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The God Delusion > General thoughts on the book?

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message 1: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
Having started this new thread, first of all I hope you all will feel free to start new threads too anytime you want.

The God Delusion proved to be much more interesting (and entertaining!) than I thought it would be. I was raised in the South, but in a very laid-back nondenominational church...no fire and brimstone, no fear and punishment, very "new testament" as they claimed (and it was so, thanks to a very forward-thinking minister). So when I was old enough to start doubting that the Bible was an actual historical document, and from there to begin doubting that Christianity was the only true religion, and then drifting into agnosticism it was an easy path to take. But so was leaving open a door to the possibilities of God or gods.

I wasn't sure that The God Delusion was going to bring anything new to the table for me, but I found Dawkins’ "be brave enough to embrace your atheism!" message intriguing (although I think I'll stay inside with the chickens.) But he's so right that you can't express religious doubt in this country without isolating yourself. I did appreciate his critique of how religion operates in American life and it's influence on public policy. Still, a community of atheists just seems kind of dreary to me rather than freeing.
The primary point in the book that bothered me was his argument that without religion, there would be no suicide bombings, no 9/11, no problems in the middle east, no Northern Ireland, etc. He completely glossed over the fact that these conflicts are given the patina of religion as an organizing principle, but are in fact political divides and quests for power and control. Banish religion and most of these problems would still exist. He gets angry when he reads of "a Muslim child", aged four, when what is meant is a four-year-old child of Muslim parents…which I understand, and I think his take on the religious indoctrination of children is on the money. But his anger, for example, over the fact that the massacres in what used to be Yugoslavia are called "ethnic cleansing" instead of religious massacres—-well, religion is just the excuse for one group to attack another group that is threatening its hold on power.

If the book has a single message, it is that there is nothing wrong or outlandish about atheism, and that life can still have purpose if you allow yourself to be free of the delusions of religion. However, if it’s his ambition (and I think it is?) to convert anyone, I don’t think it’s going to work.



message 2: by Fran (new)

Fran | 20 comments Right now I have read the first 196 pages of the Dawkins book and have skimmed the rest. I had to take a "fiction break" at that point. For one thing, I was going out of town, and this is the sort of book I almost think deserves the old, proverbial "Plain brown wrapper." (Are any of the rest of you old enough to know what that even means?) I am not 100% sure whether I will bother to read it cover-to-cover. It seems to be the sort of book that repeats its thesis over and over, in various ways.

Two things I really did enjoy and appreciate about the book though are the parts about the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and how they felt about religion. I have been concerned about the rise of the religious right in the US, and how much the separation of church and state has started to be made to sound like a bad thing, rather than a hallmark of our religious (or irreligious) rights. Here in Oklahoma it is primary season, and I am hearing TV ads for county commisioners and Corporation commisioners telling how they are such good Christians. That both offends me AND scares me! These are not even legislative offices, where theoretically your "Christianity" might influence your legislative agenda. The Corporation Commission oversees public utilities and the County Commisioners inspect, fix, and build county roads, bridges, and jails. Why would anyone care what religion these people were or weren't? It is just becoming endemic in Oklahoma politics to say "Vote for me because I am a good Christian" and that terrifies me.

The second thing that particularly interested me were the analyses of IQ, education, and especially "liberalism" as a correlation to belief or disbelief in God. By Oklahoma standards I am a liberal for sure, so who wouldn't suspect I would be reading such a "horrible" book? And as an old Catholic school girl, who wouldn't guess I would feel vaguely guilty about even reading it?


message 3: by Laurie (last edited Jul 28, 2008 05:57PM) (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
The plain brown wrapper is funny...my 17-year-old nephew was at my house last week, and he asked to borrow the book. I told him ok and had to STOP myself from adding, "but don't read it in front of your grandmother, ok?" I guess thus proving that "atheist talk" is verboten to a large extent, at least in the U.S.

