As good as the book is, though, I'm not sure it will have much of an impact in the long run. I think it will mostly serve to reinforce the ideas of unbelievers, and to hasten the atheism of young people from religious backgrounds who are yearning to break free.
The problem is that we, as a society, are not trained to think logically or thoroughly. We're not trained to ask difficult questions and spend significant time searching for the difficult answers. We are, in fact, moving away from those tendencies and further and further towards the model of instant gratification.
The concept of God is a fast-food model of the universe. It's simple, easily digestible, and satisfying in all the wrong ways. Dawkins is telling people to think in more complicated and involved ways. To take personal responsibility for their actions, accept the fact that once life ends it is, in fact, over, and to know that the only other intelligent beings you can rely on are fallible, capricious, humans.
It's not a pretty world view.
It's just a correct one.
And I don't know how much that matters.
People are mostly lazy. They vote for a president because he wears cowboy hats and tells easily exposed lies. They watch TV shows where people are given large sums of money based on what random series of briefcases they select. They dismiss Darwin without reading the Origin of Species or taking the time to truly understand the theory of evolution.
I am not above any of this. The impulse towards laziness and simplicity is in all of it, and it's quite strong in me. I have plenty of serious flaws that I need to work on. My problem is not so much that people are lazy, or content to be ignorant, or even obstructionist towards truth. It's more that we, as as society, don't seem to have a problem with this. We even encourage it. Conservatives have argued for years that the main thing government schools teach is obedience. Having been out of school for almost a decade now I am compelled to agree. Our country has a great tradition of debate and dissent, yet these days we seem to value neither. Those who wish to effect true and profound change are ridiculed, mocked, and marginalized. The status quo isn't just accepted, it is often venerated.
We can't go on like this.
America is, right now, the Titanic. It's a huge and seemingly invincible ship with some severe structural flaws. It is in iceberg infested waters. It is captained by an idiot (It's not EXACTLY like the Titanic.) In the near future we will have to contend with such issues as massive national debt, a deflating real estate bubble, an increasingly tight energy supply, so-called rogue states obtaining nuclear weapons, severe demographic problems in virtually all of our real allies, a declining edge in science, increased class stratification, and the beginnings of climate change. Not to mention terrorism or the quagmire in Iraq. In the medium future we have global warming, ascendant enemies, and whatever else history throws at us. These problems are not necessarily unsolvable, but they are serious. We need to start addressing them now if we don't want to have a rude awakening in five years time, when they will be that much more serious.
And we're not going to. As a society we've said that we care more about buying oversized homes and cars, fighting science for the sake of dying religions, and partying than we do about addressing the serious problems that await us. People think the problems are for others to deal with, or will work themselves out somehow. Arrogant laziness and aggressive ignorance have been our national policies for the last 6 years, and by God we're not about to change them now. Iraq is a raging success. Wiretaps enable freedom. You can draw equity from your home forever!
The God Delusion asks us to behave like serious, responsible, adults open to a compelling logical argument. When it comes to modern Americans, that may be asking for too much.