Grayling’s secular bible

Yesterday’s Guardian interviews philosopher Anthony Grayling and describes his newest work, The Good Book: A Secular Bible (a bargain at only $20 from Amazon).

Grayling is almost certainly going to upset a lot of Christians, for what he has written is a secular bible. The Good Book mirrors the Bible in both form and language, and is, as its author says, “ambitious and hubristic – a distillation of the best that has been thought and said by people who’ve really experienced life, and thought about it”. Drawing on classical secular texts from east and west, Grayling has “done just what the Bible makers did with the sacred texts”, reworking them into a “great treasury of insight and consolation and inspiration and uplift and understanding in the great non-religious traditions of the world”. He has been working on his opus for several decades, and the result is an extravagantly erudite manifesto for rational thought.

He has a fair amount to say about nonbelief, which seems to be the Guardian’s main concern. Here he is on “militant” atheism:

. . . the atheist movement has been accused of shooting itself in the foot by adopting a tone so militant as to alienate potential supporters, and fortify the religious lobby. I ask Grayling if he thinks there is any truth in the charge, and he listens patiently and politely to the question, but then dismisses it with a shake of the head.

“Well, firstly, I think the charges of militancy and fundamentalism of course come from our opponents, the theists. My rejoinder is to say when the boot was on their foot they burned us at the stake. All we’re doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don’t like it,” he laughs. “So we speak frankly and bluntly, and the respect agenda is now gone, they can no longer float behind the diaphanous veil – ‘Ooh, I have faith so you mustn’t offend me’. So they don’t like the blunt talking. But we’re not burning them at the stake. They’ve got to remember that when it was the other way around it was a much more serious matter.

“And besides, really,” he adds with a withering little laugh, “how can you be a militant atheist? How can you be militant non-stamp collector? This is really what it comes down to. You just don’t collect stamps. So how can you be a fundamentalist non-stamp collector? It’s like sleeping furiously. It’s just wrong.”

Read more at the Guardian about Grayling’s attitude toward sniffy philosophers who want their field to remain the purview of Ph.D.-carrying academics (sound familiar?), about his childhood in Africa and the murder of his sister, and how he maintains his famous hair (Grayling is England’s answer to Pinker).  And you have to admire the man’s diligence: he’s about my age but this is his thirtieth book.

h/t: Juan

77 Comments

  1. Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    “All we’re doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don’t like it”

    “when the boot was on their foot they burned us at the stake”

    I am definitely going to use that :)

    • Filippo
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

      And one didn’t have to go that far, re: Giordano Bruno.

    • Konradius
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

      Of course, the theist would counter by mentioning Hitler or Stalin.
      We know that’s not right, but we need a couple of minutes to explain that.

      • Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        The quick reply is of course that 1) Hitler was Catholic and 2) Stalin studied at seminary.

        • Sigmund
          Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:29 am | Permalink

          The Hitler point can easily be backed up with numerous religious sounding quotations from the man himself but saying Stalin went to a seminary sounds a little desperate. It sounds like you are trying to say he was still religious. I think it’s better to avoid this path of argument and focus on the real problem – he was a totalitarian communist dictator. Atheism is no guarantee against totalitarian dictatorships – but then again neither is religion. If we focus on those societies where there are no totalitarian dictatorships the value of atheism (or at least the lack of danger of atheism) becomes evident.

          • Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

            Atheism is to politics like not collecting stamps is to deep sea oil drilling.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Marella
              Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

              I don’t know about that, religion and politics are blood brothers, so atheism and politics need to become better acquainted perhaps.

  2. Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    “this is his thirtieth book”

    I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on, and I think I’ll start with this one.

    • Felix
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:24 am | Permalink

      Goods news, this one is impenetrable
      “Scepticism and the Possibility of Knowledge” so you only nave 29 to read!

      I adore Grayling, I hope his new book is a work of genius.

      • Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

        He was speaking and signing books at a book fair in Keswick a few weeks ago, but it was sold out when I found out about it. (I was just up there doing some fell walking, and the event caught me by surprise.)

