Do Books Kill?

In a recent post, I shared the story of how John Fowles’s book The Collector inspired me to start reading serious literature and value learning.

This same book inspired two serial killers to abduct, rape, and murder women.

So I have a question for everybody. Let’s say the book was never published. Do you think these two men would have never become serial killers for lack of inspiration, and their victims would be unharmed by them?

Or would they still find an excuse for their murderous impulses?

If you think the latter is true, how does it make sense to claim that the Koran caused 9/11? Or that the Bible caused the Spanish conquistadors to rape, murder, and torture the indigenous people of the New World?

(This post is inspired by a recent post on religion at Jonathan’s blog. I’m displaced from my office and have to blog from my phone, so I can’t offer a link to the post. Just go to the blog at and look around for Jonathan’s fascinating posts on religion. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

8 thoughts on “Do Books Kill?

  1. Religion is not a book or a set of books but a social and political institution (or many such institutions). It is not consumed individually like a novel but collectively. I have no objection to any religious text as a work of literature. I like Job in particular, and the Song of Solomon is great erotic poetry. I also love the Tao Te Ching. The Pauline epistles, though, are recipes for institutional structures.

    You said that for you, organized religion is an oxymoron. I think the opposite, having studied the anthropology of religion. I think religion is always and already organized. That is why reading a book by John Fowles, for example, is not a religious act.

    As for Christianity, as Gandhi said of Western Civilization, “It might be a good idea.” When we discuss Christianity, however, we have to discuss it as it actually exists, not as how you would like it to be in some ideal world.


    1. Religion is not a book or a set of books but a social and political institution … You said that for you, organized religion is an oxymoron. I think the opposite


      One can’t compare such things at all, imho. It’s like apples & potatoes.


    2. You’ll have to agree that there is no single monolithic Christianity (or Islam), though. For some people, it provides answers to life’s central issues. For others, it’s a method of psychological hygiene. And yet for others it’s an excuse to kill and persecute others. Is there, however, any doubt that in the absence of religion, these people would have still found excuses to rob and kill?

      If I choose to believe – based on Christianity’s foundational texts, no less – that organized religion is a contradiction in terms, then who’s to say I can’t do that?


      1. You can believe anything you want, of course, but Jesus had disciples, followers, who immediately had to solve the problem of creating an organization to keep the whole thing going. Those foundational texts were written by people who belonged to an organization. I can’t prevent you from reading them in a completely ahistorical way, of course, but I can point out that they only survived to this day because of organized religion. You can always pick and choose and call Christianity only the parts you happen to like, but I reserve the right to look at the entire picture. It’s not just isolated individuals here and there who happen to derive solace. It’s part of history.


    1. Thank you, Pen! I hate it when this happens. Especially since I don’t spend any time on the homepage of my blog and never know when that happens until somebody tells me. So please keep telling me. 🙂


  2. It is not religion, per se’, that motivates people to do whatever…it is ideas. In my view, religion is man reaching out to God. Mankind, apart from his maker, is generally suspicious, insecure, and sometimes even hateful. True Christianity is more like God reaching down to man, and man accepting God on His terms…and in turn…reaching back. The new testament teaches ( I think it was James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ) that, “…true, uncorrupted religion is this: to minister to the widows and orphans…and to keep yourself undefiled by the world…” Now, who could argue with that? As history progresses it becomes more obvious that the world is being corrupted. And maybe it isn’t love that makes the world go ‘round. But it certainly makes the world a better place to live.

    By nature, man is a social being. And we tend to “flock together” according to our views of this world. But man also has a darker side. This is described as our “sinful nature” in Christianity. Whatever mankind has thought, said, or done, has been affected by this “side” of himself. It could certainly be argued that religion is evil. There’s enough evidence to make accusations. But, on the other hand, how much good has religion done? I’m thinking of Christianity, in particular. I guess my point is this: religion is an idea…or, more realistically, a group of ideas. And people are motivated by ideas. In fact, ideas become ideals rather easily. There was a man some time ago, who had the idea that everyone should love the God who made them, and all his fellow men, whom God also made. That idea is what is responsible for the “survival” of Christianity…not “organization.”


  3. Thank you for this. I like some of the responses and these types of comments is one reason why I will keep coming back.


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