Friday, December 22, 2006

"The God Delusion" makes a swell Christmas gift

If you are a fence sitter on the issue of the existence of god, do yourself a huge favour and pick up Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", the best non-fiction book I've read in years. (Okay, that last statement is actually pretty meaningless, because it's the only non-fiction book I've read in years... because, let's be honest, non-fiction is generally pretty boring.) Presumably, I don't have to recommend this book to the atheists out there, as most of you should have already picked up a copy.

I'm no fence sitter, so the book was preaching to the choir with me, but there was still a ton of material and ideas that were new to me. I loved Dawkins' quick overview of evolution (he has written plenty of other books that tackle evolution in more detail), and his brilliant discussions of morality and the (im)probabilities of god. There are also numerous interesting case studies and quotations, and Dawkins even takes some time to tackle all the classic arguments for god.

My favourite chapter, by a small margin, is seven: "The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist." This material isn't new, but Dawkins summarizes it so nicely that I couldn't help but grin throughout. Also very noteworthy, especially in this day and age of religions flexing their political muscles, is chapter eight: "What's Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?" The whole book is excellent, building Dawkins' case brilliantly throughout (this book must be read cover to cover), but chapters seven and eight are the big payoff. And the concluding chapter, "A Much Needed Gap?" definitely closes the book out on a high note.

(You can spoil a lot of the book for yourself if you read the Wikipedia entry, but I strongly recommend reading the entire thing--a summary just doesn't cut it.)

Dawkins is an extremely skilled wordsmith, with always interesting phrasing and splashes of wit throughout. And he is surprisingly delicate in tackling the irrational beliefs of religious folk--far more delicate than I had any reason to suspect from the book's title.

Dawkins hopes this book will change the world. It's unlikely to have any affect on the staunch believers out there whose world views would fall apart without their loving god (and the chance of any of these people actually reading a book titled "The God Delusion" is zilch). But those people out there who don't really believe, but pretend to believe, because they are are under the mistaken impression that it's culturally wrong to not follow the majority religious crowd--those people need to read this book. Now.

It's okay to be an atheist. It's okay to not believe. "The God Delusion" will give you the evidence you need to step away from religion for good. And it will feel so good. Trust me. I've been there.

And, since this is the holiday season, I must remind you that you can embrace your latent atheism and still celebrate Christmas with your family. Atheists celebrate Christmas, too. We just don't buy into the whole baby Jesus thing... which has been an insignificant part of most Christmas gatherings I've ever attended, anyway.

This will in all likelihood be my last post of 2006. So, merry Christmas, everyone! And have a happy New Year!

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