The God Delusion - an Appraisal  - Chapter 2 : Pt.1

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This is the Chapter 2: Part 1 Page for the appraisal of the contents of

Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion.



Page Contents:








Chapter 2 Overview 

"The God Hypothesis "

      Chapter 2 is divided into:


  • Noma (p.77-85) – science and religion don't overlap
  • The Great Prayer Experiment (p.85-90) – scientific verification of prayer doesn't work
  • The Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists (p.90-94) – friends together against Creationists
  • Little Green Men (p.94-99) – other advanced worlds, seeming godlike (I think!)

    From the above links, you will see on this page we will only cover the first half of the chapter. To see the second half of the chapter, go to the Main Contents page and then Page 2-2


Chapter 2 - Content & Comments






MISUNDERSTANDING: The chapter opens with a demonstration of the greatest misunderstanding possible in the description given of God. They do say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and nowhere is this more true than in respect of the Old Testament of the Bible. However, rather than comment on his descriptions of God here, we'll wait until he seeks to justify this poorly taught perception.


LINK to Appendix 9 - Angry Judgmental God


I know nothing of Richard's childhood or his experience of life, and I do not mean this to be disrespectful in any way, but my own experience over the years has been that when people describe God in the terms used by Richard at the beginning of this chapter, it is usually a reflection of what happened to them in their childhood, for it is as far from the truth as can possibly be, which we'll show later on. He seeks to justify his misguided view by quoting others of similarly misguided and ignorant views.



Quote 1: p.52


Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution


ALTERNATIVE BEGINNING: This is Richard's alternative proposition to explain how the world came to be, as an alternative to the concept of the Creator God. It does seem a bizarre leap of philosophical faith to take the Darwinian evolution mantra and suggest that evolution is the only way that anything intelligent enough to call itself God could come into being. I make this opening comment for the following reasons:


1. “Intelligence” – the usual usage of this word refers to intellectual (mind) capacity and has nothing to do with power to create. The evolutionary materialist needs to be honest enough to say, there is no way we can explain what happened a second before the ‘Big Bang' and there is no way that our minds can even grasp the concept of something coming into being from absolutely nothing. Philosophically these are even beyond our minds because they go beyond everything else we know about.


2. “Design – evolution”. These are the two opposing concepts. Design suggests a rational designer who has personality and purpose, and evolution speaks of pure, blind chance where words such as ‘meaning' and ‘purpose' have no place, except that which a leap of existential faith gives it.

LINK to only alternatives for the beginning of the world



Quote 2: p.52


Historians of religion recognise a progression from primitive tribal animisms, through polytheisms, such as those of the Greeks, Romans and Norsemen, to monotheisms such as Judaism and its derivatives, Christianity and Islam



CHANGING SCHOLARSHIP: I can only assume that Richard does the same as Dan Brown appears to do, obtaining his resources from out-of-date, extremist or fringe so-called academics. “Historians of religion” actually don't believe in progression as Richard suggested. This was a theory held in some quarters for many years but over the past century scholarship has come down firmly on the side of Monotheism existing way earlier than all of the other forms of religion which have been aberrations of that first believed in a number of parts of the world in the earliest stages of civilisation. Please do your own research and you will see this is so.

Professor Keith Ward, in Is Religion Dangerous?, writes:


Despite the fact that there is virtually no extant evidence for what the origins of religion were (since the origins must have been hundreds of thousands of years ago), this has not stopped scholars making definitive claims about what really happened... The result of this scholarly fantasizing was that religion turned out, amazingly, to be a very primitive phenomenon that could now be seen to be superstitious, and had long been superceded by science.... In his definitive work Theories of Primitive Religion, the Oxford anthropologist Evans-Pritchard has established the uselessness of all this fantasizing, which is based on unreliable, uncritical or non-existent evidence.

Yet another area where Richard needs to check his facts.


