"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banning books for religious reasons

Since it is Banned Books Week I put out a big bookmark for my patrons that lists some of the most commonly banned/challenged books. The top book on the list is the Bible. Admittedly its placement at the top of the list was a bit provocative on my part but I placed it there to stir discussion and to make kids think.

But then I started thinking, the Bible is probably the most banned and censored book in publication today merely because it has been in publication for such a long time. In the early days church officials couldn't even agree on what books to include or leave out of it. And certain translations have been viewed by various sects as less worthy. One congregation in North Carolina even burned the Living Bible. I guess they thought it wasn't hard enough for them to understand.

When Tynsdale first translated the Bible into English in 1524 copies were smuggled into England from Germany. The church publicly banned and burned the copies they found. Despite these actions more copies were smuggled in and circulated. How is that for irony? Banning the first English translation of the Bible in England where they speak English! Unfortunately things didn't turn out so well for Tynsdale. He was arrested, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake. Those church book-banners were serious about their role as suppressors of God's written word. Isn't that sad?

Noah Webster, of dictionary-writing fame, published the first expurgated Bible in America in the mid 1800s. Apparently he made thousands of alterations to the Bible removing bits he thought were indecent. That edition of the Bible was available from 1833-1841. I was brought up in a Christian home and was taught that the Bible was the holy word of God. Hmm...I guess some editions were more holy than others.

Fortunately the Bible has not really suffered at the hand of man. It has sold more copies than any other book ever published and all of the efforts at censorship over the years have had little or no impact on its influence today.

Other books that have been banned, challenged or censored for religious reasons:
-On The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
-Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie
-Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
-His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
-Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
-Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
-The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
-The Witches by Roald Dahl
-Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

The last book I mentioned Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan was widely criticized on Fox News because the author is a Muslim. How could a Muslim, even though he was an academic who studies and teaches religion, possibly be qualified to write about Jesus, the Fox commentator asks? Thanks to this interview which you can view here, the book zoomed to the top ten best selling books on the NYT list this summer. If the people at Fox News thought Aslan's book wasn't worthy of being read, this interview had the opposite effect and caused many, many more people to purchase it to see what all the fuss was about. Ha!

Some time after his book, The Golden Compass, made it onto the ALA list of most challenged books for the year, Philip Pullman said this in an interview about religion and censorship:
Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of solace, artistic expression, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed...
He went on to talk about how the controversy over his book actually moved interested readers to search for the book.  If they couldn't find it at the library, they went to the bookstore and bought it.
The inevitable result of trying to ban something--book, film, play, pop song, whatever--is that far more people want to get a hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don't the censors realize this?
Source: Bald, Margaret. Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds, 3rd Ed. Facts on File: New York, 2011.
I really like this poster even though the dates are wrong. Notice if you drop off the B and D it spells my name! That would make it: " I'm with Anne."


  1. I have always thought that if we want people to read a book we should tell them it's dangerous and "hide" it up on a high shelf. That's sure to stir a lot of interest :-)

    1. I know. It is funny how it works...say "don't read it" and everyone want to.

  2. Love many of the banned books you've listed!

    1. Not all great books end up as challenged books, but it sure seems like most do.


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