Hot on the heels of my post yesterday about the need to tread lightly when it comes to our sacred texts comes the news of A.C. Grayling's secular/ humanist bible. The idea of an atheist's bible doesn't fill me with apoplectic rage, I feel no urge to denounce it as heresy, on the contrary it seems a rather whimsical idea, they've got a perfect right to it and I am already hoping we don't hear any cries of outrage or indignation from various quarters. However I do wonder why on earth an atheist wants or needs a bible? If they are interested in religious, philosophical and theological ideas, then they would be much better advised to read the unexpurgated versions of sacred texts, myths and legends and see the unsavoury bits for what they are- part of the tendency within religious belief towards the violent and punitive.
It sounds as if what Grayling has produced is a kind of compilation of myths, Christian or otherwise and key ideas in philosophy and ideologies. I have a bit of a problem anyhow with rewriting myths and stories in a more palatable and anodyne form -they are meant to be full of bloodshed and conflict, or they lose the visceral nature of their message. I wonder if Grayling has tampered with the philosophy in the book , or with the Darwinism in it, by the way? I haven't read Grayling's offerings, of course, and his book may be a great read and might even take the hard work out of reading certain texts for yourself - but is it really a bible - isn't it more an encyclopedia or a compliation of texts and ideas, one you might turn to but which wouldn't take precedence over any other text in shaping your thoughts about the world or your relationship to it?
After all, to borrow a phrase, surely an atheist needs a bible like a fish needs a bicycle?