So, we're both from the South. The God Delusion is singularly targeted at fundamentalism--I've seen it up close and personal, too--which makes me wonder if it's not really belief in God he's against, but the social and political perversion of that belief. There were plenty of examples of his encounters with non-doctrinal religion in his book, and they actually don't seem to upset him all that much. I don't think he'd be so insistent that people he respected (Einstein, the founding fathers in the U.S.), were actually atheists if believing in God didn't connect them with fundamentalist believers (I don't have the book with me right now, but more than once he'd say in connection with one of them "I think what he REALLY meant to say..." or something like that).


message 4: by Fran (new)

Fran | 20 comments Did you finish the book? I am about 6 pages further along than I was when I wrote the other day. I really don't know if I will finish it. I have learned a few things that were new to me, but not enough to keep reading him repeat himself. I had to take a fiction break, and have read 3 1/2 novels rather than continue plowing through it. Where do you live Laurie?


message 5: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
I did, although I "dipped and skipped" through the last 100 pages, but I'm still going to count it! I was actually more interested in the cultural critique than the scientific argument, but it was still worth the read...esp since apparently he's pretty influential.

I live in the Washington, DC area, but my family is from Alabama (where they all still live). I'm going home on Saturday for a visit, and am going to take with me 1. the August book (which I suppose we'll keep the Pollan one), and 2. a pile of New Yorkers I've yet to look at. Of course, there's nothing stopping me from going to Barnes and Noble and browsing the new fiction!


message 6: by Fran (new)

Fran | 20 comments So you are really a Southerner by birth. I don't consider the Northern VA suburbs really "South" anymore since there are so many transplants there. My husband's brother and sister-in-law (from Okla. and NJ) met and married in the DC area and never left Fairfax County, and my CA born daugher, PA born son-in-law, and Japan-born pre-school grandsons all live in Annandale. But Alabama would sure be bible-belt territory.

I was born in Kansas City, MO and graduated from High School in the pre-civil rights days when housing additions in Johnson County Kansas (the nicest KC suburbs are there)were still segregated; no blacks, no Jews. Consequently my Missouri High School was 1/4 to 1/3 Jewish, and our football games, City Council meetings, etc. always gave a generic prayer. I about fainted when I went to my first football game in Oklahoma and heard it end, "in Jesus Christ we pray." And actually I think lots of "public" activities in Oklahoma still do pray that way.

I have read another ten or twelve pages of the book now, the chapter on whether you can be good without God, and may actually finish it yet. . . . Have a good trip to AL.


message 7: by Sineadm (new)

Sineadm | 15 comments Hey guys,

I thought this wasn't going to be a US group! If you want to talk about 'Southern' then lets go global, I'm writing this from Dunedin in NZ, thats in the south of NZ which is pretty well South of most places.

I'm not a native to NZ, originally from UK with an Irish Catholic mother. I think she probably gave up on God before I did but then she had a few more years of experience. I'm about 2/3 of the way through Dawkings book and struggling to pick it up. If it was the only thing I had to read I'd probably get on with it. Perhaps I'm happy not believing and thus not interested in the reasons why that is the case.

I have started the Pollan book for August and am flying through it! Food is a bit more my thing than god.


message 8: by Laurie (last edited Aug 01, 2008 04:44PM) (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
Did you spend any time in Ireland growing up? It's been interesting to see the Church's declining influence there over the past few decades. I bet Dawkins has more than a few Irish fans.

I started the Pollan book last night (an impressive 10 pages!). I prefer food to religion too.


message 9: by Sineadm (new)

Sineadm | 15 comments Hi,

We lived in London but spent most summer holidays in Ireland. I was too busy exploring my grandparent's farm and getting muddy to notice much else and we wee a long way away from the troubles. I do remember church being a much more social affair there and the most popular mass on a Sunday was always the fastest one.

Sinead

I am feeling a little guilty about not finishing Dawkin's book.



message 10: by Fran (new)

Fran | 20 comments I just got back from the Outer Banks of North Carolina with husband and 7 relatives. We had never been there. Since I was there with ULTRA-RELIGIOUS relatives, no surprise that I didn't bring Dawkins with me. I may finish it eventually but 3/4 of it was fine with me if I don't. I read 4 novels at the beach or on planes, and then had to buy a non-fiction Civil War book in Colonial Williamsburg because I literally get the shakes if I don't have a book to read.

Sorry to sound too US, but only Laurie was posting then.

My mother's parents were both born in Ireland, came to the US (separately) just before WWI. They met and married in Kansas City, MO. I have never been to Ireland myself, but the Irish Catholic roots took hold HARD in my mother. Bever been to NZ either, but maybe if I ever win a lottery.

I'll have to look for the food book and get busy. Take care all-- Fran


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