constantly being bombarded with people that want to pass of the existence of god and the validity of their religion a proven fact, and then try and stuff it down my throat adn force me to live by their religious laws. I grew up in a southern baptist household. I constantl had bible crap pounded and drilled into my brain. I was trained on all the classic arguments, and once i reach the age of reason, i found holes in every one of them.

Tonya said...

Ok, so I think the conversation finally died out but I'm hoping maybe KA will write back on my note, I was a little offended and might have offended in return. Sorry about that. If she does, I'll post it tomorrow. Here it is:

JR wrote at 3:37pm
Glad I could make you laugh tonya :P

KA wrote at 6:41pm
Sounds like you have parent issues. I was not brow beat with the Bible and I didn't have it forced on me. I don't like seemingly religious people who shove a scripture for everything.
I don't need proof He exists. I'm fine with my beliefs. I'm fine with the uncertainty. Having Him in my life makes me better than when I didn't have Him.
I don't see how you can think that Faith in God is easy. Do you think it's easy to stand up and speak your peace when the opposing side is basically making fun of you and everything you stand for? So, no, Faith isn't easy. Yes, for some people Faith is an excuse or a punch line.
There's a lot I'd really like to say, but it would serve no purpose. So, whatever.
Last thing I have to say.
IF I'm wrong, then what harm has it brought me? None. It's actually helped make me a stronger and more compasionate person.
IF you're wrong, then what harm comes to you?
Hmm...glad I'm on His side.

KA wrote at 6:57pm
Oh, just saw you added this to your blog. BTY, I'm not uncomfortable. I'm rather enjoying myself. I'm proud that I actually took up for myself which isn't something I do very often.
Oh and I withdraw my comment about you being respectful in your disagreement. It is ovbious now, with your little jabs here and there what your intent was/is. Laugh all you want to. Hope it helps you sleep at night. I'll sleep just fine cause I don't have anything to worry about...therefore I don't need to poke fun at someone else or rip them to shreds in order to do so.

JR wrote at 6:57pm
ha ha ha ha. yeah. I've heard that one too. :) and no, no parent issues.

JR wrote at 7:01pm
no hard feelings either.

JR wrote at 7:17pm
So Tonya, I also agree with pretty much everything that guy wrote. Like you though, I think he is a little too dogmatic on the non-exsistance of god. god is something that can niether be proven nor disproven. to simply believe that he doesn't exist (no matter how logical it sounds) does still require a certain degree of faith. I would venture to say that all-out atheists maintain about as much faith as religious people.

And of course... I would add a whole boatload of Ayn Rand quotes, but seeing as you are already a fan, that would be redundant.

KA wrote at 7:26pm
No hard feelings here either J. It's one of those things that just never ends. Some things you can meet in the middle on, but God is all or nothing. You growing up in a SB household, you know that. I went back and read what I wrote...I hope you know I was teasing about the parent thing. You loose a lot in type that you'd otherwise express in person.
We'll just agree that we disagree. It's something that we'll both eventually find out in time.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. Make sure you say Thanks for the freedom to even have this conversation in your prayers, moment of silence or whatever you do. ;-)

JR wrote at 7:34pm
Yeah, that's usually the way these things end... even in some of the rather lengthy political debates I was involved in this election season. People pretty much believe what they believe, and no amout of convincing will change that. Arriving at what you believe or don't believe in is a PERSONAL JOURNEY. That is the founding principle behind my spiritual/religious/political/whatever -you-wanna-call-it mindset. It's been interesting. peace

Tonya wrote at 7:37pm
I'm sorry if you saw jabs, there were none intended. What I meant by making people uncomfortable was having this discussion on Facebook and my blog where people are obviously reading but not commenting. I was simply stating my opinions too and jabs about parent issues are not helpful nor do they come across as teasing when you obviously mean them. I raised by a very loving mother who taught me that whatever I chose to believe was valid as long as I did so for my own reasons and not others.

Tonya wrote at 7:41pm
By the way, the point of these discussions is not to sway someone one way or another. It is to understand those around us better. If we know where they are coming from, we can react with more caring.

JR wrote at 7:43pm
NO WAY!! Everyone should be like ME! If it's two types of people I hate, it's closed minded people, and people who do not think/act/say the same as me!!! :D