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In Theory: How 'good' is 'The Good Book?'

April 20, 2011

Q. British academic and atheist A.C. Grayling has hit the headlines — and the bestseller lists — with the publication of his work, “The Good Book: A Secular Bible.” The amazon.co.uk website describes the book as “[d]rawing on the wisdom of 2,500 years of contemplative non-religious writing on all that it means to be human.”

The book is arranged like the Bible, with double columns, chapters and verses, instead of paragraphs. It even has a first chapter titled “Genesis,” but instead of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, Grayling calls on scientist Isaac Newton and his famous apple tree. The book ends with a humanist 10 Commandments.

Grayling has been lumped in with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, purveyors of what’s been called “militant atheism.” But he dismisses the term, saying that being a militant atheist is like “sleeping furiously.” Of his book, Grayling says, “[I]t’s not against religion. There’s not one occurrence of the word God, or afterlife, or anything like that. It doesn’t attack religion, it’s a positive book, there’s nothing negative in it.”

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A Catholic website, protectthepope.com, says the publication of “The Good Book” confirms “New Atheism’s pretensions to be a religion.” Others have claimed that an atheist Bible is a contradiction in terms, or just 600 pages of stuff that should be basic common sense.

What do you think of Grayling’s effort? Is it possible to write such a book without involving God? Could “The Good Book: A Secular Bible” be as strong a guide for living a good life as the Bible is?

A British academic has gotten his 15 minutes of fame and a handful of euros from imitating (and twisting) the most popular, revered and beloved book in human history. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This is a perfect example. And A. C. Grayling truly puts the “sin” in sincere.

Of course Grayling’s book involves God. Even if it’s not overt, it’s still an attack on faith. How so? By proposing that you can live quite happily and never even think about God.

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