This book is a beautifully narrated, well researched, scientific and philosophical analysis of theism. It comprehensively covers virtually all the academic questions one is likely to ask of religion. In general the cited examples show a bias towards the analysis of Christianity within the United Kingdom and United States of America.
It does however have some idiosyncrasies, the structure and vocabulary has academic tone. The book is not difficult to comprehend, but the meticulous use of referencing does lend itself to frequent repeated listening (perhaps a chapter at a time) if one is to fully appreciate the detail within the work.
I've both read it and listened to this, several times now, and thought I'd wait a bit before adding my comments.
As an audiobook, it's superb - well read, and yes, the two voices work.
As a book, the content is remarkable, well-thought through and devastating - yes, Dawkins has strongly held views and a real anger about religion, its sources and its consequences. It is the book that atheists and agnostics who previously weren't sure why they felt what they felt have been waiting for - it articulates all their concerns.
Which is why, religious readers, simply dismissing it is both foolish and counter-productive. If we cannot read it, respect its honesty (even if we disagree) and counter its arguments intelligently and thoughtfully, other than by stamping our feet and sticking our fingers in our ears then we have no right to take the high ground. (And getting personal and vindictive is hardly Christian!)
Know your enemy, and work out the best way to deal with him! Are we really so insecure about our beliefs that we cannot counter Dawkins on his own ground, intellectually?
When driving I enjoy memoirs and business books. When running I like books about running and mountaineering. Sometimes I dip into fiction.
Yes, I agree that evolution is an obviously compelling alternative to religions theory of creation but I'm not sure it stretches everywhere Dawkins wants it too. Or if it does he lost me in his reasoning.
He also makes some terrible comparative examples. In the section on religion enticing war Dawkins generalises from some pretty extreme preachers to make his case. Yet in a later section he inexplicably defends the catholic church against widespread abuse of children suggesting indoctrination via a religious education is a worse crime.
I agree with his atheist position and many of his arguments are damming. Yet the book is let down where he chooses to argue from some very sketchy ground.
Fantastic book that shows that it's not a crime to question in the belief of god. This book is constantly on my MP3 as it's so easy to go back to and enjoy.
I had been thinking of downloading this book for some time, but as a committed atheist, I wasn?t sure if it would be for me ? I don?t need convincing. I also thought it would be dry. How wrong could I be. I love this book, and the narrative with Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward is very entertaining. I was reminded of the wonderful writing of Douglas Adams with both readers narrative ? appropriately enough, the book is dedicated to Douglas Adams, a good friend of Dawkins (who met his wife and fellow narrator, Lalla Ward though Douglas Adams).
Unlike 'Geoff' from Stockton-on-Tees (a previous reviewer of this work), I have had the benefit of actually listening to the book, and having read most of the rest of the Dawkins oeuvre besides. His writing is never less than exhilarating, and very often devastating. For me, the key theme is his critique of religion as an all-purpose excuse-generating mechanism, whether it is providing the justification for wars, discrimination or plain ignorance about the natural world. Alas, those who are too intellectually cowardly to listen beyond the preview will never experience the thrill and/or challenge of Dawkins' arguments.
I also feel that the book benefits from having been presented in this two-narrator audiobook form, and wonder whether Professor Dawkins' publishers have considered giving his other works a similar treatment.
I'm a long term atheist and I enjoyed the scientific and factual points presented in the book but I found the tone of the writing and in particular the performance to be snooty and disparaging, for me this felt unnecessarily childish and detracted from the message.
I love Dawkins writings on evolution, and The God Delusion has been a force for good in liberating many unhappy victims of religion and in fighting discrimination against atheism as a valid viewpoint, especially in the US. Perhaps most of all, TGD has stimulated huge debate, and hopefully a critical reexamination of religion and many unquestioned traditional beliefs and practices can only be beneficial.
However, just as Creationists misunderstand Evolutionary theory, to me the book is based on a profound misunderstanding of Religion. At times his polemic is reminiscent of those outraged tabloid headlines that deride all modern art as eg. a "Pile of Bricks" or rock music as "noise". The 'just so' evolutionary explanations of misfiring evolutionary strategies or replicating "viral memes" efface any inherent value, and at no point in the book is he curious as to the actual subjective reasons why anyone might commit themselves to any form of spirituality.
