Unformatted text preview: The Delusio Richard
Dawkins Acclaim for The GOD Delusion
"At last, one of the best nonfktion writers alive today has assembled his thoughts
on religion into a characteristically elegant book. If you think that science is just
another religion, that religion is about our higher values, or that scientists are just
as dogmatic as believers, then read this book and see if you car. counter Dawkins's
arguments. They are passionately stated and poetically ev^ressed but are rooted
in reason and evidence."
- S T E V E N PINKER, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University,
author of The Language Instinct, Hon the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate "Oh, it's so refreshing, after being told all your life that it is virtuous to be full of
faith, spirit, and superstition, to read such a resounding trumpet blast for truth
instead. It feels like coming up for air."
-MATT RIDLEY, author of Genome and Francis Crick "Dawkins gives human sympathies and emotions their proper value, which is one
of the things that lends his criticisms of religion such force. Many religious leaders today are men who, it's obvious to anyone but their deranged followers, are
willing to sanction vicious cruelty in the service of their faith. Dawkins hits
them with all the power that reason can wield, demolishing their preposterous
attempts to prove the existence of God, or their presumptuous claims that religion is the only basis of morality, or that their holy books are literally true."
- P H I L I P PULLMAN, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy "This is a brave and important book. Is it too much to hope that it will dump religious bigotry in the dustbin of history where it belongs?"
- DESMOND MORRIS, author of The Naked Ape and The Human Animal "Richard Dawkins is the leading soothsayer of our time. Through his exploration
of the gene-based evolution of life, his work has had a profound effect on so
much of our collective thinking, and The God Delusion continues his thoughtprovoking tradition."
— J . CRAIG VENTER, decoder of the human genome "The God Delusion is smart, compassionate, and true like ice, like fire. If this book
doesn't change the world, we're all Screwed."
- P E N N AND TELLER 978-0-618-68000-9
780618"680009 6-89776 $27.00 U.S.
$35.95 CAN. This is exceptional reading-even funny at
times . . . You needn't buy the total Dawkins
package to glory in his having the guts to
lay out the evils religions can do. Biblethumpers doubtless will declare they've
found their Satan incarnate."
- K I R K U S REVIEWS (starred review) ^ _ preeminent scientist — and the
world's most prominent atheist — asserts
the irrationality of belief in God and the
grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.
With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines
God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed
tyrant of the Old Testament to the more
benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment
thinkers. He 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. The God Delusion makes a
compelling case that belief in God is not
just wrong but potentially deadly It also
offers exhilarating insight into 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. RICHARD DAWKINS is the Charles Simo
Professor of the Public Understanding of
Science at Oxford University, a position he
has held since 1995. The Wall Street Journal
said his "passion is supported by an aweinspiring literary craftsmanship." The New
lark Times Book Review has hailed him as a
writer who "understands the issues so clearly that he forces his reader to understand
them too." 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. Jacket design by Martha Kennedy
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, Massachusetts 0 2 1 1 6
THE GOD DELUSION Books by Richard Dawkins
THE SELFISH GENE THE EXTENDED PHENOTYPE THE BLIND WATCHMAKER RIVER OUT OF EDEN CLIMBING MOUNT IMPROBABLE UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW A DEVIL'S CHAPLAIN THE ANCESTOR'S TALE THE GOD DELUSION Richard Dawkins THE GOD
DELUSION HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY Boston • New York Copyright © 200e by Richard Dawkins
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED First published in Great Britain by Bantam Press,
a division of Transworld Publishers, 2006
For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to Permissions,
Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South,
New York, New York 10003.
Visit our Web site: .
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dawkins, Richard, date.
The God delusion / Richard Dawkins.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-IO: 0-618-68000-4 1. Irreligion. 2. Atheism. 3. God. 4. Religion. I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
MP IO 9 8 7 6 IN MEMORIAM Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
'Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful
without having to believe that there are
fairies at the bottom of it too?' CONTENTS
Preface 1 1 A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER 9
Deserved respect 11
Undeserved respect 20 2 THE GOD HYPOTHESIS 29
Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion
of America 38
The poverty of agnosticism 46
The Great Prayer Experiment 61
The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists 66
Little green men 69 3 ARGUMENTS FOR GOD'S EXISTENCE 75
Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs' 77
The ontological argument and other a priori
The argument from beauty 86
The argument from personal 'experience' 87
The argument from scripture 92 ill T H E GO D I) E I. U S I O N The argument from admired religious scientists 97
Pascal's Wager 103
Bayesian arguments 105 4 WHY THERE ALMOST CERTAINLY IS NO GOD 111
The Ultimate Boeing 747 113
Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser 114
Irreducible complexity 119
The worship of gaps 125
The anthropic principle: planetary version 134
The anthropic principle: cosmological version 141
An interlude at Cambridge 151 5 THE ROOTS OF RELIGION 161
The Darwinian imperative 163
Direct advantages of religion 166
Group selection 169
Religion as a by-product of something else 172
Psychologically primed for religion 179
Tread softly, because you tread on my mêmes 191
Cargo cults 202 6 THE ROOTS OF MORALITY: WHY ARE
WE GOOD? 209
Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin? 214
A case study in the roots of morality 222
If there is no God, why be good? 226 C ON T EN TS 7 THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING
MORAL ZEITGEIST 235
The Old Testament 237
Is the New Testament any better? 250
Love thy neighbour 254
The moral Zeitgeist 262
What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren't they
atheists? 272 8 WHAT'S WRONG WITH RELIGION?
