The God Delusion

The God Delusion I bought The God Delusion in paperback in 2007 and it languished on my bookshelf, deliberately placed next to my beloved His Dark Materials, until 2009. If truth be told, I found the prospect of reading it a little intimidating. I bought it as much out of curiosity as anything else; I chart my arrival into Atheism at around 2005, when I was fourteen years old, and after an initial period of acceptance, I began to grow curious. Still, the garish red-and-white cover glared at me, and it was not until this summer that I finally got around to reading it. Perhaps one of the reasons why I was so intimidated by this book was the sheer controversy surrounding it.

"I hope you die slowly and you fucking burn in hell, you damned blasphemy (sic)".

This is just one example of the outright hatred expressed towards Richard Dawkins. Surprisingly, this is by far the least vehement, although it is one of the more concise. The God Delusion is, perhaps, the book that launched a thousand rebuttals, creating an entire industry of spin-offs like The Dawkins Delusion and The Deluded Atheist. Having read the book, however, I find this rage on behalf of religious believers to be terribly misplaced.

Many have criticised Dawkins for being 'militant' or for expressing his opinions in a form akin to 'ranting'. He is neither so uncivilised nor so unreasonable. Dawkins expresses his opinion in a way which is thoughtful, well-reasoned, and difficult to find upsetting. His tone is neither angry nor of the fire-and-brimstone variety. It is my view that only those who are insecure in their own beliefs would find this book upsetting due to the very fact that it challenges those views. If one is certain about their own beliefs then one should be happy to have them challenged and relish the prospect of justifying them to a wider audience.

Indeed, as a young Atheist still freeing myself from the influence of Catholic dogma, I am remarkably reluctant to expose myself to any further dogma, whether atheistic or not. I was determined to enjoy several years of simply being, of not having to justify religious principles and not to think too hard about religion. However, The God Delusion awakened me to truths I had not even considered, such as discrimination against Atheists or indeed that Atheism needed to stand up for itself. After reading The God Delusion, I realised that this much is true. Naively, I no longer perceived archaic forms of religion as much of a threat. The influence of millennia-old beliefs to undermine and persecute people even in the modern day became all too apparent within these pages. Neither was I very aware of the special treatment granted to religious organisations and their immunity from criticism and offence. It is about time that somebody did challenge these beliefs, and Richard Dawkins does an admirable job. Indeed, given my stance as a determined Atheist, one might imagine that Richard Dawkins was simply preaching to the converted. However, I gained a new perception not just on religion but on Atheism after reading this book.

So often we perceive the beauty of religion in the grand Cathedrals and temples, the ornate hymns and rituals. The beauty of Atheism, on the other hand, has long been overlooked. It is perceived as harsh, detached, sterile, and factual; leaving no room for a magical, colourful fantasy world which religion so artfully creates. The quote that prefaces The God Delusion amazingly manages to sum up my entire world view and explain my apathy towards religion. Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?. Indeed, without the delusion of religion, the world is not a duller place. It may seem perplexing and indeed bizarre of me to describe a non-fiction book centred on scientific, philosophical and theological topics as 'beautiful', but it's passionate defence of rational thought and defence of secularism seems to be to be nothing short of beautiful.

The God Delusion is not, as I had originally believed, an intimidating book. It is refreshing and readable even to those who do not often venture beyond fiction. It is enlightening and above all interesting. Even for an Atheist such as myself, it was somewhat of a revelation. Regardless of faith or religion, I would recommend this book.

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