Letter: Bible belt

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Sir: I do not think that anyone should be surprised that Christian bookstores should boycott the Canongate editions of Biblical books ("A Bible publisher sought publicity and, lo, he found controversy", 1 October). They buy and sell purely devotional goods. The Cannongate booklets are for a primarily secular market. As such, they are attractively packaged, respect the Bible as good literature, and carry intelligently, searching introductions. Here are the honest cries, questions, praises and groans of post-Christian, post-materialist individuals. They exhibit a longing, a thirst for some enlightenment in the sacred texts, and they express surprise and revulsion when it is not there.

Believers who accuse the authors of the introductions of blasphemy are going too far. People have to be free to think, to argue and to protest, and if God is not big enough to cope with that, he is not worth believing in. They also shore up the image of unthinking, fundamentalist believers versus critical, intelligent agnostics. There is a third way in religion too, and many believers read the scriptures as a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, where divine wisdom can strike you by surprise, or seeps through the oddness of the words of men. The scriptures are seen as a progressive record of revelation, and not holy and perfect, word for word.

The Rev KEVIN O'DONNELL

Crowthorne, Berkshire

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