News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Atheist ayatollah

A book review of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins

In “The God Delusion” Richard Dawkins proves that fundamentalism is a frightening doctrine – even from an atheist. Like any fundamentalist, Dawkins is unwilling to tolerate any opinion other than his own. Instead of presenting us with a coherent cosmology, most of Dawkins’ book is a petty and defensive screed against anyone with the temerity to disagree with the learned biologist. It’s really a shame. Dawkins is a colossal intellect overshadowed by an even larger ego.

Even the few original insights “The God Delusion” offers us, such as an exploration of the Darwinian reasons for religion, are marred by a continually mean-spirited nit-picking of any ideas that contradict Dawkins’s own. Perhaps the lowest point in the book comes when Dawkins, in a gesture reminiscent of a teenager scornfully scrawling would-be witticisms in the margins of textbook, inserts his own insipid comments between the lines of a speech by physicist Freeman Dyson. Really, Richard. This is beneath you.

At his best Dawkins sounds like a cranky Carl Sagan, grudgingly admitting there is beauty and awe in the mysteries of the universe. At his worst, Dawkins echoes the dogged intolerance of Jerry Falwell and the Ayatolla Khomeni. As someone who believes organized religion is a phase humanity will eventually outgrow, I found “The God Delusion” deeply disappointing.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez