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on 30 April 2011
This is the book to be read and kept on the table just like the king james bible in hotels and homes. If you are an atheist / agnostic or whatever, this book will indeed give you advice, wisdom and consolation via works from human beings rather than a unknown so called God.
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on 11 December 2014
I do think there is scope for a humanist/secular bible, but I don't think this book is up to the job. I was expecting it to begin with the big bang, go on to summarise how the earth formed and evolution then the spread of humanity - a bit like the bible but based on scientific understanding rather than myth and revelation. This book is a load of prose and philosophy which left me disappointed.
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on 23 May 2011
As a great admirer of Mr. Grayling as heard in various interviews on the radio, and being in general sympathy with his attitudes. I was really looking forward to this, but sadly, I was disappointed. I could see what he was trying to do, and appreciate the work that had gone into the book, but he was aiming at a very difficult target, the original "Good Book". I think the main problem was that the prose seemed stylistically flat, and I just didn't get drawn in. Maybe I should persist, but to me a book should grab you with the way it is written, before the content is appreciated, a bit like the King James Bible. I feel sad to write this, but to be honest, although I have had one or two more stabs at reading bits of it, it just doesn't work, for me, at least.I'll pass it on to someone who may appreciate it more than I do!
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on 4 April 2011
This is a fine work and a brilliantly executed idea. I hope it serves to
start a secular resurgence. BTW, I purchased the book in the USA where it's sub-title
is "A Humanist Bible" instead of "A Secular Bible".
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on 19 May 2011
I've been waiting for this book for many years; without even realising that I was. To describe it as an alternative Bible or Khoran or Talmud or Upanishads (or whatever) would be misleading - but it does take up some of the space in the thinking of an atheist that these other works take up for people of religious faith.

With a structure which mirrors many religious texts (the Books, Chapters and verses of, for example, the Bible) The Good Book draws on a wide range of thinkers and philosopies to provide a useful secular commentary on life, the human condition and our response to our journey through the universe. For me, it totally busts criticisms of atheism that it is a barren and wonderless proposition. It provides a guide to a rich varied and ultimately rational natural universe fuller of "magic" than any model yet propounded by religious dogma.

I haven't found it to be a "cover to cover" read. It is, rather, a work to dip into, to pick up in quiet moments when introspection or contemplation are the order of the day. Grayling says, in his opening "Epistle",

"All who read this book may come to be more than they were before. This is not praise for the work itself, but of its attentive readers, for the worth in it will come from their minds".

I found this to be a very refreshing attribute of The Good Book. There is no preaching or judging. Instead there are a succession of thoughts and ideas which might provide support through their rationality, which might be provocative but which help the reader to find their own position.

If I have any criticism of The Good Book, it is that I'd have liked a fuller listing and referencing of the source materials. However, this is a small and carping criticism against A.C. Grayling's very accomplished sorting, ordering and editing of so much great thinking into a single book. Highly engaging and thought provoking.
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on 23 May 2011
Well there is perhaps some wisdom in this book. A page in the book states that the ideas in the book are taken from many philosophers from many cultures and world religions, listing them. However, what I find objectionable about this book there are no annotated references to particular philosophers - one cannot tell where AC Grayling is writing and where he has pinched a bit from Ancient Philosophers - which makes me wonder. For this reason: ONE STAR ONLY. If this was a scientific paper (as its written in this bland mechanistic-scientific-materialistic-deterministic tone) it would have references to other scientific papers !

I was aware this was a book written by a Humanist style-philosopher and it is true there would be little to offend any atheist, scientist or secular un-philosophizing or un-spiritual jo bloggs on the street - it does contain some metaphysical food for thought. However, Grayling seems to completely brush over and ignore some of the greatest minds in history - for example in one paragraph he states 'mythology is pure fantasy' or something along those lines - being totally ignorant of the works of Carl Jung for example. Sure its a fine book if you are into Dawkins or scientifico-analyst style view on life, but if you hold spiritual beliefs of any sort what-so-ever you will find it bland and uninspiring. I'd say that this book deeply lacks wisdom and deeply lacks any awareness or understanding of any personal inner spiritual experience other than saying 'oo look those flowers are nice'... At times it tries to draw upon Greek and Mesopotamian myth or legend - and even those comes across bland, dry, uninspiring and misinformed (from two very 'spiritual cultures' - gee even Socrates believed in the Gods...so perhaps thats the need not to directly reference him !

One commentator noted 'A Bible without a God in it is a bit like non-alcoholic beer' - rather pointless I'd say.

I actually think genuine people of faith, new agers and spiritual people will find this book arrogant and laughable. If a secular society were to accept a book such as this (which is no doubt the authors goal), I doubt very much the solace or comfort that it could provide to those seeking something more than the daily drudge. And no I do not believe all experience is just due to chemical states in the brain...

But if you want something to reinforce your materialist views or Humanist views with a bit of niceness thrown it - its for you. But I would in no way call it 'Secular' it simply does not contain enough spiritual diversity to be so.
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on 12 November 2014
A truly wonderful volume of wisdom, stories and insight. I read from it everyday and never fail to be uplifted and inspired, or consoled or reassured by it. I thoroughly recommend it and always admire the scholarship that has gone into the creation of this wonderful work.
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on 13 August 2013
No doubt it's an excellent collection, but I was disappointed that sources are not provided.
I am not smart enough to know which text comes from where or whom.
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on 18 March 2013
Measured, relevant, eloquent and well researched, A.C.Grayling brings a wonderfully refreshing decency to this bombastic field. Definitely worth a look.
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on 28 September 2011
I cannot recommend this book to anyone. That is not saying it fails
to live up to its title. Rather I am saying that ones reaction both
to the concept and the actual act of reading is likely to be so
individual that it is presumptious to recommend the book to anyone.

