Good Minds Suggest—Richard Dawkins's Favorite Life-Changing Books

Posted by Goodreads on August 27, 2013
Richard Dawkins Viral phenomena such as Gangnam Style and Grumpy Cat may not be quite what Richard Dawkins had in mind when he coined the term "meme" in his 1976 best seller, The Selfish Gene. As well known for his innovative work on the subject of natural selection as his vehement advocacy of atheism, the former Oxford professor is also the author of several popular nonfiction titles, including The God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. In his first memoir, An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist, Dawkins reflects on his formative years and describes the significant events that guided his intellectual development. He shares five life-changing books that were similarly transformative.

Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
"On the Origin of Species is too obviously life changing, so I choose instead Darwin's first book, Voyage of the Beagle. There is a fresh breeze blowing through this memoir, the robust energy of the young naturalist foreshadowing the genius that he would become, gestator of arguably the greatest idea ever to occur to a human mind."


Pluto's Republic by Peter Medawar
"Peter Medawar is the foremost scientific essayist of the 20th century. With no presumptuous aspiration to imitate him, I'm reasonably certain my writing style was influenced by the patrician insouciance of Medawar's prose, the sort of wit that makes you want to seize the book and rush out into the street to show somebody—anybody. The savage humor with which he destroyed the theologian Teilhard de Chardin also changed me more directly: I blush to admit that until I read the famous Medawar review (perhaps the greatest negative book review ever written), I was temporarily fooled by 'that tipsy, euphoristic prose poetry which is one of the more tiresome manifestations of the French spirit.' (Only a Nobel Prize winner could get away with that sort of thing, but you can't help laughing.)"


The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
"You'd expect this bible of scientific skepticism to be dry, cold, Gradgrindian even. Instead it is poetic, imaginative, tinted with Carl Sagan's wonder at the magic of reality, the poetry of the real world, which is science."


The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh
"The great mystery is how so profoundly sensitive a writer of beautiful English could have been such an apparently shallow, even unpleasant, man: a jingoistic snob who not only converted to Catholicism but—worse—took it seriously. Maybe it was all a pose. Whatever is the case, I reread his books again and again, mesmerized by the chiseled craftsmanship of every sentence. I could have chosen any of his books, but The Sword of Honour Trilogy is substantial enough to deserve a special place in a list of life-changing books."


Uncle Fred in the Springtime by P.G. Wodehouse
"P.G. Wodehouse is my escape from the cares and sleep-disturbing troubles of life. I understand totally why Hilaire Belloc was able to nominate him as the greatest writer of English then living, and I know all too exactly what Evelyn Waugh meant when he said, 'Mr. Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own.' I love so many of his books, but Uncle Fred is perhaps the most releasing of all."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Books That Changed the Way You View Life



Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)


message 1: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills Ordered the Medawar. Ta for the tip, Prof! :)


message 2: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Nice selections. Uncle Fred in the Springtime is no doubt one of the best of Wodehouse's Blandings Castle Saga novels, but choosing Wodehouse and not choosing a Wooster/Jeeves calls for a paddlin'.


message 3: by Maury (new)

Maury Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive, an affront to the world's many religious people. I personally am not particularly religious (non-practicing Jew, with an interest in Buddhism) but I believe that religion does good things for many people. For Dawkins to find that the one of the worst things about Evelyn Waugh (who I agree is a great writer and an unpleasant bloke) is that he took Catholicism seriously is simply arrogant and misguided.


message 4: by Roy (last edited Aug 30, 2013 01:40AM) (new)

Roy De vos Maury wrote: "Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive, an affront to the world's many religious people. I personally am not particularly religious (non-practicing Jew, wi..."
Yeah - his constant carping on this has become tedious. Logically and philosophically he cannot know if there is a "god" or not so paradoxically he makes a fool of himself every time he makes these comments.


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills "he makes a fool of himself every time he makes these comments."

Which comments are those, Roy? Dawkins is always careful to make exactly the point you made - that no one can know for certain if there are any gods. (Remember the 'Atheist Bus' slogan? "There's probably no god.") Oddly, I never hear religious people admit that they aren't certain whether their god is real.

