Outgrowing God | Richard Dawkins

Summary of: Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide
By: Richard Dawkins


Embark on an intriguing journey through Richard Dawkins’ ‘Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide,’ as we explore the myriad of gods and religious beliefs throughout human history. This summary takes a closer look at the dominating monotheistic religions, their origins, and the unreliability of holy texts. Delve into the fundamental principles of morality and ethics, and consider the role of evolution and natural selection in explaining the complexities of our world. With a user-friendly approach, this summary demonstrates how religion, often based on superstition, can be outgrown as we rely on our human faculties of reason and empathy for guidance.

The Myth of Monotheism

The plurality of religions and gods throughout history raises doubts about the validity of monotheistic beliefs.

God, the omnipotent, omniscient, and all-powerful being, is the superhero of superheroes and the God of the three main monotheistic religions of today – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, this view poses a significant problem. If this God is so powerful and unique, why is he just one among thousands? Thousands of gods have been worshipped throughout history and into the present day. The Greek gods and Goddesses included Zeus, the king of the gods, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Poseidon, the god of the sea. The Vikings, on the other hand, were polytheists and believed in multiple gods, such as Wotan, their primary god, Thor, the thunder god who carried a hammer, and Snotra, the goddess of wisdom.

Moreover, the ones that people worship and the religions depend more on the time and place they were born than anything else. This means that your own faith is most likely a consequence of the time and place you were born. If you’d been born during Viking times, you would have believed in Wotan and Thor. This raises doubts about the validity of monotheistic beliefs and the claim of people that their God is the only true God.

It’s essential to note that the number of gods in history solely dedicated to the sun is also significant. Many indigenous African religions have sun gods such as Anywanwu, Mawu, and Ngai. Australian aboriginal sun gods include Bila, Wala, and Karruar. Despite the wide variety of gods available, people mostly worship and follow the religions that depend on the time and place they were born.

Thus, it’s impossible to be sure that one religion or god is the true one. The holy books of the most dominant monotheistic religions of today are wrong, and the plurality of religions and gods throughout history raises doubts about the validity of monotheistic beliefs.

The Unreliable Telephone effect of Holy Books

Holy books like the Bible are not always a credible source of historical facts because of their unreliable origin, the telephone effect. The stories they tell were orally passed down over time, making them highly susceptible to change. The New and Old Testament are examples of texts that have been altered over time. The New Testament, composed of four gospel accounts, was written down decades after Jesus’ death, leaving room for significant changes to happen. The Old Testament, which originated from the Jewish Tanakh, is also unreliable because much of it was written down centuries after the events occurred. The absence of historical and archaeological evidence proves that many of the crucial events in the Holy books did not happen. Due to errors such as the existence of camels during Abraham’s time and no historic trace of the Jewish people’s captivity in ancient Egypt, the credibility of Holy books as a source of truth has been put into question. Hence, relying on the Holy books to prove the existence of God is a dubious argument.

Disturbing Truths About the God of the Bible

The God of the Bible is often portrayed as merciful and compassionate, but the stories in the Old Testament reveal a different side of Him. From Abraham’s near-sacrifice to Jephthah’s daughter, God’s cruel tests of loyalty are evident. Furthermore, the Israelite campaigns to take over the Promised Land involved the slaughter of innocents, including children and infants, and sexual assault. These actions would be considered war crimes today, suggesting that the God of the Bible may not be the ethical role model that some claim He is.

Evolving Morals

Throughout history, people have been denied their rights, including slaves and women who faced oppression often justified by religion. The Bible and Qur’an have problematic views towards certain groups, perpetuating prejudices. Despite this, our morals have evolved, and we now widely recognize acts such as slavery and genocide as morally reprehensible. To be truly moral, we must rely on our human faculties of empathy and reason, rather than following holy texts.

Building from the Bottom Up

The book challenges the notion of a “top-down” design often linked to the idea of God, by using termites’ mounds as an example of the emergence of a sophisticated structure without an overarching plan. The author argues that living creatures, including humans, emerge through bottom-up design driven by DNA. From cell-splitting during embryonic development to the molecules that make up our genes, DNA provides the instructions for making any living organism. The final result is a complex, sophisticated structure that rivals even the most complicated human architectural designs, all from simple rules that each individual contributor follows. The book shows that there is no master plan for living creatures and that they come to existence through a continuous, self-organizing process that creates an individual without a predetermined blueprint.

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