Three hundred years from now, your descendants may be worshipping a staunch atheist as a God, and judging by the long queue at the BMW Edge on Sunday, we may have already witnessed his earliest followers. We are of course speaking of A.C. Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities, Supernumerary Fellow of Oxford's St Anne's College, speaker at the Global Atheist Convention and, from what we've gleaned from the number of attendees, your future divine idol.
Of course it's not A.C.'s intention to be worshipped - but he has just gone and published a secular bible, so it could very well happen. Over the last thirty years, Grayling has been constructing the secular bible based on the works of humanity's greatest thinkers, such as Aristotle, Confucius (aka Kong Fuzi), Newton and Buddha. Last year he published it, in The Good Book
The address - part lecture, part book promotion, part self-help advice - was a delight to the keen audience. Grayling combined his huge intellect with a sense of humour about the heavy subject matter, which has been a lifetime's study. Who else have you heard lately describe 'ineffable' beings (i.e. those indescribable gods floating above in Nirvana) as beings who you can't 'eff' with?
Talking about morality and two ways of thinking, Grayling explored where it comes from: an external, divine commander, shaping and controlling human lives; versus a creation of humanity trying to construct a view of how to live in a way that is responsive to the limits of human frailty. (Being an atheist, I think you can figure out which one Grayling goes for).
Perhaps you watched Pell v Dawkins on Q&A
, battling it out over whether the question of the meaning of life is absurd or not. Well, Grayling answered it. His take home message was: Life is short but important. Everyone has a little bit of genius for something, so go use it to do something meaningful.
In The Good Book,
Grayling has pulled together thoughts from over 1000 texts to develop a distillation of the wisdom and experience of human kind in one book. Here's the clincher - it's all in verse, in the style of the bible, with genesis through to songs and proverbs, parables, consolations, lamentations, wisdom, and histories. It finishes with a beautiful, brief Book of the Good
. It is something that you can open to a page and read something meaningful.
Walking home with signed copy under arm, we suddenly felt jibbed. "Hey, Grayling, we like thinking about these kinds of questions, and you've gone and bloody well answered them all. What are we going to do now?" With relief, a block later we remembered that there are still a lot of questions to go. Like, (a) if absurdist humour is the funniest kind, and (b) my cat is a conscious being, then does this mean (c) my cat likes cat breading
So our life of enquiry continues.