It was like reaching the starting point after a long arduous journey. When we started the blog, almost a year back, one of the first articles I wrote was the essence of religion. After witnessing a long religious procession I began to wonder what the utility of religion is and if faith in a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient God made us better people, gave us a sense of right and wrong, gave us purpose and helped us in leading a better life. When I wrote the article I think I took a higher moral ground, imagining that even though the God hypothesis was not very useful to me, I am willing to live with the idea ambivalently because I did not see the utility in upsetting the apple cart- I guess there are more believers than non believers (my family/ relatives being ardent religious believers) and if religion serves them well, then why disturb them with uncomfortable questions when I don’t have anything better to offer them. TS Eliot said- If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin. I mean how many of us would find comfort with the feeling that someone close died because of some random/probabilistic event and without any reason at all. I guess we all need a closure and the ever watchful God who will evaluate our actions and help us to reach heaven or hell is a better way to deal with grief.
Well if Richard Dawkins were to read my above paragraph, he would say – What patronizing condescension. When I picked up the book, I thought it would be an easy read. May be talk about religion, its origin, the evolution, the multiple faiths, the need for religion (if any) and the emotional and the physiological needs it caters to. Make no mistake. The book is no lullaby to make you fall asleep. It’s hard core reasoning and that makes it esoteric at places. Dawkins does not pretend to give you both sides of the coin. He just gives one side and the way the chapters are named (A deeply religious non believer, Why there almost certainly is no God) gives you a fair idea of what to expect. Giving example from the old and the new testament , obviously because he is more familiar with the same- though similar threads can be found in most religions ( expect Buddhism , may be , because Buddhism is more about a way of life )-he asks the simple question how can a benevolent God be so hell bent on sacrifices and hatred- The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
An evolutionary biologist by profession, Dawkins meticulously builds on Darwin’s theory of natural selection to debunk the most often cited theory of intelligent Design- that there must be a God to create such complex living beings. Dawkins argues that nothing is irreducibly complex but is a result of the process of gradual evolution. The tone of the book is irreverent because it makes no pretence of being kind to religion. Dawkins believes that all religions no matter how meek, are detrimental to human mind.
“As a scientist,” Richard Dawkins writes, “I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect”
Dawkins touches on a number of topic, the most interesting of them are the roots of morality, the changing moral zeitgeist and the idea of a personal god (Albert Einstein version of god Vs the super natural, watchful God).
I believe the central premise of the book is to challenge people’s willingness to believe anything if it is dressed in the appearance of holiness. Its an interesting read for the sheer force of the arguments and the pure scientific way in which the arguments are structured.