The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriouslyby Jacques Berlinerblau
Pub. Date: 09/30/2005
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Today's secularists too often have very little accurate knowledge about religion, and even less desire to learn. This is problematic insofar as their sense of self is constructed in opposition to religion. Above all, the secularist is not a Jew, is not a Christian, not a Muslim, and so on. But is it intellectually responsible to define one's identity against something… See more details below
Today's secularists too often have very little accurate knowledge about religion, and even less desire to learn. This is problematic insofar as their sense of self is constructed in opposition to religion. Above all, the secularist is not a Jew, is not a Christian, not a Muslim, and so on. But is it intellectually responsible to define one's identity against something that one does not understand? And what happens when these secularists weigh in on contentious political issues, blind to the religious back-story or concerns that inevitably inform these debates? In The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously Jacques Berlinerblau suggests that atheists and agnostics must take stock of that which they so adamantly oppose. Defiantly maintaining a shallow understanding of religion, he argues, is not a politically prudent strategy in this day and age. But this book is no less critical of many believers, who--Berlinerblau contends--need to emancipate themselves from ways of thinking about their faith that are dangerously simplistic, irrational and outdated. Exploring the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, from the perspective of a specialist, nonbeliever, and critic of the academic religious studies establishment, Berlinerblau begins by offering a provocative answer to the question of "who wrote the Bible?" The very peculiar way in which this text was composed provides a key to understanding its unique power (and vulnerability) in the modern public sphere. In separate chapters, he looks at how the sparse and contradictory words of Scripture are invoked in contemporary disputes about Jewish intermarriage and homosexuality in the Christian world. Finally, he examines ways in which the Qur'an might be subject to the types of secular interpretation advocated throughout this book. Cumulatively, this book is a first attempt to reinvigorate an estimable secular, intellectual tradition, albeit one that is currently experiencing a moment of crisis.
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Table of ContentsIntroduction: secularists and the not-Godless world; Part I. The Composition of the Hebrew Bible: 1. Who wrote the Bible? (Ancient response); 2. Who wrote the Bible? (Modern response); 3. The secular answer to 'who wrote the Bible?'; Part II. The Interpreters of the Hebrew Bible: 4. Why is there so much biblical interpretation?; 5. Introducing biblical scholars and secular interpretations; Part III. Politics and Scripture: 6. On Jewish intermarriage: the Bible is open to interpretation; 7. Same-sex eroticism and Jerry Falwell; 8. The secular Qur'an?; Conclusion: beyond church and state: new directions for secularism.
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