And Maury, whether "religion does good things for many people" is not the question that concerns him. He is interested in this: Are the claims of any religion TRUE? Is there a god that drowned almost the entire world population? Did Mohammed fly on a winged horse? Are we all endlessly reincarnated, each time in a different social class? If one religion can be shown to be true (and Roy has just acknowledged that none can), then all the world's atheists - and indeed all the followers of other religions - must pack up shop and go home. What is "offensive" about pointing this out?


message 6: by Roy (new)

Roy De vos Those comments and interviews have been in the public media, interviews and blogging, for years and have garnered him a faithful following of active atheists. One could assume then that he has issues with the rights of people to believe whatever they want.

Regarding "probably no god," another slogan "Dawkins is probably wrong about god" would have equal value, so why bother other than to push an opinion? And to market his books.


message 7: by Jason (last edited Aug 30, 2013 03:51AM) (new)

Jason Mills Two opposite claims can't both be "probable", Roy. Do you think the existence of Zeus is "probable"?

I've never heard Dawkins express any "issues" with "the rights of people to believe whatever they want". Can you provide an example?

"faithful following of active atheists" - By definition, atheism is an absence of faith. Dawkins' supporters are those who agree with him, not those who believe in him.

As for "market[ing] his books", even if his every word and deed were dedicated simply to making money, it would not impact on his arguments one way or the other. Play the ball, not the man.


message 8: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Dawkins was instrumental in getting many atheists to come out of the closest. Before Dawkins it was the custom in the mainstream media to play nice with fundamentalists. That is what the criticism of Dawkins is about. Some would like to go on treating religion superficially, as if it is above discussion, much less criticism. As Dawkins has said, those who take offense at what he says take offense because taking offense is all they have left. Since Dawkins atheists have become more assertive. This offends people. Too bad. There's no polite way to tell people they are insufferable idiots. People are "converting" to atheism and coming out of the closet as atheist in unheard of numbers. Whatever his limitations (and who doesn't have them), no one deserves a greater share of the credit for this than Dawkins.


message 9: by Maury (new)

Maury Ted wrote: "Dawkins was instrumental in getting many atheists to come out of the closest. Before Dawkins it was the custom in the mainstream media to play nice with fundamentalists. That is what the criticism..."

Wow, so anybody who is religious is an "insufferable idiot"? That sounds like a fundamentalist view to me. :)


message 10: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot It depends on what you're being a fundamentalist about, doesn't it? Not all things are equal in that respect. For some things, like, say, gravity, belief is warranted because it has survived the gauntlet of scientific questioning--and it is always subject to new ones. Some things, though, can only be discussed in terms that make it not worth discussing when it comes to the underlying merits of what they propose. Like religion and god. Religion in its many related species forms doesn't meet the tests that gravity or evolution does. The distinction should be appreciated and is certainly worth preserving. If it isn't, then it all becomes too much like an intellectual free-for-all.


message 11: by Maury (new)

Maury I get that point of view and am quite sympathetic with it, but it is a scientific point of view (i.e. you are using the scientific method to justify science as the only "correct" world view). Why cannot Dawkins (and presumably you) just stop at "I am an atheist. I do not find there to be persuasive evidence that God exists." Why is it necessary to go on to criticise other people who find a belief in God to be useful/desirable (whether or not supported by evidence)? Moderate religious people do not find it necessary to criticise atheists, and there are many good reasons for belief and spirituality that have nothing to do with evidence.


message 12: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Why is it Dawkins's obligation to play nice? Why is it always about what he does? Why is he always obligated to only make his case in a certain way? When he was right, is right, still he is the one criticized, and all too often those religious types and their fellow travelers skate.

