The Good Book: A Humanist Bible Hardcover – Apr 26 2011
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About the Author
A.C. Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius, and Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times, Financial Times, Economist, New Statesman, and Prospect. Grayling's play "Grace," co-written with Mick Gordon, has played to full houses in London and New York, starring Lynn Redgrave; its central debate over the virtue of religion gives Grayling a strong platform for The Good Book. He lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is an attempt, as the cover says, to make something like The Bible, for humanists (the cover of mine says "A Secular Bible", subtly different from the cover now shown "A Humanist Bible" - it is both).
The likeness to the King James (Authorised) Version (KJV) is obvious. It is about the same size, laid out in the same two-columns-per-page layout as the two Bibles I own, comes in short verses assembled into chapters and then into books, and the language is similar in style; although both bibles have different styles for different chapters, they both have a common feel. For example "But set in opposition to this how much better it is to be conscious of gaining a victory over what leads you astray".
It borrows ideas and modes of expression from many other books. For example, the book "Wisdom" has most chapters ending with a repetition of the verse "The question to be asked at the end of each day is, 'How long will you delay to be wise?'", and you will find similar repetitions in the Qu'ran.
The books themselves are on well-known biblical themes: Genesis, Wisdom, Songs, Histories, Proverbs, Acts, Epistles...
The book expresses Grayling's science-based humanist philosophy throughout, but draws on hundreds of authors throughout history and across the world.
When I got the book, I was a bit disappointed, because I like Grayling's other books so much and I had hoped this would be similar. In fact he has books in a more familiar style in which he explicitly talks about some of the authors which he draws on here.
However, after a while, I was hooked.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book is not a compilation of work. You will not open it up and find passages from various works called out by author. It is truly written in the style of the Bible - Grayling has taken the collected wisdom of hundreds of secular philosophers and melded it together in the flowery prose form typical of the Bible. There is no reference list at the back to tell you where anything came from, he has taken the ideas and the texts and melted them together.
The Good Book begins with Genesis, where you can see the ideas of Darwin laid out in an inspirational way. Reading through this I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I'm used to this language being peppered with things I don't believe in, and listening to it at weddings or funerals generally gives me a lump in my stomach. Here was the same kind of lofty language, but saying the things I believed! I didn't realize how much I would enjoy hearing Darwin's theory of evolution told as a beautiful story of how we began and the cycle of life.
As you make your way though the book, you can clearly see where he has incorporated Plato's dialogs, but without specific references. Characters are mentioned in the same way as the Bible, introduced without preamble, just snippets of conversation or story which attempt to showcase an idea. There are passages on grief and death as well.
If you are looking to learn the works of these philosophers in an intellectual way, this is not the book for you. This book is meant to absorb the ideas they upheld in a more spiritual feeling way. I wish this book had been published before I got married, I would have looked for a passage from it to read at my wedding. I could see reading it at a funeral, there really is something cathartic about having grief and death and moving on with life written in this way.
I feel in some ways as an Atheist this may have been what I was missing and didn't realize it. I didn't have anything to help me find a way to feel good about my place in nature's greater story, I just felt the absence of the belief in an afterlife. I also feel like this is a book I could read to my kids to help them figure out how to be a good person in a world which is not always good and in which you cannot rely on a all powerful being to save you from your problems. The language is flowery and poetic, but its also much more accessible than say Kant's Metaphysics of Morals. I minored in philosophy in college, I'm by no means an expert, but I have read some of these works and they are by no means easy to absorb.
So, I think for what this book is trying to accomplish, what it says it is in the description, it is a great work.
Others say dense, I say full of subtleties.
Others say hard to read, I say filled with english of the highest degree.
Others say devoid of references, I say the knowledge is timeless.
Do not delve into this looking to have atheistic beliefs reinforced, passages by ancient authors quoted, summarized, and referenced, or to have science presented as a refutation to the biblical history of the world. This is a work that should be taken wholly unto itself. Enjoy.
Regarding the criticism of the lack of footnotes - valid point, at first I was a bit disappointed that there were no sitations of the author, however I think I am actually glad he didn't put them in because it truly would be a distraction for me. I could see myself not focusing on the passage and become more concerned about who wrote what. Then I'd have to go look it up, etc. It seems a bit more pure this way with only the wisdom and poetry to focus on. I bought 4 copies for friends and family. I treasure this text like a box of gems to open and discover every day. I'm lucky to have found out about it and yes it is far superior and a lot less scary than the original.
I never found the Christian Bible to be of any value. The writing is poor quality, with only a few memorable lines in the whole vile volume of bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and feces obsessions. The Jewish and Muslim versions started or continued that same trashy series. The Mahabharata is no better, though the unintelligible and incoherent mess of characters makes that book more confusing than revolting.
Here is a book I am not afraid to let my child read. No stories about daughters banging their drunk dad. No stories about sacrificing unnamed daughters to some god. No cooking food over dung. No genocide. No deaths of all first born sons. No promises of cured illnesses. No appeals to an end of the universe. No masochistic gods having themselves beaten so they can become a zombie. Nope. Just a clean book of good thoughts. Probably the book they would have written 3000 years ago if they weren't ignorant, warmongering, polygamous, and genocidal tyrant sheep herders too busy laying siege to their "promised land" to give a hoot about kindness or charity.