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Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality Hardcover – October 1, 1990

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 463 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Edition - First Printing edition (October 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879756381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879756383
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The famous author/comedian/songwriter here fires off a blunderbuss at uncritical biblical literalism. Finding the Bible as a whole riddled with historical, scientific, and moral error, he attacks the Old Testament for portraying God as vengeful and bloodthirsty and the New Testament for assigning most of humanity to eternal damnation in hell. He believes neither approach provides insight into God's true nature. Allen goes on to criticize the religious establishment, especially that of fundamentalism, for ignoring or vilifying the fruits of biblical historical-critical research. Though he claims to find much of the Bible ennobling, the majority of this work is so relentlessly belligerent that one is not surprised to find that he originally planned to publish it posthumously.
-Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

As one of America's most versatile and creative entertainers, Steve Allen has composed thousands of songs, written dozens of books, and created many television programs including NBC's "Tonight Show" and the PBS "Meeting of Minds" series. In this book, Allen focuses his talents and critical intelligence on the Bible. He points out that despite the significance of the Scriptures to Western culture, history, religion, and morality, the majority of Americans are almost completely ignorant of the actual contents of the Good Book. STEVE ALLEN ON THE BIBLE, RELIGION, AND MORALITY is an attempt not only to inform the public but to stimulate critical inquiry into the history of the Bible and its role in the formation of religion and morality.

In a work reminiscent of Voltaire's PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY, Allen presents his ideas as a series of alphabetically arranged essays on characters, events, and books of the Holy Scriptures, as well as on such controversial topics as abortion, anti-Semitism, capital punishment, death, evolution, flying saucers, and original sin. He draws on the expertise of biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers to demonstrate that fundamentalist assumptions about the reliability and authenticity of the Bible as a historical document or as the inviolable Word of God simply have no rational or factual basis. Like Thomas Paine's THE AGE OF REASON, this book highlights the errors, inconsistencies, self-contradictions, and morally repugnant episodes and characters of the Bible. So much in Scriptures is at variance with our Western ideals of morality and common decency that an intelligent, objective reader cannot help but judge the Bible as a fascinating, important but very fallible, al! l-too-human book. While not denying the value of many biblical passages, Mr. Allen argues that Americans can and should critique the Bible as they would any other historical document. This by no means implies, however, that in so doing they must discard their faith.

Steve Allen's interest in biblical scholarship began with casual reading of the Gideon Bibles that are found in hotel rooms across the country. In the course of his reading, so many questions were raised in his mind that he started recording his thoughts. The practice turned into a 20-year habit and enough material to fill the present volume and many more. STEVE ALLEN ON THE BIBLE, RELIGION, AND MORALITY will stimulate readers to go back to their Bibles and consider a variety of thorny but ever-important issues.

Customer Reviews

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See all 15 customer reviews
If a person is open minded.
He even makes quite clear in the book that non-belief, to him, is more irrational than belief.
This is a book for THINKERS.
J. Cook

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By "mingus64" on July 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I don't think anyone could read this book and not come to the conclusion that Steve Allen was one of the most all-around intelligent and talented public figures of the 20th century. He was truly a worldly scholar. What's more amazing to me is Allen's methodology, relying largely on his own readings and observations from Gideon's Bibles in hotel rooms while on the road.
Allen has long been a man of clear social, moral, and political conscience. He goes to great lengths in this book to keep from confusing the separate aspects of his thought except where it is applicable, and does so to a wonderful effect. His explanations of Biblical persons, places and passages, their history and deeper meanings are written in the truest glory of a rational spirituality the world has yet to realize. Furthermore, his analysis of social issues supposedly stemming from the Bible shows his ability to handle controversial topics carefully while not pulling punches with adversarial positions.
Never once did I feel like I was not dealing with a scholar on these subjects. The decades of work Allen has put into clarifying his own thoughts in these matters shines like a light tower over a dark, foggy sea. This, to my eyes, is the greatest book of its type since Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason," and in many ways it's better. It not only illuminates what a genius he really was, but also how simple and necessary critical thought is to every one of us.
And to the reviewer who gave this book one star, it is sadly obvious that you did *not* read this book at all.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Steve Allen is America's own Man For All Seasons: There's very little that he has not done. Now, he enters some rather controversial territory by taking a scholarly look at what must be the most misunderstood group of documents of all time -- the Bible. Using logic (and a healthy dose of skepticism) rather than childish/unquestioning/dogmatic orthodoxy, he examines various aspects of Christian so-called "ethics" and "morals"; pointing out instances (in the entry "WAR", for example) where the ideals espoused by people who call themselves "Christians" tend to fall by the wayside when circumstances would seem to demand that they keep to those ideals even more.
He also gives detailed analyses of a number of individual books within the Bible, some of which are devastating in their criticism. (His look at the rape and murder of the Levite's concubine in Judges 19 is especially thought-provoking even in its harshness.)
This reader wishes that he would publish a third tome in this vein as soon as possible!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By on April 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In the introductory notes, Allen says that he hurried this book to press because the rise in fundamentalism had been especially active at the time of publication. I wish that he had spent a little more time on it, to clarify and reorganize his thoughts on some topics. Often, a paragraph seemingly unrelated to the surrounding matter seems to pop up for no reason.
The essays themselves are interesting, and at times thought-provoking. (Especially for anyone who has never put any serious thought into the Bible.) For readers already familiar with the errors and inconsistencies in the Bible, Allens book is interesting, but not particularly ground-breaking.
Overall, a good book, simply because it describes in clear language the insurmountable problems that face Biblical Literalism. Too bad that Allen didn't structure the book as an argument instead of as an encyclopedia -- by the end, the force of the subject matter gets somewhat muted by its repetitiveness and scattershot layout.
-- Marc.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William J. Stanley on April 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Allen did something few of us have done. To understand Christianity, he went to the source -- the Bible. He read it carefully and applied the same level of critical inquiry that one should apply when reading any book. The results were illuminating.

Among the reviews I've read, I found Mr. James O. Ditt's review revealing. His unhappiness with Mr. Allen's book reminded me of Mark Twain's words:

"When you know a man's religious complexion, you know what sort of books he reads when he wants some more light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he get more light than he wants." (Ira D. Cardiff, "What Great Men Think of Religion")
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By on August 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If the Bible and Christianity really is/are "the religion for the rest of us," then every thinking person should get a shot at writing about these topics in a similiar motif. Sometimes Allen's text can be disjointed, other times marvelously insightful; overall the two volumes are a very engaging read. Particularly fun are the author's discourses on the Old Testament Scriptures vs. current Fundamentalist views. I must mention that Steve Allen's courage in publishing his opinions is somewhat remarkable; as he really has something to lose and little to gain. Will the Southern Baptists now boycott copies of "Ramparts Street Parade" or burn tapes of the original Tonight Show? If you like logical expression, and enjoy surprising conclusions about well worn religious ideas? Get both books. This guy just keeps on being entertaining!
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