Book Review: Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion

Luka Willett ’20

Starting with an arguably pugnacious title, University of Oxford’s Richard Dawkins makes his intentions clear from the very beginning of his book that he will thoroughly contend a supernatural being does not exist. With his impressive rational skills, Dawkins sets out deconstructing a wide range of arguments for God’s existence, identifying the logical fallacies nestled in each one. He takes on even the most famous theists: Pascal and his famous wager, Thomas Aquinas and his five “proofs” of God, even Stephen Unwin and his use of Bayes’ theorem to demonstrate the probability of God’s existence, which Dawkins scathingly dismisses as “quite agreeably funny.”

Although he dismantles theists’ points with logic, his words are evidently touched with a persistent disdain for people of religious faith. He writes of “a mind hijacked by religion” and sees “sucking up to God” as a puzzling rationale for being a good person. Dawkins is also, unsurprisingly, horrified by the envious rage of the Christian God in the Old Testament and seriously questions the ubiquitous oddities in the Bible, calling them “a chaotically cobbled together anthology of disjointed documents.” When sophisticated believers claim disarmingly that “we don’t take Genesis literally any more,” he rails “That is my whole point!”

Many may have simply read his title and written him off as an atheist fundamentalist, but Dawkins argues in his book that he is not one, stating that if he were to be given irrefutable proof that he was wrong, he would change his opinions immediately.

On the other hand, a true religious fundamentalist would hold to their belief no matter how illogical. He makes a salient point here, but I’m afraid he fails to see that for many people, reasoned argument is not the final arbiter of how they choose to live their lives. People are swayed by feelings, moved by loyalties, willing to set logic aside for the sake of psychic comfort. Tell them that all this is the product of chemical and electrical activity in the brain and they will at best assert that God made it thus.

For me, this is the problem with Dawkins’s book: one can not change a belief founded on illogical principles with logic reasoning. Although I very much enjoyed reading Dawkins’s book, I find it important to state that with this book there are two types of readers: atheists and theists. The stone cold atheist simply looks for reassurance of their own belief, while the theist most likely feels offended and unswayed by the logical arguments that are completely separate from their ontological framework by which they believe in God. In short, I believe this book fails to accomplish its established goal from the outset: to change minds.

Although, I am in agreement with Dawkins that he is right to be not only angry, but alarmed. Religions have the secular world running scared, and this book is a clarion call to non-believers around the world. Primed by anger, redeemed by humour, it will, I trust, offend many.