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.
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I really don't understand why any atheist even cares about teaching the we have to "understand how to respect and relate to one another". Screw that! Survival of the fittest, baby! To an atheist, a serial killer should be the model of success.
It is beneficial to society, and often beneficial to ourselves, as well, due to reciprocation.
It really isn't that hard to understand.
@HBDude Thanks for letting everybody know without religion you would be a serial killer. Basically you are stating that you have no moral center.
Come on people, where is the LOVE?
I cant wait to read this book!
The majority of the basic principles laid out by religious doctrine wouldn't make any sense to us if we weren't already moral to begin with. It's our intrinsic understanding of morality that allows us to recognize the meaning and purpose of books like the bible, shinto texts and –yes, even the quran. The irrational assumption that so many among us make is that we are actually learning something about morality from these systems of thought. Point in fact is that we aren't. All we're doing instead is learning how to articule the infinite variables of human wisdom within a context that is more easily expressed through linguistics. But, the basic morals upon which those variables of wisdom are founded were present all along. Without that instinctive and intuitive ability to recognize this wisdom, our subsequent interest in their articulation through religious text would cease to exist.
And therein lies the common misconception that atheists would otherwise be immoral without laws and physical consequences due to the fact that "God" - in their minds– is not looking over them. This misconception is brought about by the mistaken belief that our underlying sense of morality was instilled in us from an outside source such as religious texts. And, as I mentioned before, what is unbeknownst to us is that that potential for a moral consciousness existed all along. It just had not yet been articulated.
It's not unlike when a stray newborn animal looks upon its human rescuer and mistakes it for its mother. Its mind has not yet been developed to its full capacity, and therefore it is completely open to suggestion. It accepts unquestioningly the help of the human rescuer because that help is all that it knows. This is why we are so adept to believing that our own sense of morality, which was instinctive all along, can only be truly defined by whatever religious text first provided us with the ability to articulate that which up until that point had been inarticulable.
The mind is capable of processing emotions and reason on levels that someday will be impossible to encapsulate with words alone. At which point, how would religious texts come into play?
You make some interesting points. in fact after reading your post another verse from the Bible came to my mind. It says that God has given to every man a mesure of faith. so I guess we can agree to an extent. You would say I guess, that this faith came from with in us and I would say that God gave it.
I also want to say to you athists, please don't judge all Christians buy the beahavior of some. Unfortunately many Christians give Christianity a bad name. God is love. I know that's very hard to believe when you look around and see all the evil in this world but it really is true. Is there anyone who will accept my chalenge above?
Okay I've been thinking more about what you said and I have a question. Are you saying then, that Evolution has hardwired in all humans a moral consciousness? If so then why don't dogs, cats and other animals have the same moral consciousness?
God has given the human race much evidence that he is alive and well. There are many prophecies of the bible which have already come to pass. I chalenge any nonbeliever to read chapter two of the book of Daniel in the old testament of the bible very carefully and then compare it with world history. Daniel lived hundreds of years before these prophecies came to pass.
I also have another chalenge for nonbelievers. I am now going to quote from a former athist. Here are his words.
If I may I would like to speak to those who do not believe? Instead of giving arguements either way – for those who do not believe in the Bible account of creation, and perhaps don’t even believe in God? Let me ask you- would you like to believe in Him? believe there is a place called heaven? believe there is a place where there is no death? not even sickness? or poverty? no crime? sure would be nice if you COULD be convienced – now wouldn’t it?
I once was just like you. I didn’t believe it and didn’t think it made any sense at all! Below is a challenge that was extended to me during those days of unbelief.
The questions above come first. My answer was, “of course! (And later when I ask these same questions to an unbeliever, his answer was, “Why yes! A person would have to be crazy not to!” In less than a year this blessed soul gave himself to Christ!)Then came the challenge.
Choose a thirty minute time slot out of your day. Spend it in quietly reading the Bible. Before you start,you must say something like this; “God, if You do exist, and I am here because You did indeed create me and the world I live in, then know this – I have just accepted a challenge to put YOU to the test. I am going to do this for at least thirty days. My challenge to You is that during that time, will you please reveal Yourself to me in a way that I can believe?”
Let me, at this point share a brief quote from the book “Hammers in the Fire” by George Vandeman.
“—truth changes only those who are willing to be changed.
And so it is with the Bible. If you read it hoping to find some discrepancy, to find some word whip to hurl at some opponent, to support some preconcieved notion, to find a choice quotation for an after-dinner speech-you will come away unchanged.
