Here’s an interesting endeavour, something like a methadone clinic for the heroin addicts of religious dogma. AC Grayling, noted “velvet atheist” (in quotes in much the same way I always quote “New Atheist”, because these subcategories are ridiculous), has written what he calls “a lifetime’s work”. He’s compiled some of humanity’s greatest philosophers’ and thinkers’ works into a single tome with a narrative flow and dense language comparable to the Christian Bible. In fact, he’s gone so far as to crib some of their layout and structure in doing so, to ensure that people who feel those aspects necessary are comfortable with this end result.
Determined to make his material accessible, Grayling arranged his nearly 600-page “Good Book” much like the Bible, with double columns, chapters (the first is even called Genesis) and short verses. And much like the best-selling King James Bible, which is celebrating its 400th year, his book is written in a type of English that transcends time.
Like the Bible, “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.
“It was from the fall of fruit from such a tree that new inspiration came for inquiry into the nature of things,” reads a verse from “The Good Book’s” first chapter.
“When Newton sat in his garden, and saw what no one had seen before: that an apple draws the earth to itself, and the earth the apple,” the verse continues, “Through a mutual force of nature that holds all things, from the planets to the stars, in unifying embrace.”
The book’s final chapter features a secular humanist 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.”
“Be informed”. How terribly elitist!
While I appreciate the effort to keep religious folks comfortable and to offer a fully formed, coherent synthesis of scientific knowledge and humanism, picking all the best parts of what humankind has had to offer in the past to serve as a guidebook for the future, I can’t help but wonder if the religious folks’ primary comeback will be “see, you had to rip us off to write that!”
The natural comeback is, of course, to cite just a fraction of the prior art for much of what’s “good” about the Bible.