April 11th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

Leading atheist publishes secular Bible

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

The question arose early in British academic A.C. Grayling’s career: What if those ancient compilers who’d made Bibles, the collected religious texts that were translated, edited, arranged and published en masse, had focused instead on assembling the non-religious teachings of civilization’s greatest thinkers?

What if the book that billions have turned to for ethical guidance wasn’t tied to commandments from God or any one particular tradition but instead included the writings of Aristotle, the reflections of Confucius, the poetry of Baudelaire? What would that book look like, and what would it mean?

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. Grayling crafted it by using more than a thousand texts representing several hundred authors, collections and traditions.

The Bible would have been “a very different book and may have produced a very different history for mankind,” had it drawn on the work of philosophers and writers as opposed to prophets and apostles, says Grayling, a philosopher and professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, who is an atheist.

“Humanist ethics didn’t claim to be derived from a deity," he says. "(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.” 

Humanists rely on human reason as an alternative to religion or belief in God in attempting to find meaning and purpose in life.

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."

Grayling, reached Friday at a New York hotel just as he began his U.S. book tour, has been dubbed by some a “velvet atheist” or an “acceptable face of atheism,” he says, in contrast to more stridently anti-religious writers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, both of whom he counts as friends.

In other contexts, Grayling - who will soon take over as president of the British Humanist Association - admits he’s written critically about religion. But not in "The Good Book."

“It’s not part of a quarrel,” he says of his latest work. “It’s a modest offering… another contribution to the conversation that mankind must have with itself,” and one he says he wrote for everyone, Bible lovers included.

Given where society is today, inviting that conversation is all the more important, he says.

More than 16% of Americans say they are unaffiliated religiously, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Even so, Grayling says the hunger for a spiritual connection continues. That yearning, he argues , can be satisfied for many by taking a walk in the country, curling up with a beautiful book of poetry or even in falling in love.

“In all different ways, we can celebrate the good in the world,” he says.

While many intellectual traditions – religious and otherwise – teach that there’s “one right way to live,” Grayling says he hopes “The Good Book” will encourage people to “go beyond your teachers, your text” to understand that “we have to respect and relate to one another.”

Early sales indicate that people are open to what this new "Bible" teaches. On Monday, Grayling’s book was number 41 on Amazon’s UK bestseller list and number 1 in the philosophy and spirituality categories.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism • Bible • Books • Culture & Science • Ethics

soundoff (3,021 Responses)
  1. Fred

    I've often wondered why people feel threatened by my atheism. How does it hurt anyone that I don't believe what they believe? Why does it matter so much to people, including some of the posters here who would suggest that I am not even human because I don't believe what they believe. By all means, have faith if you feel that way, but leave me out of it, thank you. And, for the record, I believe that the ability to discern between right and wrong has to do with one's intellect, not with a higher being, but if you need to believe in one to help you make that distinction, then let that belief guide you.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Howard

      They feel threatened because those who aren't very certain of their beliefs need the affirmation of those who believe as they do, and need to condemn those who don't because ... they just might be right after all.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Fred...the reason Christians push so strongly against atheism is because of the very words you speak, "have faith if you feel that way, but leave me out of it, thank you". Atheism is a faith too whether you choose to believe it or not. It's your faith to believe there is no God, but atheism is being "preached" in schools so our concerns are how it affects our children.

      Take opinions on the origins of the earth out of the preliminary schools altogether and let the parents instruct them accordingly. Then if they choose to follow Creation or evolution, it will be up to them. The schools can focus on biology which is something tangible and directly teachable.

      Do that and I'm good. Until then, I'm not giving in.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Mike in SC

      Because your mere existence gives them doubt. And doubt is the enemy of faith. And without faith they cannot commit themselves to their mythology with sufficient zeal to ignore reason.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Allowing chaos to rule supreme is what non-believers have always done and will continue to do even though you can't follow this concept through to it's entirety.


