A ‘Good Book’ without God

I got “The Good Book” in the mail yesterday. Subtitle: “A Humanist Bible.”

What is a Humanist bible, you ask?

Pretty much what you would expect. It looks and feels (at 597 pages) like a Bible and draws on, according to a release, the “general structure of the traditional Bible.”

It’s divided into Genesis, Wisdom, Parables, Concord, Lamentations, Consolations, Sages, Songs, Histories, Proverbs, the Lawgiver, Acts, Epistles, the Good, Dylan and the Beatles.

Just kidding about Dylan and the Beatles. The Good Book ends with The Good.

It was written by University of London philosopher A.C. Grayling, who has written books about WWII, Descartes, the philosophy of life, and other weighty topics.

In the press materials, Grayling is asked whether his book is an atheist Bible. He answers, in part:

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There is no mention at all of gods, souls, the afterlife, religion, or any associated topic. The Good Book is about human experience in this world, distilling the human wisdom of all ages and places to provide insight, solace, inspiration, guidance, and prompts for thought about how to live a good life.

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How does a Humanist Genesis open, you wonder. Like this:

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In the garden stands a tree. In springtime it bears flowers; in the autumn, fruit.

Its fruit is knowledge, teacher the good gardener how to understand the world.

For it he learns how the three grows from seed to sapling; from sapling to maturity, at last ready to offer more life;

And from maturity to age and sleep, whence it returns to the elements of things.

The elements in turn feed new births; such is nature’s method, and its parallel with the course of humankind.

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A colleague of mine walked past my desk, flipped through The Good Book and said “It’s like having a football team without a quarterback.”

The author would probably say that the other 10 players on offense would do fine on their own.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.