Friday, May 1, 2009

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins



The God Delusion is a truly remarkable, inspirational and eye-opening book. Of course, that's my personal opinion, the opinion of a physicist. I'm not going to review this book. That has already been done hundreds of times all over the internet. What I am going to do is to post a few excerpts from the book. Some are quotations from Dawkins and some others are quotations from other people.



... Ambrose Bierce's witty definition of the verb 'to pray': 'to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy'.

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... It has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can't change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.

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Martin Luther was well aware that reason was religion's arch-enemy, an he frequently warned of its dangers: 'Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.'* Again: 'Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of reason.' And again: 'Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.' Luther would have had no difficulty in intelligently designing unintelligent aspects of a religion to help it survive.

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Quote from Albert Einstein at the beginning of Chapter 6: 'The roots of morality: why are we good?'



Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men --- above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.

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As the Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Steven Weinberg said, 'Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.' Blaise Pascal (the one of the wager) said something similar: 'Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.'

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He [Hitler] may have agreed with Napoleon, who said, 'Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet', and with Seneca the Younger: 'Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful'.

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Voltaire got it right long ago: 'Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.' So did Bertrand Russell: 'Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.'

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More generally (and this applies to Christianity no less than to Islam), what is really pernicious is the practice of teaching children that faith itself is a virtue. Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument.

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Just as feminist wince when they hear 'he' rather than 'he or she', or 'man' rather than 'human', I want everybody to flinch whenever we hear a phrase such as 'Catholic child' or 'Muslim child'. Speak of a 'child of Catholic parents' if you like; but if you hear anybody speak of a 'Catholic child', stop them and politely point out that children are too young to know where they stand on such issues, just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics or politics.

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I chose these quotes because I like them. They are not a fair summary of all the ideas presented in the book. However, they hit the nail so gracefully that is hard to read them just once!


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* http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14223.htm

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