The Gospel According to . . .

A.C. Grayling’s secular bible provides a spiritual alternative


| September-October 2011



the-gospel-according-to

Keith Greiman / www.keithgreiman.com

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.”

While Grayling concedes that the Bible contains some sound moral lessons and moments of great beauty (his favorite being the Song of Solomon), for him it is disfigured by phrases such as “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” He disdains the notion of submission to a deity “in the hope that it won’t inflict too many earthquakes or tsunamis or plagues in the near future,” he says.

To rewrite the Bible, though, requires a certain amount of hubris. Ruefully, Grayling remembers a card his wife sent him that “had a picture of a rather self-satisfied-looking individual on it, and a legend that read: ‘I used to be an atheist until I realized that I am God.’ But, to coin a phrase: God forbid that should ever happen. I certainly hope not, because the message of [The Good Book] is that we are each responsible for ourselves. We’ve got to think for ourselves. And . . . we’ve got to go beyond our teachers and beyond our texts.”

Shirley Hodge
10/10/2011 10:17:34 AM

As Grayling tells us the power of the Bible and other religious texts is that they are written in individual increments that the reader can ponder apart from the entire text much the same as fairy tales are written (Hey maybe this is something to persue). The force of evangelical leaders comes from that same quality, their ability to focus on one or two tales to the exclusion of the primary ideas as a whole. Myths and superstitions are, as a rule, simplistic tales focusing on a single item or event. My point is that Mr. Grayling is playing to the masses in his writing style unfortunately the masses et al are incapable of viewing the story in its entirety for to do that requires rational and logical thinking and the application of new bodies of knowledge encompassing ongoing scientific discoveries and there in lies the hitch. Many people are simply not capable of such thinking prowess and too many that are refuse to objectively compile the myths and superstitions in the Bible, the Koran et al into a whole as that would refuts what they wish to believe. Humans are NOT spiritual beings they are animals with the intellectual capability to define themselves and the definitions they most enjoy are those that make themselves something more than the sum of their parts.


Lauri Lumby
10/10/2011 8:07:16 AM

As a Spiritual Director and Lay Minister, I have made it a focus of my work to invite people to set aside their pre-conceived ideas of scripture, along with the dogma and doctrine imposed upon them by some outside perceived authority, and to approach scripture merely as witness. When we side aside these external things and enter into scripture through contemplation, we can allow the Divine to reveal itself to us in deeply intimate and personal ways, unencumbered by someone else's agenda. When we view scripture through this lens, we can pierce through the human perceptions and ego attachments and find the Divine wisdom hiding underneath. I have found that here is where we find the gift in scripture and where it can become a universal resource for inspiration, comfort, growth and discovery. Lauri Lumby Authentic Freedom Ministries http://yourspiritualtruth.com