The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins

Summary: Dawkins’ attack on the religion. This probably won’t make you an apostate but I liked it a lot as many other Dawkins’ books.

Score: 75 / 100

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. (Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 07:22 PM, page 418-20)

‘the God Hypothesis’ is a scientific hypothesis about the universe, which should be analysed as sceptically as any other. (Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 07:24 PM, page 428-29)

If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents. (Friday, February 01, 2013, 10:46 PM, page 443)

status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago. (Friday, February 01, 2013, 10:52 PM, page 464)

Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: ‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’ (Friday, February 01, 2013, 10:59 PM, page 490-91)

If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 11:32 AM, page 600-602)

The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 11:33 AM, page 612-13)

Templeton Prize (a very large sum of money given annually by the Templeton Foundation, usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion). (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 04:20 PM, page 668-69)

Carl Sagan put it well: ‘…if by “God” one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying…it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.’ (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 04:25 PM, page 674-76)

If people wish to love a 7th century preacher more than their own families, that’s up to them, but nobody else is obliged to take it seriously… (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 09:07 PM, page 800-802)

H. L. Mencken said: ‘We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.’ (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 09:11 PM, page 816-17)

The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next. –RALPH WALDO EMERSON (Sunday, February 03, 2013, 09:12 PM, page 822-25)

The Catholic Community Forum helpfully lists 5,120 saints, (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:12 AM, page 894-95)

I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented. (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:22 AM, page 928-29)

Buddhism or Confucianism. Indeed, there is something to be said for treating these not as religions at all but as ethical systems or philosophies of life. (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:27 AM, page 945-46)

United States, founded in secularism, is now the most religiose country in Christendom, while England, with an established church headed by its constitutional monarch, is among the least. (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:39 AM, page 986-87)

What works for soap flakes works for God, and the result is something approaching religious mania among today’s less educated classes. (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:44 AM, page 995-96)

Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Lighthouses are more useful than churches.’ (Monday, February 04, 2013, 08:53 AM, page 1032)

It is universally accepted that an admission of atheism would be instant political suicide for any presidential candidate. (Monday, February 04, 2013, 06:31 PM, page 1071)

Flying Spaghetti Monster, (Monday, February 04, 2013, 11:06 PM, page 1201-2)

that science concerns itself with how questions, but only theology is equipped to answer why questions. (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 07:30 AM, page 1257-58)

Some questions simply do not deserve an answer. What is the colour of abstraction? (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 07:31 AM, page 1259-60)

what is the use of a God who does no miracles and answers no prayers? (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 07:54 AM, page 1324-25)

Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton was the first to analyse scientifically whether praying for people is efficacious. (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 07:57 AM, page 1343)

Those who knew they had been the beneficiaries of prayer suffered significantly more complications than those who did not. (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 04:11 PM, page 1375-76)

Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Peter Atkins splendidly growled, ‘May you rot in hell.’ (Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 05:26 PM, page 1394-96)

As Arthur C. Clarke put it, in his Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 09:39 AM, page 1531)

Daniel F. Galouye in Counterfeit World, have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 09:41 AM, page 1538-40)

That’s an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 09:55 AM, page 1589-90)

philosopher’s job is to find out things about the world by thinking rather than observing. (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 03:46 PM, page 1647)

‘proofs’ collected at, (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 03:57 PM, page 1690)

‘If you have Mozart to listen to, why would you need God?’ (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 04:00 PM, page 1709)

it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window. And so, while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are. (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 08:38 PM, page 1747-50)

‘No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.’ (Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 08:50 PM, page 1804-5)

The immense majority of intellectually eminent men disbelieve in Christian religion, but they conceal the fact in public, because they are afraid of losing their incomes. –BERTRAND RUSSELL (Thursday, February 07, 2013, 12:33 PM, page 1898-1900)

James Haught shows in his 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt. (Thursday, February 07, 2013, 12:51 PM, page 1910-11)

