• The Devil's Delusion

  • Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
  • By: David Berlinski
  • Narrated by: Dennis Holland
  • Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (614 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Militant atheism is on the rise. In recent years, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have produced a steady stream of best-selling books denigrating religious belief. These authors are merely the leading edge of a larger movement that includes much of the scientific community.

In response, mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Jew, delivers a biting defense of religious thought. The Devil’s Delusion is a brilliant, incisive, and funny book that explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it is the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world.

©2009 David Berlinski (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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Riddled With Problems

I'm currently in the middle of this book, but even if I found the rest of it completely revelatory and satisfying I would still be writing this review.

Also, before I get into the problems with content, I have to say that Dennis Holland's narration is pretty monochromatic and robotic. I wondered for a moment if they'd gotten a more sophisticated Microsoft Sam or Siri type of program to read this book, so take that into consideration.

I came to this book as someone who's currently trying to figure out what I really believe about the nature of the universe and the existence of God. I've been reading books on science, theology, various religions, etc. - so I worked this one into the rotation in the hope that it would continue to broaden my perspectives and help me learn about things I've yet to.

I have been severely disappointed.

To begin with, Berlinski's prose - while well-worded - is absolutely dripping with disdain and condescension. Time after time he strays so far into self-congratulatory narcissism with his word choice and style that this book practically grinds to a halt. He spends paragraphs just calling people names and outlining how he doesn't like this person or what they've said; but rarely does he offer specific reasons as to why he finds someone "odious" or enumerate counterpoints to their hypotheses. Where something resembling a counterpoint can be offered, he invokes philosophers and thinkers of history - sometimes ancient history - without any consistency. At one point he uses David Hume against one of his targets, and then later turns his sneering condescension on David Hume's thinking itself. Moreover his dependence on historical philosophy and science flies in the face of history and science; two things that are constantly having to be updated as new facts come to light.

His big opening argument is one of the most tired and well-addressed of all: Nazis. To paraphrase and simplify "The Nazis were atheists, obviously the Nazis were evil, so clearly atheism is evil." Apart from the fact this argument completely ignores the socio-political history of Germany, numerous psychological factors on an individual and group scale, and grossly oversimplifies geopolitical climate - it's simply not true. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" ... That's a two-fer, Hitler invoking traditional Christian thought and creationist ideology. But Himmler and Rosenberg espoused pagan beliefs founded in the myths of Germanic folklore. Kerrl even believed that Christianity could be integrated into Nazism as part of the official party platform. So if you're going to call out the Nazis for being atheists, you've got to contend with a mountain of evidence that says the opposite - or at the very least that they were simply moral degenerates who used whatever philosophical and religious means they could get their hands on to manipulate the people and justify their actions. But calling that behavior "atheism" instead of just "evil" is unforgivably reductive and inaccurate, and Berlinski marches right past those more complex ideas while patting himself on the back for so thoroughly revealing atheism to be the real reason Nazi Germany happened in the first place.

The book is filled with these kinds of oversimplifications and logical fallacies. When he's not invoking ad hominem argument attacks against those he deems intellectually inferior, he's rattling off war/genocide statistics for several minutes. I mean this quite literally; at one point in his riposte against the idea that the 20th century has seen a largely improved human condition (historically speaking) he lists all the wars and genocides and dictatorships that occurred during the 20th century along with their estimated death tolls. I don't know how long it took, but it felt like an eternity listening to the almost robotic narrator go on and on and on when the same point could just have easily been made in a few short sentences. Berlinski seems, however, far too interested in making his point as laborious and pretentious as possible.

Elsewhere he says "Science has no method - like golf - beyond the trivial." This, by the way, in a paragraph denouncing what he perceives as the pretentiousness of the scientific method and the arrogance of those who invoke it. I am genuinely stumped by how a man so demonstrably brilliant (his bibliography touches on topics of mathematics far more complex than I personally can claim to fully understand) can so arrogantly accuse others of arrogance. I'm even more stumped at how an agnostic and self proclaimed secular Jew with no active belief in the supernatural can so abhor the scientific method; arguably the cornerstone of empirical thought and research.