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Part 1: “Polytheism”



Quote 3: p.53


Monotheistic chauvinism was until recently written into the charity laws of both England and Scotland discriminating against polytheistic religions in granting tax-free status while allowing an easy ride to charities whose object was to provide monotheistic religion, sparing them the rigorous vetting quite properly required of secular charities



ACTUAL TRUTHS: Richard doesn't like Christianity (because that is what it mostly was in this country) being given special treatment but in this he is blinkered to certain undeniable truths about historic Christianity in this country:


1. Christians have been the primary volunteers helping in society. It was not atheists who set up schools, hospitals, homes for the poor, orphanages and Unions to help the workers; it was Christians. Even within the past two years the government has acknowledged the incredible ongoing volunteer input in our society that comes from within the Church.
2. The fact that they were not vetted in the same way as secular charities (if that is indeed so – in my experience it wasn't!) might suggest two things: a) a recognition that at the heart of Christianity is truth and a desire to act righteously, and b) the same cannot be said for secular groups who have no such stringent requirements upon them from their god.


3. Polytheistic religions (who are they historically in this country?) were not involved in charity work, only the monotheistic religions, so I'm not quite sure why Richard is publicly shooting himself in the foot of ignorance yet again by raising this as a point of dispute here?


QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES: Obviously feeling he is on weak grounds here, Richard hastily moves on the questionable practices that have arisen in the United States. I have already commented on the embarrassment caused by the American cousins so I don't intend to elaborate on it every time Richard raises it. Perhaps I would be little more sympathetic of his designs if he was gracious enough to point out some of the many excellent things that churches in the States have done. Pointing out the black sheep is just cheap shots.

To balance up the picture, I like Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey's comment in How Now Shall We Live, "At one point in the early nineteenth century in America, there were more than eleven hundred Christian societies working for social justice"



Quote 4: p.54


the ‘mystery' of the Trinity



THE TRINITY: Elsewhere, later in this chapter, Richard despises theology and can see no point in it. Theology is the study of the things of God. The Trinity is simply a concept that needs seriously thinking about. It is not three Gods but God expressing Himself in three distinct ways, largely for our benefit. To my wife I am a husband, to my children I am a father, to my church I am a pastor, and to others I may be a teacher or a friend. It is simply the way I relate to different people at different times and in different roles. It is such an easy concept in everyday life but as soon as it applies to God the unthinking make thoughtless comments. Where theologians have sought to clarify it, it has been controversial when they got it wrong (the Arian heresy quoted) or when they have sought to explain it in erudite terms (the Encyclopaedia quotes). If you don't understand it, stay away from it!



Quote 5: p.55


the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity



VERY HUMAN: When Richard looks for an ‘Aunt Sally' to throw abuse at, he uses either the church in the USA or the Roman Catholic Church. Here he goes on to deride the 5,120 Catholic saints and their areas of expertise. Agreed, silly stuff in the eyes of many of us. Almost as silly as some of the stuff that scientists fall for sometimes. Just proves we're still a very human, very imperfect human race, which only goes to make the subjects of the mercy and grace of God that Christianity relishes, even more wonderful.

ALL OF US: If I could wave a magic wand over the human race and get rid of all weird and wonderful beliefs, ideas and practices, I would because they embarrass those of us who seek for truth. Yet, actually all these deviations only highlight the truth that Christianity points up like no other religion or philosophy – we're confused, mixed up, arrogant, petty minded, narrow minded - and we need help, because we obviously can't hack it on our own! Humanistic atheists can live in their cloud cuckoo land of optimism but the history of the past two hundred years doesn't show them up in a good light – and it wasn't religion that has caused most of the deaths in that period!


LINK to Appendix 8 - Facts, Formulas & Freaky Behaviour


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Part 2: “Monotheism”



Quote 6: p.58


The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism



SILLY QUOTE: Here we go again! This is a quote by Gore Vidal which says more about him than it does about Christianity! Why does Richard let himself down again and again by using such silly (and ‘silly' is the right word) quotes. It would be good to put aside Gore Vidal's background except that by its very nature it has everything that requires him to deny a God who says, “This is the way I've designed things to work and this is how they shouldn't work.”


