Updated: Jun 7
Special thanks to Julia Jarzyna for her artwork seen in the cover image.
The God Delusion put biologist Richard Dawkins on the map as the UK’s resident atheist when first published in 2006. If The God Delusion is a main course, then Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide could be considered an aperitif.
Dawkins insists that the book is not a dumbed-down Delusion, and I’m inclined to agree. Although it is primarily targeted at younger readers, it does not insult the reader’s intelligence regardless of their age. It does explore some of the ground covered in Delusion, but its primary focus, as the title implies, is to reason the reader out of belief.
The first part of the book is about picking holes in religious belief systems, particularly those of the Abrahamic religions (i.e. Christianity, Islam and Judaism), the first chapter concluding that throughout the course of history there have been so many deities to believe in and that the various believers ‘can’t all be right’, especially when they insist that theirs is the one true god.
I would say that the first part of the book is pretty reasonable and picks at the many inconsistencies that exist within organised religions. Dawkins is passionate and particularly keen to put an end to the ‘metaphor’ excuse for what are horrific actions by the god of the Bible. I would go into this more, but that’s another story.
As for the second part, Dawkins makes a case for atheism using science. He demonstrates the so-called ‘magic of reality’ with his careful explanations of how the natural world works and how the theory of evolution popularised by Charles Darwin puts the theory of intelligent design to shame. It is fascinating, although some of the scientific explanations, particularly how gazelles run away from predators, are a bit long-winded and tedious for someone less attentive to the intricacies of science such as me. I was more interested in how this supported Dawkins’ overall argument against religious belief.
In the end, Dawkins states that we shouldn’t be filling gaps in our knowledge with deities or the belief in the supernatural. Instead, we should fill them with scientific inquiry. If you’ve read Delusion, you’ll appreciate the contents of this book. If not, you’re in for a treat, but don’t feel compelled to read Delusion once you have. If all you’re looking for is a convincing case for atheism, this is a gem to behold. Delusion is denser and slightly different in content. Outgrowing God gets to the point and is beautifully written, apart from Dawkins’ obsessive use of semi-colons in certain chapters. By all means progress to Delusion if you wish, but don’t feel obliged.