cover image Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide to Atheism

Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide to Atheism

Richard Dawkins. Random House, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-984853-91-2

Dawkins (The God Delusion) purports to guide his readers through letting go of belief in God in this underwhelming repackaging of ideas from his previous works. For the first half of the book, Dawkins argues that the Bible is a faulty foundation for belief that lacks any basis in historical reality and advances a cruel, inconsistent set of values. He then proceeds with a thorough explanation of evolution and critique of intelligent design. As this progression makes clear, the book primarily concerns itself with Bible-based Protestantism. Dawkins avoids seriously considering non-Western religions, Judaism, Islam, and Roman Catholicism; they appear when they bolster his claims, and are curiously absent when they might undermine them (for instance, he frames religious opposition to abortion as a conflict between “absolutists and consequentialists” without mentioning religions that don’t fit his paradigm, such as Judaism). Dawkins’s glib analysis is paralleled by his slipshod engagement with the ideas and methods of the humanities. Historical evidence from the times of the Bible’s creation, for instance, is deemed wholly unreliable—unless it undermines biblical narratives. By starting with the assumption that religious belief is too ridiculous for serious and sustained engagement, Dawkins is preaching to the converted. Readers interested in the rationale for atheism will be disappointed in this underdeveloped argument that never takes spiritual belief seriously. (Sept.)