“The genie of religious fanaticism is rampant in present-day America, and the Founding Fathers would have been horrified,” so reports Richard Dawkins early on in his best-selling book, The God Delusion.
He also shares the following 1981 quote from the father of the USA conservative movement, Barry Goldwater: “There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this Supreme Being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of these political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who think it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I’m warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.”
Today, Douglas Adams says that respected writers and politicians, particularly in the United States, are no longer willing to challenge religious ideas. They are not allowed to say those things. And yet, when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other. Fortunately, it was a Brit, Richard Dawkins, who had the courage to speak up, fervently believing that religious extremists are a serious threat to democracy and human betterment. His book, The God Delusion is easy to read and loaded with facts to support those assertions.
“Oh, but he’s an Atheist,” some will say. But be reminded that people like Einstein and Carl Sagan, to name just a few, did not believe in a personal god. However, that didn’t diminish the scientific data they accumulated and shared in their lifetime.
My mother, a hard-core Jehovah’s Witness, won’t read the book. Her church leaders tell her that it is “the work of the Devil.” That’s a pretty good reason why I think a thinking person would want to do otherwise.
What Richard Dawkins has to say and how he says it in The God Delusion is not only an important work of science, but a clear, articulate warning of what could happen if the current wave of passionate religious irrationality is allowed to continue unchecked. It is one of the best books I have read in the last ten years and I agree with the New York Times Book Review when it said that The God Delusion contained “Lots of good, hard-hitting stuff about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and frauds of all stripes.”