WHY BE SO HOSTILE? 279
Fundamentalism and the subversion of science 282
The dark side of absolutism 286
Faith and homosexuality 289
Faith and the sanctity of human life 291
The Great Beethoven Fallacy 298
How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticism 301 9 CHILDHOOD, ABUSE AND THE ESCAPE
FROM RELIGION 309
Physical and mental abuse 315
In defence of children 325
An educational scandal 331
Consciousness-raising again 337
Religious education as a part of literary culture 340 x T HE GO I) I) E L U S 1 0 N 1 0 A MUCH NEEDED GAP? 345
The mother of all burkas 362 Appendix:
A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals
needing support in escaping from religion 375
Books cited or recommended 380
Index 400 L L A I
r r\ V> HH
LJ As a child, my wife hated her school and wished she could leave.
Years later, when she was in her twenties, she disclosed this
unhappy fact to her parents, and her mother was aghast: 'But
darling, why didn't you come to us and tell us?' Lalla's reply is my
text for today: 'But I didn't know I could.'
I didn't know I could.
I suspect - well, I am sure - that there are lots of people out there
who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy
in it, don't believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in
its name; people who feel vague yearnings to leave their parents'
religion and wish they could, but just don't realize that leaving is an
option. If you are one of them, this book is for you. It is intended
to raise consciousness - raise consciousness to the fact that to be an
atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You
can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually
fulfilled. That is the first of my consciousness-raising messages. I
also want to raise consciousness in three other ways, which I'll
come on to.
In January 2006 I presented a two-part television documentary on
British television (Channel Four) called Root of All EviU From the
start, I didn't like the title. Religion is not the root of all evil, for
no one thing is the root of all anything. But I was delighted with the
advertisement that Channel Four put in the national newspapers.
It was a picture of the Manhattan skyline with the caption 'Imagine
a world without religion.' What was the connection? The twin
towers of the World Trade Center were conspicuously present.
Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine
no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts,
no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian
wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews
as 'Christ-killers', no Northern Ireland 'troubles', no 'honour
killings', no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing
gullible people of their money ('God wants you to give till it
hurts'). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public E G O I ) D E .[.. U S I G N beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime
of showing an inch of it. Incidentally, my colleague Desmond
Morris informs me that John Lennon's magnificent song is sometimes performed in America with the phrase 'and no religion too'
expurgated. One version even has the effrontery to change it to 'and
one religion too'.
Perhaps you feel that agnosticism is a reasonable position, but
that atheism is just as dogmatic as religious belief? If so, I hope
Chapter 2 will change your mind, by persuading you that 'the God
Hypothesis' is a scientific hypothesis about the universe, which
should be analysed as sceptically as any other. Perhaps you have
been taught that philosophers and theologians have put forward
good reasons to believe in God. If you think that, you might enjoy
Chapter 3 on 'Arguments for God's existence' - the arguments turn
out to be spectacularly weak. Maybe you think it is obvious that
God must exist, for how else could the world have come into being?
How else could there be life, in all its rich diversity, with every
species looking uncannily as though it had been 'designed'? If your
thoughts run along those lines, I hope you will gain enlightenment
from Chapter 4 on 'Why there almost certainly is no God'.
Far from pointing to a designer, the illusion of design in the living
world is explained with far greater economy and with devastating
elegance by Darwinian natural selection. And, while natural selection
itself is limited to explaining the living world, it raises our consciousness to the likelihood of comparable explanatory 'cranes' that may
aid our understanding of the cosmos itself. The power of cranes such
as natural selection is the second of my four consciousness-raisers.
Perhaps you think there must be a god or gods because anthropologists and historians report that believers dominate every
human culture. If you find that convincing, please refer to Chapter
5, on 'The roots of religion', which explains why belief is so
ubiquitous. Or do you think that religious belief is necessary in
order for us to have justifiable morals? Don't we need God, in order
to be good? Please read Chapters 6 and 7 to see why this is not so.
Do you still have a soft spot for religion as a good thing for the
world, even if you yourself have lost your faith? Chapter 8 will
invite you to think about ways in which religion is not such a good
thing for the world. P R E FA C 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. If you are religious
at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of
your parents. If you were born in Arkansas and you think
Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you
would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan,
you are the victim of childhood indoctrination. Mutatis mutandis
if you were born in Afghanistan.