Compare Schleiermacher's definition of religion as "...affection, a revelation of the Infinite in the finite" with Dawkins definition as a "viral memeplex" and I hope the subjective importance of the project of religion becomes clear.
One example of this blinkered view is the central "Ultimate 747" argument in the chapter "Why God almost certainly does not exist". God's existence, Dawkins asserts, is a scientific question. If the universe is so unlikely as to require a Creator, then that Creator must be even more complex and therefore even more unlikely! Thus, who created the Creator becomes an infinite regress of ever increasing complexity and therefore improbability.
A simple refutation might be that given eternity, a Creator of almost infinite improbability is possible. Such is not unlike Nick Bostroms "simulation universe" argument.
For the believer however, Gods existence is NOT a scientific question about the existence of a supernatural being eg. an invisible pink spaghetti monster, but a shift in perspective to a different set of foundational assumptions. While Atheism (and Science) assumes the primordial nature of matter/space/time, Theism asserts the primordial nature of mind/thought (John 1:1-5) transcending space/time. A famous metaphor is "Plato's Cave", where prisoners in the dark stare at shadows. Only by turning around do they see (and approach) the light creating the shadow-play. Such pure awareness is not complex. Complexity arises only with many interacting parts/particles. Such may or may not be how things are, but the "ultimate 747" is a bad argument, because it conflates the methodological materialism of science with a presumption of materialism as the established ontology for both religion and science. It assumes God as one of the shadows on the cave wall, not the light creating them.
At times I think the book deliberately misleads, such as with the chapter on ethics in the Bible. Of course, as the book argues, no modern person takes their ethical values from the examples of Yahweh's various atrocities, the actions of Moses or Abraham, or even from the rules in Leviticus. However, to generalise that to the whole Bible is a fallacy. People may still be challenged by "love your enemies" or "that which you do to the least of my brothers, so you do to me" or the parable of the Good Samaritan. For many it is the contemplation of these, sometimes interpreted within a religious community, that can drive positive change and ethical action. How do you decide what to ignore? Newtons writings on Alchemy are ignored in contrast to his Principia. Why not use similar discernment with the Bible?
Social reformers like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu or Mahatma Gandhi were clearly inspired by their faith, and while atheists are no less ethical, religion provides a powerful motivation to take action as dedicated service or ethical reform, as the many religiously inspired charities bear witness.
One final bugbear for me was the frequent conflation of faith as "blind faith". Look it up in the OED, and faith is "belief in the absence of PROOF", not the absence of evidence. Thus the theists "leap of faith" into uncertainty, need not be blind, but from the best evidence available. Only fundamentalists seem to share the atheists concept of faith as "blind".
In summary then, "The God Delusion" is a great polemic, but misleading if listened to uncritically. Dawkins is astute in highlighting the backwardness of many religious beliefs (such as the literal truth of the Bible) and he does an excellent job pointing out their irrational absurdities, superstitions and oppressive cruelties. As with all his audiobooks it is also very engagingly read both by the author, and in contrapuntal style by his wife, Lalla Ward.
However, his contempt for religion distorts his judgement, and the book suffers from a blinding confirmation bias, and a failure to think beyond a strictly scientific paradigm. Many of his arguments on close examination turn out to be misleading or based on false assumptions, and explanations based on his own pet theories (e.g. memetics), are not widely accepted as mainstream science. Most importantly, the book fails to even acknowledge, let alone explain as motivation, any inherent subjective spiritual experience, insight or motivation gained through religion.
It's a powerful book, and potentially a persuasive one, but keep your head with you -don't take the validity of any argument simply on "blind faith".
Personally I just didn't like the whole double act presentation of this so listen to a preview and see if you can bear with it for a whole book
I bought this after having read the book twice. In terms of content it is brilliant.
Dawkins argues everything so clearly and is one of the few intellectuals who, in my opinion, makes his subject available to the general public without dumbing it down.
As it should be with such discussions, I didn't agree with the arguments on a few issues but the general direction is unquestionable and has helped me to formalise my own debates with 'believers'.
An extra plus to the audio version is the narration. So often I download books that I have read and enjoyed, not to be able to listen to them because of tedious narration. This is not one of those books.
This is a must read book for people of all persuasions.