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Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality [Hardcover]

Steve Allen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1990
America's dean of intelligent comedy doesn't think the Bible is a laughing matter. His good look at the good book is a closely reasoned examination of Scripture, designed to encourage rational analysis of the most influential document of Western civilization. Although the Bible has been consulted for more than twenty centuries, Allen asserts that there remains an extensive degree of common ignorance about it. Noting that most people today rarely read the Bible, Allen is convinced that the millions who do read it are not able to understand certain passages at all.

Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality took form when Allen began his own exploration of the Bible, marking passages that struck him as extraordinarily beautiful, or those that were profoundly confusing. Spellbound by the very mystery of it, he perceived that much of the text leads directly to controversy. And, he urges, it is of greater importance now than ever before that all Americans be conversant with the Bible, partly because of those who would use Scriptures as a weapon to force their views on others.

Allen presents his ideas as a series of alphabetically arranged essays on characters, events, and books of the Scriptures, as well as on such controversial topics as abortion, anti-Semitism, capital punishment, death, evolution, and original sin. He draws on the expertise of biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers to demonstrate that fundamentalist assumptions about the reliability and authenticity of the Bible as the inviolable Word of God simply have no rational or factual basis.

Allen highlights the errors, inconsistencies, and self-contradictions of the Bible. While not denying the value of many biblical passages, he argues that Americans can and should critique the Bible as they would any other historical document.

While Allen finds much in the Bible with which one can take issue, his examination also reveals that much is meaningful. Allen's goal - to make people think reasonably about Scripture - is achieved through remarkable clear, readable, and insightful prose.


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Product Description

From Library Journal

The famous author/comedian/songwriter here fires off a blunderbuss at uncritical biblical literalism. Finding the Bible as a whole riddled with historical, scientific, and moral error, he attacks the Old Testament for portraying God as vengeful and bloodthirsty and the New Testament for assigning most of humanity to eternal damnation in hell. He believes neither approach provides insight into God's true nature. Allen goes on to criticize the religious establishment, especially that of fundamentalism, for ignoring or vilifying the fruits of biblical historical-critical research. Though he claims to find much of the Bible ennobling, the majority of this work is so relentlessly belligerent that one is not surprised to find that he originally planned to publish it posthumously.
-Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

As one of America's most versatile and creative entertainers, Steve Allen has composed thousands of songs, written dozens of books, and created many television programs including NBC's "Tonight Show" and the PBS "Meeting of Minds" series. In this book, Allen focuses his talents and critical intelligence on the Bible. He points out that despite the significance of the Scriptures to Western culture, history, religion, and morality, the majority of Americans are almost completely ignorant of the actual contents of the Good Book. STEVE ALLEN ON THE BIBLE, RELIGION, AND MORALITY is an attempt not only to inform the public but to stimulate critical inquiry into the history of the Bible and its role in the formation of religion and morality.

In a work reminiscent of Voltaire's PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY, Allen presents his ideas as a series of alphabetically arranged essays on characters, events, and books of the Holy Scriptures, as well as on such controversial topics as abortion, anti-Semitism, capital punishment, death, evolution, flying saucers, and original sin. He draws on the expertise of biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers to demonstrate that fundamentalist assumptions about the reliability and authenticity of the Bible as a historical document or as the inviolable Word of God simply have no rational or factual basis. Like Thomas Paine's THE AGE OF REASON, this book highlights the errors, inconsistencies, self-contradictions, and morally repugnant episodes and characters of the Bible. So much in Scriptures is at variance with our Western ideals of morality and common decency that an intelligent, objective reader cannot help but judge the Bible as a fascinating, important but very fallible, al! l-too-human book. While not denying the value of many biblical passages, Mr. Allen argues that Americans can and should critique the Bible as they would any other historical document. This by no means implies, however, that in so doing they must discard their faith.

Steve Allen's interest in biblical scholarship began with casual reading of the Gideon Bibles that are found in hotel rooms across the country. In the course of his reading, so many questions were raised in his mind that he started recording his thoughts. The practice turned into a 20-year habit and enough material to fill the present volume and many more. STEVE ALLEN ON THE BIBLE, RELIGION, AND MORALITY will stimulate readers to go back to their Bibles and consider a variety of thorny but ever-important issues.