But if you read it to find truth, to find God’s plans for your life, to learn what you must do to be saved, to discover at any cost the assurance of devine forgivness and power to live-you will close its pages never to be the same again!” pps 31:7-32:1.
1. It is my prayer that you will have the same life changing experience that I did. May God bless all unbelievers who accept this challenge. I would recommend getting a copy of Mr. Vandeman’s book and reading the whole thing.
I prophecized that somebody like you would write a comment like this. I guess that means I AM GOD.
Jk. I don't believe that at all....
but seriously, dood, don't you see that that whole "the prophecies came true" line of argumentation is the same way that people get other people to join cults?
Just because you can interpret history in a way that seems to fit with a prophecy you believe in doesn't actually mean that the whole of what you believe in is legitimate.
RE: "How do you know the bible is Gods Word?... "
Find a signed copy. You can buy my autographed copy. It has been authenticated by the highest religious authority in the land, Glenn Beck. It says, "to Beelzebubba on your 10th birthday from Grandpa Greg". That's god's real name.
The fool has said in his heart there is no God.
Ok, the fool hath said in his heart that there is a God.
We're even. You can call me a fool and I can call you a fool.
Either Mr. T has a lot of pitying to do, or else you need to come up with a reasoned argument, otherwise you just seem disdainfully arrogant.
The wise man will shout it from the roof..........
In the beginning man created the gods
What I think of organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a rare time and country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no! Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO! is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.
First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination in some cases. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over hundreds of centuries or longer. Sadly the followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us all based on there interpretation of books that are in no way real. These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politicians to pass laws based on there interpretation of these books. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. I hope to never see any religious icons on our flag, because then it would be a good time to leave.
Second: Religion no longer has a place in the real world. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. A Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religious infringement upon our school’s teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not to pass out fairytales to our children of some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.
Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of its members, born of a virgin or walk on water or cure the blind sick or to fly. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed the same feats, again they are all wrong. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact these are nothing but stories meant to entertain or teach something to the people of that era nothing more.
Religion, as an idea has been with us before recorded history from early man’s worshiping of nature to Charlemagne’s murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers in the name of Islam. Coerced observance is the main method almost all these religions use. Worship me or you will be tortured for all eternity or murdered out right. Fear mongering, or coercion is tyranny! Remember the Dark Age’s religions rule in that dark, distant past didn’t serve our ancestors well it certainly won’t serve us any better today! These are the labels I proudly wear heretic, infidel, atheist, man of science, freethinker.
Third: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religion’s ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws, as well as research designed to help many! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, The wall is crumbling. The time for the burning of witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or religions many other immoral and vile acts committed against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated no matter what religious book or god demands it.
Anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said and ban together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups hold on our minds and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children will look back in pride an see we did what we did for them and there posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope it`s not layed to waste by then.
Is Sally Bob your christian name? Beelzebubba has nothing to do with Beelzebub.
What is the copyright status of such a compilation, is there a table of contents available? Would not 99% of the texts be public domain? is the book not under some creative commons license?
He who creates nothing is always searching for something that requires nothing as an investment.
I respect the authors atempt to put in writing a code of ethicks for nonbelievers, but if it wasn't for the same religion that athists laugh at, the world would be with out a standerd by which morality can be mesured.
I think its very strange that someone would believe whole heartedly in evolution, which only allows the fittest to survive and then turn around and say that we should respect humanity and care for the less fortunate and so on. You can't have it both ways either you believe in evolution and stand by all its prinsiples or let it go and acknowledge that there is a creator God even though there are things you may not understand right away.
I also wish that those who believe would stop returning fire for fire and vitreal for vitreal. It really doesn't help the cause of Christ when you do this kind of thing.
1 Thessalonians 5
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Notice it says all men that would include athists as well.
Your first claim is utterly absurd. How would you know what a world would look like without religion without ever having seen it done before. You are merely speaking from the fear the the church has instilled into you. The most peaceful and cooperative nations in this world (Ex. the Scandinavian countries) don't have religion like we do in America and they seem to be doing just fine. I get that you aren't trying to say something rude, but frankly, you really are. You are assuming that people can't be good unless they are just like you and get their morality stories from the same place. The golden rule, the basis for morality in every religion and outside of religion as well, is a philosophical ethical question that can be discovered and related to without the need for God. If Christians are so moral, then why am I so often wondering to myself why it seems like atheists are so often, even more engaged in moral pursuits than Christians are?
