Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Dawkins (book review).

With a title like ‘Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide’, you know what to expect from a book by Richard Dawkins. There’s a lot here that I already knew and have told you independently over the years. Dawkins puts them down in more black and white terms and really warms up in the second chapter. If you have any religious faith, prepare for it to be questioned throughout the first section. If you don’t, then it provides ammo for the next time someone pushing their religion knocks on your door. Dawkins has read and knows his subject.

Picking out highlights when you should be reading this book is a little tougher so forgive me if I miss anything. Dawkins points out that Chinese whispers, where things can be exaggerated as word is passed around accounts for so much in any holy book and real life come to that. With the Bible, this is also done in the various translations. The four gospels were certainly written at least a couple centuries after the apostles died and only attributed to them and even contradictory in their accounts which should make you wonder what is the truth.

More so as several other gospels were ignored, including one attributed to Judas Iscariot, because the priests deemed 4 gospels were enough and was their lucky number. Surprised the deity didn’t question that. When you consider that Iscariot’s testimony was because God was expecting someone to disown Christ, he seems to have become a needed fall guy in the plan than doing what was needed. Thomas’ gospel shows Christ to have been performing ‘miracles’ even in childhood. I agree with Dawkins in that turning clay into sparrows is more a conjuring trick.

Dawkins extends my thoughts that there are two different Gods in the testaments even further by pointing out that one of them was still being nasty by allowing all first born in Bethlehem to be killed by Herod although it was unlikely that this event ever happened. Then again, so much of the Old Testament never happened neither, including Moses taking his people out of Egypt. So much depends on people hearing the ‘voice of God’ from burning bushes or in their heads that in today’s world we would certainly be locking up such people or questioning their judgement when it came to sacrificing their children to a deity.

This kind of thing also continues into modern life where certain tribes are waiting for John Frum in the island of Tanna which we see as ‘John From America’, a messiah who will one day return to save them. Rarely scaringly, one tribe believes Prince Philip to be a god after one visit years ago. There are things in this book that will show mankind is patient for the wrong things and allows religious fervour to beat intelligent thinking. Humans have a habit of wanting to believe in something regardless of whether its truthful or not.

The analysis of the Ten Commandments will make you think, especially of the contradictoriness of thou shall not kill unless you find someone creating false gods or swear in his name and then you stone them to death. Guess that puts most of us against the wall if we obeyed them as written today. As Dawkins points out, these laws weren’t written with a modern society in mind and the emancipation of women. His analysis of a consequentisalist and an absolutist only ignores one detail about the sanctity of life when it comes to a potential child of rape.

The other half of this book is devoted to disproving intelligent design and I’m in home territory. Dawkins notes the mechanics of parts of the body like the eye can only work in a limited number of ways although evolution also shows they all built up from simple sensitivity. Although I agree evolution might have been proven earlier even Darwin was reluctant to publish his book fearing the flak he was going to get and got some even from his contemporaries. People are reluctant to change from what they see as accepted dogma, even if it was purely from religious faith but also scientific knowledge until proof and new scientists with fresh thinking superseded them.

With it comes to animals developing speed, predators like leopards do tend to opt for prey from the slowest gazelles, essentially the oldest who are also not breeding and the very young. However, the spread of fast genes is sufficient to lose a percentage of young offspring.

I think the real problem with books of this nature is the converted will see them as adding more confirming information to their knowledge. The ones who really need to read this book are the ones less likely unless they are having wavering faith, then this book might convince them to go all the way.

Mind you, if their offspring are having second thoughts, then they would be the ideal readers. Although I haven’t read all of Dawkins books, I do hope he might address the problem why so many people have edged back into erroneous knowledge these days. Is it a failure in education or a general distrust in today’s society. They seem to be happy taking a backward step, even in the world of technology that we live in today.

In the meantime, there is a lot to learn here. I also found it a fast read but as I’m familiar with the subject that might have contributed to that but you will come away knowing a lot more. You will certainly question religious dogma where either its writers never got it right. If anything, our shared fictional universes have more cohesion than the likes of the Bible. Maybe the priests should have had better questioning editors than treat everything as gospel.

GF Willmetts

September 2019

(pub: Bantam Press/Penguin/Random House. 294 page photo insert indexed medium hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-767-63121-2)

check out websites: www.penguin.co.uk and www.richarddawkins.net


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

2 thoughts on “Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Dawkins (book review).

  • There was a good program about Rapture on Radio 4 this morning, hosted by Melvyn Bragg. I’m afraid neither you or Mister Dawkins will be among the Elect.


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