Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

I just picked up a copy of Richard Dawkins new book ‘The God Delusion’ after reading Atanu Dey’s suggestion to everyone to get a copy before it is banned since the book criticises the monotheistic religions and could very soon get into the cross hairs of votebank politics.

After going through the preface and the first two chapters by now i think that is not likely to happen. Why? Because the book deals with the subject in a very logical manner without any resort to sensationalism or isolating of any particular faith for “special treatment”. Richard Dawkins takes the following view.

I’am not in favour of offending or hurting anyone just for the sake of it.

and makes his stand clear with the following disclaimer.

It is in the light of the unparalled presumption of respect for religion that I make my own disclaimer for this book.I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid gloves to handle religion any more gently than I would handle anything else.

The book deals with religion as a whole but concentrates much of its analysis of the phenomenon of God according to the views of the monotheistic or the three Abrahmanic faiths- Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


The book also touches upon the subject of polytheism and nature worship as practised through the ages by the ancient romans, greeks, egyptians, mesopotamians, celts, norsemen, mongols, native americans, Australian aboriginies, pacific islanders, African tribesmen, Japanese, Chinese and ofcourse by the Hindus in the beginning of the chapter on ‘The God hypothesis’. Richard Dawkins makes his stand very clear in this respect too when he declares.

I know you don’t believe in an old bearded man sitting on a cloud, so let’s not waste any more time on that. I’am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I’am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.

So if you belong to one of the above categories and are thrilled at the way Dawkins is aiming his artillery at the monotheistic/Abrahamanic faiths, The above quote should be more than enough to dampen that enthusiasm.

But paradoxically Richard Dawkins asserts that the polytheism of the Hindu faith is nothing but ‘monotheism in disguise’.

There is only one God – Lord Brahma the creator, Lord Vishnu the preserver, Lord Shiva the destroyer, the godesses Saraswati, laxmi and Parvati(Wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), Lord Ganesh the elephant god, and hundreds of others, all are just different manifestations or incarnations of the one God.

This is somewhat puzzling to me and It is best left to people more knowledgeable on the Hindu scriptures to say whether Dawkins is right or wrong in this matter.

The book overall is a good read and raises some really good questions about the phenomenon of Religious faith- Is it necessary to be religious to be moral?, Is indoctrinating children from a very early age into the religions of their parents and typecasting them as such before they could make up their own minds about it a form of child abuse?, And can the existence or non-existence of God be logically proven or disproven.

And here is a Channel 4 TV documentary by Richard Dawkins on the same subject titled ‘Root of All Evil’.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, part 5.

Also Richard Dawkins Interview on BBC and Newsnight

Update: B Shantanu of Hindu dharma has written  a well researched post rebutting Richard Dawkins claims of Hinduism being nothing but monotheism in disguise in his book ‘The God Delusion’.

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13 Comments

Filed under General, History, Science & Space, Social Issues

13 responses to “Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

  1. Apollo, Richard Dawkins quote in your post prompted this post and research:

    http://hindudharma.wordpress.com/2007/03/01/hinduism-not-monotheism-in-disguise/

    Thanks.

  2. RC Sharma

    You wrote:
    But paradoxically Richard Dawkins asserts that the polytheism of the Hindu faith is nothing but ‘monotheism in disguise’.

    There is only one God – Lord Brahma the creator, Lord Vishnu the preserver, Lord Shiva the destroyer, the godesses Saraswati, laxmi and Parvati(Wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), Lord Ganesh the elephant god, and hundreds of others, all are just different manifestations or incarnations of the one God.

    This is somewhat puzzling to me and It is best left to people more knowledgeable on the Hindu scriptures to say whether Dawkins is right or wrong in this matter.

    Reply:
    You are correct that YOU are confused about Hinduism. Dawkins has quoted correctly, but a little off the mark.

    Hinduism is not monotheist in the Judaic sense that there is Only One God. It recognises all gods IN ONE Reality.b All others are manifentations of that One.

    Hinduism is MONISTIC.

  3. Bryan Elliott

    Way to miss the mark there.

    If you were paying attention, you’d know that that quote you pulled out of context there was a narratization of a potential cynical attempt by the Hindu church to get tax exempt status in a country that only bestows such a benefit on monotheistic religions – all while making a funny little point about the Christian trinity (Three, three, three gods in one! Oh, and an entire hierarchy of angels. And saints. All of which represent God. Monotheism? Yeah, why not.)

    Of course, context doesn’t really mean anything if you’re *looking* to get offended, does it?

  4. Surya Kavuri

    Hindu view of God is succintly mentioned in Ishopanishad as follows: “Ishavasyam idam sarvam yat kinca jagatyam jagat”.

    This means: “Everything in the Universe is a projection of the Supreme Lord”. It means “everything thing is God” or “There is only God”.

    This is a monotheistic view that is subtle but significantly different from others.

    The Upanishad declares – “asatam sat jayeta”, meaning, from the invisible, the visible manifested itself. So this universe is a manifestation of That which is invisible, unthinkable, untouchable and imperceptible.

    In essence, Hindus philosophy is saying that it is impossible for you to be the subject and God the object (as in subject-verb-object) – in other words, you cannot perceive God.

    Thus, Richard Dawkins is not saying anything Hindus have not thought of. Hindus have already said that facts, logic, and deduction are useless in your search for God. Richard Dawkins reached the scientific conclusion which Hindu Philosophy predicted he would.

  5. The notion of polytheism is this: there are many Gods, but none supreme. As for henotheism: there are many Gods, but only one is supreme of them all. As for monotheism: there is only ONE God. Hinduism has all these three. It is interesting. So let me explain here.

    In the Vedas: 33 Vedic Gods (most of them represent natural elements like wind, water, fire, etc.) -> polytheistic belief

    In the Puranas: Many Gods but one supreme. This is a little tricky. In one tradition, Shiva is the supreme God. In another tradition, the Goddess Shakti is the supreme deity. However, all traditions ultimately teach the same thing. All traditions help the devotees to develop devotion to God and do good. The person still prays to all Gods, but in his/her heart, Shiva (for e.g.) is always in a supreme place.

    In the Upanishads (the end part of the Vedas): There is only one God, as Surya Kavuri has already pointed it out in the above post. This is monotheism.

    Which one you believe, depends on which level of maturity you are in. But the ultimate level of understanding is the monotheistic viewpoint. However, I should clarify that the monotheism as per the Hindu definition is different compared to the Abrahamic religions’ definitions. In the Abrahamic religions, the belief is that One God created this world, the universe, and sits somewhere in the heaven, hears our prayers, and is just waiting to pass judgement on us when the world comes to an end. In Hinduism, on the other hand, the belief is that God created this universe and He is also the universe. Meaning He manifested Himself as the universe. This is very very different from how the Christians or the Muslims think of God.

    Just want to comment on something that Surya Kavuri said:
    “Hindus have already said that facts, logic, and deduction are useless in your search for God.”
    – We didn’t say this at all. In fact, logic is way more important to Hinduism (and Buddhism) than in any other religion. There is a separate scripture for logic (called Nyaya in sanskrit) in Hinduism. Logic is very important in arriving at an understanding of the nature of God. Together with scriptural knowledge of course.

    Nice post by the way! :) I really like it…
    Thanks for allowing me to comment and share my two cents’ here. I have my basis for everything that I have said here.

  6. Suresh

    Yes – Hinduism is monotheistic, but dazzles itself through an array of deities/angels which gives the impression that it is polytheistic.

  7. Anonymous

    In some forms of Hinduism, my innate nature is divine. So is yours. So is everyone else’s. The deterministic world is a reflection/misapprehension of Me: this includes my mind as well. So my thoughts, my ego, my feelings, and my body are all temporal, pluralistic and ‘unreal’ reifications of ‘God’ or ‘Me’, but the root of these is nondual and real and unchanging. When understood in this way, it makes no sense to quantify the Supreme Reality, or it is infinite, or one, or numberless — it doesn’t make much difference.

  8. dinesh

    our brain is like a computer whose processing power is not sufficent to solve the “god problem” or maybe it has the power but without sufficent software support,ie we are able to use only a small portion of the capabilities of the brain

  9. Prabhat Gupta

    Richard Dawkins has probably read more than most of us (and also understood than most of us) . He, in my opinion, is of the same line of thinkers / philosophers like Dayanand Saraswati who believe in Pantheism (RD does not, I know!).

    I express my gratitude to RD for awakening me (of Hindu faith) and perhaps others about what he thinks and in the process changes your perspective about Abrahamic God and perhaps “other” gods.

    • R.Somasundaram

      As I understand Hinduism is not a religion par se. But a way of ordered type of life as conceived by our reshies, who were able to contemplate on the Universe much earlier than other civilisations. That is because the land was fertile and they neddnot to strive for food, and had enough time to search inwards. As per Dr. V.S Ramachandran, world famous Brain specialist, human beings are to conclude on God as creator, due to neurotheology. Worship of many gods, were allowed so that each person can have faith on the conception of his godly attributes visualised by him. Eventough RD has opined that Hinduism is also monotheism,and he is partly right. Soma

  10. Colin B Maharaj

    Dr Dawkins got the hindusim thing partially right, the fact is there is not ONE God but ONLY God in that we are not separate from God. In that we are here God is there and God is not here. So God is omnipotent.

  11. Dr. Sam

    Dawkins is right. If you study Hinduism, it’s really Monotheism.

  12. SYMM CFH

    Hinduism is more than a religion. Per definition, religion has a prophet but there are no one in hinduism. In fact, vedanta has a very scientific approach. There’s no doctrine really.
    And yeah, you can classify hinduism as monotheist. Not the same thing than the abrahamic religions at all tho.
    You should even use the word “God”, the concepts are so much more different. The vedic method consists a lot of using stories to understand concepts.
    Comparing Christianity/islam/judaism with hinduism is like comparing the book of Riding Red Hood with physics classes and point of view.

    Why people are so confused and misinformed about hinduism is because the western (English settlers) people were so gutted and distraught when they found a culture so sophisticated while they were trying to prove to the world that they were the most advanced civilisation, that a whole work of misinformation started. They destroyed a lot of India’s litteratures, misinterpreted the vedas in order to make them appear primitive (like Max Muller’s work to qualify the vedas “worse than savage”). Later you even had to “Aryan invasion” theory in order to discredit the hindus while every archeological findings disprove in every way this theory.
    But great people wouldn’t mind voicing their opinion in favor of India, like Voltaire or Schopenhauer. But you’ll never hear about that in school, because of this misinformation process that is occuring for centuries now.

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