Indeed that presumption starts with the very title. In a way this is a
little odd. Lots of books claim to be a bible of some specific domain:
juggling, snail racing, or mammoth wool knitting perhaps. And such titles
are in no danger of setting the Christian blogosphere alight with indignation.
But there is some special affrontary in an atheist book using the word.
Recently I was travelling on a railway replacement bus reading the Good Book,
when a gentleman questioned the meaning of the title. He asked if the title
was a mockery of the Christian bible. With a frisson of victory running
through my body, I replied that it was. He also asked if eschewed the notion
of revelation. We quickly reached agreement that it had to because
the concept of revelation is supernatural.

On reflection I am not so sure the title need be a mockery, a way of
getting back at the lazy domination of Western culture that Christianity
posesses. To those atheists who were brought up enjoying the language
of the bible, it may be an attempt at a sort of respect. For myself,
as someone whose Good News bible consistently failed to meet their
childhood preconceptions of what a bible should be, I find myself challenged
by the Good Book to reread the Bible - for the sake of comparison
if nothing else. Sure I have not forgotten the contradictory genealogies
of Jesus or the last verse of psalm 139; but the Good Book is
awakening in me a sense of the insight valued ancient texts may offer into
the inner lives of those who treasure those texts.

On the other hand atheists may also be appalled at the title. This was indeed
my initial reaction when I heard about the book. I hate being told what
I should read - an attitude that goes back particularly to when I was
suffering under the evangelical intellectual yoke. Still I was intrigued
enough to seek out the book in Foyles, and have a look. So I read:
"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," (Genesis 1:7)
my sense of logic was offended. How can the Book of Genesis start with Newton?
Grayling, Newton and all went back on the shelf that day. This also shows
a common problem with history books - Bibles usually come with
nicely illustrated maps of the "holy land" and so forth. Leaving out sources
is one thing but this would really benefit from maps of the Ancient Greek
world, the Roman empire and may be a timeline chart or two.

Still I found myself drawn to the book. I have been struggling a lot
recently with anger over religion. I have been coming to realize just
how to difficult it is to talk to people about the issues that
religion causes. So I feel angry about it, but also I was becoming aware
of the issues that anger causes. It drives people away and makes one
appear irrational. There is a risk of going down a path of hate.
I was looking for something that was untainted by dogma or superstition,
but which offered the sort of conversation I was struggling to get in real
life. Thus once again I found myself in a bookshop and opening a page
at random read:
"For the human mind is a kingdom in itself,
and wise rulers know where the borders of their own kingdoms lie."
(The Lawgiver 1:3)
Here in a sentence was something that summed up my struggle and I was sold.

As I have gone on and read the books of Wisdom, Parables, The Lawgiver,
The Epistles and The Good I have found a lot of useful and topically
relevant wisdom. That wisdom has helped me draw back and reflect and
consider the broader picture, to seek common ground with people I am
talking to. Quite frankly I wish I had had this book as a child and
that I could get my children to read it.

The second thing that jars with people about the Good Book, is the lack
of annotating his sources. I have no idea how long Grayling considered
the question, but I am sure it was a conscious decision to omit them.
It usually gives the book a sense of unity, but the book of Lamentations
moved awkwardly from a timeless evocation of the human condition, to the
tribulations of Cicero. One can of course take up the hunt as a game.
Whilst some broad attributions are obvious, googling specific phrases
has for me so far only revealed that The Good 9:1-3 comes from Seneca.

I approached the book of Songs with some trepidation. This is essentially
a collection of poetry. Some is love poetry, some poetry of old age.
However I was particularly struck by:

They sent me a present from Annam:
A red cockatoo,
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking the speech of men.
They had done to it what they always do
To the learned and eloquent:
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it inside.

At first I was somewhat shocked by the book of Acts. I appear to have read
"And yet those of great name are never faultless.
Fame either heightens or hides flaws,
so that memorials of them distort them into paragons or pariahs."
(Acts 1:9)
without really getting what clues to the following pages it contained.
Some people may be tempted to view communality of the Sparta of Lycurgus as a
counterpoint to the decadence and moral decay of our modern world.
But surely we would all be horrified if that state were to be rise like
a phoenix from the ashes of the Greek debt crisis. Perhaps we are simply
invited to view how socialism (with slaves, compulsory euthanasia,
ployamory, xenophobia and total subjugation of the individual to the state)
did once exist. Or maybe Sparta was simply described first so that
with relief we may acquaint ourselves with the thoroughly modern Solon:
"... that, before it was an easier task to stop the rising tyranny,
But now the greater and more glorious action was to destroy it,
when it was begun already, and had gathered strength."
Also when I read about Cato and Pericles, I do hope that I am as far
from their flaws as I fall short of their virtues. By the end it becomes
clear that this is simply a history book focusing on certain individuals,
and not a secular hagiography. In hindsight this was made clear from the
beginning and should have expected nothing less. However if I had opened
the book at some of these pages, I may not have bought it.

So overall I cannot recommend this book to you. I feel it is a really Good
Book. But whether you do, may depend on so many individual factors.
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