Along that line on the spectrum of those who act badly and deserve condemnation and contempt, he's pretty far to the left side, the zero side. But it's always why doesn't he do this, consider this, excuse this. He was criticized for bringing the subject to light initially, and at every step of the way these last twenty years he is criticized--and rarely if ever for the point he actually making. While those who should be condemned aren't. Deflecting criticism so as it applies only to him is just a way of trying to change the subject, to divert from his greater all-encompassing point.--that the religious mindset and the religious way of thinking has negative implications beyond just going to church and praying. And it gives those he attacks a perpetual bye. Condemning Dawkins on grounds of niceness excuses and fosters intolerance and discrimination, is hateful, and is a ploy striving to be beyond criticism in the bargain. I, for one, am not going to be so easily diverted.


message 13: by Roy (last edited Aug 30, 2013 09:46AM) (new)

Roy De vos Jason wrote: "Two opposite claims can't both be "probable", Roy. Do you think the existence of Zeus is "probable"?

I've never heard Dawkins express any "issues" with "the rights of people to believe whatever th..."


Firstly -atheism is defined in the New Oxford as the theory or belief that "God does not exist." not as "absence of faith"

Secondly - probable is defined as "likely" to be the case or to happen but not absolutely, so many things can be probable. in varying states or possible dimensions. Refer various dimension theories in quantum mechanics. String, loop quantum gravity ...

Here's an issues quote for you. "By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out."
Richard Dawkins
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/aut...

What else? I actually don't disagree with the scientific theories of evolution and find the blind faith advocates for the absolutes of 'god' or 'intelligent design' as equally tedious as Dawkins' rabid anti-christian posturing. http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/.

It's not what he writes, which is by no means groundbreaking research, it's the way he says it and the way in which he has marketed himself via his website and online presence. For what? To take on christianity? Extreme hubris ...


message 14: by Maury (new)

Maury Ted, if you do not like intolerance and discrimination, I think you should look in the mirror. I posted a comment criticising Dawkins for being intolerant of people with religious viewpoints, but it is not about him, it is about intolerance in general. I was moved to a further response by you implying that I am an "insufferable idiot", and now you have called my point of view "hateful". I am going to step out of this debate at this point.


message 15: by Jason (last edited Aug 30, 2013 09:57AM) (new)

Jason Mills Why is it necessary to go on to criticise other people who find a belief in God to be useful/desirable (whether or not supported by evidence)?

Dawkins' criticism is aimed at insupportable beliefs and their promulgators, not at religious "people" per se. Although Ted glibly refers to "insufferable idiots", Dawkins is careful to avoid such language for whole populations.

But why would you wish to defend beliefs that are "not supported by evidence", Maury? If you think people need their comfortable delusions protecting, I gently suggest that it's you who is treating them like idiots!

As for "moderate religious people", it's interesting that the more devoutly a person is religious, the less that sensible people are willing to defend that person's view. "Moderate" seems to mean that you don't take the tenets of your religion seriously.


message 16: by Maury (new)

Maury Jason wrote: "Why is it necessary to go on to criticise other people who find a belief in God to be useful/desirable (whether or not supported by evidence)?

Dawkins' criticism is aimed at insupportable beliefs ..."


OK, so I am drawn back in by Jason's points.

I did not write "not supported by evidence", but rather "nothing to do with evidence". People choose religion for reasons like explaining their place in the universe, finding a moral or behavioural code, or finding a community. I believe there is much evidence that these offerings of religion have positive effects, but the choices to pursue them have little to do with evidence and more with feelings and goals. I know that is profoundly unpersuasive to many people of a strong scientific bent, but it is also a view shared by a huge segment of the world's population, quite possibly a majority. And, BTW, I am a successful technology investor, so I do not reject science!

As to "moderate", I merely meant open to other points of view. That does not mean I do not take my own views seriously.


message 17: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills Roy: "atheism is defined in the New Oxford as..."

Meh, fair enough, the word is under more scrutiny these days and so there are different nuances of definition. The point I was making was only that atheism is not a position that entails faith, as in unevidenced belief, so your description of Dawkins' "faithful following" was, let's see, unhelpful.

I don't see that the quote you offered supports the notion that Dawkins opposes a person's right to believe. (That would be a fruitless position anyway, since even if you denied a person's right to believe, you couldn't police their thoughts.)

