I have a new book that sits beside my bed at nights waiting for me to read it with interest. It’s called The Good Book: A Secular Bible, made by A. C. Grayling. It’s intended to be a non-religious, alternative bible. It’s set out in two columns with verses. The writing is excellent and drawn from a wide range of texts of humanist writings throughout history. There is no mention of god, the supernatural or life after death. It’s texts about being human.

Having said that, I have reservations with it. A look at the back lists the authors that Grayling has drawn on the most. Only one is a women, and as that woman is Sappho her gender is a topic of debate. There are no feminists, bluestockings or ladies of the salons that he felt he could draw on, no texts of women’s experience. The language is masculinist, orientated to being ‘he’, not ‘she’. This is not the New Revised Standard Version, the version of the Holy Bible that I’m accustomed to reading.

While I’ve been dipping in and out of it, there are books on concord, wisdom, lamentation, consolation. There appears to be no book of conduct, a levitical text on how to live justly. I can’t find a text on the dignity of work and labour. This may mean I haven’t looked hard enough. The author is described as being a professor of philosophy. Does this reflect his own bias?

There doesn’t appear to be any erotic writing in it. Nothing celebrates being physical or sensual beings. I would have expected this if we wanted to celebrate humanity in our diversity. I am glad to see it includes Chinese texts alongside ancient and modern western writers.

At the moment I’m reading a chapter or two every night. The stuff I’ve read works well as devotional reading. So far I’ve read from the books of Genesis, Songs, and The Lawgiver. It’s a good book to dip into and seek comfort and wisdom from. I have loaned it to Yew Tree Women for a weekend, and she liked it too. We will both be looking for it when it comes out in paperback (I want a second copy). Recognizing what could make it a broader, more encompassing book is what disappoints me.

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