There are sparks of good arguments in here, there really are. There is so much fertile ground for intelligent discussion and debate regarding NOMA, or how Big Bang cosmology squares and/or doesn't square with the ideas of creationism and intelligent design, or the difficulties that Darwinian evolution still has to overcome from a theoretical standpoint, or the havoc wreaked by even the most well-intentioned scientific endeavors...the list goes on. But in place of thoughtful arguments (meaning an explanation of the shortcomings/strengths, and then an offer of counter-argument against/in favor) Berlinski is only interested in poking holes and then using his considerably impressive vocabulary (the man is undoubtedly a wordsmith) to stand back and admire his own intellect. If this book were drained of its ad hominem arguments, false dilemmas, arguments from incredulity, snarky rhetorical questions, laborious lists, insufferable arrogance in the face of easily cited fact, and some plain-old-playground-name-calling...it could fit on a napkin. And that's just the kind of catty putdown with which this book is filled, by the way.

The entire book is effectively one long argument from its own conclusion, so if you're just looking for some cleverly-worded phrases and putdowns to spit at atheists during your next rant - you have come to the right place and you won't find a more gleefully kindred spirit in that endeavor than David Berlinski. But if you're currently trying to find well-constructed arguments for belief in the supernatural, you would be much better off in the hands of C.S. Lewis, Francis Collins, John Lennox, or even Ravi Zacharias.

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A Logical and Concise Criticism of Modern Atheism

What made the experience of listening to The Devil's Delusion the most enjoyable?

Berlinski's prose is second-to-none. I could read his writings all day long and never tire.

What did you like best about this story?

Berlinski's ability to see "behind the curtain", as it were, and expose the nonsensical nature of modern, militant atheism and cosmology.

Which character – as performed by Dennis Holland – was your favorite?

Not really applicable for this book...

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions"
The official subtitle works great.

Any additional comments?

(Taken from my Amazon review)
After [listening] this book for the [third] time, I have to say that it comprises one of the most logical and well developed criticisms of atheism in the modern day. Berlinski is clear in stating that he himself is not a believer, but an agnostic Jew. Only, he can see the glaring holes in conventional cosmology and atheism clearly enough to feel the need to defend the often derided alternative world view of a higher power. And this is something he does extremely well.
For a topic so ensnared by controversy and ad-hominem debate, Berlinski remains level headed and admits when his points are less than certain. This is not to say that his arguments lack evidence or efficacy, just that he's willing to admit when something is simply unprovable when so many others will not.
If you're open enough to critically challenge your world view, I can't recommend this book enough. It is superlative among its peers and remains one if the best works in this ever fiery category.

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Trouble for Believers

This book was so misleading I don't know where to start. I am a seeker and have been reading everything I can find on the topic of spirituality, God, the afterlife and the like. I am also a technical person and am very interested in science and technology. I have stayed away from these kinds of books because many times the author jumps right in to scriptural references as a source of authority. I reject the premise that any book is authoritative. To me, books are informative, some more than others.
Mr. Berlinski does not use the Bible or other book as a source of authority, he uses his opinion as a source of authority. Also, the mood of the book is weird, it does not seem to try to inform the reader. It seems like it's an opportunity to berate various people (who are named time after time) that disagree with the author. Combine the mood with the way this book is read and it ends up being downright snarky. This is a huge red flag that the author cannot formulate plausible arguments and is resorting to tactics like " nanner nanner boo-boo."
I recently finished an Audible lecture series called "Why Evil Exists." The lecturer is incredibly well informed and presents views from various beliefs without the slightest hint of bias. The material just flows at you in a beautifully organized and lucid manner. It was a delightful listen.
This book is the antithesis of "Why Evil Exists." It is wholly biased and is spat at you in a disrespectful and marginally organized way. It gets a 10 on my scale of 100 for lucidity. Frankly, it was insulting. I listened to the entire book so that I could write this review. Otherwise, I would have stopped somewhere in chapter one.
For those who already know the answers, you don't need this book to tell you what you believe. For those seeking information, well, it will be difficult to pick much out of this book.

23 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and Enlightening

It is a curiosity that a book written by an atheist, or at least an agnostic, who is a mathematician, could hold me in such wrapt attention. I have one regret only; that this book had an ending.

11 people found this helpful

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Masterful Argument in Masterful Prose

Berlinski makes easy work of the pretense of knowledge exuded by atheist intellectuals. Along the way, the reader is exposed to a staggering breadth of scientific knowledge and a penetrating wit. Berlinski has a way of formulating subtle but devastating jokes at his opponents' expense, all while remaining a gentleman.

Unfortunately, the narrator used some... creative pronunciations, even for very obvious words such as "Jupiter" when reading a passage about Elijah and the JUNIPER tree. Overall, though, he did a splendid job of capturing the sarcastic spirit of the author's many jests.

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A dazzlingly logical presentation!!

