Book banners not secure in their ideals

Connor Guy

When Salman Rushdie visited Whitman last year, he spoke of an alternative to censorship; “if a book offends you,” he said, “close it. Stop reading.” A few weeks ago, during banned books week, I thought back to this, and wondered why some people are so adamant about censorship.

Citizens for Academic Responsibility, a pro-censorship group, cites on its Web site that Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar should be removed from school curricula and libraries because “it paints an anti-Christian picture making religion seem ridiculous.” Ignoring for the moment that religion should have nothing to do with what is taught or made available in public schools, what is this statement really saying about these religious book banners?

It says that they’re not comfortable with their religion. The Bell Jar challenged their beliefs, and they must have found themselves almost convinced that religion is ridiculous, because otherwise, why would they be worried? If they really knew that religion is not ridiculous, then shouldn’t they have been able to close the book, to walk away unaffected and unconvinced?

The Web site also cites in its request to remove Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that the book “attempt[s] to redefine or sometimes just detract from spiritual truths.” The reviewer goes on to say, “In a school that refuses to teach what the Bible does say, how can there be justification to belittle and degrade it?”

First of all, while its ideas may not be pushed on students as forcibly as some would like, The Bible is taught in some public schools as literature. My senior year Language Arts teacher in high school taught numerous stories from the Bible to our class, because she saw them as an essential part of literary knowledge.

Secondly, why is this reviewer so afraid of having his or her beliefs challenged? Why can she not handle the dissemination of beliefs contrary to her own? Education is supposed to be about assimilating knowledge from many different perspectives so that one can build a more complete understanding of the world. How can this process be effective when this understanding is manipulated by “concerned” individuals, who eliminate perspectives that challenge their own?

Speaking as a Christian myself, I can say that my faith has not been even remotely challenged by the many books I’ve read that disagree with my perspectives. In fact, they’ve strengthened my views. I understand that the authors of these books disagree with me for legitimate enough reasons, and then I move on. I enjoy the fact that they write well, even if what they’re writing is wrong.

I don’t want to come across as preachy here, but don’t you think that the world would work better if we could all just agree to disagree like this? Maybe if people didn’t need to kill each other to express their disagreement, we’d have less strife.