C.S. Lewis is said to have said:
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be to careful of his reading.”
It seems that ex-Premier of New South Wales, the very urbane and honourable Bob Carr, has managed to avoid reading the “wrong” books while recommending to a new generation his own canon of “right” books in a new book all of his own called: My Reading Life.
I listened to this interview with Rachel Kohn on the ABC’s Spirit of Things today. I must say that I have never been very “high brow” in the matter of reading matter. (No Nietzsche, sorry, PE.) I’ve been to a Patrick White play and hated it. I like Shakespeare (he’s good entertainment) and Jane Austen (whom Carr has not read according to the interview) and Dickens, all because they are a good read. And I read theology “voraciously” (to quote my wife). But I have never touched Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal, Primo Levi or Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I’ve read Orwell’s 1948, Camus’ The Outsider, and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. But I far rather curl up with a Douglas Adams or a Terry Pratchett novel, or a Hornblower or Bolitho sea adventure, or a P.G. Wodehouse farce!
Most notable is Carr’s comments on religion (which, of course, is why Kohn was interviewing him). It seems that Geza Vermes and A.N. Wilson are his authorities on the matter, but he is convinced that Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius lived “in the 2nd century after Jesus but before Christ, if you know what I mean”. No, sorry Bob, I don’t know what you mean, and I’m not sure if you do either, because not much later you say that
Yes, someone put Vermes’s book in front of me and said that the Fourth Gospel, ‘you’ve got to understand that’. That’s when Christ was invented.
Well, now hold on, John’s gospel was written at least 60 years before Marcus Aurelius, so what do you mean, Bob? Have you actually learned anything about New Testament history? Why isn’t Joseph Ratzinger on your reading list? He’s got this great new book called “Jesus of Nazareth”. No don’t tell me…
Again, he agrees with Paul Monk, author of The Bible and the Risen Ape who says
The Bible is fundamentally untrue in the most fundamental sense that we are not a fallen species of being at all, we never were. We never needed redemption, whether by a Jewish Messiah, by Christ crucified and raised on the third day, or by adherence to the Surahs of Muhummad.
Yet moments later he is saying that
While I’ve got to reject the notion of Original Sin, I don’t hold any view that we are a species of enlightenment, that man is the measure of all things, I can hardly call myself a humanist, with the awareness of the horrors that humanity has brought about and seems to have been hardwired to bring about.
“Hardwired”, Bob? That sounds awfully like our doctrine of Original Sin, you know…
Carr is right about one thing. If you find reading a particular book a bit of tough going, get the audio book. He did it for the bible. I did it for Crime and Punishment. I’m doing it now for Newman’s Development of Doctrine (see here for downloads).