Dawkins the dogmatist

Prospect Magazine

Dawkins the dogmatist


Incurious and rambling, Richard Dawkins’s diatribe against religion doesn’t come close to explaining how faith has survived the assault of Darwinism

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
(Bantam, £20)

It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.

In his broad thesis, Dawkins is right. Religions are potentially dangerous, and in their popular forms profoundly irrational. The agnostics must be right and the atheists very well may be. There is no purpose to the universe. Nothing inconsistent with the laws of physics has been reliably reported. To demand a designer to explain the complexity of the world begs the question, “Who designed the designer?” It has been clear since Darwin that we have no need to hypothesise a designer to explain the complexity of living things. The results of intercessory prayer are indistinguishable from

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  1. December 2, 2009


    While I agree that the book overstates things a bit, I think you might have picked on some of the wrong arguments.

    For example, I think there’s difference between doing wrong in the name of atheism, and doing wrong as an atheist. As I understand it Stalin wasn’t driven to exterminate priests because of his atheistic beliefs; he did so because the Church’s authority threatened his own. Hitler and Mussolini were wary of religion for just that reason.

    And arguing that the armies of France didn’t march under the icon of the Virgin doesn’t prove they killed for atheism. It simply proves they didn’t kill for religion. There are other reasons: land, power, xenophobia.

    Dawkins’ point is that atheism never drives people to violence. As he says himself, atheists do do evil. Just never because of their atheism. Which makes complete sense: how can you go to war because of an absence of belief.

    Maybe one day Darwinists will be forced to fight for evolution, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown is the author of Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared (Granta) 

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