Monday, February 6, 2012

Evil

Over at Compuserve there has been a discussion going on about a list in the Huffington Post about the most dangerous books ever written.  Several people mentioned that the Bible and the Koran  should both be added to the list and I had to see their point.  Look at all the evil that has been done in the names of those books.  Crusades anyone?  And yet...

Can a book really be dangerous? 

Obviously authors can write books with certain intents.  C.S. Lewis, by his own admission, was a christian writer.  But readers still have a huge roll to play in how a book turns out.  Going back to The Bible, can you believe it was the same book that inspired both the Spanish Inquisition and Mother Teresa? 

There are definitely books on evil subjects. Do you remember the big hullabaloo a few years ago about the book on Amazon about how to be a Pedophile? I don't think writers should justify writing certain things just by saying "My book is neutral, the reader put that intention there.  He's what made it evil."

I don't think they're inherently evil, but if the definition for dangerous is being able or likely to inflict harm then yes, I think books can be dangerous.  Books can and do inflict harm.  But that harm is inflicted by the people who wrote or (miss)read the book. 

It's an interesting topic and not one I could think all the way through in days or even weeks.  What do you think? Can books in and of themselves can be dangerous, or is it the way the reader uses it that makes it so?  Or do you think that ignorance is the only real danger?

14 comments:

  1. I side with the crowd that says it's the reader who makes it dangerous. Like science, a book can be used to cause evil.

    Good topic, Sara. ; )

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    1. Yes, and the same book could be used to cause good so there is a very real argument that the reader bends books to their own uses.

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  2. I think people can take things and twist them to their own uses--and likewise, I think people can take things and see what they're really saying. We have a choice in how we act.

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  3. Very interesting post!

    I think that some books have content to which valid arguments could be raised. I don't think that books themselves are dangerous--you have to remember that they're just books, after all. Words can't hurt in themselves, but they can be influential.

    And thanks for the link--I was quite surprised to see Isaac Asimov's work on that list of books.

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    1. I was surprised by a few of them. Though, I wouldn't have to be on the committee that puts something like that together.

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  4. It's an interesting - and tricky - subject, I think! Personally I do think books can be dangerous - but only in the sense that they can inspire a reader to do or feel dangerous things. So maybe it's the reader and his/her interpretation that's dangerous, not the actual book. Though I think authors can have dangerous intentions too.

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    1. I think that's the way most people feel. Kind of like the internet. It's neither bad nor good but there are some amazingly awesome things on there and some truly horrible stuff too.

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  5. They totally can be dangerous! And not just in an "I can make someone be evil" sort of way. Also in little ways. In "I can make you feel less than what you are" ways. Or in "It's okay to treat people like crap" ways. I think that as writers, we have to be mindful of things like that.

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    1. Excellent Peggy. That's so true. Causing people to devalue themselves or others is very dangerous and harmful. Having the power to help people realize their own self worth is amazing. Wow, writing could have a lot of responsibility.

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  6. I tend to look at books and guns in the same way. A gun isn't dangerous because it's a gun, because it has the potential to kill or harm someone. A gun is dangerous when a person picks it up and has the intent to harm someone with it OR they aren't versed in safety issues and accidentally set off an tragedy.

    Books are outlets for ideas. IDEAS are dangerous. PEOPLE are dangerous. People take things and twist them to their own devices. As you said, the Bible inspired both the Spanish Inquisition and Mother Teresa (as well as the appalling Crusades and Slavery). Sadly, people can take books, take what they want out of them, misconstrue the ideas to their own beliefs and claim the book is evil.

    I think this is where pro-book banners get their justification. Banning a book isn't the answer. Helping people realize that THEY are in control of those ideas IS.

    Sorry to go so long! This is an EXCELLENT post!

    Jen

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    1. I love long comments. I love getting discussions and ideas going.

      I don't agree with book banning either. (except maybe the one teaching people how to be a pedophile) I love the idea of helping people realize they are in control of their own ideas. How cool would the world be then? Good analogy with the gun BTW.

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  7. I agree - it's up to the reader to act on what he or she reads. In one sense, this argues for all of us reading widely and learning from a variety of books. Sounds like fun!

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    1. The more widely read the more info we have and the less likely to overreact or take things out of context. Maybe ignorance is the only danger.

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