"it's the way he says it and the way in which he has marketed himself via his website and online presence. For what? To take on christianity? Extreme hubris ... "

To take on religions, not just the market-leading one. A single topical example: two flavours of Islam are knocking seven bells out of each other in Iraq, killing around 1000 people a month. You would agree, I expect, that this is deplorable, that religion is at the least a major contributing factor, and that if that factor can be diminished simply by discourse then the attempt should be made.

People can be persuaded by evidence and reason to abandon beliefs that are often damaging (eg. Catholic guilt) and sometimes dangerous (eg. 9/11, Africans killing 'possessed' children, US parents praying instead of seeking medical attention while their child dies of leukaemia, etc). This is amply demonstrated by the 'Converts' letters on Dawkins' website:

http://www.richarddawkins.net/letters...

That being so, should Dawkins (and Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, Stenger, Shermer, etc) refrain from their efforts to undermine religion's pernicious effects, on the grounds that folks like Roy might think they were being vain or greedy?


message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills Maury: "People choose religion for reasons like explaining their place in the universe, finding a moral or behavioural code, or finding a community."

None of that is unavailable to atheists (although I grant that a ready-made like-minded community at whatever church is down the street is something many people value). Of course, some of those faith-based "moral or behavioural code[s]" lead to planes being flown into buildings, suicide bombings, witch-burnings, discrimination against Jews or women or homosexuals, etc. Even where they don't have such effects, the existence of "moderate" believers nonetheless licences more extreme creeds by endorsing the principle that belief without evidence is legitimate and even 'virtuous'.

Still, Dawkins targets his criticism where the effects are negative, rather than benign. I may think Buddhism is potty, but insofar as it's harmless and private, it's your business. And Dawkins says in The God Delusion:

I shall not be concerned at all with other religions such as 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.


message 19: by Roy (new)

Roy De vos Jason wrote: "Roy: "atheism is defined in the New Oxford as..."

Meh, fair enough, the word is under more scrutiny these days and so there are different nuances of definition. The point I was making was only tha..."


Hah! So Dawkins et al are the new messiahs of reason and logic, saving the human race from its sad self-destructive tendencies? This too shall pass ...


message 20: by Huw (new)

Huw Collingbourne All good books. If I had to take just one to my desert island it would have to be the Wodehouse.


message 21: by John (new)

John Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive,

To use the a good phrase from Hitchens... your offended? what is your point? That is not an arguement. I find religion offensive, so keep it to yourself, out of politics and government, out of public forums. Have churches PAY TAXES. out of public buildings etc.. and then we have no problem.


message 22: by Howard (new)

Howard Brittain Maury wrote: "Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive, an affront to the world's many religious people. I personally am not particularly religious (non-practicing Jew, wi..."I, and probably he, find other people's aggressive pro religious behaviour a lot more offensive. So there you go.


message 23: by Howard (new)

Howard Brittain I actually don't disagree with the scientific theories of evolution

Holy crap. And you want people to take you seriously ? What a laugh.


message 24: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Huw wrote: "All good books. If I had to take just one to my desert island it would have to be the Wodehouse."

I agree. Wodehouse is pretty much sublime.


message 25: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Perry Thanks particularly for the Medawar and the Waugh!
When T. S. Eliot converted to Anglicanism, Virginia Woolf wrote, disgusted: "I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality, and goes to church. I was shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God."


message 26: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Graham Maury wrote: "Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive, an affront to the world's many religious people. I personally am not particularly religious (non-practicing Jew, wi..."

A person doesn't go to church and then complain about hearing the same sermons time and again. You will only tire of Richard Dawkins arguments if you keep seeking them out.


message 27: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Halmos Hey look! An interesting list of books.


message 28: by Howard (new)

Howard Brittain I find the offensive criticism of Dawkins for being 'aggressive' to be the absolute depths of hypocrisy.

In a world where a church occupies almost every block. Where every days of the week we have church ceremonies where priests of all religions give long sermons on their religion and the sins of non believers. Where politicians talk about religion at every opportunity. Where posters and signs proclaim religious promotion.