Secondly, concerning evolution, the human ability to reason can go beyond the reality that nature presents us with. That is what most of humanism is about. What you assume is almost like saying that because a person's father commits a murder, then therefore it would be impossible for the son to see that that murder is wrong. The universe lacks a moral conscious other than what humans give to it. That is what is so great about life. We can make the world a better place.
A rational person does not "believe" in evolution. After reviewing the evidence, you either accept or reject its premises as an explanation for the development of life. It doesn't mean that you think survival of the fittest is a good model for moral behavior; just because something exists in nature doesn't mean it's desirable. I think you're projecting your own irrational dogma on others. Just because you have a belief system that forces you to accept it all or nothing doesn't mean that everyone does.
Agreed, Craig. 🙂
Your lack of education is really shining with that stellar spelling. I mean you are obviously religious. God wanted you all to be dumb sheep he even stated it in Genesis. Eat from any tree but dont eat from the Tree of Knowledge or you will die. And he got all butt hurt and kicked them out because they weren't mindless sheep.
Can one of you zealous 'believers' define "believe in"? I sent a text to ask Jeeeeeeeezus but his service provider is offline.
take religion out of the puzzle and war/genocide has nowhere to go...
As a first year medical student, I learned about calcium flooding into dying cells, and made the connection that there is no afterlife , or god. This comes from a student who's father was a minister. If I tell someone about this connection, they assume it is from abuse. It is not. It is unfortunate that morality is tied in many people's minds to religion. As an intern, I saw immorality, and it has nothing to do with religion. Morality is a unique construct from our position in evolution, and gives us a chance to exceed what evolution alone would give to us. And, indeed, we should take it, and excel.
He might as well publish a cookbook without ingredients too.
What is the matter with everyone? Is it the radiation? Recent findings by other new sources indicate that the Church is going out of business soon. Nobody in Europe gets behind it but there is always someone who will write books about religion. We still see on TV people proclaiming that Religion is actual history. In the old days people that were that nieve were on drugs and they were called Flower Children. Take enough drugs they would say and you can see God. Right once you are dead.
I would agree essentially that evolutionism is real and creationalism is fake. However, I think that it isn't the full answer by far. there are still questions with the theory of evolutionism thathaven't been answer sufficiently for my full endorsement. Religions are all about rich individuals to prey upon the weaker individuals out of their own sympathies. Sad truly sad richer middle to upper class folks just simply cannot understand that we are tired of being their drug mules anymore. Rie up humanist time to gain health care for all in the u.s.A! F the catholic church.
Civil discussion is needed for these issues. Religious and non-religious extremists are both responsible for the hate and violence born of it. People should be able to believe what they want without certain beliefs being forced on them. People should also be able to express their religious beliefs without being labeled crazy or moronic like I've seen on here. To the close-minded religious fanatics out there who force their beliefs on others and refuse civil debates. To the arrogant atheists out there who believe themselves smarter and superior and discriminate and intimidate those who believe in a deity, enjoy the stink of your hypocrisy.
Well, after thinking about your comment, I guess atheists are smarter in general. You know why? Because they need reason to accept unreasonable claims. They think and they say well there are facts that prove that the earth is about 4 billion years old, then god could not create the world 10000 years ago. OK, maybe religious people are not dumber, but they close there brain, they don't even listen to the facts. More so, they want to convince you that there is god. And in America you can't do public service if you are not religious. Why do you say atheists are arrogant? I heard religious people say atheists don't belong to society, they cannot be good people etc. But do you know any war fought in the name of atheism? If you do, let us know. But there has been so much blood in the name of God because stupidity of human kind is such that one groups kills the other because they have a different god. So I say we need to do business, politics, management education with reason. Otherwise you get to the situation like god told Bush to invade Iraq. The only cure for the situation is to make sure kids get excellent education.
(Bill) I was pointing out certain atheists for my comment on arrogance. That was in no way a generalization about all atheists. My main point was that people on both sides should be allowed to believe what they want. While your comment on people closing their minds and refusing anything other than God can indeed limit their understanding and knowledge, some religious people are more understanding and acceptable. As far as violence in atheism you can argue the blood shed in mass killings in the Soviet Union and China but it is not definite. Religion has been a factor in blood shed throughout history, but it doesn't mean every religious person is like that. Just like not every atheist is arrogant or immoral.
Honor, you'd make a terrible leader. I agree in an idealistic sense that people should be allowed to believe what they want. However, I understand that idealism is very rarely practical. What happens when people start acting on their beliefs? What about when those actions harm others? do we have the right to criticize then and say that they can't do what they do? Won't they come back and say "But it's my belief and you have to respect it!" and won't that be utter crap? What if it was my belief that religion should be outlawed? How would you then accomodate both my belief and the beliefs of the religious?