      • Felix
        Posted April 9, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

        Well, I have received my copy and read the first one and a half chapters.

        Unfortunately, my hope that “his new book is a work of genius” has not been fulfilled.

        Of course, there are many levels of goodness between genius and nonsense, so don’t think I am trashing the book either.

        However, thus far I haven’t found anything that I thought I would like to use as a reading or as a conversation starter for my kids.

        Also, the form of chapter and verse and the semi-poetic nature of the writing causes problems in clearly expressing ideas.

        • Diane G.
          Posted April 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          “his new book is a work of genius”

          Just from the title, it sounds more like a work of hubris to me…

          • Felix
            Posted April 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            Diane,

            your quote of my words is deliberately misleading.

            I hope you will make the effort to become more informed than merely reading the title, alternatively you could just refrain from posting pointless comments.

            His project was certainly ambitious, but I think the idea is sound. It was inevitable that he would be roundly criticised, and condemned for hubris.

            • Diane G.
              Posted April 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, Felix, did not at all mean to say that was your conclusion, since it obviously wasn’t. I was rushing; in my head, thinking something along the lines of “while some might say it’s a work of genius…”

              I just find the idea of a book with that title pretty arrogant from the get-go…if there is a hint somewhere that he’s poking a bit of fun at himself or philosophy in general, I’d feel more kindly about it…Otherwise I think the bible as prescriptive ethics is a metaphor we’d be better off avoiding. The last sentence of your original post in this subthread makes me even less likely to want to read the book…

              • Felix
                Posted April 10, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

                Diane,

                apology accepted. :-)

                By “The last sentence of your original post in this subthread” did you mean the ‘genius’ comment or the ‘semi-poetic’ comment? If the latter, I agree! If the former I say the following:

                Grayling has written a number of books about how to live (I think this is the case, I have only one of them)

                Humanists have of course thousands of years worth of texts on which to draw, from Gilgamesh, the ancient Greeks, Lucretius & Seneca etc, Eastern writings such eg Buddhist texts, and then a mass since the C17.

                However, that’s an awful lot of reading to get through and, critically, remember at the point you need a reading for a funeral or whatever, or if you just want to dip into this stream of wisdom for a minute.

                A collection/distillation of the best of these works, presented in some sort of arranged manner and somehow presented to make it suitable for excerption and reading out loud, would be a great boon.
                I think it could be a suitable alternative to the Bible for humanists. (And I think that we can avoid to much problem with prescriptive ethics if we stick to ‘do as you would be done by’ and ‘you have but one life, so live it as best you can’)

                However, such an endeavour would be huge, and challenging, and to achieve broad acknowledgement of its worth (due to the increased level of scrutiny it would receive from supporters and detractors alike, and given the acknowledged worth of the language of its competitor) would require it to be a work of genius.

              • Diane G.
                Posted April 11, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

                Felix, I meant the “semi-poetic” comment. But I was glad to get your ruminations on the wealth of humanist texts…Strikes me that a project too voluminous for a single person would be ideal for a web database; perhaps even a wiki-like endeavor.

                And BTW, I also appreciated your line about finding something worth sharing with your kids. That desire has been one of my main motivations for delving into this sort of material. I even had some good discussions with some of my son’s friends about like matters…one wonders how lasting an influence one can have…it’s not generally something they’re hearing anyplace else, though of course there is the web should they get enthused…

  3. Simon
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    My dictionary gives two definitions of “militant”:

    1. aggressive or vigorous, esp. in the support of a cause
    2. engaged in warfare; fighting
    Synonyms: fanatic.

    wikipedia gives the following definition: ‘to be open to using violence to achieve an end’

    Critics of Gnus are deliberately using this unnecessary adjective because of its pejorative sense (close to “fanatics” or “open to using violence”)

    If that word is going to be applied to the likes of Dennett, Dawkins et al., (who write well, use reasoned arguments, are pretty civil about handling disputes) we may as well describe every disagreement (who’s round is it? brown bread or white?) as a clash of militants.