      April 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Mike in SC

      HeavenSent. I'm going to try and paraphrase you because what you've said sounds like a doosey... "non-believers (Athiests, obviously, but does this include Muslims? or Buddihsts?) will allow chaos to rule supreme (bring anarchy to everything? to some stuff? in the sandlot behind my house?) even though they haven't yet." Is that your prediction, Nostradamus? If so, please tell me who will win next years NCAA basketball tournamnet because I'm all ears!

      April 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Carolyn

      The only problem I have with any given atheist is when they mock or go out of their way to trample on someone who has faith. Faith is a beautiful charactistic a human can possess. To abuse it in anyway – especially for ones own personal agenda is cruel and destructive.

      April 12, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Daniel Vrangsinn

      Is there something beautiful about blind faith? No – Nothing – it is increadible naive and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Should I as a non believer respect your faith – No – I should not. I should laugh at you actually. Should you as a believer be offended by this? Not more offended than I get by your irrational beliefs and how they affect society as a whole – That disgusts me and I find it extremely offensive – So No – Don't expect me to respect your religion – I will never do so

      May 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  2. Herp Derp

    Would read...Also it's no surprise that as more people believe in religion in America the test scores in math and science have dropped like a rock. I'll leave a little quote here for all of you...
    "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion."
    -Steven Weinburg American Nobel Prize winning Physicists

    April 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • bones1918

      sup /b/ lol

      April 12, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  3. skipjack

    Pascal said two mistakes humans make: 1. to distrust reason 2. to trust only reason.
    Essentially, Prof. Grayling makes the case for believing in something other than oneself.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  4. gimli420

    Hitler was Catholic.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mike

      Hitler was a disciple of Nitchze, an atheist hero. Look up "eugenics."

      April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Mike in SC

      He was a lifelong catholic. Look up "Hitler".

      April 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • derp

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people."

      Adolf Hitler April 9th 1922

      April 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • bones1918

      hitler was born into a mixed family.. half catholic half jewish.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Thomas Buckingham

      You "Hitler was a Christian" people are really making yourself look silly. I don't care what he SAID. It has never been about what people say. What he DID proves he was never a true follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. Ridiculous! It IS true he followed Nitchze, and his actions prove it. But if you want to tote the "Hitler was a Christian" line, be my guest.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  5. Tim

    This is rich! Atheism now has its own set of dogmas, Their new credo: "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

    April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Couldn't agree more Tim. And even when you provide direct evidence against any of their points, they simply dismiss it. Truth be known, Christianity holds against anything and everything they can throw against it yet their arugments never change. Talk about closed minded.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • ColdestWinter

      If you response to everything that atheism throws at Christianity is "because God said" there is not rebuttal for that, its ust illogical and stupid

      April 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Brent Beach

      You read the book BEFORE you made that comment, right?


      May 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  6. joe

    It opens with Isaac Newton, a supreme intellect, and very religious person who spent more time studying the Bible that the Universe. Interesting way to start a "secular Bible."

    April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Darryn Foley

    "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"

    And what makes this valid?

    Oh yeah, nothingness. The day that aethists learn that all their "love your fellow man" stuff comes from God, it will be a good day.

    For as long as these poor misinformed souls still believe in "Darwin" "survival of the fittest" and every non-God like mantra from Science, their beliefs are at odds with what they calim to say.

    And when it comes to science, that is aethists religion.... for they believe, in contradiction to all science laws, that "nothing the size of nothing exploded into spacedust the size of everything"... they also must reject all science that shows that things do not form together into things "more" complex, things break apart from complex to simple. And that doesn't square up with the miracle of life.. Yes. Miracle of life. For I'd have to be a clown to think that said spacedust forms together to make some animated structure that eventually "gets old" and "dies" as a mathematical equation.

    Interesting too, that aethists believe they have "free will" and can "think for themselves". If I were to believe aethism, and that our lives are governed by mathematical equations, there is no free will, period. There is only what that mathematical equation says those atoms in my head are going to do, I have no way to choose something else.

    So take it any way you want... aethism and "free will" are contradictory. For there is no "choice" in a mathematical equation, and likewise there is no "free will" if aethism was "right".

