Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Belatedly, most belatedly, I've now read Richard Dawkins' atheist manual The God Delusion. Good stuff, I suppose - good info, surely, but not a book I took much pleasure in.

I'm an atheist already, though as I've explained occasionally, I'm haunted by what I assume to be the ineffable delight in believing oneself cared for by One Responsible For All. There's something sweet in that vision, like a doted-upon childhood, and there's even something bracing in the idea of being held to account for one's actions and thoughts. These things do not make me believe, nor do they (in Dawkins' phrase) make me believe in belief. They function to let me cut the godful some slack, because I understand their desire though I consider their faith to be misguided.

I'm an atheist already, and I don't know what I was meant to get from this book. I guess it'd be useful as a debating manual, reference material if I wanted to be out converting the religious. But for me, here in Canada, belief itself isn't the enemy it might well be in the America described by Dawkins, where (for example) the American executive branch arms Israel with the specific intent that Israel be powerful enough to act its part in the biblically prophesied Armageddon (or Second Coming, I can't be bothered to check which), without wondering especially about questions of justice or long-term relations of sectarian, political, or other natures. If you're going to do good works -- socially, politically, culturally, or environmentally -- then welcome to the team. Wear any jersey that fits. As long as you don't kick your teammates in the shins, you're welcome here.

Of course I recognize that Dawkins and the more passionate of his followers would rather deal with root as well as branch of this one troublesome tree, and that I'm more worried about branches from overlapping trees in this orchard. My fight isn't his, and that's fine. I just wish his book had been more readable - even though I delighted in the final chapter, and even though we had a most congenial and philosophic discussion about it last night at book club.


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