Both sides now.

The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God
-Psalms 14:1

You know, I rather like this God fellow. Very theatrical, you know.
Pestilence here, a plague there. Omnipotence … gotta get me some of
-Stewie from Family Guy

If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that he’s an underachiever.
-Woody Allen

Ever since I read End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation I have been wanting to read additional books by the “atheist chic”. Therefore, when I had the  chance to purchase The God Delusion from Quality Paperback Club I jumped on it. Unfortunately, this much talked about and controversial book had to languish unread at my bedside for months before I actually read the thing. After finishing it, I followed it up with the book’s counter-point The Dawkins Delusion by the husband and wife team of Alister and Joanna McGrath. It is a rare opportunity when one can read two diametrically opposed works back to back. Since the search for truth is a dialectical process, any chance a person has to read differing opinions on an important subject should be taken advantage of. It can only aid one in the search for knowledge and understanding.
In the first chapter or so of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins confidently boasts that upon finishing his book, the reader, after being presented with the evidence, will become an atheist. Well Richard, I hate to tell you this but you did not convert me. However, his evidence was strong and his arguments were very, very compelling. While he did not make an atheist out of me, Dawkins has forced me to look at things in a new light. This will certainly make me challenge some of my underlying beliefs and assumptions.  Any worthy intellectual exercise should do just that.
His evolutionary-inspired explanations for religious associated traits such as altruism, morality and uncritical belief were plausible, interesting but for good bad or otherwise -still theoretical. His wit and sarcasm makes for highly entertaining reading, although it will probably piss off more than a few theists. Likewise his somewhat militant tone will make it difficult for Dawkins and his followers to engage in any friendly dialog with Christians, Jews, Muslims or any other believers.
I found his thought on the Bible interesting, but he made a major boo-boo when he claimed that Saint Paul was the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews. He also takes an “all of nothing” approach when it comes to seeing the Bible as an inspirer of morality and belief. Just because there are a number of unsavory passages in the Hebrew Bible, it does not mean that believers cannot take inspiration from the more humanistic parts of the Biblical cannon. Ironically, this is similar to creationists attempting to discredit evolution by saying that complex biological organs such as eyes or wings could not gradually evolve, (what good is 5 per cent of a wing or eye, they might ask).
Of the two books, for whatever gripes I might have against Dawkins, his book was still the more entertaining and well-written of the two. Despite his prejudices, his book was the more thought provoking of the two. Honestly, despite the very valid points raised in the Dawkins Delusion, I thought the book was a slight disappointment. Perhaps a better book along these lines would be Is Religion Dangerous? by Keith Ward.
Speaking of books, you can always tell if a book is good if it motivates you to read more books like it. After reading these two books I’m planning on reading Breaking the Spell.

I also want to read some works by various Christian apologists, too.

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1 Comment

Filed under Agnostic/Atheist/Skeptic, Science

One response to “Both sides now.

  1. I was completely unimpressed with Dawkins. Harris, and Hitchens. They are pale imitations of atheists who were actual humanists like Russel, Voltaire, & Huxley. They also are, imho, dangerous to the body politic, as their utopian Socialism would tend toward fascism. You should read the book I Don't Believe In Atheists. It was written by the guy who wrote about the Christian Right being the new fascsists threat to American ploitics, so he isn't writing with Christian sympathy. I think he hit the nail right on the head with the "New Atheists."

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