What value does our society place on books today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
My wife really likes to watch the Crazy ones, a show starring Robin Williams. I watch it with her, often reading or doing something else at the time. Tonight we saw an episode about a move to save a library, which was not necessarily greeted with enthusiasm by others on the show and the way it was saved by actually staging a fake book burning so that people would get enraged and come out and save the library.
Spoiler alert: It worked.
Yes as I watched, the thought of burning a book was horrendous to me and if someone says “Well Christians burned books in history!” then I would say that wherever that happened that that too was a great evil. I think it would be wonderful to have more of the works that have been lost over time. Now of course, some works are lost just because there was no interest and no one was copying them and some were lost by other circumstances, but it’s a shame when anyone purposely destroys a work of literature.
In the past two novels have been written that deal with books. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury feared a world where people would have a job of burning books. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote about a world where there would be books, but no one would read them due to their quest for pleasure. Of course, this pleasure was mainly sexual pleasure.
Huxley’s view seems to have won the day.
Now keep in mind, I’m not against pleasure. I think we should enjoy our lives and that includes the sexual pleasure to be enjoyed in marriage. I’m not saying all we should be doing is reading. My wife and I go to a gym regularly and exercise. We have some favorite TV shows and movies we like to watch. We also have a number of game consoles and I do have a reputation as being a good gamer.
But do make sure to read.
In fact, this is my problem with too many Christians and too many atheists. They don’t read enough. Let’s look at some attitudes we see.
For atheists, too many of them are simply only reading what agrees with them. They are not reading works that are outside their worldview that will truly challenge them. How else do so many get suckered into the idea that Jesus never even existed? I found much confirmation of this in looking at the bibliographies in new atheist literature. Works that disagree with them are woefully lacking in reference.
As for the Bible, too many atheists don’t read the Bible and when they do, they make a mistake of not reading it as literature. They don’t read it to first see what the author is really trying to say. I don’t necessarily mean the divine author. Let’s even just go with the human author. Let’s take a book like Romans that is indisputably Pauline. How many are reading it to see what Paul really said? I don’t care if you agree or disagree with him at this point. Do you really seek to find out what he really said?
The Bible is often read only to attack it and then to mock it. Even if someone doesn’t believe in the message of the Bible, to be an educated person in this society, you must be familiar with it. The Bible is without a doubt the book that has shaped Western Civilization more than any other. If you do not understand the Bible, you will be incredibly ignorant in this culture.
Now what about Christians? Too many Christians don’t read what disagrees with them and challenges them, but there is another dangerous idea they have.
“I just read the Bible. That’s the only book I need!”
What nonsense! Now I do not doubt the Bible contains all that is needed for salvation and the message is there, but if you want to truly understand the Bible, you will need to read other books. For instance, if you don’t know the original languages, you will either want to try to learn them, as I am, to seek to understand what the Bible says in the original languages. Until then, you are at the mercy of a translator.
If you want to understand the culture of the Bible, you will need to read about that elsewhere. If you want to know about the history of the Bible, you will need to read that. If you want to know about textual criticism, apologetics, philosophy, etc. all of those are found in books outside of the Bible by people who have dedicated their lives to understanding this book, and for atheists who are still reading at this point, not all of those are Christians.
Beyond that, Christians need to be educated in other areas they talk about. If you want to understand philosophy read giants like Plato and Aristotle. If you want to understand history, choose a period of history and read all you can about it. If you want to understand science, do the same.
Too often in our culture, we are not reading books. I am not talking so much about books being converted to electronic format. I get that. In fact, I own a Kindle as well. (And in fact, would love to upgrade to a Kindle Fire.) I am not talking about audio reading either. I’ve done that too. I’m talking about just not reading books.
Of course, I am not opposed to reading material online. If I was, I would not be writing this blog, but I have a problem when I debate someone and all they link to is wikipedia and think that that constitutes an argument. There’s a reason I never bother to look when someone links to wikipedia in a debate. Nowadays, many of them are going to just YouTube videos. Now there are some good videos out there that explain works well, but there are a lot that don’t and sadly in our age, anyone can look like an authority. (And for those concerned about my own work here since anyone can look this way, feel free to check what I say and also note the link of endorsements on the side of this blog.)
I’m also not saying by the way to only read academic works. I like to read some fiction from time to time. My interest there is mysteries. I just ordered the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel from the library and I eagerly await the next Monk Murder Mystery being a paperback so I can order it on Amazon. I have no problem with reading just for pure pleasure.
My main message at this point is simple. Just read. Try to read at least a little bit every day. There are days I can get really constructive and focused and read a whole lot. There are days I don’t get in as much. Usually Allie goes to bed earlier than I do and I just get up and go to the living room and read. She knows and is fine with it. For me, it is a great way to clear my mind. Then as I go to sleep, I look up a few verses of a passage of Scripture, namely the Psalms I’m going through now, and just think about those verses as I drift to sleep. It seems to work well.
I fear a culture that does not read. A culture like this is uneducated and is easily swayed by every wind that comes along. At this point, I honestly don’t care if you agree with me as a Christian or not. I simply ask that you read. If you want to remain an atheist, at least seek to be educated on both sides in your atheism. If you are a strong Christian, by all means keep reading your Bible, but make sure to read the works of other great minds that have bent the knee to Christ and sought to pass their wisdom on to you. They have much to teach you.
I just hope our culture is willing to learn.