The whole matter of religion and childhood is the subject of
Chapter 9, which also includes my third consciousness-raiser. Just
as feminists wince when they hear 'he' rather than 'he or she', or
'man' rather than 'human', I want everybody to flinch whenever we
hear a phrase such as 'Catholic child' or 'Muslim child'. Speak of a
'child of Catholic parents' if you like; but if you hear anybody
speak of a 'Catholic child', stop them and politely point out that
children are too young to know where they stand on such issues,
just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics
or politics. Precisely because my purpose is consciousness-raising,
I shall not apologize for mentioning it here in the Preface as well
as in Chapter 9. You can't say it too often. I'll say it again. That
is not a Muslim child, but a child of Muslim parents. That child is
too young to know whether it is a Muslim or not. There is no
such thing as a Muslim child. There is no such thing as a Christian
Chapters 1 and 10 top and tail the book by explaining, in their
different ways, how a proper understanding of the magnificence of
the real world, while never becoming a religion, can fill the
inspirational role that religion has historically - and inadequately usurped.
My fourth consciousness-raiser is atheist pride. Being an atheist
is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something
to be proud of, standing tall to face the far horizon, for atheism
nearly always indicates a healthy independence of mind and,
indeed, a healthy mind. There are many people who know, in their
heart of hearts, that they are atheists, but dare not admit it to
their families or even, in some cases, to themselves. Partly, this is
because the very word 'atheist' has been assiduously built up as a H E G O D D E I . I.) S I G N terrible and frightening label. Chapter 9 quotes the comedian Julia
Sweeney's tragi-comic story of her parents' discovery, through
reading a newspaper, that she had become an atheist. Not believing
in God they could just about take, but an atheist! An ATHEIST}
(The mother's voice rose to a scream.)
I need to say something to American readers in particular at this
point, for the religiosity of today's America is something truly
remarkable. The lawyer Wendy Kaminer was exaggerating only
slightly when she remarked that making fun of religion is as risky
as burning a flag in an American Legion Hall.1 The status of
atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty
years ago. Now, after the Gay Pride movement, it is possible,
though still not very easy, for a homosexual to be elected to public
office. A Gallup poll taken in 1999 asked Americans whether they
would vote for an otherwise well-qualified person who was a woman
(95 per cent would), Roman Catholic (94 per cent would), Jew (92 per
cent), black (92 per cent), Mormon (79 per cent), homosexual (79
per cent) or atheist (49 per cent). Clearly we have a long way to go.
But atheists are a lot more numerous, especially among the educated
elite, than many realize. This was so even in the nineteenth century,
when John Stuart Mill was already able to say: 'The world would be
astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest
ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for
wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion.'
This must be even truer today and, indeed, I present evidence for
it in Chapter 3. The reason so many people don't notice atheists is
that many of us are reluctant to 'come out'. My dream is that this
book may help people to come out. Exactly as in the case of the gay
movement, the more people come out, the easier it will be for others
to join them. There may be a critical mass for the initiation of a
American polls suggest that atheists and agnostics far outnumber religious Jews, and even outnumber most other particular
religious groups. Unlike Jews, however, who are notoriously one of
the most effective political lobbies in the United States, and unlike
evangelical Christians, who wield even greater political power,
atheists and agnostics are not organized and therefore exert almost
zero influence. Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to P R E F A C E herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not
conform to authority. But a good first step would be to build up a
critical mass of those willing to 'come out', thereby encouraging
others to do so. Even if they can't be herded, cats in sufficient
numbers can make a lot of noise and they cannot be ignored.
The word 'delusion' in my title has disquieted some psychiatrists
who regard it as a technical term, not to be bandied about. Three
of them wrote to me to propose a special technical term for
religious delusion: 'relusion'.2 Maybe it'll catch on. But for now I
am going to stick with 'delusion', and I need to justify my use of it.
The Penguin English Dictionary defines a delusion as 'a false belief
or impression'. Surprisingly, the illustrative quotation the dictionary gives is from Phillip E. Johnson: 'Darwinism is the story of
humanity's liberation from the delusion that its destiny is controlled
by a power higher than itself.' Can that be the same Phillip E.
Johnson who leads the creationist charge against Darwinism in
America today? Indeed it is, and the quotation is, as we might
guess, taken out of context. I hope the fact that I have stated as
much will be noted, since the same courtesy has not been extended
to me in numerous creationist quotations of my works, deliberately
and misleadingly taken out of context. Whatever Johnson's own
meaning, his sentence as it stands is one that I would be happy to
endorse. The dictionary supplied with Microsoft Word defines a
delusion as 'a persistent false belief held in the face of strong
contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder'. The first part captures religious faith perfectly. As to
whether it is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to
follow Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance, when he said, 'When one person suffers from a
delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from
a delusion it is called Religion.'
If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will
be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism!
Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument,
their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination
using methods that took centuries to mature (whether by evolution
or design). Among the more effective immunological devices is a
dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely H E G O D D £ L. I l S I O N a work of Satan. But I believe there are plenty of open-minded
people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not
too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take', or whose native
intelligence is strong enough to overcome it. Such free spirits should
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