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A Godless Bible?

A Godless Bible?

Utne Reader reviews The Good Book: a humanist Bible.

Any respectable bible begins at the beginning. But in this one, the Garden of Eden is replaced by Isaac Newton’s garden, and the apple that denotes the downfall of man is replaced by the apple that drops on Newton’s head. The Good Book, an ambitious 597-page volume written by philosopher A.C. Grayling, is a bible without God, with humanism taking the place of religion.

“The way I made it,” Grayling says, “was to plunder from the great traditions’ texts . . . weaving them together, editing them, interpolating other texts and sometimes my own, just as the Bible makers worked. It was tremendous fun.”

Here you’ll find snippets from Spinoza; nuggets of Nietzsche; Homeric homilies; dollops of Darwin; kernels from Kant; and gems from Goethe, Godwin, and, of course, Grayling.

Like the English Bible, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible adopts the double-column format and is structured by book, chapter, and verse. “One reason for the potency of scriptural writings is how they are organized, inviting people to sample small bits of text and reflect on them,” Grayling says. In addition, the structure reinforces The Good Book’s aim to stand alongside religious texts, such as the Bible and the Koran, even while it is presenting a secular vision. “I want to show people the distilled wisdom of humanity reflecting on its own humanity, and to show that that is every bit as beautiful and powerful as the religious texts are, and in many ways much better.”

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Paul Woodrum

The Bible survived, not because of its format, but its great stories that point to God. It wasn’t until the early 13th century when Paris scholar Stephen Langton, later Archbishop of Canterbury, divided it into chapters, that the formatting began and not until the 16th century that verses were numbered.

However, it’s nice of Grayling to provide some sincere flattery, if more shallow content, by copying the Bible’s handy format.


Hmmmm. Is he actually making the claim, I wonder, that it’s the print format that has interested people in “religious texts” for millennia?

That’s a novel approach, anyway. But of course, he’s offering something that’s already on offer in world literature and philosophy overviews, and has been for centuries….

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