The experimentalist Faraday’s theorist counterpart, James Clerk Maxwell, (Thursday, February 07, 2013, 12:53 PM, page 1915)

Francis Crick, Watson’s co-founder of the whole molecular genetics revolution, resigned his fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge, because of the college’s decision to build a chapel (at the behest of a benefactor). (Friday, February 08, 2013, 07:40 AM, page 1934-36)

‘Well I don’t think we’re for anything. We’re just products of evolution. You can say, “Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose.” But I’m anticipating having a good lunch.’ (Friday, February 08, 2013, 07:41 AM, page 1938-40)

What is remarkable is the polar opposition between the religiosity of the American public at large and the atheism of the intellectual elite. (Friday, February 08, 2013, 07:43 AM, page 1953-54)

small but significant tendency for biological scientists to be even more atheistic than physical scientists. (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 03:53 PM, page 1978-79)

religiosity is indeed negatively correlated with education (more highly educated people are less likely to be religious). (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 03:55 PM, page 1985-86)

there is a positive correlation between religiosity and parents’ religiosity. Sociologists studying British children have found that only about one in twelve break away from their parents’ religious beliefs. (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 03:55 PM, page 1987-88)

the higher one’s intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold “beliefs” of any kind.’ (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 03:57 PM, page 1994-95)

Would you bet on God’s valuing dishonestly faked belief (or even honest belief) over honest scepticism? (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 04:03 PM, page 2021-22)

The GIGO principle (Garbage In, Garbage Out) (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 09:41 PM, page 2049-50)

authentic.58 Hoyle said that the probability of life originating on Earth is no greater than the chance that a hurricane, sweeping through a scrapyard, would have the luck to assemble a Boeing 747. (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 09:53 PM, page 2111-13)

Euplectella’s skeleton (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 10:14 PM, page 2220-21)

Any entity capable of intelligently designing something as improbable as a Dutchman’s Pipe (or a universe) would have to be even more improbable than a Dutchman’s Pipe. (Sunday, February 10, 2013, 10:19 PM, page 2233-35)

‘Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.’ (Monday, February 11, 2013, 05:14 PM, page 2327-28)

one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding. (Monday, February 11, 2013, 05:15 PM, page 2329-30)

billion billion is a conservative estimate of the number of available planets in the universe. (Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 10:50 PM, page 2533)

we are more inclined to mistake a shadow for a burglar than a burglar for a shadow. A false positive might be a waste of time. A false negative could be fatal. (Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 11:07 PM, page 2633-34)

argument that any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide? (Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 08:35 AM, page 2695-96)

Dan Dennett reminds us that the common cold is universal to all human peoples in much the same way as religion is, yet we would not want to suggest that colds benefit us. (Friday, February 15, 2013, 11:44 AM, page 2942-43)

George Bernard Shaw’s words, ‘The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.’ (Saturday, February 16, 2013, 04:03 PM, page 2972-74)

‘All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.’ (Saturday, February 16, 2013, 04:08 PM, page 2988-89)

Michael Shermer’s How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (Saturday, February 16, 2013, 04:16 PM, page 3003)

our brains are set up to enjoy sex because sex, in the natural state, makes babies. (Saturday, February 16, 2013, 04:19 PM, page 3015-16)

religion as a by-product of something else. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:17 AM, page 3064)

The religious behaviour may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:23 AM, page 3092-93)

Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival: the analogue of steering by the moon for a moth. But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:30 AM, page 3137-40)

Like most scientists, I am not a dualist, but I am nevertheless easily capable of enjoying Vice Versa and Laughing Gas. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:46 AM, page 3207-8)

children are even more likely to be dualists than adults are, especially extremely young children. This suggests that a tendency to dualism is built into the brain and, according to Bloom, provides a natural predisposition to embrace religious ideas. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:48 AM, page 3211-13)

