The God Delusion - an Appraisal  - Introduction


This is the Introduction Page for the appraisal of the contents

of Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion.

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Page Contents






Ways of Reading this Book

Hopefully you have obeyed the request on the Contents page and come here first. You may be coming here out of pure interest, having heard about it but not having read The God Delusion. Read this page to catch a sense of why I have written and how I've written and then go the OVERALL SUMMARY page here on line and catch a sense of what is in The God Delusion. After you have done that, I suggest you then work your way through the APPENDICES here, to see what all the fuss is about! Finally work your way through the chapters here and see my detailed objections.

If you are reading or have read The God Delusion, then I suggest, after you have read down this page, you work through the APPENDICES here first to see the overall problems with the book, and then work through chapter by chapter and check it against what you have read.


Why have I written?


When The God Delusion came out, the press gave Dawkins much positive coverage (although some of the critics weren't so kind). Here was a Don Quixote tilting at the windmills of orthodox and less orthodox belief. Strangely enough it was not the extracts from the book that prompted me to write but Dawkins' fans who went online and praised him and denigrated the church. It struck me that this very much had the feeling of Rent-a-Crowd about it. I'm not suggesting that that is what either Dawkins or his publishers did, but his followers who responded did so with a shallowness and superficiality of a crowd who knew little of Christianity and were there merely to make noise.


Early in 2007 Alister McGrath brought out The Dawkins Delusion, which responds to The God Delusion in a brief 65 pages of broad sweeps. Now I have elsewhere recommended that Dawkins watchers buy The Dawkins Delusion for it comes from an academic and is worth reading. I have, shortly after I finished writing Chapter 4, come across an excellent little book (124 pages!) by David Robertson called The Dawkins Letters which, in many ways is a much easier read. It is excellent; do buy it! He writes with knowledge and humility, which don't often go together. I wish I had his grace. There is also a good little book called Deluded by Dawkins by Andrew Wilson which is easy to read and deals more with overall principles.


Now I'm not an academic but I have been reading and studying the Bible and the Christian faith, intelligently I hope, for forty years. My biggest concern is that my congregation and other people that I meet in the community – and perhaps even the crowd who e-mailed in Dawkins' support - will understand and be able to see the validity of what is here in these pages. If printed to the same size as The God Delusion, you would have a book of about 180 pages.

Unlike any of the other books that I have found countering The God Delusion, my objective has been to work through, page by page, and comment on what has been written, not in broad strokes, but specifically commenting on the content. The difficulty has been to decide how much to comment upon and I hope you will find sufficient here to allow you to decide intelligently as to the truth or otherwise of what Dawkins has written. Rather than reply in large theological strokes as some of the other writers have done, I hope to show you, paragraph by paragraph if necessary, that applause for The God Delusion is unfounded and unwise.



A Plea for Cessation of Mindless Snide Comments


If you are going to read these pages, then you will need to read what is here carefully, and that is not something that Christianity-critics seem to be good at doing. I find it ironic that Dawkins pillories shallow Christians, people who give very little thought to their beliefs, and yet it is very obvious that many of those who would raise their voices against Christianity have very little knowledge and understanding, and berate something of which they are largely ignorant. There is an emotional prejudice built on misunderstandings which seems to take every opportunity to make mindless snide remarks – and this comes from even those who you would consider academics in their own field.


My request is that, if you fall into the group that I am speaking about, you give these pages a fair reading before you give any more knee-jerk reactions to Christianity. Perhaps it is not what you think it is!



Dawkins is Right!


Please don't quote this out of context. As you will see as you read down, I do have very serious reservations about a large amount of this book and the way it is put together.


Now having said that, I believe those of us who are truly Christians are obliged to conform to as high a level of honesty and integrity as possible, and it is for those reasons that I make these comments here. Richard Dawkins attacks Christians who are shallow and naïve and I am afraid that the Christian world often gives him reasonable ammunition.   I believe there are indeed many people who claim to be Christians but who rarely read their Bible and really do not have an answer for their faith. Now you may blame that on Christian leadership who do not equip the church, and there may be some truth there.


At various times Dawkins, in his book, makes fun of the Roman Catholic Church and parts of the church in the United States, and if we are honest, we have to say he is right about what he says. As much as I respect the Roman Catholic Church for its moral position, and I respect a variety of friends we have who are Catholics, I cannot find any sympathy to defend praying to ‘specialist saints' or a variety of other beliefs that are ‘add-ons' which embarrass my Catholic friends and me.


Moreover, although I love the people in the churches that I have been to in the States, unfortunately the portrayal of church and even more, the portrayal of the Christian life by the church in the USA, often leaves a great deal to be desired, and the antics of “Christian TV” from the States is sometimes both obnoxious and thoroughly embarrassing. While the church in the United Kingdom is small, marginalised and often ineffective, the church in the United States is often not thought of as a wonderful example of the church to the rest of the world. Yes, there have been notable leaders and notable churches that have stood out as models, but unfortunately it is the nature of the church in the USA that there are others who wash away the good done by those few. (Please see my further comments in Appendix 1)


Now I don't believe these comments should be completed without an acknowledgement that church is made up of imperfect people and we often get it wrong – whoever we are - and that is not something that appeals to Dawkins. It is a fact of life and a reality of Christianity, but it should not be an excuse to continue with practices and beliefs that are so questionable that they make the rest of us squirm. The fact that they make Christians squirm means they also give immense ammunition to the likes of Professor Dawkins.


