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Archive for December, 2007

This is a very sad book

Review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I am inspired to write this review having just torn myself away from watching the latest bulletin on the Gillian Gibbons affair in Sudan. Today hundreds of Sudanese marched on the streets of Khartoum demanding a stiffer sentence for Ms.Gibbons; some even demanding the death penalty.

Ms.Gibbons is an English teacher in an international school in Sudan.  She was arrested for allowing her class to vote on naming a teddy bear, their class mascot, Mohammed.  Instead of receiving 50 lashes and a stiff prison term which apparently this ‘crime’ would normally carry, under international pressure they have passed a sentence of 15 days in jail.

In my ideal world, everyone would look at this, throw their hands in the air and say “well that’s it for religion!”  This brings me to the review of this book.

This is a book that intelligently exposes religion for the disingenuous, superstitious nonsense that it is.  It pulls no punches and treats every religion the same way.  I call it a sad book because in my view it is extremely sad that a book like this ever had to be written.  I think Dawkins feels sad that he had to write it. I think Dawkins would have been much happier to have written another masterpiece instead, on the really important subject of biology which is his usual fare.

Dawkins mentions a conference in Cambridge where he heard a talk by his good friend Douglas Adams when Adams made the rather novel comment that maybe we should not automatically accord religious people respect for their inane beliefs but should actually stand up and contest them if we believe them to be nonsense.  I was at that conference and have to say that Adams’ talk had a profound effect on me as well.

Dawkins seems to have taken heart from that lecture and takes his gloves off.  Wonderful stuff.  I could not put the book down even after I had finished it!  Every possible argument is there; no stone is left unturned.  If people think that he is uncompromising about religion and is too harsh maybe they should remember Gillian Gibbons, Salman Rushdie and the like. It seems fine for ridiculous clerics of all religions to rant and rave and issue (in the case of Islam) death sentences for so-called ‘crimes’ against religion.  They can dish it out but it seems they cannot take it.

Dawkins was compelled to write this book as a kind of ‘line in the sand’.  A way of giving those of us, who didn’t previously have the guts, the strength to say enough is enough.  Enough of the insanity of thousands of years.  Enough kowtowing to the banality and superstition of religion whatever the flavour.

But there is one thing, infinitely more sad than the fact that this book had to be written.  It is, that in all probability, it will make absolutely no difference.

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