When the literate among them do buy books the hardcore Christians will often buy whatever their minister recommends, something “uplifting” from the Christian book shop, or one written by their favorite TV evangelist. Pat Robertson’s unending supply of published buffoonery often makes the best seller lists. You can pretty much assume they aren’t being purchased by brain surgeons or rocket scientists. [Interestingly, even with the many thousands of copies his books sell, there are a very small number of reader reviews posted to amazon, even when compared to books that sell less than 5% of his book’s volume. I can only speculate as to why that might be].
Last week two of the top three bestsellers on amazon.com’s Religion and Spirituality list were Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, an account of a 4-year-old’s near-death experience as retold by his minister father. The other was Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rev. Rob Bell, a minister who recently came under fire for proffering that hell doesn’t exist. Heaven is for Real also made the NY Times best seller “non-fiction” list. Non-fiction?! So much for the vaunted NY Time’s credibility.
Why are these books so popular? In the case of the first book what more could one want than to read about an innocent child’s real live (dead?) trip to the great beyond and back, and all the wondrous things he saw there. It’s a reaffirmation from the mouths of babes that what they believed all along is now “proven.” After all, how could anyone doubt a child’s words, especially when his Dad is a holy roller? This must give an enormous surge of confidence to the heaven bent set.
The second book feeds a similar hopeful feeling for some ... that heaven is real, but hell may not be. Whew! Now there’s some good news for the back sliding among them. Good news unless you are a fundie who delights in the thought of Barack Obama, Bill Gates and every Jew on the planet burning for an eternity in a lake of fire. Without assurance of eternal punishment for the heathens half the benefit of being a “true” Christian is lost. But I suspect some of those people will buy it as well, just so they can rail against the undermining of their carved in stone doctrine of hell.
If only they had a little curiosity about their beliefs and the secular world. If only they had the courage to pull back the curtain - just a tad - and peak in to see if there are any genuine insights worthy of consideration. If only they’d spend some mental energy reading a genuine science book or two to see for themselves the beautiful logic and evidence of evolutionary theory.
If only they’d try reading a work by biblical scholars like Robert M. Price, Bart Ehrman, Richard E. Friedman, or Jonathan Kirsch; experts whose understanding of comparative religion, the motives of the writers of the Tanakh and the New Testament, non-biblical historical documents, archeology, etc., would open a world of new information and understanding about the foundation of their religion and its doctrines. What could be the harm?
Never mind, I think I just answered my own question.