a review by Edd Doerr of Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative, by Daniel C. Maguire. SUNY Press, 2014, 226 pp, $24.95.
“In these pages,” Dan Maguire writes as he begins this important book, “I argue against the existence of a personal god, the divinity of Jesus, and the belief that continued living is the sequel to death. I find no persuasive arguments for any of these hypotheses,” these assumed foundations of Christianity. “What would be refreshing,” he adds, “is a moratorium on god-talk so that together we could explore alternatives to earth’s current social, political, economic, and ecological distress.”
Maguire, Professor of Ethics at (Jesuit) Marquette University and a former priest, is a longtime supporter of women’s rights regarding contraception, abortion and overpopulation. (See my review of his book, Sacred Choices, in Voice of Reason No. 80 in 2002 at arlinc.org.) In this brisk new book, brimming with humor and common sense, Maguire eviscerates the myths and supernaturalism of the Bible and traditional Christian theology but says that there are gems of wisdom and ethics to be found in those sources, though, one cannot help but note, those gems are buried under mountains of muck that require a patient, careful geologist like Maguire to unearth. The book reminds one of the Jefferson Bible or Bernard Shaw’s quip that as his followers did not understand Jesus’ religion, they made him the religion.
Maguire pokes fun at the Vatican’s “pelvic zone orthodoxy” and highlights the importance of dealing with climate change and its concomitants: “deforestation and habitat destruction, soil erosion and salinization, water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, foreign species affecting native species, human population growth, and increased per capita impact of people,” a litany similar to the one I have long been chanting. He concludes: “No deity will come to save this gifted and generous earth. It’s a challenge for humans not for gods. . . . The hour is late; some damage is irremediable. But it is not too late to start reversals.”
Further: “We are a spoiled species that seems hell-bent on wrecking the earth that cradles us and we are well on in that demonic suicidal project. It is an alluring temptation for the likes of us to imagine a superbeing with parental passions who is both omnipotent and all merciful who will make everything right ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Such delusions are typical of adolescence. And adolescent is what we are.”
Maguire’s humanism shines brightly through in this terrific book, though he does not use that term. And it bears out what I wrote in this haiku: “Labels may conceal / far more than they may reveal / they can mask what’s real.”