on August 3, 2010
Outgrowing God: Moving Beyond Religion is not only a thoroughly interesting, enjoyable and relatively quick read, it also articulates many thoughts I have had myself and with which I have personally struggled throughout my life. Countless times as I read through this book, I found myself thinking such things as, "Exactly!" and "Of course! That's why I've felt this way all along!" I appreciate the well-presented and logical position Jeskin takes regarding religion, the meaning of life, and the journey of coming to realization that sustained feelings of guilt should not be considered an indicator that one is on the right path. To sum up my feelings after having read this book: What a relief!
on April 16, 2010
"Outgrowing God" is a vade mecum for anyone with doubt or who finds it difficult to deal with religious indoctrination.
With extraordinary clarity Alan Jeskin details his evolution from born again Christian to Atheist. His odyssey is so clearly and rationally described most of us will identify with him regardless of what stage of thinking or experience we are in.
Jeskin clearly shows how the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc. cannot be used as a moral authority by numerous examples of treacherous and irrational ideas taken from the books themselves.
"Outgrowing God" is not just an indictment of Christianity, it shows all religions, past and present to be effete for they all have common characteristics. Jeskin's reasoning is clear and concise. He explains how we are able with our depth of compassion and our capacity for good will, to experience love, friendship, art and each other without the pernicious effect of religious dogma. I consider this a self help book as well as a book of history and rational thinking. I would have bought it for the historical content alone. It is just plain interesting. I couldn't put it down.
Everyone should have a copy of this easy to read book for reference and inspiration. Had I been able to read this book in my adolescence I would have been spared painful years of confusion and feelings of guilt. I know several people that I will be giving copies to.
on July 27, 2012
Bravo! It is refreshing to read a book, written by an atheist, that is not like those from the pens of persons like Dawkins or even Christopher Hitchens. It is very tiring, as a person of high curiosity, to read books on secular spirituality that spend most of their critique merely criticizing and completely demeaning all those who do not think exactly in the manner that they do. The author, Alan Jeskin, initially must be applauded for that. Instead, we are led on a transformational journey of the author's own thoughts as he progresses from one of Christian dogma through twenty+ years of thought and research to a place where he is much more at peace with himself and his definition of 'god'. The book is not only fluid and a very easy text to read but, as a reader, you quickly get caught up in the author's clear and concise manner of reasoning. The conclusion to which we are led I am in full agreement with; It is much more rational and sane to be a proclaimed atheist than it is to be an adherent to any of the world's religions. His thoughts and precepts parallel and reinforce the concepts that I, too, had developed after a period of twenty+ years of equally intense, yet slightly different, exploration of religious 'reality'. Like the author, my starting place was to read, cover to cover, the Bible in various forms and translations in order to develop a holistic view of what the 'holy scripture' was meant to portray. And, like the author I, too, found its contents to be beyond the realm of belief. Faith, to me, is having the trust in something that probably is not true and Mr. Jeskin appears to be in full agreement. Flat earths, pairs of animals in a boat taking a one year trip, towers built which resulted in language barriers, stopping the movement of the sun, talking snakes and donkeys, and the burning of mountain top shrubbery all make the Brothers Grimm seem like writers of non-fiction rather than the tale-tellers that they were. Linking this world of myth and fantasy in with a god-like authority figure that demands worship (because he is insecure?), to annulation of millions of human creatures that were self-created (how can omnipotence make such a creational mistake?), to choosing only one genetic race as his 'favorite' out of so many others (isn't this the favoritism that only step-fathers are known to have?), all this makes Darth Vader and his Death Star exploits seem like bumper cars at the local county fair!
I was somewhat dismayed, however, by the study that the author cited pertaining to the effectiveness of prayer on persons suffering from medical conditions. While one can search long enough to find a study that will support nearly any position, most of the studies in this area conflict with the author's premise that prayer does nothing in the way of aiding a patient's healing. The numerous studies I have perused state just the opposite insomuch that prayer and/or simple thoughts do improve healing conditions to a statistically significant degree. An accurate depiction of Shirley McClain and the band of New Age religionists was made by the author, however. Their claims make the waters more muddy and do not produce anything that is tangible. They remind me of being a child sitting around a campfire singing Kum-buy-ya. While it made us feel good for a short period of time, there was little in the song's lyrics that were applicable to everyday life.
Mr. Jeskin does not preach nor proselytize about his thoughts nor does he peer down from an intellectual summit at the ignorant plebes who continue to follow ancient thoughts on how the earth looked through the eyes of the tribal leaders a number of millennia ago. Instead he offers rational, easy to follow logic that stems from his background in the hard physical sciences in his valid conclusions about ancient religious tenets. "Ah, but there is the rub......" and this is where the author and I veer off and continue on separate, but equally valid, paths. My background is in the softer science of Psychology and, being so, I do not find it necessary to force all of my conclusions through the rigorous and stringent precepts of centuries old scientific method. There are conclusions that can be gotten from mass data and personal experiences that may fall under the author's definition of `magic'. For example, present string theory studies are showing that our universe exists in eleven dimensions and not in the four that we originally thought, parapsychology/metaphysical studies have shown undeniable proof that the forms of ESP and Psi are real and while they do not show 100% reliability they do show that the results could only be obtained through mere chance to be 1:10,000 to 1:1,000,000, objective studies over the past decade into near-death experiences have removed all chance that what the subject experienced was due to any and all physiological causal factors, that, while still in its earliest stages, quantum physics is showing that the probability of consciousness lying outside of the brain is very high, and, lastly, that the one thing that the evolutionists may have gotten wrong is that physical form did not precede consciousness but that it was actually the opposite order. What an overwhelming factor this would be if it is ever able to be proven!