    In this setting the word is worse than useless, its misleading.

    • Sigmund
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      It’s the militant Unitarians they should be worried about!

  4. litchik
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Consider buying the book, militantly or otherwise from an independent bookseller. You can find yours here: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder

    • Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      litchik

      I agree! Just before I read your comment, I called the local independent bookstore (there is only one in my city)to order Grayling’s new book.

    • Jose
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Sadly, the nearest indie bookstore to me would increase my purchase price by 50% due to travel.

  5. Martin
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    A book that the atheist and sceptic movement badly needed. It will help us get out of the “you’re so militant, and without religion there is only StalinMaoHitler” trap.

  6. litchik
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    Simon,

    You are correct, they use “militant” to denigrate and discredit. I think it gets picked up by others because of the fallacy of tolerance we’ve been fed for so long. At my kid’s school once I was helping out and another mom said, “well, you have to respect other people’s beliefs.” I said not really, some people believe some pretty stupid things and frankly I didn’t have to tolerate everyone’s beliefs. If you believe in your right to subjugate women, well, not on my turf, babe. The looks I got could have frozen fire. But we have been fed this line that we should just nod and say nice things. In some environments it would be wrong to say “Gods do not exist.” But if you discussing the matter then you have you say it and it makes no more sense to say, “well, maybe” then to say the same to regarding the young earth “theory.” (I really wish some folks would learn what a scientific theory is.)

    • Simon
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

      I ran into something very similar. There’s a well-intentioned but actually quite damaging acceptance of “tolerance” in liberal societies. I was told that it was “right” to “respect everyone’s personal religious beliefs”. And I replied I have no respect at all for the religious beliefs that inspired 9/11. Or the crusades. Or witch hunts. Etc.

      I got a stunned, blank stare in return. (I think my discussant had never considered this before. Amazing that one can reach adulthood without thinking these things through.)

      That’s why Dennett’s book is important. The first spell to break is not belief itself, but belief that religious belief should be protected for analysis or criticism, that unchecked dogma is an acceptable basis for action.

      • Sigmund
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:36 am | Permalink

        I suspect that what people mean by ‘respect belief’ is tthe idea that one should treat religious belief in a similar way to familial affection. In other words treat the feelings a person has towards their religion in the same way you would treat their feelings for their children or partner.
        Saying belief in a miraculous Jesus is akin to belief in Santa is thus seen as something like saying that a persons love for their child is ridiculous – or is like love for a leprechaun.
        I don’t think that many religious people realize that they place religious beliefs in that emotional category and perhaps it should be pointed out to them every now and again.

        • Simon
          Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

          There is something to Mencken’s quote “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

          But as soon as those religious ideas start becoming motivations for serious action we can drop the (presence of) respect. If religious opinions/ideas really where like people’s personal tastes and loves (in art, food, spouses, etc.) there wouldn’t be much of a problem. Unfortunately it’s not like that.

          • Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:10 am | Permalink

            Of course, one could also argue that this is not “respect”, but rather “indulgence”.

            • Marella
              Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

              Or even ‘patronising’.

            • Sastra
              Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

              I call it “forbearance.”

              And yes, the religious already know that they are putting religious beliefs in the emotional category (rather than the fact category): sometimes they do it to protect their views against criticism — and sometimes they do it because they genuinely can’t tell the difference.

              Just as they often fail to make a distinction between having the legal right to believe whatever you want in religion, and having the epistemic right to believe whatever you want in religion.

        • Tim Martin
          Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          Whenever the R-word comes up, I’m always quick to ask people what they mean by it. Because I seriously don’t know. What does it mean to respect the idea that we are born defective (Christianity)? What does it mean to respect the idea that women are dirty because they menstruate (Orthodox Judaism)? What does it mean to respect the idea that people born into poverty deserve it because of how they lived in a previous life (Buddhism)?