The assignment of purpose to everything is called teleology. Children are native teleologists, and many never grow out of it. (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:49 AM, page 3216-17)

third-order intentionality (the man believed that the woman knew he wanted her), fourth-order (the woman realized that the man believed that the woman knew he wanted her) and even fifth-order intentionality (the shaman guessed that the woman realized that the man believed that the woman knew he wanted her). (Sunday, February 17, 2013, 07:35 PM, page 3254-56)

the child brain is, for good reasons, vulnerable to infection by mental ‘viruses’ (Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 07:35 AM, page 3342)

Frazer’s Golden Bough impresses us with the diversity of irrational human beliefs. (Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 07:36 AM, page 3347)

our sense of right and wrong can be derived from our Darwinian past. (Friday, February 22, 2013, 09:06 AM, page 3739-40)

we do not need God in order to be good – or evil. (Friday, February 22, 2013, 10:38 PM, page 3936-37)

there are very few atheists in prisons. (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 12:00 AM, page 3980-81)

Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Steven Weinberg said, ‘Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.’ (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:01 PM, page 4290-92)

Lenny Bruce rightly quipped that ‘If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.’ (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:08 PM, page 4325-26)

The Bible is a blueprint of in-group morality, complete with instructions for genocide, enslavement of out-groups, and world domination. (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:29 PM, page 4444-45)

Religion is a label of in-group/out-group enmity and vendetta, not necessarily worse than other labels such as skin colour, language or preferred football team, but often available when other labels are not. (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:32 PM, page 4465-66)

‘Always devise your rules as if you didn’t know whether you were going be at the top or the bottom of the pecking order.’ (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:46 PM, page 4546)

Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you. (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 11:47 PM, page 4551-52)

Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism. (Monday, February 25, 2013, 09:54 PM, page 4803-4)

the majority of conceived embryos spontaneously abort anyway. It is probably best seen as a kind of natural ‘quality control’. (Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 03:54 PM, page 5064-65)

There is in every village a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman. –VICTOR HUGO (Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 11:36 PM, page 5311-13)

‘’ (an American initiative to rebrand atheists as ‘Brights’ in the same way as homosexuals successfully rebranded themselves as ‘gays’) (Sunday, March 03, 2013, 01:13 PM, page 5784-85)

(‘Loyalists’, as I pointed out in Chapter 1, is the mealy-mouthed Northern Ireland euphemism for Protestants, just as ‘Nationalists’ is the euphemism for Catholics. (Sunday, March 03, 2013, 01:16 PM, page 5804-5)

A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents. (Sunday, March 03, 2013, 01:17 PM, page 5811-12)

A love of nature, or what the great entomologist E. O. Wilson has called Biophilia? (Sunday, March 03, 2013, 07:44 PM, page 5912-13)

Like many parents, my mother kept a notebook of my childish sayings. (Sunday, March 03, 2013, 07:50 PM, page 5961)

Religion’s power to console doesn’t make it true. (Tuesday, March 05, 2013, 08:08 AM, page 6021)

Mark Twain’s dismissal of the fear of death is another: ‘I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.’ (Tuesday, March 05, 2013, 08:15 AM, page 6055-56)

the individuals who are most afraid of death are the religious ones. (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 08:25 AM, page 6118)

Nigerian Internet scam (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 08:27 AM, page 6129)

our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it. And we can make it very wonderful indeed. (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 06:34 PM, page 6165-66)

if we waste a second of it, or complain that it is dull or barren or (like a child) boring, couldn’t this be seen as a callous insult to those unborn trillions who will never even be offered life in the first place? (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 06:36 PM, page 6175-77)

In a desert plain in Tanzania, in the shadow of Ol Donyo Lengai, sacred volcano of the Masai, there is a large dune made of ash from an eruption in 1969. It is carved into shape by the wind. But the beautiful thing is that it moves bodily. (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 07:12 PM, page 6340-41)

published: 2013-03-06
last modified: 2023-01-21