Over the last decade or so, religious fundamentalism is seen making resurgence. This not only applies to Islamic fundamentalism but Christian, Jewish and Hindu ones as well. So, the communal relations between the liberal and conservative sections of contemporary societies are getting ever tenser. The last thing the world needs is more acts of terror and violence and brutality. The God Delusion, absorbing and valuable a work it might be, does not help alleviate the existing climate of terror and violence. In this context, the author is contributing to negative sociological outcomes; quite inadvertently of course (Gefter, 2007).
A theme Dawkins revisits throughout the book is the crimes carried out in the name of religion. He also points out that when religious people indulge in unethical code of conduct they tend to do so on the dictates of their faith. On the other hand Dawkins asserts that atheists do not base their deviant acts on atheism. In his own words, “Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn’t, but even if he was… the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism”. But such an argument does not hold up under careful scrutiny. For instance, the entire orthodox priesthood was abolished by Stalin during his dictatorship. To declare that such a radical and unreasonable act had no relation to his affiliation to atheism is a gross overstatement. Later in the book, he asks, “Why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of religious beliefs (atheism)?” But in the context of modern history many a war, revolt and revolution were started independent of religious grounds. The French Revolution and the Chinese invasion of Tibet serve as cases that expose Dawkins’ factual error. The following passage is another example of Dawkins’ incorrect generalizations:
“With notable exceptions, such as the Afghan Taliban and the American Christian equivalent, most people play lip service to the same broad liberal consensus of ethical principles. The majority of us don’t cause needless suffering; we believe in free speech and protect it even if we disagree with what is being said.” (Moore, 2006)
But ultimately, The God Delusion overstates its arguments in opposition to religion by attributing responsibility with it for everything that goes wrong in the world. Dawkins mentions how religion had negatively impacted political negotiations. He pinpoints to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict, the India-Pakistan rivalry, and the causes of terror strikes on September the 11th, 2001. But the roots for all these international conflicts lay in cultural, ethnic and socio-economic foundations, and not strictly a religious one. As a matter of fact, Israel is a very modern secular nation (irrespective of what Dawkins perceives as the truth). Similarly, the partition of Indian subcontinent into Indian and Pakistan states would still have taken place without factoring religion in the equation. What was a more powerful force in the latter case is ethnic hostilities and not theological differences. In the same vein, though the perpetrators of 9/11 terror strikes were Muslim, the uniting factor among the terrorists is their common Arab identity and their grievances toward United States’ policies toward states in the region. Hence, at times Dawkins places too much weight on religious factors in international conflicts. As a result, the views expressed by him in The God Delusion do not go down well with political analysts. It has to be admitted that Dawkins’ expertise is in the realm of science and not politics (Moore, 2006).
Controversial and approximated some of Dawkins’ view points might be, the book is till a valuable tool in understanding modern society and its sociological order. For instance, the author’s insights about our education system are quite valid, especially in relation to religious instruction. Amid so much uncertainty themselves, preachers impose mythical biblical stories and values on children under their purview. The God Delusion does a stellar job in condemning this. In Dawkins’ own words,
“Children are natural theologians, wanting everything to have a purpose–wanting to believe that clouds exist so flowers will get rain. Teaching them religion as if its claims about the past were undisputed exploits the child’s unformed power of critical thinking, and lessens the value of any future spiritual beliefs. It’s ridiculous to teach children the story of the Loaves and Fishes, or any such item, as history, though it might be. Children should be taught, “This is what scripture says about our past, and whether this true is one of the big questions of life. You must decide for yourself whether you will believe these claims.”” (Cook, 2006)