There are strange words in this quote that reveal another man not knowing much of what he was talking about. For instance: “barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament.” Barbaric was the term to be applied to nations at that time who did not know God. The Law of Moses and the acts of God were entirely contrary to that barbarism, but we mustn't expect casual snipers to read, find out and realise the truth of that. The Law of God was actually ushering in civilisation, not barbarism.


WOMEN: Then there is the “loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.” I think our intrepid sniper and his supporter, Richard, would do well to read some more of history and realise that a) the Church did not loathe women and b) women as the physically weaker sex were abused most in those lands outside of Christianity and Judaism (shoot whoever else you will, but not those two!)


In the churches that I have been into (and I don't mean merely in church services, but what I've seen of their wider faith-community life) in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Britain, Germany, India, and the Far East, there are no signs of down-trodden, abused, or loathed women. Now that is not to deny that in other places there may be such signs, merely that the examples of Christianity that I have seen quite extensively around the world in the last fifteen years, suggest that these communities are more harmonious and the women more comfortable with who they are than anywhere I've seen outside the Church!


As I said earlier, a silly quote that adds nothing to the debate and which only reveals ignorance in both the person being quoted and the person quoting him.



Quote 7: p.58


a single fiercely unpleasant God



MUD THROWING: This is part of another mud-throwing exercise by Richard that reveals more of his ignorance than anything else, and we'll prove that later. As I observe Richard venting his spleen against God, I am put in mind of the adage, ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'. I'm sure he's going on to try to justify some of this language – which we'll deal with when he comes to it – but I'm not sure that it is wise for an imperfect human being to be that abusive about anyone else – especially when you clearly know little about them.

I wonder if Richard is having to make such violent noises to deny God because he has the terrible fear deep down that one of these days he will stand before almighty and perfect God and have all his own imperfections revealed for what they are. If that is true, then the sooner he finds out about the claims of the Gospel, the better!



Quote 8: p.58


During the Roman occupation of Palestine Christianity was founded by Paul of Tarsus



JESUS NOT PAUL: How odd, I thought it was founded by Jesus Christ! The church was up and running and knowing quite clearly what it believed well before Saul became Paul. In fact it is probable that Paul didn't start writing his letters for at least fifteen years after the church got under way at Jerusalem. Indeed the church had gone to the Gentiles from the Jews, similarly, long before Paul started off on his missionary journeys. Is Richard purposefully revealing his apparent ignorance here, or what?


A bit later Richard states, “Unless otherwise stated, I shall have Christianity in mind, but only because it is the version with which I happen to be most familiar.” Well on the basis of what he has shown us as his knowledge of Christianity so far, I don't think he appears qualified whatsoever to speak on any major world religion to deny the existence of God. So far, we have had one blunder after another. Now this is not being nasty, but simply factual, and we haven't got down to the meaty stuff yet!


For some reason, after this section, on p.59 he goes on to chew up deists but with what point is unclear. The two pages on Monotheism say virtually nothing and what they do say is often inaccurate. An odd bit of writing!


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Part 3: Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the Religion of America




FOUNDING FATHERS: As I went to make notes on page 60 onwards, I found myself totally bemused at this whole section, the point of which simply seems to be to suggest that the Founding Fathers were not Christians, though there is no indication as to how this affects his thesis about the God delusion!


On p.62 there was a swing away from America for a moment as he derides the established church of England. What appears obvious is that Richard seem to be confused between the basic tenets of the Christian faith and its belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, (who so far after 60 pages has hardly had a mention!), and then the ways that nations have tried to harness (foolishly and unwisely in my opinion) that faith.


On p.64 he quotes a number of the American founding fathers, all apparently making very negative religious noises, as if somehow their lacks of understanding somehow adds credibility to his case (which has not yet been stated) – but it doesn't.


