Friday, February 24, 2012

Sympathy for the devil

I've my regular ABC column up today, 'Sympathy for the devil'.

I'm arguing that it's important to read the bible. Not simply for its lyricism and symbolic power, but for its existential challenge: virtuous atheists and theists alike must respond to its portrait of theocracy.

But this reading must only be one part of a broader education - the 'good book' isn't good enough alone. A sample:
Read with a little devilish scepticism, the Bible can be instructive reading – to say nothing of its moments of lyricism and powerful symbolism. Likewise for some religious rituals, art and architecture, which, as Alain de Botton has argued, can suggest healthy secular equivalents. As an epic or saga, the Bible makes exciting, edifying or interesting bedside reading. 
But sadly the holy book has too much authority, whether this is as revealed truth, or a source of special symbols and metaphors to be interpreted by clergy or laity. Its extraordinary success is too often purchased at the cost of a richer education. As ex-Muslim author and science educator Alom Shaha puts it in The Young Atheist's Handbook, "there is greater knowledge, deeper wisdom, and more profound truths in other, no less fictional, books."

No comments: