Excerpt from The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The God Delusion

By Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2006,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    464 pages.

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Print Excerpt

A 6,000 word excerpt of the entire text of Chapter 1 starts after the Contents.

CONTENTS

Preface

1. A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER
Deserved respect
Undeserved respect

2. THE GOD HYPOTHESIS
Polytheism
Monotheism
Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America
The poverty of agnosticism
NOMA
The Great Prayer Experiment
The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists
Little green men

3. ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE
Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proofs’
The ontological argument and other a priori arguments
The argument from beauty
The argument from personal ‘experience’
The argument from scripture
The argument from admired religious scientists
Pascal’s Wager
Bayesian arguments

4. WHY THERE ALMOST CERTAINLY IS NO GOD
The Ultimate Boeing 747
Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser
Irreducible complexity
The worship of gaps
The anthropic principle: planetary version
The anthropic principle: cosmological version
An interlude at Cambridge

5. THE ROOTS OF RELIGION
The Darwinian imperative
Direct advantages of religion
Group selection
Religion as a by-product of something else
Psychologically primed for religion
Tread softly, because you tread on my memes
Cargo cults

6. THE ROOTS OF MORALITY: WHY ARE WE GOOD?
Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin?
A case study in the roots of morality
If there is no God, why be good?

7. THE ‘GOOD’ BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
The Old Testament
Is the New Testament any better?
Love thy neighbour
The moral Zeitgeist
What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they atheists?

8. WHAT’S WRONG WITH RELIGION? WHY BE SO HOSTILE?
Fundamentalism and the subversion of science
The dark side of absolutism
Faith and homosexuality
Faith and the sanctity of human life
The Great Beethoven Fallacy
How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism

9. CHILDHOOD, ABUSE AND THE ESCAPE FROM RELIGION
Physical and mental abuse
In defence of children
An educational scandal
Consciousness-raising again
Religious education as a part of literary culture

10. A MUCH NEEDED GAP?
Binker
Consolation
Inspiration
The mother of all burkas

Appendix:
A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion
Books cited or recommended
Notes
Index
 

I don't try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it. —Albert Einstein


DESERVED RESPECT


The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands. He suddenly found himself overwhelmed by a heightened awareness of the tangled stems and roots, a forest in microcosm, a transfigured world of ants and beetles and even – though he wouldn't have known the details at the time – of soil bacteria by the billions, silently and invisibly shoring up the economy of the micro-world. Suddenly the micro-forest of the turf seemed to swell and become one with the universe, and with the rapt mind of the boy contemplating it. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it led him eventually to the priesthood. He was ordained an Anglican priest and became a chaplain at my school, a teacher of whom I was fond. It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.*

* Our sport during lessons was to sidetrack him away from scripture and towards stirring tales of Fighter Command and the Few. He had done war service in the RAF and it was with familiarity, and something of the affection that I still retain for the Church of England (at least by comparison with the competition), that I later read John Betjeman's poem:

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Dawkins. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company

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