In this world one or two men stand up and say no ! AND THEY ARE CALLED AGGRESSIVE ????


message 29: by Graham (new)

Graham Marshall I've added the Sagan and Medawar books to my want to read list. Already read Voyage of the Beagle and I never read fiction so no Wodehouse or Waugh.

And there's no god either.


message 30: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Howard wrote: "I find the offensive criticism of Dawkins for being 'aggressive' to be the absolute depths of hypocrisy.

In a world where a church occupies almost every block. Where every days of the week we have..."


That big brute Dawkins taking unfair advantage of the poor defenseless godders. His only excuse is ...uh...they started it?


message 31: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Graham wrote: "I've added the Sagan and Medawar books to my want to read list. Already read Voyage of the Beagle and I never read fiction so no Wodehouse or Waugh.

And there's no god either."


Of course not. But the closest you'll come to experiencing a benevolent God is Wodehouse. Waugh, or maybe it was Orwell, said that Wodehouse's world is the world before the fall of man.


message 32: by Alison (new)

Alison Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say, look, when you guys were in charge, you didn't argue with us, you just burnt us at the stake. Now what we're doing is, we're presenting you with some arguments and some challenging questions, and you complain." A.C. Grayling.

Inside your head your beliefs are free from ridicule. Once you start spouting them, they are just as open to disagreement and ridicule as anybody else's. Disagreement - even robust disagreement - does not equal attack. Rational thinking people respect your right to believe whatever you want, but not the ludicrous belief itself. You're quite entitled to believe the earth is flat. We don't respect that either.

Atheism/non-theism/secularism/rationalism is a belief like off is a TV channel, or not playing golf is a hobby. If you think a person who doesn't believe in your gawd has a faith or belief in that, then you must have thousands of faiths and beliefs, since you don't believe in the nearly 3,000 other gawds we know of that have been invented. Non-theists simply believe in one less gawd than you do.

There very definitely are atheists in foxholes. It makes as much sense and is equally truthful to say they suddenly become religious on their death bed as it does to say all religious people actually decide, with their dying breath, that gawd is not real and religion is a crock. Even if that statement were true - and it is not - all it really means is that the only reason a person would believe in gawd is that they are terrified and irrational. Here is a great link to the American Military organisation of atheists and freethinkers: http://militaryatheists.org/ - there are many atheists in foxholes all over the world.

It is interesting how many people just happen to believe in the faith which is predominant in their geographical location and/or that they were indoctrinated into at an early age. It never seems to occur to militant Christians - for example - that if they had been born elsewhere they would be militant Islamists (cue the "I was never indoctrinated! I am a rational thinker! I lived in a bubble and only became a xian through hard work, education and study at the age of 30! My parents are atheists!" etc etc comments. About as verifiable and believable as the "I'm an ex atheist who found gawd claims." But whatever gets you through the night.)

Burden of proof is ALWAYS on the person making the outlandish claim. Nobody has to disprove your belief, you have to prove it. Just as with Russell's teapot. I know of no non-theist who claims to know for sure there is no god. Some may, I have never met one. We will find out when we die, or otherwise. In the meantime, filling the gaps with god putty instead of just admitting "I don't know" is neither helpful nor rational.

Occasionally I have seen people ask (face palm) Well, what was before the start of the universe then?! As though playing a trump card. They do not seem to understand that creating a creator to fill that void in our knowledge only leaves the question "What was before your gawd then?" If the answer is, my gawd existed forever, the same answer can be applied to the universe. No creator required.

A brief aside for any of our less intelligent cousins who might try to leap in with some silliness about how things like gravity are just a theory - a Hypothesis is an idea, opinion or hunch. A scientific theory is evidenced fact. "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment." On the subject of thinking "there is no such thing as absolute knowledge", this is entertaining and educational: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXC...

Please don't embarrass yourself by asking what harm religion has caused. The citations would take many, many pages. Please don't embarrass yourself by stating that religion does good too - "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." [Steven Weinberg].

Please don't embarrass yourself by trying to say atheism causes similar harm. Religion directly instructs its followers to do harm, there is a direct causal link between some harm caused and religion. Atheism, however, has absolutely no creed, doctrine, catechism, rules or good book to follow. There is no hive mind. Anyone, of any gender, political persuasion or race can be an atheist. It takes one thing only - no belief in invented gawds. Bad people who are atheists sometimes do bad things. They do not do them in the name of, or because of, atheism.

On that, if your only reason for behaving in a moral fashion because you are afraid of punishment from your gawd, you are a genuinely terrifying individual and I would be much more comfortable if you stayed away from other people.

Further, I have no interest in your feelpinions. It is irrelevant how offended you choose to be and I genuinely do not care how you feel about me. Don't waste your time quoting at me from your "holy" books. This is a very good link - on bible contradictions and inaccuracies: http://bibviz.com/ - especially for those who cannot accept the overwhelming evidence that it's just a book.

The bible proves gawd is real in the same way Marvel Comics prove that Spider Man is real. The bible is the claim, not the evidence. The same can be said of any other "holy" book of fairy tales. It is painfully easy to discover that the bible is simply comprised of myths, fairy tales, legends and some scare mongering cobbled together, with some misogyny thrown in for good measure, much of which was passed down from much earlier civilisations, and mainly scribed by a bunch of tent-dwelling nomads who thought the earth was flat. Cognitive dissonance is a very real issue. http://noahbonn.com/2012/04/10/cognit...

However, if rationality does not suit you, you are free to believe whatever you want - debate and disagreement is in no way preventing you from believing whatever you choose.

Militant Christian Eric Rudolph planted explosives in Atlanta Olympics & 2 abortion clinics and a bar in 97/98. 4 dead, over 100 wounded. Militant Islamic Osama Bin Laden planned 9/11 attacks and countless other atrocities, over 3,000 dead, full toll unknown. Militant Atheist Richard Dawkins writes books and gives lectures.

Dawkins focuses on religion the way Oncologists focus on cancer and he refuses to submit to religious privilege or give nonsensical respect to nonsensical beliefs.

As with all privileged persons, the religious do not appreciate the extent of religious privilege and will argue vehemently against it being - quite fairly - revoked. Until recently, religious privilege was so vast and entrenched that religion was mainly allowed to fester undebated and unchallenged and even pointing out the irrationality of religion was considered unacceptable by many. That time has now passed.

I apologise for the length of this comment. However, it is inevitably a long and weary task trying to preempt the repetitive and ill considered responses of the religious as they indulge in their games of pigeon chess. I hope I covered most of the bases.

I have taken the time to type this because I know that it can make a difference to share education about the truth of religion. There is a very good reason the religious try snatch you early, pre-critical thinking and try to keep religion in schools and around children. Preaching dogma to a 25 year old will almost always result in laughter, not unquestioning acceptance.

Take heart, fellow non-theists. Inch by inch rational thinking is winning. Education is where religion goes to die.


message 33: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills So, to recap, Roy:

You said that Dawkins makes a fool of himself because he cannot know if there are gods. I replied that he doesn't claim to, and you provided no examples of him making that claim.

You implied that Dawkins "has issues with the rights of people to believe whatever they want." I asked for examples and you provided one quotation that failed to illustrate your point. (Islam's sharia law, on the other hand, mandates the killing of 'apostates', those who cease to be Muslim.)

You suggested that it was of "equal value" to claim that Dawkins is probably wrong (ie. there probably are gods) as to claim that there probably aren't gods. I replied that it wasn't possible for both propositions to be "probably" true, and your puzzling response was to retreat from the everyday use of the word and invoke "quantum".

You implied that a prime concern of Dawkins was marketing his books. I answered that, if true, this would have no bearing on the merit of his arguments, to which you did not respond.

You asked what his campaigning was for. I illustrated the negative effects of religions and provided a link to the 1300 grateful letters on his website sent by people liberated from problematic beliefs, in whole or part by the work of Dawkins. Your reply was "This too shall pass", which I can only assume is defeatism.

