An article published by GQ magazine last week has angered a lot of people over its classification of the Bible as one of the 21 books you should not read.
The article, which is a list compiled by GQ editors, contained 21 books they believe are overrated and the books they think you should read instead. The Bible was ranked #12 on the list. The book you should read instead? The Notebook, by Agota Kristof (no, not that Notebook).
The Bible, claimed the editor responsible for that entry, "is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it." Yes, that has been my experience. The editor, Jesse Ball, goes on to say that, "Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned."
That is actually a pretty accurate takedown of the Bible. The commentators at Fox News disagreed, however. Big surprise, I know. In the most ironic moment of the piece, the Fox News commentator reading the above quoted lines from the article admitted that he could not pronounce, and did not know the meaning of, the word "sententious". I laughed out loud at that point. Sententious is pompous, and disingenuous, moralizing. For Fox News, the most disingenuous, unscrupulous moralizers on television, it was a surreal moment.
Fox News had a guest commentator, Father Jonathan Morris, who called the GQ ranking "foolish". Shocking, right? I was surprised when Morris admitted that the Bible was 1,700 years old. It is true that the oldest complete Bibles we have are both from around the early 4th century, but Morris kind of failed to acknowledge the ancient Jewish scriptures in the Christian Old Testament, which are much older. In any case, the Fox News gang mostly just bad mouth the list and cry foul on the "digital burning" of literary history (while also decrying the absence of the Bible in public schools, of course).
Looking at the list, there are some books I genuinely like that they recommend avoiding, like Dracula and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some of the recommendations I completely agree with, I never cared for The Catcher in the Rye and I gave that one multiple tries.
Here is where I surprise you, reader. While I do agree that the Bible is VERY overrated, that does not mean I necessarily think you should never read it. Reading the Bible is what lead me to ultimately becoming an atheist when I was a teenager. And I have read it more since then, so that when Christians try to argue with me I actually know what I am talking about when I call them out for misquoting the book, or misrepresenting what it says. And I cannot tell you how many times I have seen atheists share memes online that are just factually wrong about something the Bible says, all because they do not bother reading it.
Even though I do not believe the Bible is special in a divine way, I think there is still some merit in reading it, at least once. Christianity is the world's biggest religion, and if we are to help nudge people away from the superstitious, magical thinking of our ancient, naive ancestors, then understanding the beliefs will be of use.