No, my path does not in any manner demean nor belittle the path that the author has been on. My only concern, however, is that because his proofs against religion are so well thought out and so definitive is that he may feel that he has arrived at the point of "Absolute Truth". Most of us after a long hard struggle to gain knowledge fall into this restful trap. We feel that our journey and travails are done and, being so, we wish to bask in the glow of our hard work. Please, Mr. Jeskin, continue your search but, as you go on, attempt to examine areas that you may feel a little less secure in discussing. Particle Physics, while and an admirable topic, may not contain all the answers that are needed for the `ultimate truth' question. Until then, I will see you on the other side?
on May 11, 2013
In "Outgrowing God" Alan Jeskin crafts a wide-ranging narrative about his personal transformation from casual Christian to born again evangelical to atheist, arriving as he did only after considerable introspection and study. More than just a story of his personal transformation, the book goes on to examine the Bible in some detail, using biblical verses from both the old and new testament as entry points for distinguishing clear contradictions between biblical claims of physical reality and our understanding of the world around us as described by science. He offers up an "Alternate Genesis" that clearly demonstrates how supremely simple it would have been for God to narrate a creation story that accords perfectly with what science has since demonstrated to be true during the ensuing 3,000 years of steadily accumulated knowledge. Instead, the absurdity of the actual Genesis account (and many other biblical stories) clearly adds evidence to the much simpler theory that the story was created by men who were wholly ignorant of the causal mechanisms for physical events they observed around them. In other words, the Bible is simply a product of the times during which it was created and therefore reflects the state of human knowledge and understanding during that period. Thunderbolts were signs from an angry God, sacrifices were needed for appeasement, and disease was the work of unseen demons. In such a world, is it any surprise that God created the universe from nothing in six days or that the sun and planets revolve around the earth which itself sits in the center of all that exists? Such a conception of reality makes much more sense when interpreted as the combined narrative of fallible men from thousands of years ago than it does as the revealed word of God.
Where Jeskin really hits his stride is in chapter three, where he dives into the psychology of belief and the emotional appeal of believing in a supernatural being. He presents a choice that every intellectually serious adult must make at some point. A full quote from the book is worthwhile here as it demonstrates the clarity and strength of his style:
"As we try to figure out how the universe works, how life began, or why our personal lives take the turns they do, we have to decide whether we want easy answers or the truth. If we want the easy, readily available answers that quickly allay our fear of the unknown, provide a pass from having to acknowledge our ignorance, and offer a comforting but warped view of reality, then religion is the right source, and all answers become variations on the same theme - "God made it so." If, however, we want the truth, then we have to be willing to set off on an intellectually honest journey of discovery. That journey may be long, tedious, and sometimes discomforting, but along the way, and in the end, we find real and useful answers that give us a better understanding of our reality. Only then do we have a chance to change that reality for the better. Consider for example how modern medicine has vastly improved humanity's quality of life. Back in the early eighteenth century when the generally accepted cause of smallpox was that "God made it so," we were helpless to do anything more than pray and watch entire populations suffer through the ravages of the disease. Only when men of science refused to be satisfied with religious answers and forged ahead to gain a real understanding of the mechanisms of the disease, did we then develop a vaccine to rid ourselves of this scourge..."
In the final chapter, Jeskin admirably gives ground to religion by acknowledging some positive contributions, ranging from providing a sense of community and belonging to encouraging acts of charity and giving back to our local communities and beyond. He then goes on to demonstrate how these manifestly positive aspects of religion are not at all dependent on belief or religious doctrine but are, in fact, secular humanist values that transcend religious, ethnic, and cultural boundaries, providing a clear path forward to define morality and ethics in the full light of shared human values that we are free to define in accordance with our current understanding of the world around us. We do not behave ethically because of our ancient religious texts, but often times rather in spite of them. It's time to place these texts in museums and view them as the ancient relics they are. We can do better, as the author so readily makes clear.
on August 4, 2010
Alan Jeskin's "Outgrowing God: Moving Beyond Religion" is one of the best pieces of literature that I've read hands down. In a time that measures much of its actions, laws, social behaviors, and even life-changing circumstances on religious beliefs dating back centuries, Alan addresses the illogical inconsistencies behind the thought process that finds modern day cultures obsessed with using the "easy" button of religion whenever there is a lack of understanding & proven knowledge.
Having traveled the similar path (probably like most of us) that saw religious doctrine being forced down my throat since birth, I could certainly relate to Alan's path of reasoning as I read his book. I finally started to ask the inevitable "what is the true meaning of life" question in my later years and until I read this book, have never felt comfortable expressing my inner thoughts about these feelings. I simply could not put this book down and many times I was forced to simply look into the mirror of my inner conscience and redefine the definition of self.
A must read for all philosophical approaches - especially Christians!