At the end of the day, I come away with a sense of guilt, that we the church have not spoken out into this world so clearly that at least everyone knows what we believe, even if they disagree with it. Looking back in history I'm not sure that it has always been like that, and I feel bad about it, and our websites are my attempts to redress this omission.

This book comes loaded with many errors but is nevertheless a useful challenge to the Christian world to a) check what it believes,  b) discard beliefs that have no warrant in Scripture, and c) ensure our behaviour and attitudes are always Christlike.

Dawkins is Wrong!


Perhaps to balance things, I need to say from the outset that I believe this book reveals the following:

  • A rudeness towards and an intolerance of anyone who does not agree with his worldview, his view of science, and especially anyone who dares express a belief in the Bible.


  • A reliance upon liberal theologians and others who fly in the face of the vast bulk of Biblical scholarship, and who resort to the use of highly questionable historical documents. (see Appendix 6)
  • An appalling lack of knowledge and understanding of both the Old and New Testaments as well as the fundamentals of Biblical Christian faith. (see Appendix 2)
  • A use of only those skeptics and atheists who already hold his viewpoint, and a refusal to acknowledge the good of those from alternative viewpoints, possibly because he is not aware of them because it is obvious that he never dialogues with middle of the road Christians.
  • A continual use of extreme positions, outdated ideas or extremist believers, especially from America and from Islam, to try to make his points, without showing the balance of middle of the road Christians.


For all these reasons which keep on appearing on most pages of this book, it is a book that can only be taken seriously by those who have a similar bias and similar degree of ignorance who are already convinced they hate Christianity. It will no doubt confirm them in their ignorance. For anyone willing to think beyond mere superficiality, willing to be honest about the style and content of what has been written, it will be seen to be highly unsatisfactory. However, may it be a spur to find out the truth!


A Matter of Respect


Now I am certain that Professor Dawkins is a very bright man, which shows itself in his own field (he wouldn't be a professor at Oxford if he wasn't). His writing is often amusing and very easy to read, and from that side of the Dawkins' phenomena, I like him. I also wish to respect him. I believe he is mistaken, biased, unknowing about the Bible and the Christian faith, but utterly convinced of his standpoint in life. I am equally convinced he is wrong, and will show in these pages the massive holes in his arguments – in fact so big are they that really there is very little left at the end worth calling an argument. However, I still respect him for his beliefs, wrong as they are, and therefore I need to add this comment here.


As I first made notes and then typed them up in the form found on these pages, I struggled with what to call him. ‘Richard Dawkins' sounds pedestrian, ‘Mr. Dawkins' sounds inadequate, even insulting, and ‘Professor Dawkins' all the time just seems too heavy. I was going to simply resort to ‘Dawkins' as the shortest description but I don't want it, in any way, to be taken as disrespectful and my overall attitude is not one of disrespect. After having worked my way through the book, page by page, I have found it very difficult not to feel negative towards this man who has such venom towards the Truth that I have come to know. Therefore I have concluded that "Dawkins" is inadequate and, without wanting to appear over familiar (because I do not know him) I am going to simply refer to "Richard", because I refuse to even verge on the hostility that so many of his followers resort to, and this seems the only way I can keep these initial thoughts in mind.


With that in mind, I have found it incredibly difficult to be able to say he is wrong without feeling somewhat negative about him. Therefore, where I have accused him of being ignorant of the subject that is not being said in any insulting manner; I simply state it dispassionately as a statement of truth meaning, very simply, he obviously does not have knowledge and understanding about some of the things he writes about. That is what makes some of the applause from the crowd so shallow, because it indicates that they too don't have that knowledge.


I have, a number of times, as I have read, been almost driven to distraction by the inaccuracy, error in thinking, or even misunderstanding in thinking, on the pages of his book and when writing I have expressed that. I did wonder about removing such comments but a sanitised version would appear somewhat lifeless, I believe.

Professor Dawkins, firing his grapeshot in all directions, invades an area that is especially precious to me. I don't ask any favours, as he accuses religion of so often doing, but I do feel passionately about the wonder of the Bible and the wonder of God that is revealed through it, and the wonder of lives amazingly and wonderfully being transformed by the work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Therefore it is possible that my grace may have slipped occasionally for which I apologise in advance.


I ask in return for these comments, for a respect that shows itself by reading the pages before firing off any response. I have sought to be honest and have sought to avoid using deceitful arguments or anything that might come under moral scrutiny.



