Book Review of “Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide” by Richard Dawkins, 2019
A person would do well not to learn about capitalism from a communist, or to learn about Christianity from an atheist. In both examples, the opposing party has plenty of opinions and reasons for them, but their depiction is likely to be slanted. Such is the case with Richard Dawkins and his recent book, “Outgrowing God.”
In it, Dawkins, known for his strong secular and nonfaith stance, depicts a history in which mankind created God. They did so in order to explain natural phenomena, attempt to influence nature, and to impart moral fortitude in human behavior. Starting with the gods of the ancients, Dawkins portrays just how many traditions of faith there have been.
While belief in deities developed as a result of unenlightened perspectives, behavioral standards and moral codes came as a natural outgrowth of evolutionary necessity, he says. It paid to work together toward common goals, get along and unite against enemies.
The transmitting of faith traditions came as the result of something akin to the game “Telephone,” in which one person whispers in the ear of another and another, until finally, the original message has become something different entirely.
Dawkins sets out to debunk all religions claiming belief in a deity or deities, but he particularly focuses upon Christianity. He paints God as depicted in the Bible as very human and prone to bias. A petulant deity who reacts to humans and who differs from the Old Testament to the New Testament sounds bad, indeed.
Taking the trail of thought further, Dawkins suggests it is unconscionable to tell anyone, particularly children, that their eternal soul could be in either heaven or hell. His view marks what is the basis, in some places, for hostility toward the message of the Gospel.
Dawkins does not suggest that societal or legal anarchy is a solution; he simply puts forth that God is unnecessary for creating and maintaining moral laws in a society. He suggests that religion is effectively fear-mongering, delusion and hollow tradition.
In his arguments from science, Dawkins explains that every human organ and attribute came as the result of evolution over vast periods of time, when pre-humans emerged from the water and developed, eventually, into the imperfect forms they are today. While Dawkins does not have an answer for the origin of life, he asserts that science will eventually uncover the solution to this great question, as it has answered others.
In his rebuttal against design, Dawkins offers the example of crystals. The symmetrical, prism shapes are as fine as any human-cut designs. But the reason for these extraordinary outcomes is the natural consequence of the nature of the atoms comprising the crystals. The atoms form the stunning shape we see, not because the crystal was designed, but because of the building blocks that form the crystal.
To that conclusion, the theist would ask, “But who or what gave the atoms those properties that make them form together in such a way?” It is the omissions and understatements that make just as distinct an impression on the reader. Those include glossing over the great thinkers, scientists, artists, teachers and writers throughout history who were devout believers, and the great good that has come to culture from Christian and faith principles.
Furthermore, Dawkins places all examples of human belief in gods and the supernatural on the same plane. He brushes over evidence for the veracity of faith, and employs examples of superstition and hysteria. Dawkins doesn’t take into account personal revelation or conviction, but groups all religiosity into the camps of compulsion and disinformation. For some readers, assembling concepts like belief in the divine, love, conviction – and even physical senses – into cosmic happenstance is simply unnatural.