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The Bible for secularists

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 24 January 2014


Greg Clarke is the publishers' representative in Australia for the biggest publishing blockbuster of all time, so his latest book The Great Bible Swindle could be seen as just another media release.

But if it was, he wouldn't deserve to hold his position as CEO of the Bible Society Australia, and on the basis of this book that's the last thing you could say about him.

"Bible basher" is a term used to describe someone who pushes Christianity, not really the Bible, at you. How do you describe someone who pushes the Bible at you, but not necessarily Christianity?

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Whatever the description, pushing the Bible without bashing it, is what Clarke does in a hard cover pamphlet of 231 modest pages which in effect is a guide to biblical relevance for atheists, agnostics and secularists.

As a publisher I frequently receive pieces claiming that Australia is not a "Christian" nation. I'm sure I've even published some of them.

After reading Clarke's book that is an untenable claim, and those that make it are indulging in cultural patricide.

Drawing on his training in literature Clarke shows how the Bible is so interwoven into our culture that without it you can't understand much serious classical literature, or even the lightweight puffery of many contemporary television series.

This resonates with me as I well-remember having to undergo a remedial classics class as part of my English honours degree in the 70s along with all my classmates. While the course covered everything from Plato to Macchiavelli, what shocked me the most was the lack of biblical knowledge of my contemporaries.

If I was born 600 years ago, then instead of publishing a website like On Line Opinion, I would have been working out ways to translate the Bible into my own language and print it. From Gutenberg on that was the pinnacle of publishing, and political radicalism.

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Indeed, when I bought a Kindle, the Bible was the first book that I downloaded on to it, in homage to those early pioneers of dissent and the printed word.

And, as Clarke points out, the Bible is at the forefront of the invention of English. Shakespeare, the first, and the greatest writer of English, who came as close to inventing the language as Dante Alighieri came to inventing Italian, bequeathed 100 new words to us.

The Bible's bequest is 257 "brand new words" making Shakespeare what Clarke calls "the silver medallist".

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This is a review of The Great Bible Swindle by Greg Clarke.



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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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