Style of Approach


I have used the Black Swan 2007 paperback edition of The God Delusion and all page references go with that edition. For clarity, I have added ‘Part Numbers' to each chapter. Richard does not do this and simply has headings, but it seemed it would be clearer if I dealt with it in this way.


Rather than just write long comments for each Part, I have broken down my comments according to specific quotes and so you will see that my comments are in respect of specific things he says, rather than the overall impact. If you haven't read the book, or not got a copy, you may find my approach frustrating, because I have often only used a few words to introduce each quote, although I have explained, I hope, in each case, the context.


Because this makes for a lot of scrolling down the page, I have divided this project into chapters and even, where the chapters are long, given two pages to a chapter, with plenty of links to move around pages, and a summary of main points made at the bottom of each page. Most ‘pages' of the site are equivalent to between 5 and 8 pages of A4 paper, so please understand this is not a casual exercise, and it may be that you prefer to jump to the end of each page and see the summary of the chapter, and then jump back to get the detail if you wish. If you wish to copy each page to your computer to read off-line, or copy and paste into your computer, please do so.


My objective has been, stylishly at least, to make it as reader-friendly as possibly, aware that a lot of information on the Internet is not always easy to take. It almost goes without saying that everything on these pages is subject to our usual copyright requests which are, because this is entirely all my work, that it should not be reproduced in part or whole for profit.



What is the Delusion?


On the back cover, The God Delusion is described as “timely, impassioned and brilliantly argued.” My own feeling is that this contravenes the Trades Description Act, for the only accurate bit of that is that it is ‘impassioned'.


I'm not sure why it is ‘timely'; we'd need the publishers to explain that.


However, I do take exception to the “brilliantly argued.” You argue a subject well when you show that you have a firm and clear understanding of your subject, the logic of it, and the coherence of it. These things are drastically missing from this book as I shall, page by page, show.


In the Preface to the book, Richard writes, “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” He has failed abysmally, I believe, but then he writes me off probably as one of the “dyed-in-the-wool faith heads” who “are immune to argument.” (p.28). What is laughable, is that Richard speaks about “open-minded people” – meaning those who listen to and agree with him – yet heads up an army who appear much of the time the most closed-minded group of people who inhabit this planet – Dawkins-following-atheists.


Listening to Richard, in ignorance, you might be led to believe that his way of thinking is THE only way of thinking left to modern rational thinkers. Unfortunately for Richard, there are a whole host of people out there who are extremely clever, who are deep thinkers and who think Richard has so lost the plot that he brings discredit to the name ‘scientist'.


On the front of The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath (with Joanna Collicutt McGrath) there is a little quote: “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why.” which comes from Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University. I somehow suspect his is a serious thinker.

Alister McGrath is himself Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, another bright mind and serious thinker! In fact if you go looking for it, you will find there are a considerable number of academics and/or scientists who are distinctly upset with Richard, so please don't be taken in by his sleight of mind. He is plausible but his plausibility is built with a pack of cards and they are easily blown down – if you will only take the time to look more carefully.


The God Delusion, by its very title goes out to show that belief in God is “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence”. However if you buy this book with the intention of having your unbelief confirmed, you will be deluded. It is indeed like Don Quixote titling at windmills in the belief they are something else. I would ask you to remember that his apparent aim is to show that belief in God is a delusion, because much of what he writes has little or nothing to do with that aim, and my comments will reflect that.

These pages will not be about emotive rhetoric, I hope, but about logical and ruthless assessment. If the truth is important to you, then please read these pages with an open, seeking mind. Enjoy.

And Additional Resources

a) Appendices

As referred to at the top of this page, you will find that I have included eight Appendices for those who would like to be clear in their thinking on various specific issues raised in the Book: 1. Lessons for the Church,  2. Basic Christian Beliefs,  3. Questions about Evolution, 4. Quotes on Evolution,  5. Bad Thinking in the Book,   6. The Mis-Use of Liberal Theologians, 7. Science or Philosophy, 8. Facts, Formulas and Freaky Behaviour.   Please do make use of these.

b) Other Books

In the first paragraph I have mentioned various books that have been written as responses to The God Delusion. In addition I would recommend the following for those who wish to follow up some of the subjects raised on these pages:


  •  The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel - examining scientific evidence
  •  How Now shall we Live, by Charles Colson & Nancy Pearcey - a major look at worldviews
  •  Does God Believe in Atheists, by John Blanchard - a major investigation into the world & beliefs of atheism
  •  The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell - a major apologetics research work
  •  The Twilight of Atheism, by Alister McGrath - the rise & fall of disbelief in the modern world
  •  The Real Face of Atheism, by Ravi Zacharias - exposing the hopelessness of atheism
  •  Is Religion Dangerous, by Keith Ward - a realistic assessment of atheists' assertions about religion.


   Happy reading!


P.S. In the light of some of the assertions in The God Delusion, I would point out that these books I've recommended here are not for the faint-hearted. They are all written by serious scholars, often supported by large research teams. These are not light-weight writers. Dare you read what they have to say?





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