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anyone else going?

I'm very happy to hear that Dawkins' new book The God Delusion is already a New York Times bestseller. His message is something I've been saying my whole life and waiting for people to listen. Well, I guess they're finally starting to listen! I'd like to publically express my many thanks to Richard Dawkins for taking the time to say what needs to be said, so the rest of us don't have to bother. I'll be attending his book tour lecture at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Fransisco on October 30th. There's actually one that's closer to me on the 29th (Menlo Park) but in my initial excitement a week or two ago when I first heard he was coming to the US, I rushed out and bought a ticket before realizing this. No matter, I'm happy to make the drive, and the SF one might be bigger and more spectacular. And besides... it looks like memepr0gramme and possibly even ladycatherina will be attending the SF one too.

My policy is usually that I don't read books on religion, whether for or against, as any time spent thinking about religion (unless it's an attempt to understand the psychology of those who practice it--which I've certainly spent a lot of my life wondering about, but haven't gotten very far) is time I could have spent doing something to make life better, either for myself or for others. But for this book I will probably make an exception, just so I can recommend it to friends or acquaintances without having to say "no I haven't read it, but I'm sure it's good, Dawkins is a really bright guy, and I trust him to say all the things I would say if I could spare the time to write them down" which obviously doesn't make for a very convincing recommendation. I think it's pretty sad that most of the world labors under such insane delusions that someone as important as Dawkins has to take time out from his work to make a point which to many of us is as clear and self-evident as daylight or that grass is green--or that Santa Claus doesn't really climb down the chimney every year. But as long as he's going to the trouble of making it, I'll be backing him every step of the way, in the hope that (as Penn of Penn & Teller hopes) it will finally start to "change the world".

book description
amazon link

"I’ve read this with pleasure and satisfaction. Dawkins is a great rationalist, but he is also a good man. History has seen a number of supreme rationalists who weren’t good at all. He gives human sympathies and emotions their proper value, which is one of the things that lends his criticisms of religion such force, because many religious leaders in the world today – certainly the loudest ones – are men who, it’s obvious to anyone but their deranged followers, are willing to sanction vicious cruelty in the service of their faith. Dawkins hits them hard, with all the power that reason can wield, demolishing their preposterous attempts to prove the existence of God, or their presumptuous claims that religion is the only basis of morality, or that their holy books are literally true." -Phillip Pullman, children's author

"A resounding trumpet blast for truth. It feels like coming up for air." -Matt Ridley

"If this book doesn't change the world -- we're all screwed." -Penn

"If there were a God, and he read this, he'd wish he were dead." - Teller


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2006 11:40 am (UTC)
Cool. Thanks for the reminder. He's speaking here in NYC on Wed. It's probably sold out, but I'll see if I can make it. [Caryn]
Oct. 16th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I'm not able to come. I've started reaching into the Dawkins fund because I was starting to get broke. Tell me how it goes, ok? And Richard Dawkins is flippin' brilliant. The man is my hero, and I've been saying that for ages. Have you seen Root of All Evil?
Oct. 16th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
That is sad... I know how much of a hero he is to you, it sounded like you really wanted to go. :( Wait, the tickets are $17 (plus an annoying service fee)... is that all you need to come? If so, I'd be happy to send you a ticket. Considering Dawkins will get most of the money anyway, I'd just consider it a tiny donation to a good cause.

Another option is I could send you my current ticket and buy one for the Sunday event which is closer to me... which would actually be more convenient for me. (Of course, then we wouldn't get to meet.)

I haven't seen Root of All Evil, but I've heard it's really good. Do you know if it's archived online anywhere?
Oct. 16th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, definitely. I still have a BART ticket that's good for going into the city. But yeah, thanks! I'll tell you where to send it in an email or something. But yeah, that'll be great!

You can find it on YouTube and Google Video.
Oct. 16th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
By the way, Dawkins actually knows about the existence of downloadable copies of Root of All Evil (I have heard it being mentioned on interviews) and he doesn't care it seems.
Oct. 16th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
awesome! look on my lj profile for my email address. Now I just need to decide which one I want to go to. SF might be a bigger and better crowd, but Menlo Park is much closer to me and on a more convenient night. Hmmmm. Maybe I should find out who else is going here first.
Oct. 16th, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC)
Cool; I'll email it to you. And thanks! I'm excited...Dawkins!
Oct. 19th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
Really? As much personal distaste as I have for religion, I find books like this generally quite distasteful. Maybe Dawkins does a better job than others, but I find that these kinds of books rarely have any compelling insights or advance the debate in any way, and they mostly serve to ramp up animosity between atheists and theists, as well as increasing public dislike of science, neither of which we really need. Especially since the arguments from someone like Dawkins tend to boil down to "Religion isn't compatible with the secular-scientific world-view," which isn't terribly surprising, nor is it a good argument.
Oct. 19th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
Just out of curiosity, what books are you referring to when you say "books like these"? I kind of think of this as a first, or at least the first time a book about the evils of religion is getting this much widespread readership. I haven't ever read any book like this, so I can't dispute what you say... but I have read essays by Dawkins before and think he's a sharp guy.