By p.65 he is bewailing the lack of acceptance of atheists when we come across the first quote of any interest in this section:



Quote 9: p.65


American atheists far outnumber religious Jews, yet the Jewish lobby is notoriously one of the most formidably influential in Washington. What might American atheists achieve if they organised themselves properly?




NAIVE UNREALITY: There appears a naivety in this quote that almost beggars belief. I suspect that Richard has got so carried away with his sorrow for the rejection and plight of atheists that he has really lost contact with reality. I'm sorry, but that's what it seems like. First a point of semantics; one moment he mentions ‘religious Jews' and the next the ‘Jewish lobby'. I would suggest there is not necessarily any correlation between the two. It is not the Jews' religiousness that is the powerful influence but their cultural unity and purpose, and the two things are quite different.


JEWISH INFLUENCE: The reason that there is a powerful lobby in Washington is the Jewish business element in the economy. Money talks and Jewish money has to be listened to. That is not to say anything bad about the ‘Jewish economy' merely to point out where the influence comes from. Atheists might try and have their philosophical views heard, but that will do little or nothing to affect the influence they have. This is just yet another of the small points that mount up to indicate that Richard is operating in an area he does not understand!


The whole of p.66 and running into p.67 again bemoans the lack of atheistic influence, complaining how dubious Christians have had far more influence. What Richard seems completely unable to see is that so often people have supported Christian enterprise, dubious though it may have been on occasion, because it offers help to the populace, while atheism offers nothing but emptiness.


This section seems to have had a whining element to it and actually says nothing whatsoever against the basic tenets of the Christian faith and the existence of God.

As this is all about America, Charles Colson who has been a prolific writer with a big research team behind him for many years, in his book with Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live, makes a very balanced comment:

"At the birth of our nation, no one - not even deists and skeptics - doubted that basic biblical truths undergirded American institutions and informed the nation's values. Though the Founding Fathers drew heavily from the Enlightenment philosophy as well as from Christian tradition, few at the time saw any contradiction between the two."

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Part 4: The Poverty of Agnosticism




GETTING WORSE: Now if the previous section was wordy but meaningless as far as the debate about God is concerned, this section gets even worse.


Previously I have used quotes that indicate poor arguing, lack of knowledge and pure misunderstanding within Richard's arguments. (I have wrongly used the word ‘argument' here, I realise, because an argument is a carefully constructed flow of logical points that build up to prove a point. That has been totally absent in this book so far - at least as far as the title of the book is concerned.)


In this section, from pages 69 to 72, Richard berates various agnostics. I confess I cannot work out why when I thought the book was supposed to be about being deluded about God. Agnostics say they don't know about God, so why have a go at them – unless it is purely a ruse to make way for leading us into a very speculative discussion about probabilities. If the subject of probabilities and the truth behind the Christian faith were addressed, I could understand it, but all he seeks to do is attack uncertainty. Fine!


Quote 10: p.74


It is the nature of faith that one is capable, like Jung, of holding a belief without adequate reason to do so.




MISUNDERSTANDING AGAIN: I grab this quote almost out of desperation, to move away from the airy-fairy war against agnostics, but it does, yet again, reveal the complete misunderstandings about faith that Richard has. It is obvious that he believes that faith is some vague feeling of belief based upon nothing more than a nice feeling. Now that is what I accused him, in the previous chapter, of doing in respect of finding meaning in an atheistic world without meaning and making an existentialists ‘leap of faith'.


LINK to Appendix 2 - Basic Christian Beliefs

Biblical Christian faith is built upon knowledge, upon things that have happened and, yes, the probability that they are true, did happen and reveal a personal, almighty, Creator God. Whether Jung was making an existential leap of faith or not, I don't know. He's a red herring to the argument, slipped in surreptitiously here. (I have noted that Richard keeps on popping in these little snippets of confused untruth as if he feels that saying them enough times will make them true!)

Professor Thomas Arnold , one time chair of modern history at Oxford University wrote:

   I have been used for many years to studying the histories of other times and to examining and weighing the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead. 


