THE GOD DELUSION Richard Dawkins (Houghton Mifflin), 416 pages, $35.95 cloth. Rating: NNNNN
Who would have thought that the funniest book of the year would be written by a British scientist challenging the existence of God?
Richard Dawkins's extraordinary The God Delusion, which has hovered near the top of the bestseller list for weeks, takes a no-holds-barred position against those who put faith above evidence and superstition above logic. Dawkins uses razor wit and impeccable logic to dissect and demolish the arguments believers give for the existence of God.
As a scientist who depends on replication and evidence to form conclusions, Dawkins finds the lack of both those things appalling in religion. He feels the same way about the animosity to curiosity among the devoutly religious.
He points out that whenever science fails to explain natural phenomena, some religious voice pipes up to declare that God fills the void. Declaration instead of research serves as proof in the theistic world.
Some of Dawkins's arguments have been made before, but never so enjoyably. He points out how the Testaments, both Old and New, drip blood. In the Old Testament especially, rape, incest and murder are often applauded as serving virtuous ends.
Dawkins also demolishes the idea of God as the first cause of the universe, using the same argument Bertrand Russell advanced when he described his epiphany about the idea of God being illogical. If God created the heavens and the earth, then who, in heaven's name, created God?
In a wonderful passage, Dawkins uses the image of a dot of light moving down a ruler in a pitch-black environment. Life is in the dot, and the emptiness of non-existence is what surrounds us.
And because life is a short, one-time gift, it should be appreciated and respected to the fullest. That is the message of this wonderful book: if people could only appreciate the wonders around them, they wouldn't need the pretty - and not-so-pretty - legends of God.
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