Along with the members of a book club to which Agnes and I belong, I'm reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Although I'm not that far into it yet, I'm already finding it a bit of a challenge to chew, let alone swallow. It's been wisely said that there's not much point in debating the points for and against the existence of God, and I'm already feeling a vast gap between Dawkins' perceptions of the world and my own. Dawkins is, of course, a scientist, and consequently (but not inevitably) a materialist. He denies the existence of the supernatural out of hand and has warned me in the first chapter already that he will be providing plenty of evidence to make me understand that the probability of the existence of God is very, very low.
Not unexpectedly, Dawkins takes a full-bore run at fundamentalist concepts and the people who promote them. In my view, starting off with ridicule when a debate is desired, is an error. And Dawkins' caustic aspersions on the sanity of believers tells me that it's not a discussion or debate he's after at all. He sounds as dogmatic as any TV evangelist.
I'm sure there are a lot of rebuttals to Dawkins out there, and I'm sure Google would help me find reams of material refuting Dawkins. I'm determined, however, to postpone that kind of reading until I've done my own review, and I think it's probably a good idea to finish reading the book first. There are plenty of Christians condemning stuff they've never even looked at, including Harry Potter.
Dawkins starts out with a story about his wife who apparently hated school and wished she could leave. When she told her parents about this years later, they asked her why she hadn't told them about this at the time. "I didn't know I could," she said. Dawkins goes on to use this analogy to support his supposition that "there are lots of people out there who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy in it, don't believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in its name . . . but just don't realize that leaving is an option."
Dawkins writes hyperbolically (and in my view, inaccurately) about the death, bloodshed and mayhem that religion has caused throughout the ages. Certainly, wars have been fought on the basis of the defense of religion, but more often than not, there have also been contributing ethnic, territorial or economic factors involved. For instance, he labels the "troubles" in Ireland as a religious conflict when, if fact, religious differences there are peripheral factors in a conflict that is largely territorial and ethnic.
When I'm done, I'll follow this up. 'Til then, God bless you.