It was refreshing to see the publication of Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion. It is not every day that one of the premier evolutionary biologists in the world publishes a text dedicated to the defense of atheism. Dawkins has done us a service, if only in making more acceptable the general proposition that religion and science are at odds with each other, and that it is science that should win out.
The God Delusion has received an enthusiastic response from the public, including in the United States, generally considered the most religious of all industrialized countries. Dawkins book has so far spent 24 weeks in New York Times bestseller top 15 for nonfiction. During a book tour in the US last year, Dawkins drew large and sympathetic crowds, including at some states (such as Kansas), more often associated with religious fundamentalism.
Some of the interest generated by Dawkins's book is no doubt due to the author, whose books, including The Selfish Gene, have become standard texts in evolutionary biology. Whether or not one agrees with everything he says about the theory of evolution, it is certainly true that Dawkins is a gifted writer with a capacity to explain complicated issues in direct and clear language.
However, there is more involved than this. There is a hunger for alternative perspectives, for views that challenge supposedly universally accepted propositions. There is a latent and widespread oppositional sentiment, and Dawkins's book appeals to a deep hostility to the religious fundamentalism and backwardness that increasingly characterize governments in Britain, the US and internationally.