He, clearly an expert, did not agree with Richard's assertion of there not being 'adequate reason'.



Quote 11: p.74,75


Bertrand Russell's parable of the celestial teapot




INAPPROPRIATE PARABLE: Richard clearly likes this analogy but unfortunately doesn't realise (like Russell) that it was so far from Christian claims as to be completely worthless. The parable spoke of a teapot orbiting the sun, but is so small we cannot see it. Although someone asserts it is there, the rest of us won't believe it.


The reason that this is so far off from the Christian position as to be unworthy as a comparison, is that the evidences of Christian belief are so many and so varied (have a look in any good Apologetics book or in the Apologetics section of this site), that they form a mountain of detail that cannot be simply shrugged off by any fair minded person. Sadly neither Russell nor Richard have bothered to look at that detail (and that was clear from Russell's writings and now Richard's writings.)


Richard's 'dishonesty' is that he belongs to a discipline (science) which makes assertions that are often not definitely true, adjusts its findings as later data is revealed, and makes great leaps of faith in areas relating to the past that can only be theory based on a lot of assumptions.

LINK to the uncertainties of science

Increasingly philosophical scientists are prepared to say, “We can't be sure,” and for that they gain credibility. It is the dogmatic scientist who refuses to acknowledge so many of his own colleagues who loses credibility.

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NB. In what follows Q stand for ‘Quote'


Preamble (p.51,52)


This started with insults against God and then lays down definitions upon which Richard's whole philosophy is based.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • Richard's alternative to God requires a massive existential leap of faith (Q.1)
  • He has a wrong understanding of the development of religion in the world (Q.2)


Part 1: Polytheism


In this section he berates the various ideas, as he sees them, of multi-Gods.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • His objections to Christianity being given favourable charity status are because it was Christians who were mostly involved in charity work in this country (Q.3)
  • The Trinity is a simple way of describing different facets of the One God (Q.4) which Richard seems unable to see
  • Pointing fingers at the Catholic Church is an easy thing to do and a number of us are also uncomfortable with some of their institutional beliefs (Q.5)


Part 2: Monotheism


Here we expected him to speak out against the One God but it didn't happen.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • His opening quote from Gore Vidal was both petty and highly inaccurate indicating a blend of spitefulness and ignorance I would not have expected from an academic. (Q.6)
  • The tone was repeated in negative and unjustified comments about God. (Q.7)
  • It was Jesus and not Paul who founded Christianity – a further strange aberration of thinking, almost suggesting a level of ignorance that would be laughable if it wasn't so serious (Q.8)


Part 3: Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the Religion of America


This whole section seems a hit at America, suggesting that the Founding Fathers were not Christians. How this supports his thesis that God is a delusion defeated me.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • His understanding of the Jewish role in American society is naïve and unfounded. (Q.9)
  • His pleas for atheistic influence fails to understand they had little to contribute. (Q.9)


Part 4: The Poverty of Agnosticism


In this section he berates agnostics, but how this affects his thesis that God is a delusion is again a mystery.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • He reveals a complete lack of understanding of what faith is, and doesn't realise that it is entirely founded on history. (Q.10)
  • His use of Russell's analogy of the celestial teapot is so far from the Christian position as to be unworthy of comment and only goes to show, again, his lack of understanding about Christianity. (Q.11)


Overall Comment


I am sure I could have cited many more examples in the first half of this chapter but the ones I have picked out reveal:

  • a complete lack of understanding of historic Christian faith by Richard,
  • an inappropriate appeal to quotes by others who are similarly uninformed,
  • his only means of scoring points validly seems to be pointing fingers at the Catholic Church.


As I have commented previously, the thing that worries me when I observe those who applaud Richard is their similar ignorance of what the Christian faith is all about, and their willingness to deride something they clearly know little about.


My plea would be to read and find out, question and consider, from a point of informed wisdom, not from one of wilful ignorance.


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