Secular Bible Removes Religion From World's Most Read Book

Apr 14, 2011, 08:13 by John Steele

British academic A.C. Grayling has asked a lot of tough questions in his work as one of the world's most outspoken atheists. But his latest, a secular bible entitled "The Good Book," asks christians and non-christians alike to imagine a world where the Bible's creators had collected all the non-religious teachings examining the meaning of life and man's purpose on the Earth.

Like most great questions, Grayling's assertion only leads to more questions. What would such a book look like? Who would be featured? Would the message be any less transcendental? Decades after he started asking such questions, what Grayling calls "a lifetime's work" has hit bookshelves. "The Good Book: A Humanist Bible," subtitled "A Secular Bible" in the United Kingdom, was published this month.

With additions from some of the world's greatest thinkers--Aristotle, Confucius, and Baudelaire all make appearances--Grayling examines the work of philosophers and writers that didn't design rules for living with a specific deity in mind. This, he says, would have created a very different view of mankind.

"Humanist ethics didn't claim to be derived from a deity," Grayling told CNN Monday. "(They) tended to start from a sympathetic understanding of human nature and accept that there's a responsibility that each individual has to work out the values they live by and especially to recognize that the best of our good lives revolve around having good relationships with people."

Grayling's assessment involved infusing science, philosophy and math into the world's most read and revered text. For example, "The Good Book," opens with a garden scene. But instead of Adam and Eve, Grayling's Genesis invokes Isaac Newton, the British scientist who pioneered the study of gravity.

Past tomes about the negative side of religion--Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" or Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great", for example--have drawn great ire in America from religious leaders who believe the Bible is a wholly sacred document and, therefore, above reproach.

But Grayling swears "The Good Book" is not a rebuke of the Bible, but a wholly positive look at the embrace of humanity.

In an interview with the Guardian, Grayling says "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. People may think it's against religion--but it isn't."

But then he says, with a mischievous twinkle: "Of course, what would really help the book a lot in America is if somebody tries to shoot me."