The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins Bantam Press, HK$208 British ethnologist, evolutionary theorist and popular science writer Richard Dawkins thinks it's time atheists come out of the closet and agnostics off the fence. The God Delusion should do the trick, going so far as to declare 'religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down'. Lest one think Dawkins is a tad deranged, it's the agnostics he's after in this witty, erudite and very accessible polemic. He knows the fundamentally religious are immune to reasoning after years of indoctrination. Dawkins, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Understanding of Science at Oxford, has a reputation for clear and lucid explanations of science in terms the lay person can comprehend - The Selfish Gene (1976) and The Blind Watchmaker (1986) are but the best known of his works to date. In The God Delusion, Dawkins shows how the reasoning used to argue there is an upper-case God is 'spectacularly weak' and takes exception to the notion that religious beliefs should be off limits to criticism. Just because someone believes in Keynesian monetarism doesn't make them right, and devotees of trickle-down economics will quickly set them straight, but it's not acceptable to challenge the religious to justify their beliefs and take responsibility for the consequences of those beliefs. 'As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it's hard to withhold respect from Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers,' he says. Dawkins reasons religion is the by-product of a useful meme - that is, a replicator, a unit of cultural transmission. Children need to be warned of dangers long before they have the mental faculties to figure them out for themselves, thus admonitions from a parent about crossing roads will be accepted without understanding why. But along the way, improbable ideas that have no consequence to survival get transmitted from generation to generation. In a letter addressing his daughter included in A Devil's Chaplain (2003), Dawkins wrote: 'I had always been scrupulously careful to avoid the smallest suggestion of infant indoctrination ... Others less close to her, showed no such scruples.' He wanted her to 'think without being told what to think'. In The God Delusion, Dawkins likens religious indoctrination to child abuse - the foisting of objectionable ideas on the young. One can see the logic. From a fundamentalist point of view, it's easier to teach a child of six than a thinking near-adult of 16 to believe in virgin births, rising from the dead or walking on water. Readers subjected to the mandatory religious education of the British education system know the A+ answer to 'What does the story of Abraham being prepared to sacrifice his longed for son, Ishmael, tell us of his faith?' is that it shows the power of Abraham's faith, which was being tested by God. The E-answer, with the bonus of detention, is that anyone prepared to murder their child because voices told them to should be prevented from further contact with children. Apologists will say the Abraham story shouldn't be taken as literal fact, which takes Dawkins to his next target - those who claim that without religion there is no morality. He cites studies that posed moral questions to those who professed a religious belief and those who professed none. They gave much the same responses. He goes back to evolutionary theory and says traits such as kindness, generosity and sympathy are useful qualities that aided natural selection, examples of which can be seen in the natural world. An irony Dawkins would certainly appreciate: The God Delusion is tipped by Amazon.com to be its number one Christmas best-seller.