'Secular Bible' Offers a 'Good' Alternative to God

Maressa Brown

good book a humanist bibleMore than 16 percent of Americans say they are unaffiliated religiously, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. But British academic and famous atheist A.C. Grayling believes those people, even if they don't believe in God, could benefit from their own version of The Bible. And that's one reason why he wrote The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, subtitled "A Secular Bible” in the U.K., which was published this month.

The non-religious Bible draws on both Western and Eastern secular literature and philosophy, pulling from philosophers and writers as opposed to prophets and apostles. The hitch: It's arranged using the same techniques of editing, redaction, and adaptation that are used in the holy books of the Judeao-Christian and Islamic religions.

For instance, Grayling offers a secular version of the Ten Commandments ...

Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous: at least, sincerely try.

Although I'm not interested in swapping my own background and faith for Grayling's Commandments, I'd follow these, too. They just sound like basic "rules for a good life" that are as important for us to follow as any religious and moral imperative from Mount Sinai.

In other words, The Good Book's basically just a smart, vast compilation of works that offer ethical guidance. An important collection that could stand on its own without reference to The Bible.

Because I wondered if this book is actually something atheists or agnostics could use, I asked a friend of mine, atheist Hemant Mehta, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes, what he thinks of Grayling's work. His response:

The idea that we can have morality without a deity is completely true. Atheists lead ethical lives just as religious people do, but without the need for a god or out of fear of hellfire. Still, do we need to imitate The Bible to get that message across? No. It's just a hook to grab public interest, a parlor game.

A-ha! Yes, in other words, calling the book "a secular Bible" is really just a gimmick.

No matter, though. Grayling is still bringing something new and useful to the table. I don't even believe his book is at odds with religion. It seems as though it could serve as an alternative or an addendum to The Bible. After all, you can follow the teachings of prophets and philosophers simultaneously! That's why the author calls it  "a modest offering ... another contribution to the conversation mankind must have with itself."

What do you think -- would you check out The Good Book?

Image via Amazon

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