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In this provocative must-read, the preeminent scientist-and world's most prominent atheist-Richard Dawkins asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong, but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight on the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster. With rigor and wit, Dawkins eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. This is a book that challenges all of us to test our beliefs, no matter what beliefs we hold.
Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil’s Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.
Table of Contents
|Preface to the paperback edition||p. 13|
|A Deeply Religious Non-Believer||p. 31|
|Deserved respect||p. 31|
|Undeserved respect||p. 41|
|The God Hypothesis||p. 51|
|Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America||p. 60|
|The poverty of agnosticism||p. 69|
|The Great Prayer Experiment||p. 85|
|The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists||p. 90|
|Little green men||p. 94|
|Arguments for God's Existence||p. 100|
|Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs'||p. 100|
|The ontological argument and other a priori arguments||p. 103|
|The argument from beauty||p. 110|
|The argument from personal 'experience'||p. 112|
|The argument from scripture||p. 117|
|The argument from admired religious scientists||p. 123|
|Pascal's Wager||p. 130|
|Bayesian arguments||p. 132|
|Why There Almost Certainly is No God||p. 137|
|The Ultimate Boeing 747||p. 137|
|Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser||p. 139|
|Irreducible complexity||p. 144|
|The worship of gaps||p. 151|
|The anthropic principle: planetary version||p. 162|
|The anthropic principle: cosmological version||p. 169|
|An interlude at Cambridge||p. 180|
|The Roots of Religion||p. 190|
|The Darwinian imperative||p. 190|
|Direct advantages of religion||p. 194|
|Group selection||p. 198|
|Religion as a by-product of something else||p. 200|
|Psychologically primed for religion||p. 208|
|Tread softly, because you tread on my memes||p. 222|
|Cargo cults||p. 234|
|The Roots of Morality: Why are We Good?||p. 241|
|Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin?||p. 245|
|A case study in the roots of morality||p. 254|
|If there is no God, why be good?||p. 259|
|The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist||p. 268|
|The Old Testament||p. 269|
|Is the New Testament any better?||p. 283|
|Love thy neighbour||p. 288|
|The moral Zeitgeist||p. 298|
|What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren't they atheists?||p. 308|
|What's Wrong with Religion? Why Be So Hostile?||p. 317|
|Fundamentalism and the subversion of science||p. 319|
|The dark side of absolutism||p. 323|
|Faith and homosexuality||p. 326|
|Faith and the sanctity of human life||p. 329|
|The Great Beethoven Fallacy||p. 337|
|How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticism||p. 341|
|Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion||p. 349|
|Physical and mental abuse||p. 354|
|In defence of children||p. 366|
|An educational scandal||p. 372|
|Consciousness-raising again||p. 379|
|Religious education as a part of literary culture||p. 383|
|A Much Needed Gap?||p. 388|
|The mother of all burkas||p. 405|
|A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion||p. 421|
|Books cited or recommended||p. 427|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|
1 A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER I don't try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it. -Albert Einstein DESERVED RESPECT The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands. He suddenly found himself overwhelmed by a heightened awareness of the tangled stems and roots, a forest in microcosm, a transfigured world of ants and beetles and even though he wouldn't have known the details at the time of soil bacteria by the billions, silently and invisibly shoring up the economy of the micro-world. Suddenly the micro-forest of the turf seemed to swell and become one with the universe, and with the rapt mind of the boy contemplating it. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it led him eventually to the priesthood. He was ordained an Anglican priest and became a chaplain at my school, a teacher of whom I was fond. It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.* In another time and place, that boy could have been me under the stars, dazzled by Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major, tearful with the unheard music of the Milky Way, heady with the night scents of frangipani and trumpet flowers in an African garden. Why the same emotion should have led my chaplain in one direction and me in the other is not an easy question to answer. A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists. It has no connection with supernatural belief. In his boyhood at least, my chaplain was presumably not aware (nor was I) of the closing lines of The Origin of Species the famous 'entangled bank'passage, 'with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth'. Had he been, he would certainly have identified with it and, instead of the priesthood, might have been led to Darwin's view that all was 'produced by laws acting around us': Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, wrote: How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant'? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. All Sagan's books touch the nerve-endings of transcendent wonder that religion monopolized in past centuries. My own books have the same aspiration. Consequently I hear myself often described as a deeply religious man. An American student wrote to me that she had asked her professor whether he had a view about me. 'Sure,'he replied. 'He's positive science is incompatible with religion, but he waxes ecstatic about nature and the universe. To me, that is religion!'But is 'religion'the righ