Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

New Bible Anyone? This One, Without God!

A new testament has been published.  No not a new edition of the New Testament, but a new testament — a scripture for secular humanists.  Of course, when it comes to the making of new books, the Book of Ecclesiastes (12:12) taught long ago, that “there is no end” to such efforts.  This newest effort is simply the latest volume in an ongoing series of making new books, one as old as the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible itself.  After all, thethe Old Testament clearly draws on themes, images and practices which we already common when it was written. 

And no, for those are wondering, that is not meant to undermine any claims about the Hebrew Bible as the revealed word of God.  It simply acknowledges that the need for a “new bible” some 3,200 years ago, a date based on the presumed time of Moses trip up to Mount Sinai as reported in the Book of Exodus, arose in the context of a world which already had other sacred scriptures which the Hebrew Bible replaced.  Of course, as the saying goes, turnabout is fair play.


Some 1,200 years after the time of Moses, enough people needed a new bible that thousands of them accepted the New Testament, if not as a total replacement for the Old Testament, then surely as a fundamental reordering of the latter’s authority and importance.   And some 600 years after that new bible came on the scene, Islam introduced its new bible, the Koran.

Whether one believes in one, none, or some combination of these texts, the point remains the same; the impulse to create new bibles is not new.  The fact that the newest new bible has been created by an avowed atheist, famed British philosopher A. C. Grayling however is actually pretty interesting.

Grayling’s new work, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, presents wisdom teachings taken from many of the world’s greatest minds including Herodotus and Lucretius, Confucius and Mencius, Seneca and Cicero, Montaigne, Bacon, and many others, and organized them into 12 sections: Genesis, Histories, Wisdom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts, and the Good.


Although the book is clearly organized around obviously biblical headings and themes e.g. his Genesis opens with a tree in a garden, Grayling seems to have assiduously avoided incorporating any clearly biblical teachings in the text which makes up his new bible.  That decision strikes me as the replacement of a new narrow orthodoxy for what Grayling presumes is another — further evidence that atheism can be every bit as ideologically myopic as some versions of theism. 

Also worth noting is Grayling’s choice of language and style in creating this new bible.  The prose is reminiscent of the King James Bible with which the author was probably raised, and instead of simply collecting and annotating quotes, he presents a running text which reads, in verses, very much like the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.


Apparently, even after people have “outgrown” God, we still need familiar forms of sacred literature to inspire and guide our lives.  That presents yet another profound similarity between believers and non-believers – one which both sides would do well to acknowledge.  The issue is never who has this need – on some level, we all do.  The issue is how we meet that need and how we relate to others who meet it differently from us.

Faith, including the faith of atheism, for those who follow that path, has a place in our lives, but the faiths which we follow cannot limit the range of those from whom we can learn.  When that happens, all people suffer, regardless of their faith. 

Although Grayling’s bible will not replace the one in which I believe, it will find its place on my bookshelf as one from which I can learn.  Ultimately, our ability to learn not only from the bibles in which we do believe, but also from those in which we do not, may be the most important intellectual-spiritual capacity for living peacefully in our increasingly inter-connected world.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sue

    “I have learned from ALL my teachers”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Richard

    There is no such thing as ‘atheist faith’. Atheism by definition is the very absence of faith. Faith is belief that does not require proof. Atheism is insistence on evidence which establishes proof. Atheism is the antithesis of faith. Proof of propositions is independent of faith.

    Faith is yearning for fruition of hope. Faith is emotional investment in belief of things one cannot prove to exist. Atheism is dispassionate recognition of evidence of things proven to exist, and the behaviors such things manifest.

    All evidence-established entities/properties detected in the known universe, including man, comprise existence. Faith is only a concept developed by human intelligence, an evidence-free emotion. All the entities, and their forces, that comprise the universe existed for nearly 15 billion years before man’s concept of faith emerged, and if humankind goes extinct yet leaves the earth habitable for carbon-based life to endure, faith will remain errelevant to the future of life on Earth.

    Atheism is not faith that there is no supernatural existence. Incontrovertible evidence that establishes the existence of an Abrahamic deity, or any other ‘god’, would

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Richard

    Completing my last paragraph above:

    Atheism is not faith that there is no supernatural existence. Incontrovertible evidence that establishes the existence of an Abrahamic deity, or any other ‘god’, would simply be new evidence of existence.

    It is nonsensical to engage in denial of things proven to exist. Anyone confronted with proven evidence of the existence of a supernatural entity, or entities, should unreservedly accept that existence.

    Therefore, maintaining atheism would cease to be rational. At that point, those who refused to abandon atheism would themselves now indulging in emotional faith belief.

    Those who chose to believe in atheism at this time, instead of letting go of conclusions when the evidence does not support them, would in practice elevate atheism to the religious status of a belief based entirely on an emotional faith investment.
    Read more:

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    Whereas Faith with a capital ‘f’ is colloquially understood to evince an apprehension aspiring outward toward a better humanity by way of the transcendent power of Divinity, Grayling’s ‘The Good Book: A Humanist Bible’ seems to evince a similar apprehension aspiring inward, rather, toward a better divinity by way of the transcendent power of Humanity. With this perspective in mind, one may see the logic of pressing the word Faith into the same breath that speaks of the Humanist Bible. But it is modernistic Humanism’s utter Materialism that truly sets it apart as a Thing as utterly dreadful as the Matter that rots us away. Scilicet Ab Ambagibus.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy Jones

    He should just call his book “A Collection Of Philosophical Ideas” and leave the word bible out of it. Using the word bible is a way to attract the attention of people who would otherwise ignore what he has written. He should have borrowed from the Dummy series, and attracted even more readers.

  • Ray Dowling

    I have the book and I love it.

    As an atheo-agnostic Humanist the book replaces a gap in my living from when I left Christianity and the Bible became a literary work of ancient ‘wisdom’ to me rather than a guide book. Now I have a dip-in-&-dip-out guide book once again, a book for contemplation, and I don’t mind saying that the need for such a book remains in me whether supernaturalist or naturalist.

    Gr8 article on the book written here as well, gr8 article (except for calling Atheism a faith, that’s the one mistake of a fantastic article)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rick P

    Great article. It is interesting how you attacked Oprah and Karen Armstrong, but Grayling’s book gets an honored place on your bookshelf. It hard to avoid finding parallels between this and the practice of Orthodox Judaism not allowing women to be rabbis.

    Maybe this is not the explanation.

  • http://ABiblewithoutaGod Liliana Goldberger

    Fortunately htere are some peole with whon I can share ideas, like Nancy Jones. Her sugestion to title the book as a ” Collection of Philosophical Ideas” is very pertinent because the name Bible only pertains to books written with religious content, such as the Torah, Koran, KIng James Bible that relate to religion in a classical way.

  • http://Interestingpoint Tim

    Dear Sir,

    I enjoyed your article and for the most part I heartly agree with you. But (and isn’t there alway a but)can you be to open minded? Can the average person who is not a Theologian, be caught up in a new idea and taken down paths that they had no intention of going. In some way isn’t that what is happening in the middle east?

    Just a thought

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment G

    Personally, I don’t see a need for this endless tit-for-tat on issues of faith vs.non-faith

    Atheism is not a new idea and is as old as religion.

    I notice that in all this back and forth over Faith vs. non-faith..really it smacks of a bunch of angry children trying to get the ‘Last Tag”.

    People with faith really don’t need to be trying to ‘strong-arm everyone else into ‘faith’ and the non-faith people don’t need to be trying to headlock everyone else into ‘rational’ thinking.

    Everybody go home and play with your own friends and stop trying to bully one another.

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