I posted this review over on goodreads.com
This book was a real eye opener for me, as an Agnostic since my early teens. Growing up in a Southern Baptist family, later to rebel and to travel my own roads, I found this book refreshing, entertaining and enlightening all at the same time. Since I have read a lot on this subject, I can't say that everything Dawkins had to say was totally new to me, but there were a few gems that stick out in my mind.
For example, he totally demolishes liberal Christian theology along with the conservative view. He spares no one. He shows how that when Christians admit to no longer living according to the Old Testament law, they are in fact admitting, whether they realize it or not, most probably they do not, that our human sense of morality is in fact universal and does NOT come from within the pages of the Bible or any other 'holy' book. It is this universal sense of morality, for instance, which allows us to say today that the stoning of adulterers is not only no longer culturally accepted but that it is in fact immoral. This same universal sense of morality tells us that stoning children for talking back to their parents is immoral. This sense that these things are wrong can NOT be coming from within the Bible, for it is the Bible itself which tells us to do these things. And this sense of morality is something that we all possess, it is universal, and we therefore do NOT need the Bible in order to live moral lives.
Aside from these few gems., I found myself scratching my head though, in that I just could not find where Dawkins had in fact proved the non-existence of God. He did not, instead he proved the fallibility and immorality of organized religious institutions. It could be that all religions are wrong all the while God still does in fact exist. Proving religion wrong does not disprove God. I felt like Dawkins just dismisses any aspect of the spiritual out of hand, as if it is just a given, yet he does not sufficiently give reason for this belief. For him, if he can't touch it, see it, smell it, hear it, etc, then for him it does not exist. For him, if it can not be proven then it does not exist, or at least does not deserve to be fretted about.
My girlfriend has said that since evolutionary Biology is perfectly capable of explaining life on earth, it renders God unnecessary and if God is unnecessary then why would he exist? That may be true.
I have also heard that when using causation as a basis for a belief in God, Theists point to God as the ultimate Cause, and then posit him as existing forever, the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover. But why not just say that the Universe itself has always existed, in one form or another, and cut out the middle man? In other words, it is not the existence of eternity that Theists have a problem with, they can fathom that God has existed forever, it is not ultimate cause that Theists have a problem with, they can fathom that God himself is uncaused. Why not then just call the Universe itself God and leave out the middle man altogether?
Lots of things to think about and ponder and that's what I do quite a bit. It's just who I am.
This book was very well written and caused me to re-think some of my positions. I have always considered myself an Agnostic but was able to say, "Yea, I could see myself as an Atheist."
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Dawkins himself, at least in this book, was nothing like his "anti-Christ" persona. That he was not out to hurt or make fun of people, that he was in fact a very likable and personable guy. I did not get that he was belligerently or militantly Atheist at all. I had actually put off reading any of his books, because of my fear that he would be too offputting in his approach. I found him to be just the opposite. Very bright, erudite, enlightening and approachable.
I especially liked the beginning part of the book where he describes the spirituality of people like Einstein and how it was NOT Theism but instead, "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. "
Dawkins says that he has this same unbounded admiration for the structure of the world and it in this way that even he has been called deeply religious by his close friends and associates
I also am very averse to organized religion, but in Einstein's and Dawkins' Pantheistic way I am also deeply religious. I am just not as sure as he is that the soul does not in fact exist. I tend to still believe in the soul and it's immortality. Maybe he does too, just in a more physical way, as in our bodies being broken down and going back to the universe, "ashes to ash, dust to dust."