          As you would expect, no satisfying answers have been forthcoming.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted April 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            I have had some success by pointing out that freedoms such as freedom of religion doesn’t mean respect but tolerance. I.e. I don’t have to value the subject but accept that it has the right to exist.

            [Which in turn doesn't mean that I need to wish for it to exist, but can be opinionated against it.]

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Now I see that many below makes the distinction “respect a right” instead, which is much better.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

            What does it mean to respect the idea that Christianity is the only true religion (Christianity)?

      • mira
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

        It is sad and dangerous that “it is right to respect everyone’s *right* to personal religious beliefs/ other views” has got mixed up with “it is right to respect everyone’s personal religious beliefs”. This little mistake turns the whole concept upside down and against itself eventually.

        Besides if you let others know about your beliefs as it usually is with religion these days they are not all personal anymore. And as soon as you bring an idea into a public sphere the others have the right to reflect on it and criticize it and of-course agree with it if they happen to find it correct.

  7. Hubert
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    One of the two reviews on Amazon gives it one star, and predictably says:

    “What will immediately strike even the most partial reader however is how infinitely superior the Judaeo-Christian scriptures are as literature…[Grayling's book] will only serve to send readers back to the Judaeo-Christian Bible in their droves. ”

    “What this review helpful?” NO.

    • Tim Martin
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      It’s not fair to mark a review as unhelpful because you don’t agree with it.

      The reason that review is unhelpful is because the author didn’t provide any examples or any detail – any reason to support what he/she says as being anything other than a personal opinion.

      The current positive review of the book, by Kate Perez, fairs little better. It’s certainly nice to know that the book can be read cover to cover or by pages chosen at random, and it’s nice to know that the words flow like a “fresh mountain river,” but again, what if Kate is wrong? There are no examples and no detail to back it up. How is this review useful to me? Couldn’t a Christian just as easily have written the same thing about the actual Bible?

      • Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        A review at http://religion.lohudblogs.com/tag/humanist-bible-2/
        ends with this comment:

        ‘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.’

        Was this review helpful? Yes, it made me more determined to buy a copy.

      • Marella
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        I recently bought a book on the strength of a really negative review, the things the reviewer complained about I don’t mind, even enjoy, (bad language etc) so I bought it and rated the review helpful.

  8. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Let’s see…

    Anthony Grayling, born in Zambia

    Richard Dawkins, born in Kenya

    Louis Leakey, born in Kenya

    Hmm. There might be something to this Out of Africa idea.

    And now you can tell me all the people I’ve missed (although I chose not to include Freddie Mercury or Charlize Theron)

    • Sigmund
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Leo Igwe?

    • Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      Barack Obama? (Just kidding)

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    • Marella
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Me? I was born in Zimbabwe, unfortunately I’ve done nothing special, sigh.

  9. Ray Thaw
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    What one does need to respect is a person’s right to believe what they will; not the belief itself, simply their right to believe it.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      But what if they believe that black people are sub-human and should be re-enslaved? Or that woman are less intelligent than men and therefore are only worthwhile to society as wombs?

      Or that their god demands that they persecute homosexuals (or indeed, anyone whose sexual preferences are different from theirs)?

      No. I think that meme is wrong as well. There are some opinions that I do not respect someone’s “right” to have. Bigotry, misogyny, racism, sexism, to name a few.

      I’m sure you can think of a few yourself. Pedophilia, perhaps? Would you respect the right of NAMBLA to express its members’ beliefs?

      • Ray Thaw
        Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        They can absolutely believe what they will. I do not respect or like those beliefs and will oppose them at every opportunity wherever they manifest…I also do not respect the persons who hold such beliefs…but the right to have the beliefs must be allowed/respected, otherwise we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  10. Greg Esres
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    If Grayling is arguing that it’s logically impossible to be a “militant” non-something, that’s clearly false. If you go out to force other people to be a non-something, then “militant” is certainly a candidate word to use in that situation.