Look into things deeper than you are. You are only scratching the surface of philosophy.
My thoughts on "but I can be good as an atheist and that's better because I don't feel pressured to be that way". This is a common cop-out for religious folks too. Yes, anyone can be good, but to be truely good, you have to take the whole pill so to speak. You have to commit your life to it. It's ironic that I'm posting stuff about people posting stuff, but why do athiest seem to be so intent on attacking people who believe. That makes me think they feel troubled about themsleves and need to lash out. If I were an athesit, I'd be like "who cares, to each his own". Yes, I'm contradicting myself by posting about posting, but when I see 1,000s of angry-sounding atheist on here attacking and belittle-ing other people's beliefs, I can't resist saying something. Peace out....
For years, believers have "insisted" that all moral actions must be derived from religious conviction. They have insisted that atheists are not moral. This book proves that morality can be codified without a god or gods, rather from deeply caring and erudite philosophers and realists. My hat's off to the compiler as well as his literary choices. It's time for religious people to STOP blaming and libeling atheists for all the ill in the World.
Yeah that's great, but WHY would an atheist want to be moral? Wouldn't he be better served by a will to power that shuns morals in favor of expediency, given that there's no God to pass judgment? If you could commit a murder and know with certainty that you could get away with it, and it serves your interests, than an atheist has no reason to decline, whereas a Christian must account for the Word of God...Seems like atheists lack any foundation for morality,
Did you know that statistics prove that the most religious places are the most dangerous in America! Further, most people in jail are very religious. How do you explain these facts! If someone can behave morally only because there is a god watching then any moral act is done because of fear of god. This is not really goodness or real ethical behavior. You should do good for the sake of good not because someone is watching you!
@zest It would seem the only reason you don't commit murder is the fear of a pitch fork shoved up your a$$ for all eternity. Immoral sociopaths need the fear of a boogyman drilled into their thick skulls in order to keep them in line.
The idea that theists believe that morals come from our belief in a transcendent being complete with moral code is a gross generalization which completely ignores most modern theistic faiths. We accept that the human condition is what it is due to the concept of human selfishness (insert "sin" for the old world definition). That the Truth is embodied in the same truth that is the source of all things in the Universe (insert "God"). That by surrendering to the pursuit of the Truth over our own selfishness we become enlightened and closer to the Truth and the human condition is thus raised.
the thought that specific conduct (outside of the generally accepted concepts of the social contract) is or is not moral no longer holds relevance for most believers (insert "Christian") as even the words of Christ (both recorded in the Biblical texts as well as the apocrypha) focused on understanding the truth and turning away from selfishness. There are very few statements of specific acts of morality as opposed to a selfless view of the world.
One last point, Atheism takes as much if not more faith than belief in a higher transcending truth outside of normal human understanding. Atheists have a dogma and varying creeds as do most theistic faiths. Somehow ascribing these belief systems a sort of "Modern Humanistic enlightenment" bestows far more credit for as old and devout a faith system as belief in God.
I guess you'll just have to read the book to get a glimpse of where atheists get their morals from, won't you 🙂
zest: If fear of judgment and punishment is the only thing that inspires you to be moral as a religious person, then I'd argue that you're not really a moral person (or religious, for that matter).
Even the atheist made good things which come from God.
This book sounds interesting, I'll read it. I do read a lot of interesting books, so this goes on my must read list.
I have already read the Bible, and have retained most of it. I enjoy a good read, so I do hope this book gets to my library.
Let's face it, people comment on here in ways that are strange and offensive, it has become the way of life on the internet.
Open your mind, stop attacking each other, give to each other, try to be kind, try to make it through this life in the most pleasant way possible, help one another. I am very happy that someone has come up with a book that could rival the original Bible. Thank you, to the author.
You haven't read this new book, but are already convinced it will rival the bible? What is the basis of this assertion?
The key word that you missed Ben was "COULD".
We like to play copying God’s work. Because we come from him. We are God’s children.
Isaac Newton was a Christian. Look it up. He doesn't belong as the central character in an evolutionary treatise... but I suppose it is fiction, after all... just like the theory of evolution.
I suppose you think the banana is the atheists nightmare?
What is it about Cameron's and religion?
Yeah, it's up to other people to make up their minds if you're "intellectual" or not. People who choose monikers like that usually have issues with their intellect. Next you'd tell people that you're a member of Mensa. It's annoying and condescending.