Posts Tagged ‘memes’

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

the_god_delusionDawkin’s is one of the four books I might call “cornerstones” of a rational response to Religion and religious belief among us humans (the other three are “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens, “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” by Daniel Dennett and “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris).  Dawkins is the scientist among the four authors mentioned and is therefore in the best position to present the tonic of science and reason to our seemingly ineradicable religious impulse.  For that reason alone the book is worth reading.  Hawkins begins by laying out the framework for carrying on a discussion of the true conflicts between science and religion, defining his terms before presenting his case.

Having made his case, he moves into new ideas including his offering of the term “memes” as defining ideas that evolve over time just as organisms do.  I think it’s a useful term, and I found it helped me to understand how and why religion has survived so long by adapting and refining over the centuries through it’s own “survival of the fittest” process.  I’m not as crazy about his suggestion of the term “Brights” to identify rational non-believers who accepts the truths of science and eschew a religious worldview.  I think a term more precise and descriptive than “atheist” or “agnostic” is called for, I’m just not sure this is the one (though I have seen the word gaining some traction in other writing).

Dawkins comes across as a man who has never really been troubled by a deep religious belief (the same can be said for Hitchens and Dennett), so I expect that the still-religious that read these books will consider them cold and unsympathetic to the reader’s cherished beliefs.  I don’ t think that to be the case, but often the critics of these writers are quick to call them “rigid” , “strident”  or “arrogant”– as if their tone, alone, were excuse to dismiss the impressive case for reason and science that they present.  The laying bare of the very real dangers of reality-denying religious belief in our modern age is a chilling aspect of the reading experience.  I recommend this book to all.

The not-so-reverend bob