One of the major criticisms/compliments that reviewers the world over level at The God Delusion is that it’s almost impossible to read it without becoming exasperated at some point. I find this rather baffling. To have one’s views challenged, proven to be wrong, or in my case, supported (for once!) with such eloquence, such zeal, such passion and indeed such compassion is an enlightening and exhilarating experience. While Richard Dawkins makes no bones about his work being both an attack on religion and a concerted effort to make religious people change their minds, one must not forget that there is a considerable slice of the human population who will also benefit enormously by it: the atheist on the street. Who is he? He is not a philosopher or a scientist, and has thought his way into atheism pretty much on his own steam. He has seen the atrocities committed in the name of the God and is incapable of believing in a God that demands such things from his followers. Alternately he has trouble believing that God can exist in a world that’s such a horrible place. He has enough common sense and knows enough about evolution to know that creationism is bullshit, but doesn’t really understand the huge heights that evolution and natural selection can soar to and what they can tell us about humanity; about ourselves. This is the kind of person that will benefit most from this book, because it gives his ideas a true raison d’être. The God Delusion is a glorious hymn to the beauty of our world and of our universe, and a pitiless unmasking of the cronyism, brainwashing, abuse, narrow-mindedness and alarming, pointless cruelty that lies at the very heart of religion and that has a devastatingly negative impact on those who practise it.
The God Delusion is a meticulously well-argued, well-researched and fiercely well-written book that addresses the hugely complex question of whether or not God exists in a rational, objective, crystal clear-cut and mercifully unconfused way. In Dawkins’ long-time experience as an academic, writer and atheist, he has had every possible angle of the opposite side’s case patiently argued with him, obligingly sent to him, screamed at him, thrown at him and scorched onto his retinas in the most awful hate mail one could imagine; and he uses all this to structure a book that covers every aspect one could possibly think of in defence of the Almighty’s existence, debunking every argument from mankind’s need to derive comfort from a higher power, to the absurd belief that religion is linked to morality, curving round to the pettier squabbles of the creationist playground (‘Stalin and Hitler were atheists! What have you got to say about that?’). All of this is accomplished by science, science that pulls off blindfolds, opens windows and lets in the light, science that is responsible for more aspects of human life and behaviour than most of us could imagine in the whole course of our existence. It is also especially important that Dawkins puts forth his astonishingly complex and convincing argument as to the scientific invalidity of God’s existence in the book’s central chapter ‘Why there is almost certainly no God,’ before he proceeds to tear the Bible and then religion in general to shreds; this because the reader is not first blinded by a long discussion of the horrors once perpetrated and that are still perpetrated in religion’s name, of the poisoning of minds, of the ruining of innocence and of the architecture of intolerance. We start with lucid, if impassioned analysis and discussion. We get indignant, horrified and just plain pissed off later on. This way, we first understand why God does not exist. We then understand why the notion should not even be countenanced in any civilised society.
This doesn’t mean that the book constitutes a lot of crazed anti-religious rambling. On the contrary, while Dawkins’ blood does boil at the treatment of women and children in the Bible (as well as all the genocide, infanticide and rape that are par for the course), he expresses great admiration for its more beautiful passages, such as the Song of Songs, declaring that the Bible should not be completely obliterated: we should just read it like the mythology it is. He is also ridiculously well-read in creationist literature and cites such works at length and in context, thus increasing both the strength of his argument as well as its objectivity.
The God Delusion is a great read that resembles waking up: powerful, brave, enlightening, the equivalent of a strong light piercing a general state of fogginess. It’s a brilliant academic work, but the language is clear, concise and moving, making it accessible and enjoyable both to the scientifically challenged and to just plain ordinary people. It’s the kind of book that everyone should read, and that would change the world completely if everybody did.