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer brilliance. July 27 2002
Format:Hardcover
I don't think anyone could read this book and not come to the conclusion that Steve Allen was one of the most all-around intelligent and talented public figures of the 20th century. He was truly a worldly scholar. What's more amazing to me is Allen's methodology, relying largely on his own readings and observations from Gideon's Bibles in hotel rooms while on the road.
Allen has long been a man of clear social, moral, and political conscience. He goes to great lengths in this book to keep from confusing the separate aspects of his thought except where it is applicable, and does so to a wonderful effect. His explanations of Biblical persons, places and passages, their history and deeper meanings are written in the truest glory of a rational spirituality the world has yet to realize. Furthermore, his analysis of social issues supposedly stemming from the Bible shows his ability to handle controversial topics carefully while not pulling punches with adversarial positions.
Never once did I feel like I was not dealing with a scholar on these subjects. The decades of work Allen has put into clarifying his own thoughts in these matters shines like a light tower over a dark, foggy sea. This, to my eyes, is the greatest book of its type since Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason," and in many ways it's better. It not only illuminates what a genius he really was, but also how simple and necessary critical thought is to every one of us.
And to the reviewer who gave this book one star, it is sadly obvious that you did *not* read this book at all.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Just in Passing Oct. 3 2000
Format:Hardcover
While walking out of the local library recently, this book was on a
display table "Check these out", and I did. I am really
sorry I did because I believe the contents of his book from cover to
cover are pure nonsense and jibberish....I could not bring myself to
read too much of it word for word, but I did scan most of the
subjects. I often wonder, why do people, such as him, go to such
lengths to heap scathing criticism on the Bible? Why waste the time
and energy? Here is a person of self-designated average intelligence
(a poor attempt at humility - but really a lie), but above average
industry, who supposedly spent several years between shows, writing
songs, etc, trashing the Bible. Why? Perhaps deep down, he thinks it
might be true? His understanding or misunderstanding of a
straightforward, face value reading of Scripture is astounding. I
don't believe he has ever read any part of the Bible with the
slightest intent of understanding any of it or trying to get anything
positive out of it. His basic belief in the "fact of
evolution" is probably his underlying error.... I suppose he does
not know that it has never been shown that evolution has ever
occurred, and that the whole evolutionary house of cards is about to
come tumbling down? He does an awful lot of name calling throughout
his drivel: uninformed, simple, fundamentalist, uneducated, etc, etc,
etc. He should look in the mirror! I should think he would be
embarrassed to realize that he has put his thoughts (biases) down on
paper and published for all to see his monumental stupidity and
ignorance. Has he not read Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, Michael
Behe, Michael Denton, and others?....
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book by a brilliant man! Feb. 15 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Steve Allen is America's own Man For All Seasons: There's very little that he has not done. Now, he enters some rather controversial territory by taking a scholarly look at what must be the most misunderstood group of documents of all time -- the Bible. Using logic (and a healthy dose of skepticism) rather than childish/unquestioning/dogmatic orthodoxy, he examines various aspects of Christian so-called "ethics" and "morals"; pointing out instances (in the entry "WAR", for example) where the ideals espoused by people who call themselves "Christians" tend to fall by the wayside when circumstances would seem to demand that they keep to those ideals even more.
He also gives detailed analyses of a number of individual books within the Bible, some of which are devastating in their criticism. (His look at the rape and murder of the Levite's concubine in Judges 19 is especially thought-provoking even in its harshness.)
This reader wishes that he would publish a third tome in this vein as soon as possible!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decent book on the Bible's indecency April 10 1998
Format:Hardcover
In the introductory notes, Allen says that he hurried this book to press because the rise in fundamentalism had been especially active at the time of publication. I wish that he had spent a little more time on it, to clarify and reorganize his thoughts on some topics. Often, a paragraph seemingly unrelated to the surrounding matter seems to pop up for no reason.
The essays themselves are interesting, and at times thought-provoking. (Especially for anyone who has never put any serious thought into the Bible.) For readers already familiar with the errors and inconsistencies in the Bible, Allens book is interesting, but not particularly ground-breaking.
Overall, a good book, simply because it describes in clear language the insurmountable problems that face Biblical Literalism. Too bad that Allen didn't structure the book as an argument instead of as an encyclopedia -- by the end, the force of the subject matter gets somewhat muted by its repetitiveness and scattershot layout.
-- Marc.
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