The God Delusion

“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.”


  1. One good thing about a Jehovah’s Witness, even a “hard core” one, is that they do not do the things you (correctly) attributed to most religious people. Sure, they believe in their message, and they present it as persuasively as they can. But if you disagree with them, they go away. They don’t afterwards to try to force their views upon others through legislative or political means, much less through violence. Thus, they possess the secret for how groups with widely diverse views can yet coexist peacefully with each other.

    Few groups follow this peaceful recipe. Many movements, whether religious or not, seek to force their ways upon others. Looking at your list of categories, you have for some reason singled out Jehovah’s Witnesses among religions. And yet they are the only large faith that is innocent of the charges you have leveled in your post.

    Though I haven’t read any of your posts in that category yet. Perhaps you make that point clear.

  2. Cathy says:

    Mr Kelley,

    Thanks for this review. As a former JW, myself, I agree with your thought that “…a thinking person would” read the book. I don’t know you, personally, but feel a kindred spirit with your thoughts.

    Regarding your comments, “Tom”: Yes, JWs do walk away when others disagree or don’t accept their views. What you left out, above, is that as they walk away, they’re condemning the “worldly ones” to death at armageddon. (And, more often than not, coveting the home they’ve just left for themselves after the big event…depending upon how upscale the neighborhood is, of course!) Since JWs are politically neutral (officially anyway) they just don’t really ‘count’ as far as legislation or violence used by some to impose their beliefs goes. They DO, however, impose their views on others via social control; the shunning they practice towards those who change their minds about the teachings of the Watchtower Society DOES stifle questioning from among the ‘faithful’, thus imposing silence and a sort of mass dissociative experience on the remaining members. This practice is as destructive as physical violence. They “coexist peacefully” with other groups because survival is a human tendency; in their minds, they are waiting to be the only ones left on a ‘paradise earth’ where ONLY worshippers of their particular god will survive. I spent 26 years, myself, “peacefully” sharing the so-called good news of the JWs, so my views are based on experience. I finally realized I could no longer engage in the “preaching work” because, in fact, I WAS passing judgment by my very presence on the doorsteps of my neighbors. We were told that we were NOT really in judgment (‘it’s all god’s judgment’), but that’s not how it felt to me.

    In recent times, we’ve seen just how far some will take things to try to impose their beliefs on others. JWs may not actually engage in physical violence to impose their views, but their views are imposing, nonetheless. Just ask any person who has dared to change his/her mind.

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