The God Delusion

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-01-16
  • Publisher: Houghton Miff

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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.

Author Biography

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 editionp. 13
Prefacep. 23
A Deeply Religious Non-Believerp. 31
Deserved respectp. 31
Undeserved respectp. 41
The God Hypothesisp. 51
Polytheismp. 52
Monotheismp. 58
Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of Americap. 60
The poverty of agnosticismp. 69
NOMAp. 77
The Great Prayer Experimentp. 85
The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionistsp. 90
Little green menp. 94
Arguments for God's Existencep. 100
Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs'p. 100
The ontological argument and other a priori argumentsp. 103
The argument from beautyp. 110
The argument from personal 'experience'p. 112
The argument from scripturep. 117
The argument from admired religious scientistsp. 123
Pascal's Wagerp. 130
Bayesian argumentsp. 132
Why There Almost Certainly is No Godp. 137
The Ultimate Boeing 747p. 137
Natural selection as a consciousness-raiserp. 139
Irreducible complexityp. 144
The worship of gapsp. 151
The anthropic principle: planetary versionp. 162
The anthropic principle: cosmological versionp. 169
An interlude at Cambridgep. 180
The Roots of Religionp. 190
The Darwinian imperativep. 190
Direct advantages of religionp. 194
Group selectionp. 198
Religion as a by-product of something elsep. 200
Psychologically primed for religionp. 208
Tread softly, because you tread on my memesp. 222
Cargo cultsp. 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 moralityp. 254
If there is no God, why be good?p. 259
The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeistp. 268
The Old Testamentp. 269
Is the New Testament any better?p. 283
Love thy neighbourp. 288
The moral Zeitgeistp. 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 sciencep. 319
The dark side of absolutismp. 323
Faith and homosexualityp. 326
Faith and the sanctity of human lifep. 329
The Great Beethoven Fallacyp. 337
How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticismp. 341
Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religionp. 349
Physical and mental abusep. 354
In defence of childrenp. 366
An educational scandalp. 372
Consciousness-raising againp. 379
Religious education as a part of literary culturep. 383
A Much Needed Gap?p. 388
Binkerp. 389
Consolationp. 394
Inspirationp. 404
The mother of all burkasp. 405
A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religionp. 421
Books cited or recommendedp. 427
Notesp. 436
Indexp. 449
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

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