Monday, November 21, 2016

God Religious Delusions and Violence -Book Review


By Richard Dawkins

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

I heard cries and screams coming from a group of young women down the hall from my office. When I got up to take a look, a colleague explained they were praying for a woman possessed by a demon.

Over the years, I have consulted on cases of people who reported being Jesus Christ or having personal encounters with supernatural beings. Often individuals and their families were in deep despair. And we live in an age when religious people destroy in the name of their faith.

Supernatural experiences appear to impair rather than enhance well-being in some people. As a clinical psychologist, I approach reports of supernatural phenomena from a somewhat different perspective than does biologist, Richard Dawkins. I'm less concerned about a logical refutation than I am about the destructive power of faith-wielding combatants.


In The God Delusion, Dawkins leads an attack on God or gods and those believers who wreak havoc when they feel led by their sincere beliefs or ordered by a supernatural being. The quintessential example is the 911 attacks on America. Not content to analyze and attack those who perpetuate violence in the name of religion, Dawkins seeks to show that religion itself is to blame.

My academic review was published in 2009. But as I write this post in 2016, Dawkins’ challenge remains alive. Those of us who identify as Christian won’t appreciate his manner of attack. Yet many of us have wondered about the strange beliefs and distorted logic guiding suicide bombers, genocidal violence, and unfounded religiously-motivated memes that dehumanize political candidates and those religious adherents who simply hold a different view of things.

Dawkins and his fellow atheists are unlikely to make much headway in eliminating religion. However, Dawkins’ missive remains a timely reminder that not all religious beliefs and practices are benevolent. And some are downright evil.

I find many of the points I made in my published review still relevant—likely because the evils of religion continually make headlines. Hate is alive. Media-savvy users spew invitations to violence with disregard for truth. The blood of innocents is mingled with that of religious and secular warriors.

One point I did not make before was the futility of relying on reasoning to disable destructive thoughts and concomitant behavior. I am amazed at the insidious power of destructive religious memes.

Dawkins focused on raising consciousness about the atheistic alternative to faith. He has at least succeeded in raising awareness of the destructive power of some religious beliefs–especially when belief catalyzes behavior.

Some religious leaders responded to Dawkins’ attacks with defensive maneuvers. In my view, we should be about the business of promoting peace, joy, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and other virtues. New narratives perpetuating life-affirming memes must combat destructive viruses in all media outlets and sacred places. Destructive religious memes invade vulnerable minds.

Religious leaders may be challenged to provide evidence that their faith transforms people in ways deemed virtuous in the canons of many faiths. Religious violence must be publicly condemned and disavowed. Religious leaders need to graduate from their seminaries ready to reveal God at work in the redemption of humanity rather than contributing to religious divides or worse.

Reference this post in APA style

Sutton, G. W. (2016, November 21). God and religious delusions [Web log post]. Retrieved from 

References (APA style)

Dawkins, R. (2006). The God delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.

Sutton, G. W. (2009). [Review of the book The god delusion by R. Dawkins]. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 11, 235-239.   Academia Link    Researchgate

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