Yesterday I wrote about a patron at our library who checked in both Christian, and, what my mother would term, “occult” books. Today in light of my reading the Harry Potter series, which my mother definitely would consider “occult,” and my regular (not so regular lately) reading of the Liturgy of the Hours, I thought I’d write in a slightly more serious vein about reading books that are, or seem to be, contrary to your own beliefs or world view.
I went to a Christian liberal arts college, emphasis not on “Christian liberal,” but emphasis on “Christian.” My college roommate, though, read The Satanic Bible, not because he was trying to become a Satanist, but because he wanted to understand more about Satanism than he did. I now know a blogger whose blog I regularly read who is making his way through Capital by Karl Marx. “Does reading Capital make one a Marxist?,” Jeremy asked himself and his readers in one recent post.
Myself, I have a book on my shelves that my mother considers “occult.” It’s by Emanuel Swedenborg. I had a great-great uncle who was a Swedenborgian, and he had a box of Swedenborg’s books that my parents once had in the basement of our house. I say “once had” because my parents said they felt they were evil and burned the box of books. Whenever I bring up the subject with my parents, once every few years — mostly explaining that I feel it is wrong to burn books under any circumstances — they get angry and say that I don’t understand because I wasn’t there and didn’t “feel” the evil that was emanating from the books. So when I later saw the book by Swedenborg at a book sale, I immediately decided to pick up.
Have I read it? No, but not because I think it is evil. In fact, the reason I have kept it in my collection is because I don’t think it is evil — and also because I am curious about what my great-great uncle’s fascination was with Swedenborg. What attracted him to Swedenborg’s philosophy? Some day I will read it to find out about Swedenborg — and maybe about my great-great uncle too.
I also have a copy of The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr., which was the basis for the movie The Birth of A Nation. I haven’t read it either, but some day I’d like to read it.
So bottom line: No, I really haven’t read any books that are contrary to my world to my world view or beliefs, because –despite what some might think of Harry Potter — I don’t think that the series is contrary to my beliefs. However, I do have some books on my shelves that I believe probably are contrary to my beliefs and I still would like to read them eventually.
How about you? What do you think of reading books contrary to your world view or beliefs? Have you read any? What did you learn from them, if anything?
Author’s Note: Please don’t get the wrong idea about my parents. They both are lovely people and don’t go around burning books as a habit. It’s just on this one matter — well, and a couple of others, including politics — that we have to agree to disagree.