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Last month GQ took a swipe at some of the world’s best known books, saying that ‘some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring’.
On the list of “21 books you don’t have to read” were such classics as The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. But what upset John Clark, writing for the National Catholic Register this week, was that the Bible came in at 12th place:

The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. 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.

As with all the other books on the list, GQ suggested a better read. In the case of the Bible it was Agota Kristof’s The Notebook:

A marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.

Clark responded by writing:

It would not be unfair to dismiss the GQ article as irrelevant claptrap which did little more than cater to the world’s well-dressed agnostics. Yet it provides an opportunity to briefly address the issue of greatness regarding The Holy Bible. 

These issues include the fact that:

Millions of people throughout history – from ancient Rome to present-day North Korea and Iran – have willingly risked their lives to read the Bible and share it with others.

And that:

The Bible has influenced the vast majority of persons, societies, and governments for almost two millennia. Its impact has been vast, indelible, and enduring. No other book in history can come close to making that claim. 

Well, just to take two examples, it certainly influenced Adolf Hitler, whose private notes show the influence of the Bible on his racial views against the Jews, and it influenced  the Calvinist rulers of South Africa, who built the entire apartheid system on holy Scripture, and in the process blighted millions of lives, mine included.

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