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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK

World: Americas

'Cool' Bible launched in US

Spreading the word: Gospel singers in the TV ad

An updated, "cool" version of The Bible - retitled The Book - has been launched in the United States with the most expensive literary promotion in history.

The BBC's Rob Watson: "Probably the glitziest launch party ever"
Gospel singers, children and evangelists poured out of a giant copy of The Book to herald the start of the $7m advertising campaign, which includes a series of star-studded TV commercials.

Anti-religion activists in the US have branded the relaunch a blatant confidence trick, designed to make money. They say it is a sign of weakness that religions have resorted to such measures.

But the mastermind behind The Book, TV evangelist and former presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, denied he was promoting The Book for profit.

"Our goal is not to sell Bibles. It is to make Bible-reading cool and American," he said.

[ image:  ]
Doug Knox, of publishers Tynedale House, explained what he saw as the appeal of the updated version.

"The Book looks friendlier than your typical leather Bible," he told the launch party.

"It's got a cool title, contemporary package design and clear-reading, single-column type."

Mr Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is The Book's principal backer. CBN believes that statistics, as well as religion, justify the massive showbiz advertising campaign.

Untapped market

More than 90 million Americans have not read the Bible, suggesting a huge, untapped market of potential readers.

Critics object to what they see as a cynical commercial ploy. Some observers have described the TV commercials as more appropriate for a brand of washing powder than a religious publication.

American Atheists' spokesman Chris Pokrop said that when a religion resorted to trying to make itself "cool" it had "lost the point".

"People should be attracted to their religion because it makes sense, it's meaningful and has something applicable to say," he said.

"I think people are no longer turning to the Bible and Christianity for their help and this is just a ploy to sucker more people into the religion."

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