Here we go, then: new year, new start, new resolutions, a time to try new things. My suggestion for 2014? Check out the massively influential, blockbuster-inspiring, world best-selling book... that nobody reads.
After all, everyone's looking for undervalued resources: that gem of a film that no-one's heard of, that 'next Facebook' startup that investors haven't caught on to, that footballing wunderkind that the scouts didn't spot...
It's hard to think of a more culturally influential, societally significant, historically important or spiritually substantial text than the Bible. And yet 9 out of 10 people in this country have no regular engagement with its contents. That might just make it one of the most undervalued resources out there.
I'm passionate about encouraging people in that 9 out of 10 to try the Bible for themselves. It absolutely is not a book exclusively for people who go to church every Sunday.
Philip Pullman considers it an essential read - calling it one of 'the three great repositories of stories that everybody should know about'. Jennifer Robins, storyliner for EastEnders, said that 'the prototype of every EastEnders story can be traced back to one source:...all the Bible stories'. Even Professor Richard Dawkins has said that 'not to know the...Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian'.
Everybody should try the Bible, but hardly anybody does.
Bible Society research suggests that only around 1 in 10 people in England and Wales are 'actively engaged' with the Bible. A 2012 report from Theos summarised research showing that 6 out of 10 people 'never' read the Bible - despite the fact that, in the same survey, 82% of respondents considered it to be either a useful book of guidance (37%), the divinely inspired word of God (26%) or beautiful literature (19%).
Maybe it's like going to the gym, or eating more healthily or other popular new year's resolutions: deciding that something might be a good idea in principle doesn't necessarily mean that we act on that thought.
But with the Bible, you have a rare opportunity to get ahead of the curve, to get in on an undervalued resource, to delve into rarely-explored territory and see if you might find undiscovered treasure.
To help, I'll update this blog regularly with reasons why you should, and perhaps some ways in which you can, engage with the Bible - particularly if you consider yourself an atheist, agnostic or otherwise non-religious person.
Whether you end up loving or hating the Bible (or maybe a little of both), at least if you've explored it, your view will be informed. And, as Benjamin Franklin said, 'an investment in knowledge pays the best interest'. Or, as the Bible has it, in the book of Proverbs: 'getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you get, get insight. Love wisdom, and she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will bring you honour.'Suggest a correction