I just finished reading the book, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It’s a wonderfully well thought-out critique of religion, and the God hypothesis. Dawkins focuses on why a belief in a supernatural being is so ubiquitous, and further examines the arguments in favour of the existence of God, and explains how scientific evidence contradicts them. He also tackles the social and psychological purposes which religion claims to fulfill, such as morality, consolation and inspiration, and argues why these functions are fulfilled even in the absence of religion. The book ends with a chapter on how the broadening of the horizons of our knowledge through the advancement of science reveals a beautiful and diverse universe, governed by simple and elegant laws, which doesn’t really need a supernatural element for us to perceive beauty.
It is impossible to write a review of this book without mentioning my personal views. If you read the “About me” page, you can probably guess that I am an atheist. I was lucky to have been born into a family which was only mildly religious, though a benevolent personal God(s) was always there, for consolation and inspiration. As I grew up I gradually began to think for myself, and have become a proud, if tactful(since none of the persons closest to me is blindly religious, definitely not fundamentalist, and I respect their faith) atheist.
It’s a must-read for all those who have wondered, at some point in their lives, whether God exists.
An afterthought(25 June): Since writing this post, I have had discussions with a couple of friends about religion, and I think I need to add a few more thoughts here. One of them is an agnostic, and the other a believer. Neither of them could understand why an atheist should be so hostile to religion, if so many people indeed find comfort in faith. I don’t have any problem with faith, but I feel that these are things which one should work out for oneself. Indeed, the believer friend has a beautiful faith, that the universe is full of intentions(whether it is true or not is beside the point), which gives her hope and comfort. In fact, I believed in something similar for a while myself.
Unfortunately, such enlightened faith, acknowledging science and savouring scientific knowledge of the world, is rare and doesn’t reflect the blind faith of an overwhelming majority of the religious people in the world. Just look at the attack on evolution by creationists in the twenty first century, that too in developed countries like the USA today, and you will see what I mean. I understand and sympathize with the (verbal) hostility of Dawkins towards religion. In fact, it’s a stance every true scientist should take, in my opinion, since religion has tried too much in the course of history, to discourage scientific enquiry and encourage unquestioning faith as a virtue.
Besides, it beats me why people should find comfort in believing something like creationism, that all evidence points to be false. Why does a better, more beautiful and apparently true knowledge of the world drive them to despair? Probably there is a psychological role for faith, but I think it’s ultimately down to education and consciousness raising. I don’t think the atheists of the world live in quiet desperation. Quite the contrary. I think most of them would have become atheists because of a certain level of satisfaction in learning more about the universe, and perceiving it as it is, without needing the comforts of beliefs which they find false anyway.