I'm still only halfway through the book. From what I've read I agree with some of it, and in other parts think Dawkins is missing something. I'm not the only one, Mark Vernon also feels the same, and goes on to explain in an interesting piece. Philosophers have the best arguments (and criticisms of each other). Grab some popcorn and read.
There is, I think, one good thing about The God Delusion. Read as a catalogue of religious excess and abuse and pulling no punches, it serves a purpose. Too often today, religionists of various persuasions get away with advocating everything from a literal six days of creation to violence against gay women and men. However, any good Dawkins’ reportage might have done is massively eclipsed by a book that is ultimately as blinkered, biased and, yes, deluded as the targets of his ire.
It can be said that he commits all seven of the deadly sins – and it is right to call them deadly. Originally these sins were to be feared because perpetrators risked being separated eternally from the source of all truth. In the same way, this book appears to separate Dawkins from the scientific approach he has at other times so brilliantly espoused.
Various members of the nerdpod (myself, Mr. Patient, Knight of Nothing, and JGW) once took part in what I feel was an epic discussion of the topic of religion and its place, what sparked this was a clip of the movie 'Jesus Camp'. Sadly they all finished the book before I did (I'm a slow reader) but our discussion wasn't on the book, it was on the topic. I'm not a christian, if pressed I would say I'm agnostic. I started reading the book mainly because many of my friends had read Dawkins and I saw them consumed with the same kind of zeal before I had only seen in those ultra-evangelical. Which is one of my main beefs with Dawkins. He instills a furor and following as fanatical as those he seeks to counter. How can this be productive? How can this polarization make us better? How can this open the door to discussion and help us seek the truth? On a side topic I think this is a failure of our modern society, we no longer (or never had?) have the ability to engage in debate, smack down, hardcore debate, where at the end people can agree to disagree and still live with each other respecting, not hating, their differences. In this arguement I see two sides who tolerate no one in the middle. On one side you have the evangelicals who feel the need to save you and convert you. On the other you have the atheists who condemn anyone with any amount of faith or even spirituality of any kind. In the middle exists an infinite degree of in between.
Intellectual humility matters in our society because we’re at risk of suffering much from those who adopt extremes. The debate about science and religion is a particularly important focus for this since it commands popular attention and is fired by effective polemicists, of whom Dawkins is only one. However, if we let the polemicists set the turns of the debate for too long, our intellectual and political well-being is threatened. As Daniel J. Boorstin, another agnostic, put it: “It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress.” The revival of a committed, passionate, but balanced and reasonable agnosticism is crucial in our day: without it religion will become more extreme and science more frighteningly utopian.