Book review: Christianity without God, by Daniel C. Maguire

Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative, by Daniel C. Maguire. SUNY Press, 2014, 226 pp, $24.95.

 a review by Edd Doerr

 “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 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.”


About Edd Doerr

Edd Doerr's picture

Edd Doerr was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He has been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982.

A former teacher of history and Spanish, he is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights but also including five books of poetry and fiction and Timely and Timeless: The Wisdom of E. Burdette Backus. He joined Burdette Backus's All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis in 1951, is currently a member of River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, and has been a frequent delegate to Unitarian Universalist Association General Assemblies. An accomplished speaker, he has preached in over a hundred Unitarian Universalist churches in thirty states. He has served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice since 1973 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications.


Well well well, Edd - I see you are up to your usual stuff. One day you will close your eyes in death, and immediately face your Creator - who will then ask for an accounting of your life. I hope you are ready to do so. You can be saved now, even after your entire silly life. Simply confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, and live the rest of your seconds/minutes/hours/days/months/years for Him - in what you do, say and think. It is your only hope for eternal life. Don't believe it? Consider it "life insurance" as in "eternal" or "forever" whatever sinks into that thick scull of yours. I hope to see you there - for eternity - forever. May your Creator bless you & keep you, and may the Holy Spirit bring you to eternal LIFE, not death - which is where you are headed now. It's not too late! Karl William Jenkins