Monday, May 02, 2011

In the meantime ... book spotlights

Things are a bit hectic again for me (just gave up on the drafting of a post in response to bin Laden's death that I'll have to shelve for a few days or so) but I do have time for a couple of book spotlights:

Via his new twitter feed, Mark Vuletic of The Atheologian recommends a book that I had not heard of previously, but now have a copy of: Atheism in Pagan Antiquity by A.B. Drachmann. You can have a copy, too, if so inclined, as the book is public domain and available in several e-text formats (e.g. Kindle or iBooks).

Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole by Stephen Law. Just saw the title and thought it looked interesting.

The Good Book: A Humanist Bible made by A.C. Grayling. I am anxiously awaiting my copy of this one. Here Grayling has used some of the same tactics of editing that went into the canonization of the Bible in order to create a similarly structured text but comprised of secular writings that span the history of humanist thought in civilization. As the New York Times review put it

At first, “The Good Book: A Humanist Bible” (Walker & Company, $35) looks like the Bible that Christians believe in, politicians take oaths on and the Gideons put in hotel rooms. It is divided into books like Genesis, Lamentations and Proverbs. Each book is organized into chapters and verses. It is written in the stately cadences that signal the presence of important, godly matters.

Begin to read, however, and you immediately see that God is not present. Instead, there are uncredited quotations from Aristotle, Darwin, Swift, Voltaire and hundreds more pre-Christian, anti-Christian or indifferent-to-Christian thinkers, assembled into an alternative genealogy of nature, human origins and ethics. Here are history and wisdom, without the divine attribution.
Grayling has mixed in some of his own writings, too, and you will need to make use of Google in order to discover the original sources of the rest; a choice that I believe that Grayling made not merely because it mirrors the way that the Bible is a collection of writings by uncredited authors but because it encourages an active engagement with the material, setting a curious reader on a path of intellectual discovery.

To get an idea of the book's humanist charm, one need only follow the book's twitter feed or go straight to this page which provides brief excerpts of the text. A sample:

It has been well said that we should contemplate what the great did in the past, not just out of curiosity but to educate ourselves for the present. Nobility and moral beauty have an active attraction, and invite all who live in later times to nobility again; not by imitation alone, but by stimulating thought about how to live, out of bare contemplation of how some of the great once lived. Acts 1: 1- 3

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