Mostly, I admire Dawkins because he's bold enough to say things that he knows will really piss people off, but they really should hear. I often feel like the whole religion thing has continued on long after its natural end, just because anyone who knows the truth is still kind of afraid to speak it, or at least to make too big of a stink about it, lest they be tarred and feathered. I don't think I'd have the balls to publish a book like this, worrying every night after whether some crazy fundamentalist is going to blow up my house. But I guess it helps that he lives in the UK, where religion is less of a problem.

Especially since the arguments from someone like Dawkins tend to boil down to "Religion isn't compatible with the secular-scientific world-view," which isn't terribly surprising, nor is it a good argument.

I would bet he has much more convincing arguments than that. Of course, if you're hoping for the quality of argument you might find in a philosophy article/text, then of course... it's not going to measure up to your standards. The key here is to make arguments the average person can understand, in a down to earth way, and I think Dawkins is well suited for doing that effectively. There's no other way to change the world.

Speaking of down-to-earth arguments against religion that anyone can follow... this is a pretty nice one to forward:
(of course, it's not an argument against theism itself, just the sort of insane biblical literalism taught in Sunday schools and churches around the world.)
Oct. 19th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
Just out of curiosity, what books are you referring to when you say "books like these"?

Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World, Dennett's Breaking the Spell, tons of stuff by Michael Shermer, various writings by Pat Churchland (e.g., the chapter on religion in Brain-Wise), Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian, and Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion (these last two being much better than the rest, it seems to me), and many others.

My reaction is definitely much different. I don't see much in the way of novelty, here; I see another entry in a long tradition going back to Xenophanes, much of which amounts to table-pounding and question-begging (of course, things don't fare much better on the other side, either). And I just don't expect Dawkins to do a very fair job of it (and, from everything I've read that you've linked to, Dawkins seems quite proud of his intentions to treat religion unfairly). But I clearly have different evaluations of Dawkins generally than you do. Anyhow, atheism, and defenses thereof, and even ones that rely on evidence from science, are actually quite common, not something new, and not much of it seems like a positive contribution, to me.
Oct. 19th, 2006 05:40 am (UTC)

Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World

It's funny, I have that on books-on-tape, and love listening to it. (If I have kids, they'll surely grow up with it as well.) But I wouldn't consider them the same kind of book at all.

Dawkins' book is about debunking religion, and to a lesser extent theism as a whole, whereas Carl Sagan's book is simply about promoting skeptical inquiry. Most of his examples are more about things like UFO sightings, spoon-benders, or crop circles. If I recall, he doesn't really say anything specifically against religion, except in its more extreme forms. And he certainly doesn't take a stance on theism versus atheism in it. While it's a good book, he takes the safe route like many other authors and doesn't say anything that would be controversial, at least among educated people. The message is basically just "think for yourself, and examine the evidence before believing some crackpot's theory, or some guy on TV". Consider the source, etc.

You're probably right about Michael Shermer, although I haven't read any of his books or writings. Dennett's book I might read at some point, having enjoyed Consciousness Explained so much. I just feel like writing/reading about religion is genreally such a huge waste of time, otherwise I would have already read it.

I'd actually really like to read some stuff by Patricia or Paul Churchland... the more I hear about them the more I think I would like what they have to say. I'm kind of curious, being so close to them, what you think of their work (specifically, what you think of eliminative materialism)... maybe an entry some time?

I haven't read Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian, but I remember when I first heard of that, I decided that at some point in my life I would write a book called "Why I Am Not An Objectivist", the first chapter of which will be called "Why It's Not Worth My Time To Explain Why I Am Not A Christian".

There is actually another book that came out recently, by Sam Harris, called "The End of Faith". Which I thought of after I said "this is the first of its kind". However, from reading the reviews I get the feeling that Sam Harris just doesn't go far enough in his criticism, at least for my tastes.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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