“The Good Book” by David Plotz

This is one of dozens of books entitled The Good Book, sometimes the appellation is used facetiously, sometimes genuinely. Given that this one is subtitled: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible, I thought it would fall squarely in the former category. It is similar to this project that I have undertaken, a careful, literal read-through of the Bible (although he sticks to the Old Testament). Unfortunately, Plotz uncomfortably straddled the line between critique and satire. When it tries to be farce, it’s not funny. When it tries to be critical, it avoids the serious issues and instead superficially skims some of the oddities and quirks of the Bible. In short, it’s far too sympathetic to the religion. Not enough vitriol.

Plotz seems afraid to insult anyone, and treads far too lightly. It’s written from the perspective of someone who still goes to church (or temple, actually) every week, not wanting to write anything that gets his family scorned at the synagogue, and accordingly, he hedges or apologizes for any criticism he actually doles out. I found myself constantly thinking of Dawkins arguments in The God Delusion about how religion is not harmless, no matter what kind of “aww shucks, to each his own” spin you put on it, and wanting Plotz to produce.

That said, I suppose the kid glove approach of this book makes it less likely to alienate or scare off readers who are brand new to Bible criticism, and who are still waffling in their beliefs, so I suppose it may have some value as a gateway drug to the sweet, sweet vitriol we more advanced atheists crave.

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