Since each of your claims appears to dissolve under scrutiny, I am no wiser now than at the outset as to your objection to Dawkins' work.


message 34: by Howard (new)

Howard Brittain Alison wrote:Alison - a terrific post. Simply awesome. Saved it for a possible little plagiarism later ;)


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Alison, your post is a breath of fresh air in the fetid sewer of internet discourse. Thank you.


message 36: by Alison (new)

Alison Howard wrote: "Alison wrote:Alison - a terrific post. Simply awesome. Saved it for a possible little plagiarism later ;)"

Very kind. Thank you. I cannot take all the credit. I follow a person called Godless Spellchecker on Twitter, and have been reading his responses carefully, some of this was based on what I have learned from his tweets over the last few months.


message 37: by Alison (new)

Alison Daniel wrote: "Alison, your post is a breath of fresh air in the fetid sewer of internet discourse. Thank you."

Most kind, thank you.


message 38: by Alison (new)

Alison Lorene wrote: Much too kind, thank you.


message 39: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Mcanulla Dawkins is at his most inspiring best when writing about natural history , and a reflective reading of his books should be enough to trigger doubts about the many religious world myths that abound,and to inspire a sense of awe in the natural world . I feel he does alienate religious believers by his zealous atheistic presentations, which is a shame as he is very right to be concerned about the indoctrination of young minds.I think he makes clear that he himself cannot disprove the existance of a creator, but he is campaigning for the right of young people to be given freedom to learn and question and to arrive at their own informed opinions.


message 40: by Peter (new)

Peter Ted wrote: "Nice selections. Uncle Fred in the Springtime is no doubt one of the best of Wodehouse's Blandings Castle Saga novels, but choosing Wodehouse and not choosing a Wooster/Jeeves calls for a paddlin'."

god means the almighty etc so god must therefore allow for atheists views, so i think the critics as below are themselves being judged for not allowing for such and to my mind not makeing a very good job of it as if to say very unchristian ?


message 41: by Ibrahim (new)

Ibrahim Khan Nice man,nice scientist,nice writer,NICE analyst! Kudos!!


message 42: by Jann (new)

Jann Alison wrote: "Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say, look, when you guys were in charge, you didn't argue with u..."

Thank you Alison for the superb comments in submitting a sane viewpoint of us gawd awful heathens!
I will be copying and keeping your comments to re-read when I need some comfort after, yet another day of being bombarded by the believers.

I consider my faith to 'ABuChris'; I am an atheist who dosen't believe in supernatural beings but does follow the Buddhist path and Jesus's teachings. Don't get me started on whether Jesus was the 'son of god'!


message 43: by Alison (new)

Alison Jann Thank you, most kind.


message 44: by Joan (new)

Joan Alison wrote: "Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say, look, when you guys were in charge, you didn't argue with u..."

Alison, that is a masterly summation of atheistic thought and logic! I'm tempted to download it and save to wave in front of someone who decides to tell me I'm going to hell or some such foolishness! Thank you!


message 45: by Ted (new)

Ted Fontenot Yes, the riposte, "Hey, you started it," is clean and neat, and it's really all that need be said in extenuation. The idea that Dawkins, or anyone really, somehow incurs a greater duty to be civil than those he criticizes is entirely self-serving and hypocritical. As the Church Lady would say, "How convenient."


message 46: by Alison (new)

Alison Joan wrote: "Alison wrote:

You are very kind, many thanks.



message 47: by Alison (new)

Alison Jann wrote: Very kind, thank you so much.


message 48: by Zyrtan (new)

Zyrtan Zyzzywycz Alison wrote "Religious apologists complain ....

Richard Dawkins himself could not have expressed your thoughts any better!! Kudos to you Alison and just to let you know, I AM going to "plagiarize" your message and incorporate it into my collection of quotes and other messages. I will, however, be crediting you with every word. Thank You for the post.


message 49: by John (new)

John This page led me to discover Medawar's brilliant review of Teilhard de Chardin's book, one that I tried to wrestle with as a teenager. It made me laugh out loud. Thank you Richard Dawkins.


message 50: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Mcinnes Maury wrote: "Dawkins is a brilliant man, but his aggressive anti-religion stand is offensive, an affront to the world's many religious people. I personally am not particularly religious (non-practicing Jew, wi..."


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