    April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Jdh

      Actually Darryn, there is no mathematical equation that says what the atoms in your head will do. Free will exists because there IS no prediction that works perfectly on a subatomic level. That's quantum physics and "chaos" for you. 🙂

      April 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The "Love your fellow man" stuff in the Bible refers only to other Jews, not anyone else. This is why there are explicit rules for how to treat slaves in which your tribesman is an indentured servant, free after 6 years, but foreigners are property to be passed down to your children.
      Thou shalt not kill – other jews, but pagans are fair game!
      The evolutionary law of "survival of the fittest" is only one mechanism by which creatures evolve – there are four others.
      1) Evolution as such.
      This is the understanding that the world is not constant, nor recently created, nor cycling, but is changing; and that the types of enti.ties that live on it also change.
      2) Common descent
      This is the understanding that every group of living enti.ties that we know of on this planet descended from a common ancestor.
      3) Multiplication of species
      This is the understanding that species either split into or bud off other species, often through the geographical isolation of a founder species.
      4) Gradualism
      This is the understanding that changes take place through the gradual change of population rather than the sudden production of new individuals.
      5) Natural selection
      This is the understanding that individuals in every generation are different from one another, or, at least some of them are. In every generation some individuals survive and reproduce better than others. Their genes multiply.

      As for the free will argument, there is no mathematical equation that explains how your life will turn out. Asimov's psychohistory is science fiction. It is the religionist who believes in an omnipotent, omniscient being – a concept that denies free will. Any choice you make was all ready known and pre-determined by the Creator of all things, n'est pas?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Ash

      "The day that aethists learn that all their 'love your fellow man' stuff comes from God, it will be a good day."

      That seems pretty short-sighted, Darryn. So much so that I didn't bother reading the most of what you wrote since I could only assume you have some warped view of what atheism actually is.

      There are no "rules" for being an atheist because atheists don't believe in any higher power that is going to pass judgment on them. So, by extension, there can be no particular rule that says one must love his fellow man. That's just something that some people choose to do because they have that ability and it feels right to them.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Doc Vestibule...."love your fellow man only refers to fellow Jews"??? Where did you get that nonsense? Verses in Leviticus may reference fellow Jews, but any/all references in the New Testament apply to Jews/Gentiles alike.

      As for some of your other points, it's all speculation and theory. None have any basis of proof whatsoever.
      2) Common descent
      This is the understanding that every group of living enti.ties that we know of on this planet descended from a common ancestor. - NO PROOF
      3) Multiplication of species
      This is the understanding that species either split into or bud off other species, often through the geographical isolation of a founder species. - NO PROOF
      4) Gradualism
      This is the understanding that changes take place through the gradual change of population rather than the sudden production of new individuals. - NO PROOF

      Where is the evidence? Where is that one example of that cross-species everyone tauts?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Here's a few examples of how God says to treat unbeleivers.
      "All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman."
      2 Chronicles 15:13
      "And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him." - Numbers 31:15-17
      "This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys." - 1 Samuel 15:2-3
      "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." –Psalms 137:9
      "Yea, though they bring forth, yet will I [The LORD] slay even the beloved fruit of their womb." - Hosea 9:16
      "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up." - Hosea 13:16
      "Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives rap.ed." - Isaiah 13:16

      If you're looking for a solid transitional fossil, please do some research on Tiktaalik.
      This is a "fish-like" fossil discovered just a few years ago in Northern Canada.
      Tiktaalik's "fins" have basic wrist bones and simple fingers, showing that they were weight bearing. Spiracles on the top of the head suggest the creature had primitive lungs as well as gills. Tiktaalik also lacked a characteristic that most fishes have—bony plates in the gill area that restrict lateral head movement. This makes Tiktaalik the earliest known fish to have a neck, with the pectoral girdle separate from the skull. This would give the creature more freedom in hunting prey either on land or in the shallows.

      As for the laws of evolution that you have so handily dismissed, I would refer you to the hard research conducted by thousands of scientists over the last 150 years or so.

      April 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  8. John Sharp

    This book may or may not have value. But a book based on some of our species greatest thinkers is obviously leaps and bounds ahead of any book containing talking snakes and people living inside a whale for three days.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  9. Dennis

    I can easily name 5-6 top Atheists...but I have never heard of this guy before. Anyone? Anyone?

