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24 January, 2007

Okay, okay; I'm a believer

I'm only 66 pages into 'The God Delusion', by Richard Dawkins, so it's somewhat too early to present a review, but frankly I see limited point in proceeding much further.

  • I'm already 100% atheist, so Dawkins doesn't have to convince me of anything, and I don't seek the affirmation of other atheists.
  • I don't regard religions with hostility (well, maybe a little for christianity, as that's the one which lied to me personally), so derive no enjoyment from Dawkin's systematic debunking.
  • I intensely dislike evangelism, including atheist evangelism (which, incidentally, I'd never encountered before – atheism tends to be an individual choice, and incompatible with the concept of 'recruitment'). I'd never dream of engaging in it myself, so I don't need the ammunition provided by Dawkins, compelling as it is.
I suspect there are two main audiences for this book.
The first group comprises certain existing atheists gleefully eager to see religions attacked, as some sort of pathetic blood sport, or seeking arguments to throw at the religious (hopefully only in self-defence against evangelists or otherwise when provoked). As I've said, I feel little affinity with them.
The second group comprises religious people questioning their faith. It's a great pity that Dawkins' tone, at least in the opening chapters, is so confrontational; it seems to be directed more at his frothing hardline critics than the more open-minded readers who might actually be reached by his message.

I'm not really sure what Dawkins has to say to a third group: those atheists who, like me, are already entirely happy and secure in our beliefs. Perhaps I should read the remaining 350 pages after all, and find out.


I'm convinced Dawkins is as much a fundamentalist as any Islamist or Bible Belt tub-thumper. It's the same basic mindset; "I'm right and anyone who disagrees is wrong".

In his recent documentary he seemed quite comfortable with batshit crazy fundies, who he saw as kindred spirits who had just chosen the wrong brand of fundamentalism.

He was most uncomfortable with people like the Bishop of Edinburgh who saw no conflict between faith and science. He just couldn't get his head round the idea that someone could be comfortable without having to know a fixed answer to every possible philosophical question.

Dawkins is as big a bigot as Ian Paisley or that Iman with the hook.

Posted by Tim Hall at January 24, 2007 06:34 PM

I wouldn't go that far. I question the objectives of his book – I consider a strident campaign to convert theists to be no less crass and objectionable than entertaining existing atheists by mocking theists, and even if one accepted the former aim as well-meaning, I don't think his language is conducive to its success.
However, ultimately he's 'only' challenging people to think for themselves. It's somewhat offensive to compare him to preachers who incite physical violence.

I don't really want to get into details, but if one was to accept the validity of his campaign (and I'm not saying I do), I could quite understand Dawkins being more concerned about seemingly-moderate opinion-formers like the ex-Bishop of Edinburgh than easily-dismissed fundamentalist nutters.

Posted by NRT at January 24, 2007 06:49 PM
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