The Belief in God Is Irrational: How Evil Religions Fuel Wars, Foments Bigotry, and Abuses Children


Published on Aug 28, 2013

The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling book by English biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and former holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. He is sympathetic to Robert Pirsig's statement in Lila that "when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion."

As of January 2010, the English version of The God Delusion had sold over 2 million copies. It was ranked No.2 on the bestsellers' list in November 2006. In early December 2006, it reached No.4 in the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Best Seller list after nine weeks on the list. It remained on the list for 51 weeks until 30 September 2007. The German version, entitled Der Gotteswahn, had sold over 260,000 copies as of 28 January 2010.

The book has attracted widespread commentary, with many books written in response.

Dawkins has argued against creationist explanations of life in his previous works on evolution. The theme of The Blind Watchmaker, published in 1986, is that evolution can explain the apparent design in nature. In The God Delusion he focuses directly on a wider range of arguments used for and against belief in the existence of a god (or gods).

Dawkins identifies himself repeatedly as an atheist, while also pointing out that, in a sense, he is also agnostic, though "only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden".

Dawkins had long wanted to write a book openly criticizing religion, but his publisher had advised against it. By the year 2006, his publisher had warmed to the idea. Dawkins attributes this change of mind to "four years of Bush." By that time, a number of authors, including Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, who together with Dawkins were labelled "The Unholy Trinity" by Robert Weitzel, had already written books openly attacking religion. According to the website, the book led to a 50% growth in their sales of books on religion and spirituality (including anti-religious books such as Hitchens's God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) and a 120% increase in the sales of the Bible.

Dawkins dedicates the book to Douglas Adams and quotes the novelist: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" The book contains ten chapters. The first few chapters make a case that there is almost certainly no God, while the rest discuss religion and morality.

Dawkins writes that The God Delusion contains four "consciousness-raising" messages: Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled. Natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to a "God hypothesis"—the illusion of intelligent design—in explaining the living world and the cosmos. Children should not be labelled by their parents' religion. Terms like "Catholic child" or "Muslim child" should make people cringe. Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.