    April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  10. ProfJ

    Gimicky, but intriguing. He's not the first humanist to offer a different kind of "bible"–Thomas Jefferson, among others, did so as well. But I think the access to scholarly sources has improved to the point that this book could be useful to those of us who understand spirituality and morality as products of human thought and imagination, not supernatural forces. The emphasis on personal and social responsibility, rational ethics, and freedom of thought should make it a pretty "good book" regardless of any bickering over what got in or got left out.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm |


      April 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  11. Sitnalta

    I'm an Atheist, and I'll admit this book makes me a little uncomfortable. I like the idea of compiling historical secular philosophical and scientific writings.... but to make it in a way that's supposed to be the "humanist bible".... ehhhh. Pass. I'm tired of other Atheists taking an adversarial position against religion when it's not in defense of personal or cultural freedom.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • TexasCentrist

      Sort of creeps me out too. One value of the book that I can think of is that apparently many out there need some outside guidance, and this book could provide that in a secular way, without all of the supernatural hocus-pocus. Also, the book is not dogma. I haven't read it, but I doubt it commands but instead provides guidance.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  12. Ron M

    God Bless Atheism!

    April 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  13. evos

    If I want to believe in a God, why does it HAVE to be the Christian God? Why can't I believe in my own God. For instance, I believe in Bugs Bunny God. I pray to him.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  14. Joe Vignolo, Derry, NH

    I once read an very believable analysis that concluded that if religion had not suppressed free and open scientific thinking for so long, humans would have walked on the moon 1,000 years ago. The conclusion was that the ancient Greeks probably would have done it.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • weasel

      Pity the greeks were too busy fighting themselves to make this view a bit credible.

      Oh and religious folk were the only ones keeping any shred of education going during the dark ages. You know after the sacking of rome and history being set back centuries.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Howard

      @ Weasal ... yeah, and Rome's still harboring all that knowledge ... and they scrupulously restrict those who can have access to it. They have far more knowledge in the Vatican Library than they're able to catalog, and fat lotta good that's doing the rest of humanity.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Truth

    Bottom line is this... in order to call for ANY type of morality you are appealing to some higher Law. If you don't believe in an ultimate Lawgiver, you are contradicing your very statement in the process. Atheism is the easiest of all belief-systems to debunk. The only rational Atheistic philosophy can be, "do wahtever you want, whenever you want, whatever it may be."

    April 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Victor

      ""do wahtever you want, whenever you want, whatever it may be"

      That's called "life," and it applies to everybody.

      So let me get this straight: If you're a Christian, you can't do whatever you want, whenever you want, and whatever it may be? Like there is some magical force field that is going to hold you back?

      Sure pal...... Believe it or not, life is not linear.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Jonathan

      I'd like for you to proof that for me. I'm not religious by any means but I think myself to be a fairly moral person. You say morality has to come from a higher law...why? That's the part I don't get. Why can't people just generally agree with what is right and wrong? Why does what tells me what is right and wrong have to come from somewhere other than myself?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Victor

      Your entire argument is flawed logically. I do not need a higher law telling me to be "good." I have my own emotions for that: compassion, sympathy, and empathy.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bert in UT

      Everyone makes their own choices. Some choose religion, often the one they were born into. It's an easy, non-thinking choice. When religious people claim they are only "good" because God tells them to be, I find that very, very frightening. Much prefer an atheist who is good to others simply because that is the sort of person they want to be.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jdh

      Jonathan hits the nail on the head. You don't have to believe in a higher power to have morals and believe in "goodness." Morals without a "god" are just simply recognizing that human beings have to live with each other, and in order to survive and thrive, there are some "right" and "wrong" things to do. Not because a god said so, but because these things tend to make relationships between people smoother. They tend to lead towards peace, towards trusting each other, and ultimately towards more happiness. Being generous with each other, being sympathetic, trying not to hurt others – all of these "morals" are simply ways that allow us all to coexist in the best possible way.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • TexasCentrist

      >> Atheism is the easiest of all belief-systems to debunk.

