Having read "The God Delusion", if you want to read a short book addressing a fair number of the issues, try "Is God a delusion?" by Nicky Gumbel (Alpha International, 2008). This book is available for less than €10 on www.amazon.co.uk

The main section within this brief book is only 90 pages long and covers three main issues:

  • Has science disproved God?
  • Does religion do more harm than good?
  • Is faith irrational?

The book, in considering these issues, summarises Dawkins' views very concisely and without going into intense detail outlines credible responses to criticisms undermining religious belief.

There are two further sections in the book. "A theologian's perspective" seems to me to add very little to the first three chapters. However, the Appendix "Who is Jesus?" is a solid 20-page summary of the arguments for the historical reality of Christ. The article also summarises the extraordinary claims Jesus made about himself (meaning he was a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God) and sets out the evidence for the resurrection. This material will not convince a sceptic but it conveniently brings the main points together in one concise article.


Here are some extracts from Nicky Gumbel's book:

I was raised on a small farm in Virginia by wonderfully unconventional freethinking parents who greatly valued learning, literature, music, and the arts – but for whom religion was just not very important. Falling in love with science as a teenager, slipping into a worldview that assumed that the only true meaning in the universe was to be found in mathematics and physical laws, I became first an agnostic and then an atheist.

But my scientific curiosity eventually led me from chemistry and physics into medicine. And there at the bedside of people with terrible illnesses, matters of life, death, and the spirit were no longer academic. Just as it has been said “there are no atheists in foxholes”, I found that there were few atheists amongst those lying in hospital beds in North Carolina. One afternoon, a kindly grandmother with only a few weeks to live shared her own faith in Jesus quite openly with me, and then asked, “Doctor, what do you believe?”

Stammering something about not being quite sure, I fled the room, having the disturbing sense that the atheist ice under my feet was cracking, though I wasn’t quite sure why. And then suddenly the reason for my disquiet hit me: I was a scientist. I was supposed to make decisions based on evidence. And yet I had never really considered the evidence for and against faith.

Determined to shore up my position, I began to explore the path of others before me who had asked the same questions about faith. In that search, I was particularly affected by the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis, who had similarly sought as a young man to defend his atheism and instead became a believer in God.

As I explored the evidence more deeply, all around me I began to see signposts to something outside of nature that could only be called God. I realized that the scientific method can really only answer questions about HOW things work. It can’t answer questions about WHY – and those are in fact the most important ones. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does mathematics work so beautifully to describe nature? Why is the universe so precisely tuned to make life possible? Why do we humans have a universal sense of right and wrong, and an urge to do right – even though we disagree on how to interpret that calling?

Confronted with these revelations, I realized that my own assumption -- that faith was the opposite of reason -- was incorrect. I should have known better: Scripture defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Evidence! Simultaneously, I realized that atheism was in fact the least rational of all choices. As Chesterton wrote, “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas … for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” How could I have had the arrogance to make such an assertion? So I had to accept the plausibility of a powerful force, a creative Mind, that existed outside of Nature.

(An extended quotation from Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, found on page 85 of Nicky Gumbel's book)


Some time ago, during a slightly alcohol assisted discussion on life, death and the origins of the universe, a friend turned to me and said, “You're a man of faith, what do you think?” “We are all men and women of faith”, I replied. “Some of us have faith that there is a God, some of us have faith that there is no God and neither position is provable.” “Precisely”, he said. “That's why I am an agnostic.” “You don't escape either”, I replied. “You just have faith that it's not important to decide.”

(An anecdote by Nicky Gumbel, found on page 64 of his book)


In one of his more bizarre creedal statements as an atheist, Dawkins insists that there is "not the smallest evidence" that atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. .... The facts are otherwise. In their efforts to enforce their atheist ideology, the Soviet authorities systematically destroyed and eliminated the vast majority of churches and priests during the period 1918-1941. The statistics make for dreadful reading. This violence, repression and bloodshed were undertaken in pursuit of an atheist agenda—the elimination of religion....

This hardly fits in with another of Dawkins's spuzzling creedal statements: "I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca—or Chartres, York Minster, or Notre Dame." This noble sentiment is a statement about his personal credulity, not the reality of things. The history of the Soviet Union is replete with the burning and dynamiting of huge numbers of churches. His pleading that atheism is innocent of the violence and oppression that he associates with religion is simply untenable.

(A quotation from AlisterMcGrath's “The Dawkins Delusion?”, found on page 51 of Nicky Gumbel's book)


'If the density of the Universe one second after the Big Bang had been greater by one part in a thousand billion, the Universe would have recollapsed after ten years. On the other hand, if the density of the Universe at that time had been less by the same amount, the Universe would have been essentially empty since it was about ten years old. How was it that the initial density of the universe was chosen so carefully? Maybe there's some reason why the universe should have precisely the critical density.'

(A quotation from Stephen Hawking, “The Times”, 6 September 1993, found on page 30 of Nicky Gumbel's book)


“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going. For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe's history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 1060. The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy. For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davis of what that accuracy means. He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away and hitting the mark!”

(A quotation from Dr. John Polkinghorne's “One World”, found on page 31 of Nicky Gumbel's book. Dr. Polkinghorne is a quantum physicist, and former president of Queen's College, Cambridge).