Books by Brights
An Atheist Reads the Torah: Secular Humanistic Perspectives on the Five Books of Moses
This is a very different sort of book on the Torah. It is the kind of book that will appeal to Brights, because it gives them a rational, scientific alternative to the clerical/religious version of the early history of the Jews as described in the first five books of the Bible. One of the purposes of the book is to demystify and de-mythologize the Torah by using only the best available English translation. The author brings no awe or reverence to the document -- only a linguist’s dispassionate curiosity as to what it actually says. The book begins with the basic findings of modern scholarship, e.g., that Moses did not write the Torah, and nothing in the Torah actually happened. I then draw a clear distinction between translation and “spin” by analyzing a learned Rabbi's commentary on Torah content and revealing rabbinical techniques for making the text say what it does not say: quoting out of context, paraphrasing inaccurately, and other devices, including sometimes just making things up! Another chapter summarizes the entire Torah in 88 pages. Other chapters are devoted to the personality of God as revealed in the text (not so good) and the relevance of the Torah's laws to modern life (not so much). The final chapter explains why the secular humanist approach is more respectful of human dignity, reason, science, and even the Torah itself.
About the Author
Alan Perlman has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago. He is an executive ghostwriter who has published three books on speechwriting. He is also a student and practitioner of -- and a speaker on -- secular humanism. He studied the subject under Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism; for twelve years, he was a member of Rabbi Wine’s congregation, The Birmingham Temple (Farmington Hills, MI). In 1979, he had an Adult Confirmation ceremony at the Temple. His long experience as a professional writer and his academic training in linguistics uniquely qualify him to explain the key difference between Torah translation and rabbinical inferences about the text. He wrote his book out of a sincere desire to let others know what the Torah really says so that they can decide for themselves what its place should be in their lives. In his recent writings, at www.thejewishatheistcom, Alan explores a wide variety of religious topics – good and evil, God, death, morality, and others – from the secular humanist point of view, and he explains secular humanism as a religious option with its own kind of revelation, salvation, and conversion.