      This makes no sense whatsoever. Atheism make no absolute claims, as opposed to religions which claim the absolute existence of a god with no factual basis.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Howard

      How's this for a "higher law?" Do "the right thing" because the right thing done inevitably advances human civilization and human progress.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Zach

      Are you saying you can have respect without god?? Humanism, at least to me, is about mutual respect between people. I don't see how a higher power is requiered for this??

      April 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Luke

      Your first sentence relies on your positive belief of an assumption. Because of that the rest of your argument is invalid.

      April 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm |


      April 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  16. TRAVISJT11

    I'M a christian, but i will buy this book, seems like it will be an interesting collection of philosophies.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  17. jj

    Would like to read this.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  18. FaithinGod

    The ability to think for yourself, reason with a concience, love each other well, and act with a moral compass......brought to you by me.


    April 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Kona

      Then why is it that the vast majority of people that are religious aren't moral, loving or compassionate. Most people that I meet that a religious are amoral, bigoted, hateful, hypocrites that have no ability to reason?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Kona, your bigotry makes you an excellent ambassador for your belief system. Thanks and keep posting.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Chris

      What state do you live in? If all I meet on a visit to your state are ignorant shmucks, should I conclude that you are one too?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Luke

      No he did not think of those. Somebody else did before them. I know that for a fact. You can't argue against what I say because I know it for a fact no matter what you say if you say anything other that what I believe you are wrong. No questions asked.

      April 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm |


      April 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  19. LifeinVA

    Christians can do everything Grayling stated above – "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."
    Oh, and BTW, I'm a computer engineer AND a christian, so please do not try to convice me that I do not use logic or reason. One more statement – How can Grayling call himself a Humanist, yet he writes a book ridiculing those who believe differently than he does?

    April 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Great last sentence. I assume you've read the book since you say it ridicules people who believe differently than he does. $100 says you haven't read the book and that it ridicules no one.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Nick

      Like Jonathan, I'm assuming you haven't read the book, but it also seems you haven't read the article:

      "In other contexts, Grayling – who will soon take over as president of the British Humanist Association – admits he’s written critically about religion. But not in "The Good Book."

      “It’s not part of a quarrel,” he says of his latest work. “It’s a modest offering… another contribution to the conversation that mankind must have with itself,” and one he says he wrote for everyone, Bible lovers included."

      He didn't target other religions in it, and from the description is seems like its not meant to displace the Bible, rather a different interpretation of what a bible should be.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • LifeinVA

      Of course he didn't directly riducle anyone. He just fashioned his book in the same manor as the Bible, called a chapter Genesis, and opened the book in a garden. I call that making light of the real Bible and those who read it...

      April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Bert in UT

      Yes, religious people can do all the things you name. If they will quit listening to messages of hate and fear from religious leaders and simply listen to their human conscience.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ken S.

      Yes, Christians can do all of the things that Grayling lists. And atheists can do all of the things that Christianity stands for — without believing in a god. That's the point of Grayling's book. We don't need a religious belief to be good people with respect for one another.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • TexasCentrist

      >> Oh, and BTW, I'm a computer engineer AND a christian, so please do not try to convice me that I do not use logic or reason.

      What logic or reason could support Christianity or any other religion? Quite the opposite is true.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Macker

      Like Bert said. Christians can do all those good things. Makes you wonder if they do them because they are good people, or if they are people who would rather not but do so out of fear of the consequences. The ultimate hypocrisy is doing "good" because you fear the wrath of your God when you don't want to.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • JonathanL