    Also, I think it’s premature to imply that it’s an atheistic virtue not to burn people at the stake for theistic views; atheists will only be able to demonstrate this virtue when we’re in the majority and hold political power. It’s very easy for minorities to be tolerant.

    • Felix
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Good point

    • Dave J L
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      I agree – just as vegetarians being defined as people who don’t eat meat doesn’t preclude the possibility of ‘militant’ vegetarians (those who constantly castigate and try to convert carnivores) and ‘benign’ ones (those who don’t), I think ‘militant atheist’ isn’t necessarily an illogical phrase.

      I think it’s often unfairly applied, and I do think most of those who use it seem to make little or no effort to distinguish between the nuances in meaning, perhaps deliberately seeking to draw an equivalent in the reader’s mind with militant Islamists, which is of course a gross mischaracterisation.

      ‘Fundamentalist’ atheist, on the other hand, is plainly a completely wrong usage, since atheism is not a system with the possibility of degrees of interpretation. I fail to see why so many don’t understand this.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        atheism is not a system with the possibility of degrees of interpretation

        I fail to understand this, for one.

        First we can readily observe, i think, that there are degrees of theological atheism. Such as agnostics that are genuinely unsure vs theologically motivated (say, making the theological claim that “you can’t disprove gods”).

        Then there are degrees of philosophical atheism, such as weak vs strong and implicit vs explicit.

        Finally degrees of empirical atheism, from unquantified to quantified likelihoods of gods or “materialism” respectively.

        Now I’m not sure if those sets of people are “interpretations” as much as motivations, but there they are.

        As far as I understand we can easily identify fundamentalist atheists among those groups. Those would be theological agnostics who refuse to entertain the possibility that they can be wrong.

        Note that there is a considerable overlap here with another belief in belief, namely accommodationism. That is no coincidence. And indeed it seems very much as hard to convince accommodationists that there are other justifiable approaches to societal atheism.

        (So again no “interpretation”, but instead social strategy.)

    • Sigmund
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      In parts of Europe we ARE in power. There is nothing unusual having atheists as politicians and even prime ministers. I think even holy catholic Ireland has recently appointed an atheist as deputy prime minister.
      When modern atheists (in contrast to those involved in totalitarian movements of the early part of last century) gain power they do not seek to force of convert religious people into atheism – at least I have not seen the slightest evidence of this.

      • Greg Esres
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Having an atheist in a powerful position isn’t the same thing as atheism being “the power”. When we have maybe 90% of the population as atheist, then we’ll see.

        Do I really think an atheist-dominated society would persecute theists? Probably not, most atheists think religious beliefs are silly, rather than abhorrent. However, I could envision an atheistic society that permitted private discriminate against theists. Wouldn’t be legal in the US, but don’t know about elsewhere.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t think so until recently, but you seem to describe Sweden (60 ~ 80 % atheist).

          No persecution of theists though.

      • Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        In fact, we saw the opposite with the PM of Australia (Gillard) who sided with the theists on the position of marriage equality against her fellow atheists.

  11. Ray Thaw
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Greg E, It strikes me that certain folks “in power” are at least partially atheistic…otherwise, in Christiandom, we’d still be behaving in a medievil manner; therefore “we/they” are partial atheists…no??
    Militants…I don’t think force is being applied, simply a discussion being put forward…??

    • Tulse
      Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I don’t recollect who originally said that Christians are atheists about all gods except one.

      • Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        In The GOD Delusion, Dawkins writes that Ibn Warraq made the statement that, given the trend from polytheism to monotheism, that monotheism was “doomed to subtract one more god and become atheism.” But it might be Dawkins himself who made it a particularly virulent meme: “I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.” [emphasis added] (quotes from pages 32 and 53 respectively)

        • Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Actually, I think credit goes to Stephen F Roberts:

          I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

          http://freelink.wildlink.com/quote_history.php

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted April 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            Interesting. It is really competing with Ibn Warraq’s version (I don’t have a direct quote of how he said it, but it is supposed to be within Why I Am Not a Muslim) in that they both were made around 1995.

