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Fiction Rules: Bible Tops List Of America’s Favorite Books

April 10th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

Since I’m feeling rather sarcastic today, I found the following story irresistible. A new Harris Poll suggests that fiction is numero uno when it comes to Americans choosing their favorite books.

Topping the list is none other than the Bible…which certainly helps explain why many Americans reject the science behind evolution and insist that the earth is 6,000 years old. It also underscores the willingness of many individuals to ignore the abundant evidence that supports the former and negates the latter.

From Reuters:

When it comes to literary pursuits in the United States most people agree on at least one thing — the most popular book is the Bible, according to a new survey.

It came in first in a Harris Poll of nearly 2,513 adults but the second choice in the survey was not as clear cut.

Men chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and women selected Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” as their second-favorite book, according to the online poll.

But the second choice for 18- to 31-year-olds was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, while 32- to 43-year-olds named Stephen King’s “The Stand” and Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons.”

Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown, “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger rounded out the top 10 favorites.

Despite choosing the Bible as their favorite book, low comprehension levels suggest that most Americans are woefully unaware of the precepts contained in it.

From USA Today:

Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can’t name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn’t laughing. Americans’ deep ignorance of world religions — their own, their neighbors’ or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir — is dangerous, he says.

His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.

Scholars and theologians who agree with him say Americans’ woeful level of religious illiteracy damages more than democracy.

“You’re going to make assumptions about people out of ignorance, and they’re going to make assumptions about you,” says Philip Goff of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University in Indianapolis.

Goff cites a widely circulated claim on the Internet that the Quran foretold American intervention in the Middle East, based on a supposed passage “that simply isn’t there. It’s an entire argument for war based on religious ignorance.”

Clearly, the assumptions many Americans make with regards to other religions has the potential to foment conflict. Should there be any doubt, take a look at the recent statement of Pat Robertson with regards to Islam. The certainty with which many of these religious leaders speak is not only inaccurate; it is offensive and inflammatory.

In the end, when we seek to promote fiction as fact, the transformative powers of literature have been corrupted and we run the risk of reverting to the decrees and the deceptions that dominated the Dark Ages. Reading may be fundamental…but it needn’t and mustn’t become fundamentalism.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

  1. 3 Responses to “Fiction Rules: Bible Tops List Of America’s Favorite Books”

  2. By Craig R. Harmon on Apr 10, 2008 | Reply

    It is doubtful that, of those majority of Americans saying that the Bible is their favorite reading, more than a small minority have actually read the thing in its entirety, hence the ignorance of its contents. It’s more that they think that the Bible should be their favorite or that they would prefer that others think it is their favorite but very few make the Bible regular reading, most of those who do read the Bible regularly are highly selective in what parts they read (probably some of the Psalms being the most often read). So I suppose that one could honestly say that the Bible is one’s favorite book (and back that up with their actual reading habits) and still remain ignorant of great swaths of what the Bible actually says.

    My favorite book, at the moment, is Watchers by Dean Koontz. There’s something about a dog who can communicate in English by pushing Scrabble tiles around with its nose that I find endearing.

  3. By Chris Radulich on Apr 10, 2008 | Reply

    I have to admit that The Lord of the Rings is my favorite. What I am surprised about is the popularity of both Dan Brown books, since both are basically anti church.

  4. By Jet Netwal on Apr 10, 2008 | Reply

    One of the best novels I’ve read in the past five years is Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

    Satisfying on so many levels. I highly recommend it. She is an amazing story teller and one of my favorite authors.

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