      I too a computer engineer, but am an ex-Christian. It is one thing to be logical or intelligent, and another thing to apply it everywhere in your life. If you are logical, how can you accept the idea of miracles, and myth without any true evidence. I assume you use faith based logic, but IMO that is almost an oxymoron in that to believe certain assumptions are true, you have to hold as fact that which has not been proved, or for which there is no solid evidence to support, or for which there is abundant contradictory evidence. Faith allows you to believe things which are contradicted by other faith tenets, and or by abundant contrary evidence (scientific). I like the idea of a secular bible. Not to imply Humanism is a religion or that I am religious. But I might see it as good compendium, a source of inspiration for thought. If anything I am a philosopher and probably a Humanist as well. I identify much more strongly with these positive leanings that I do with any particular thing I may not believe in (i.e. your god, someone else's god or gods). I am one of the 16% unaffiliated and I prefer a secular government to any under the influence of a religion. I also have a very sturdy value system (family and community (how about reality) based – not diety based – think about it). I am realistic and logical and I no longer try to reconcile scientific reasoning with faith based reasoning. I have a conscience and am very happy. Life is still wonderous even though I have stopped believing in the myths of the ancients.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  20. Truth

    @Jon, Atheism has killed more people than religion ever has, even though it gets blamed for. Tell me, what religion was Hitler, Pol Pot, Mussolini, the list could go on an on.
    The irony is that if you are a humanist, you have nothing to stand on in order to say, "repsect others and have good relationships with people." Why would you say that? By saying that you are evoking some Law that really only exists in your own imagination. That, or it is given to you by an outside source into yoru conscience. Where did that Law come from? Hmmm... In short, by making any statement of how one should live you are claiming an absolute, something the anti-religionists detest. Amusing.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • ColinO

      The only difference is...those people you mention, even if classified as atheists, did not murder and kill people BECAUSE they were atheists. They did not kill people in the name of atheism. The same cannot be said of the millions killed over thousands of years in the name of God.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • David

      Mussolini was a Roman Catholic and Hitler a German Catholic. They actually believed that they would receive Absolution at the time of their deaths; the divine " safety net "!

      April 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

      Moussolini was Catholic. Hitler was Protestant. I don't know about Pol Pot.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Zach

      exist in your own mine "truth" tell me if gods real can he come shake my hand and if the bible is true for 2 seconds why did he make a screwed up world that has to fight battles?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bert in UT

      Hitler and Moussolini were both Christians. Religion was behind the crusades, the inquisition, jihad, Northern Ireland, Beruit, Israel/Palestine, and the list goes on and on. Find an atheist and get acquainted. You will find they are kind and caring. It's a myth that people need religion to have morals. Don't believe it? Look up crime statistics for highly religious areas versus areas with many non-believers.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • chauncey

      The book does not ridicule Christianity. Have you read it?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • josh

      actually there are very few deaths related to atheism (insane dictator aside, but all other religions have had insane mass murderers as well) . Actually Hitler was a christian..his own off shoot of it, but christian none the less. Also it really doesn't matter who is what anyway, there are good and bad people in ALL religions.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bob P

      I read "Truth"'s post over and over. It makes no sense. None whatsoever.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Kona

      Hitler was a Christian. And to confuse a government that has no religion committing atrocities cannot be blamed on Atheism. However, the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust all can be traced back to Christian hatred and bigotry.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jon

      I don't need a mythical sky wizard to tell me that I should treat my fellow humans with respect and dignity. I do so because it's the right thing to do, and I treat others as I would want to be treated. I don't do so out of some irrational fear of burning for eternity.

      You make my point for me, though. Some of history's most evil people were indeed very religious.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Steve

      "Truth", you are either on serious drugs or an idiot. Nothing more need be said about your comment

      April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • TheMurgen

      Actually communist leaders in the Soviet block and East Asia killed many religious leaders because they saw the power of religion as a threat to their rule. The Eastern Orthodox church was decimated in many countries after the second World War. But that is beside the point.

      The point is valid- what is the source of all ethical behaviour? This the question many great philosophers and theologians have struggled with over the centuries. Can you have 'good' without some absolute definition of the term?

      April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • darkstar

      You need to change your screenname to 'False' instead of 'Truth'. You are as far off base as one could possibly be in your so-called logic. No one has ever killed anyone in the name or idea of non-belief in a deity. As others have stated, Hitler and Mussolini were not Atheists, and Stalin worked in close conjunction with the church to carry out much of his genocide. Secondly, try to actually read your bible sometime. If you truly believe that the events portrayed therein actually occurred in reality, then your so-called good Yahweh has killed more human belings and committed more atrocities than has ever occurred in the history of man's warfare.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • weasel

      Actually John and Dave facts prove you wrong.

