I don’t normally go too much into myself in these reviews, but I think in this case it may be of some use. My road to disbelief was pretty simple – my parents were not strongly religious, and I found myself questioning beliefs at a very young age. I whittled myself down pretty quickly to deism before getting to my current atheism at a shocking late age (although some would argue that I was an atheist at a much younger age, I am not sure I follow that assessment. But that isn’t terribly important here). What’s relevant to how we understand this book has much more to do with the whittling down that got me to deism. It was mostly a lot of trying to rationalize the nature of God and the claims those of stronger religious understandings believed in, and saying to myself ‘no, that can’t be right. Not if God is perfect or maximal’.
The theistic notions of god are often eliminated by a better understanding of the specific claims of religious groups, or more often, their holy books. Those Holy books do not do Theology very many favors.
A book like Alpha God comes is a pretty good refutation of the God described in the bible. I wouldn’t call it a good argument for Atheism, because I don’t think very many contemporary people know that book well enough to really know what is in that book. The full title of the book is ‘Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression’, and that gives us a pretty good description of what the book discuss. The book goes into to what extent we can see all the actions of biblical god stemming from aspects, one should say the worst aspects, of human psychology. It draws these connections from human evolution itself, and shows then how religion functioned as a tool for the legitimizing of human violence. It does not paint a pretty picture, but then again people actually familiar with religious texts know that very often they forgo the pretty pictures all on their own. I did not have the impression that this books were too accusatory, as it was really mostly explanatory.
I mentioned earlier that this book likely wouldn’t be a very good tool to convert people to Atheism. That’s a pretty striking point, because it left me wondering who this book was meant for. Perhaps other scholars of religion and society? I don’t think this book does much for any atheists who may read it. I kind of felt that choir was being preached to while I was reading it. But then again, I am in the choir. I should say that I very much recognize how much I could be wrong on this point, as I am not too sure to what extent my experience out of religion could be described as typical. Maybe someone else reading it would find it completely convincing. But I had my doubts.