      • Ray Thaw
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Moderate Christians/Muslims cherry-pick their way through their respective holy books…making them, in my mind, partial atheists to their own theology…

  12. Stephen Gaffney
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I’m very happy to see this. Retreating to Grayling has become my antidote when being exposed to religious stupidity proves too upsetting. Last night’s new Louis Theroux documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church was such a trigger, and ‘What is Good?’, a history of ideas on how to live a good life, provided ample relief. (I’ll have to pass it on to my acquaintance who says that atheists can do good things but Christians have the bar set a little higher.)

    I think everyone should read ‘Ideas that Matter’. If reading and understanding the just the handful of pages on, say, ‘liberty’ and ‘anarchism’ were compulsory for anyone taking political office in America, I think we’d have a very different political landscape. Approaching complicated issues is so much easier when its underlying ideas have been introduced with such clarity and concision, and that’s Grayling’s gift.

  13. Felix
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Here’s a brief news report featuring Grayling:

    http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/030411/clipid/030411_GRAYLING_03

    • Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I love how the Anglican Secretary compared God to an intoxicant, saying that taking God out of the Bible is as pointless as creating a non-alcoholic lager. He might want to rethink that analogy!

  14. Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Grayling is going to be here (Seattle) in ten days. Yay!

  15. David Leech
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    All the times that I have spent arguing with theists who call atheism a religion and now we have a Bible:-(

    • Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      It’s called _A Secular Bible_, not _An Atheist Bible_.

      • David Leech
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Though do you think our theistic friends will recognize the distinction and not use this against us? We all know how they like to twist words.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a great book at a great price.

    I think it tends toward the disingenuous to claim there are no “militant” atheists, just as there can be no militant non-stamp-collectors. The prototypical “village atheist” — the type who declaims the non-existence of God from atop the Speaker’s Square soapboxes in Hyde Park — fits the term. I recall meeting a pair years ago, before anyone had named the gnus, manning the atheist booth at a local book fair, preaching to the unfaithful (so to speak). Though I disagreed with little they had to say, their aggressive proselytizing (which included accosting passersby) left me vaguely embarrassed — akin to what my black friends used to describe feeling when watching the Spinks brothers’ antics outside the ring.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    And he has a dog!! :D

    • Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I know; that was a bummer. Dawkins has a dog, too. I can only hope that Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have cats.

      P.Z. has cats. . . .

      • David Leech
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Dogs are cool, cat are meh!

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          That is ALMOST a banning offense.

        • CanadianChick
          Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          Cats rule, dogs drool.

          • latsot
            Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            I lived on farms for half my life. We always had about a dozen cats and three or four dogs. Two of those dogs would be sheepdogs and therefore very disciplined, but the other two would be left more or less to their own devices, as were the cats.

            The cats roundly outdid the dogs in coming to creatively untimely ends. I don’t know whether this means cats are better than dogs, but dogs seemed to last longer than cats in a farm environment.

            • Badger3k
              Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              When I went shopping last week, my dog, a basenji, did his usual “howl for daddy” bit – but then he went to the door and was trying to turn the knob with his paws. Wasn’t very successful, lacking thumbs and all, but the fact that he’s put two and two together in his brain is a bit interesting. He might have made the connection of “knob”-”open” and just had his paws on the knob. I wasn’t there to see if he was actually trying to turn it.

              So at least some dogs are too damn creative for our good!

              • latsot
                Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

                A good sheepdog will know what it’s about and can more or less get on with business without much inteference from the farmer.

                But there are several reasons there’s no such thing as pigdogs. One is that pigs are smarter and know exactly how much shit they’re prepared to take.

                Another is that they outweigh and out-weapon dogs considerably, but then so do cattle and dogs can control them fairly easily, for the most part.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Last I heard (some Pharyngulite, please bring me up to date), PZ had run out of cats and was drawing the line at acquiring another…

        Me, I accommodate (ahem) both…(we have a new cat! we have a new cat! we have a new cat!)


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