The God Delusion is the latest work by Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and (in)famous, outspoken atheist.
To someone familiar with his previous works, The God Delusion seems to be the book that Dawkins has been itching to write for 30 years. Earlier works, such as Climbing Mount Improbable and The Blind Watchmaker skirted around the subject of the existence (or rather non-existence) of a creater, but in a respectful manner, relying instead on weight of scientific argument to convey their point. This book, on the other hand, is a no-holds barred, unapologetic, unrelenting attack on all forms of organised religion. Dawkins is cutting lose here and apparently loving it.
His early disclaimer that theists will take offence at what he says, but that it really isn't his problem, is refreshing and a welcome break from today's religious apologists who go out of their way to avoid critiscising theism. He makes it very clear that the time of appeasing religion is over - why should religion be deserving of a special respect that you wouldn't afford to someone who believed in, for example, fairies at the bottom of the garden?
He goes on to systematically, rationally and amusingly destroy virtually every pillar of religion (with specific focus on Christianity). St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways are demolished, the ludicrous ontological argument is rightly ridiculed, even Pascal's Wager, that irritant of rationalists for so long, is shown to be rather ridiculous. His treatment of the nativity uses quotes and references from the bible itself to show that it couldn't possibly have happened how we were brought up to believe. And the brief, yet comprehensive, dismissal of Intelligent Design's Irreducable Complexity myth is one of the finest summaries of natural selection I've ever read, and should be required reading for anyone who is fond of quoting the eye as an example of design.
This book quite rightly never out-and-out claims that a personal god, even less a deist god, doesn't actually exist. Instead, it devotes most of its time on this question to what it calls "The God Hypothesis". Dawkins makes the bold move of claiming that the existence of an interested god is a scientific hypothesis. He's right of course, a universe with a god would be quite different from a universe without one, and it should therefore be subject to scientific method.
Dawkins proceeds to use theist claims against them: If life is too complex to have emerged spontaneously, that it must have been designed by an intelligence, then who designed the designer? By appealing to the absurdity of infinite regress, and invoking anthropic principle, Dawkins concludes that while we can't say a god doesn't exist, we can certainly claim that one probably doesn't exist. It is an interesting argument that works by wielding a weapon creationists have themselves used for centuries.
There is a danger in this approach however, that theists will seize upon this idea of god being a scientificly testable entity and attempt to use it to muscle religion into the science curriculum - of course they would be spectacularly missing the point, but when has that ever stopped them?
I found it enlightening to absorb all of these arguments set out so clearly and logically, even for a dyed in the wool atheist such as myself. Dawkins presents arguments and ideas that many of us have probably suspected, but didn't have the required perspicacity to express. It is also bewilderingly brave. The book's conclusions and the use of ridicule and incredulity along the way should be as offensive to theists as they are appealing to rationalists. It wouldn't surprise me if the Children Of Abraham (Middle East Branch) don't take this somewhat personally.
In conclusion, having blitzed through most of the book in an uncharacteristic three day marathon, my verdict is that The God Delusion will be viewed alongside other classic popular science books like A Brief History of Time or Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot. It is that good. It should certainly be required reading for atheists, agnostics or theists with doubt. I'm not sure it will convert any believers, but it would certainly test their faith.