      And since you claim to worship reason you have to accept the truth.

      Hitler killed the jews and others because of his darwinistic view. That the essence of compassion that the jewish religion had in parts of it stifled the growth of the human race, which needed to be strong and cruel.

      And the truth is religion was not involved in many of the wars in history. The only ones which could be considered religious wars were the crusades, and Jihads. And those when analyzed truthfully were nothing more than land and money grabs as well.

      So continue to cling to your dogma of trashing people of faith by all means. Being wrong is not my problem. The fact that you need to attack anyone who does not agree shows your fear.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Sean M

      Umm They were Catholic, communist-state worship, and Catholic again. they were not athiests please check sources again.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Shane

      Pol Pot was a buddhist to some degree and it is reported that he used some of the more nihilistic interpretations of buddhisim to justify his wanton killing.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Hitler and Mussoli's parents were Christian, and they may have been raised as such. But, in practice, were not hemselves. In fact, Hitler was a disciple of Nitchze, an atheist hero.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Zach

      How can you say Hitler was Catholic? Have you done any research? Hitler was born to a father, Alois who was Catholic but was religiously skeptical and didn't attend mass. Hitler, from a young age began to reject the Catholic Church and unwillingly recieved confirmation. Some biographers have said that Hitler never attended mass again after leaving home. Hitler's closest friends such as Goebells and Speer report that Hitler had negative feelings towards all organized religions.

      Leaders like these would never bend their knee for God, rather they would have the people bend their knee for them.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Alverant

      @weasel you should try doing your own research. Hitler got his ideas for Martin Luther, who predates Dawin by centuries. His whole anti-semetic agenda was based from him.

      Also Hitler repeatedly stated he was a christian and was doing God's work in his speeches and books. The whole idea of him being an Atheist came from christians who don't want to admit he was one of them.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Truth....and let's add to this the numbers from abortions because only an atheist (Margret Sanger) would come up with this being a rational option.

      And Hitler was not a Christian. He was an atheist and a follower of Darwin. In fact, a lot of his quotes sounds a tremendous a lot like those posted on these boards. Here are some exerpts from Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944:

      Night of 11th-12th July, 1941: – "National Socialism and religion cannot exist together.... The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.... Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things". (p 6 & 7)

      – 10th October, 1941, midday: – "Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure". (p 43)

      14th October, 1941, midday: – "The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death.... When understanding of the universe has become widespread... Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.... " (p 49-52)

      Wow! ........Now that I read these further, the atheists out here DO sound EXACTLY like Hitler. Don't know ho that makes you feel, but it gives me the shivers.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Alverant....you ought to do a little more research yourself. Hitler was no more Christian than you are.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mike in SC

      I'm definately going to check it out! I've studied the Platonic philosophers, some of the Rationalists, some of the modern western philosophers and spent time reading some ancient eastern philosophers. But here you have a book that collects the greatest thinkers of history and interprets them all towards the elucidation of the Humanist philosophy! Sweet!

      April 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @David- I don't think committing murder like Hitler did will get him absolution. At least not from my understanding of Catholicism.

      April 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jeff

      Technically you're correct because the god of the bible would be an atheist and he killed 99.999999% of the world.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • krashundburn


      Hitler was no atheist. He had a beef with certain churches, but he was a believer. And his beliefs helped him to devalue anything and anyone non-Aryan. They were instrumental in forming his personal policy.

      "And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord." – Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf

      "Of course, one doesn’t discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God’s image in His creation." – Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf

      "On this planet of ours human culture and civilization are indissolubly bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he should be exterminated or subjugated, then the dark shroud of a new barbarian era would enfold the earth. To undermine the existence of human culture by exterminating its founders and custodians would be an execrable crime in the eyes of those who believe that the folk-idea lies at the basis of human existence. Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise." – ummm, are you staring to see a pattern here? I can get more quotes, but all you have to do is read Mein Kampf yourself to know he was NOT a frikken atheist. Just do it.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm |


      April 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • Daniel Vrangsinn

      We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.

      – Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 24, 1933

      May 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.