“If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about. The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination,” writes Richard Dawkins. Calling himself as consciousness-raiser atheist, he said, “My dream is that this book may help people to come out” and “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen to me. And yet, I find that this book is thought-provoking and brilliant.
When I talked to my friends about this book, I asked them to question me as if I’m an atheist. Because I studied Dawkins’s perspectives and arguments mainly from documentaries such as “The Genius of Charles Darwin”, “The God Delusion: The Root of All Evil”, “Enemies of Reasons”, “The Atheist: Richard Dawkins”, “Faith School Menace” and through his many debates and interviews such as “The Selfish Gene” and “An Appetite for Wonder”, easily I find that in the end of our conversations my friends are either looking up thinking, speaking up defensively or shutting up conclude that it doesn’t matter. For the latter group of people, I would like to quote Dawkins: “Unquestioning faith is [not] a virtue.”
There are many things I agree with the author such as “There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents”; “Religion can be a force for evil in the world”; “Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness [suicide bombers] in otherwise sane and decent people”; “The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism”, etc. What I disagree with Dawkins are his treatments of the Scripture (out-of-context), his ideas about the God of the Old Testament (The God hypothesis), and his bias references to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus suggesting that Jesus is a myth and never really existed.
As Christian, I make it a habit NOT to read only Christian books. In the past I had read book by Michael Shermer, another influential atheist, entitled The Believing Brain (I would also refer to Sam Harris and late Christopher Hitchens). Both books instead of moving me away from the God of the Bible, they actually help me to think biblically and critically on the faith issues. Books that doesn’t help you to think, doesn’t worth your time. However, if you’re a new Christian, I suggest that you may want to strengthen your faith and understanding of the Word first. Discernment and Biblical worldview are much needed especially if you want to read this kind of books. Below are Richard Dawkins’s book contents:
Chapter 1: A Deeply Religious Non-Believer
Deserved respect. Undeserved respect.
Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis
Polytheism. Monotheism. Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religious of America. The poverty of agnosticism. NOMA. The Great Prayer Experiment. The Neville Chamberlain School of evolutionists. Little green men.
Chapter 3: Arguments for God’s Existence
Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proofs’. The ontological argument and other a priori arguments. The argument from beauty. The argument from personal ‘experience.’ The argument from scripture. The argument from admired religious scientist. Pascal’s Wager. Bayesian arguments.
Chapter 4: Why There Almost Certainly is No God
The Ultimate Boeing 747. Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser. Irreducible complexity. The worship of gaps. The anthropic principle: planetary version. The anthropic principle: cosmological version. An interlude at Cambridge.
Chapter 5: The Roots of Religion
The Darwinian imperative. Direct advantages of religion. Group selection. Religion as a by-product of something else. Psychologically primed for religion. Tread softly, because you tread on my memes. Cargo cults.
Chapter 6: The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?
Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin? A case study in the roots of morality. If there is no God, why be good?
Chapter 7: The ‘Good’ Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist
The Old Testament. Is the New Testament any better? Love thy neighbour. The moral Zeitgeist. What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they atheists?
Chapter 8: What’s Wrong with Religion? Why Be So Hostiles?
Fundamentalism and the subversion of science. The dark side of absolutism. Faith and homosexuality. Faith and the sanctity of human life. The Great Beethoven Fallacy. How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism.
Chapter 9: Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion
Physical and mental abuse. In defence of children. An educational scandal. Consciousness-raising again. Religious education as a part of literary culture.
Chapter 10: A Much Needed Gap?
Binker. Consolation. Inspiration. The mother of all burkas.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.