Friday, May 28, 2004

Thou Shalt Not Read....

I have to admit to being a bit upset about this one -- I went to buy groceries today and before I made it into the store, I noted the bookstore next door. This is a combination new/used store and I've shopped there before. They've come under new management and though a bit more religious than the previous owners (as noted by their bookmarks) I really didn't care. I like to patronize indy bookstores so in I went on a hunt for Michael Connolly's latest.

It was the sign near the front door that stopped me in my tracks, the gist of which said that the store no longer carried Metaphysical or New Age books due to their devastating effect on readers. However, the store would be very happy to suggest books to help me with my personal relationship with God.

I read the notice... twice... to insure I got it right. And I left the store without making a purchase. As I shopped for my groceries, I fumed. And why, you ask?

Admittedly, an indy bookstore can carry whatever type of books they want. That is their right. What I found so astounding is that is they felt the need to censure what I might like to read, as if I was incapable of deciding if a book's content might "harm" me or not. Which begs the question -- are ideas harmful? Is reading about alternate religions or philosophy somehow dangerous?

I have a lithmus test I always apply to such situations. What would be the reaction if someone posted a sign that said they would no longer offer for sale any books related to Judaism or Christianity, citing their beliefs as detrimental? "However, we'd be pleased to offer books to assist with your personal relationship with (insert name of favored diety here)." I suspect an article or two might appear in the local paper over that one. Might even generate a few protesters in front of the store.

I debated and then discarded the notion of challenging the owners on their policy. If they are so inclined as to post such a notice, they're very unlikely to find my arguments persuasive.

In truth, I feel sorry for these folks. They have limited their spiritual and emotional growth by such a narrow-minded focus. Unfortunately, they're not the only ones in America who feel that other belief systems are somehow dangerous or subversive. All you have to do is look at the state of the world to see how such insular beliefs lead to war and genocide.

I'll be buying the latest Michael Connolly at Barnes & Noble. At least they won't tell me I can't read it.

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