Largely devoid of theology, the author argues the case in the evolutionists own vernacular and fittingly so: for science itself (honest science anyway), demands that the relationship between theory and observation must be congruent! If, after due diligence, there exists deviation from that fundamental requirement, then the SEEKER OF TRUTH IN FACT, must yield to observation, abandon silly postulation, and go back to theory for resolution. Can there be any other way with concrete reason?? Come now all ye that thirst for truth in fact; let us REASON together with logic and prudence, leaving behind superstition and wild speculation. Instead, may we put the evidence to the test and follow it with open minds to wherever it leads.

It lies within us to be seekers or inquisitors. Have we not had our fill of the latter at the expense of the former?? Therefore, let freedom of thought be among the expressions of our humanity as we gallup around the cosmos in our spaceship Earth.

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Brilliant analysis...

I read this book after Tina Beattie's penetrating critique of the new atheists, a growing group led by the ill informed and ego driven Dawkins. Berlinski's book drives deeper into the problems of the atheist militants, and the hard clear logic presented here shows the political and personal motives, not to mention the gross contradictions and inconsistencies, of a new wave of non believing fundamentalists. A must read for a thinking person.

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Compelling

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. Because this book clearly lays out the case for a Designer and casts shadows on the Evolution Model,

What about Dennis Holland’s performance did you like?

Clear voice and easy to understand.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me sit up and listen closely, Then gave me good reason to research this subject.

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interesting view

I'm a firm believer in reading different viewpoints especially on important matters. this is a well written book with a secular view.

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AMAZING and insightful even witty at times I love

A very thought out book that gave a realistic appraisal of science and it's over reach and double standard in where it's failure lie. This world and everything in it is more than physical so how can the study of the physical explain it all, it's absurd. Berlinski though a believer in the science takes Dawkins. Hitchens and many others to task with their pretentiousness in where the scientific evidence actually leads and where atheists actually wants it to go.; now whose exercising faith? It takes far more faith to believe some of the "theories " that some of these atheist science tout more than it does to believe in an intelligent Being Who created an intelligent universe.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Charles
  • 05-16-15

Atheism's highjack of science debunked

Mathematician Berlinski convincingly exposes the atheist attempts to highjack science for its own agenda

10 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-04-19

Silly and stupid

It was a silly and intellectually stupid book and I do not recommend reading unless you want to be amused by the author's sillyness.

3 people found this helpful

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  • UKJ
  • 12-24-19

The Logical Conclusions!

This is simply a must-have, must read, must listen, for any 'child ', man or woman! The logic in this book is irrefutable! Absolutely beautiful! I have enjoyed every single minute of it and it leaves the reader or listener with the urge to read the book of wisdom, in my case it is the book of book's, the bible' ... ! The questions David Berlinski addresses are numerous, intelligent, and inexhaustible ...

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  • Y. Syed
  • 12-08-19

Much needed and useful

A much needed and useful examination of the dogmas of Atheism and its pretentious claims to being based in science.
The display of the _scientific_ community’s atheists blocking, silencing and de-platforming of any all who undermine or go against their dogma - was very enlightening - and is in my eyes anti-science! I.e. the search for evidence to fit/further the dogma/ideology vs. Observing and testing and basing opinions on what has been observed…
It speaks to a very troubling trend in the scientific community to not challenge the dogmas; à la climate change…

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  • crumpets
  • 05-24-19

A masterpiece

A decisive deconstruction on modern materialist, mechanistic and atheist thought. This book is a must read for a serious student of the subject.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • T.A
  • 05-19-19

Good content but a meaty read (listen)

Raises some very interesting objection dusted with welcome bits of humour. Complex concepts mean rewinding!

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  • tim royales
  • 03-21-19

Interesting listen

Needs to give it a second listen but some very thought provoking parts. Thanks. Enjoyed it 👍

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michael Whalley
  • 01-20-18

Fifth time listening, brilliant, honest, ...

David Berlinski Interlectual giant . witty, brilliant, honest, feared by the arrogant.


Burst the windbags

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  • Phil
  • 05-27-22

Certainly some interesting arguments.

Generally thought provoking. I would not consider myself scientifically minded, but I know enough that the author, though not religious, values it and rejects the calls of some to exclude religion from the science laboratory.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-20-22

confusing

not sure why the author wrote in such academic English maybe it was meant as an academic argument not for the average reader to gain insight into an important topic but as an indulgence of the writer to display his knowledge to opposing academics

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-03-19

interesting view of this topic

it's a book that has a lot of information it can be hard to follow if you are distracted with highly recommended this book