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November 15-21, 2006

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'The God Delusion'

The God Delusion
(By Richard Dawkins; Houghton Mifflin Company; 406 pages; $27 cloth)

As an atheist by inclination and upbringing (Unitarian Sunday school is as close as I ever got to the divine), I enjoyed the hell (if that's the word) out of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, a blistering frontal attack on the inconsistencies, irrationality and destructive effects of religion on society. Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and staunch defender of pure Darwinism, brushes aside arguments on behalf of a meddlesome supernatural entity as failing the most basic tests of rationality, logic and evidence. Theology's trump card comes in two forms: If it looks designed, it was; and what came before the beginning, if not God? Dawkins relies on the bedrock insight of natural selection—large complex beings arise from eons of incremental change—to topple the first; and reductio ad absurdam (in essence, if God created the universe, then who created God, and so on and so on), to level the second. That doesn't take long, and Dawkins spends the rest of his treatise disputing the moral claims of religion (surely, we can be good without keeping one eye on the prize of heaven), decrying the very real crimes committed in the name of God and chastising his fellow scientists who seem afraid to tackle the fundamentalists head on. Unfortunately, I suspect that Dawkins' heaping of scorn upon the theists will convince only those skeptics who don't need a secular conversion experience.

Review by Michael S. Gant


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