Thou Shalt Read? Questioning the Moral Value Placed on Reading

An often-unquestioned correlation between intelligence and reading has enjoyed primetime in our collective social psyche. The chronic readers in our circles tend to be revered and socially elevated. Think about it: The experts on TV almost always have books as their background or display something that highlights how well-read they are. The proverbial "in my book" has become the sophisticated way of expressing one's opinion. And there is a high probability that you have a couple of books on display in your home; it doesn't matter if you have read them or not. But the displayed books represent a sophisticated form of social currency.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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The problem is we live in a world of instant everything. There is no time to read a whole book. Forget Tolstoy unless Readers’ Digest comes out with a version of War and Peace. It would take over a year to read one of those. As a result, we get snippets of ideas, not fully developed, and that results in “Readers’ Digest” form of thinking. Even worse, texting on any medium, results in people who can’t read or write. Writing, especially, forces clear thinking.

Reading any book is like having a conversation with someone who lived eons ago. Of course, we have to try to get into the time and place of the author, and therein lies the problem. You then have to educate yourself about history and even geography, and who has time for that… The final result, we are “specializing” ourself into ignorance. Especially the very “educated” only have time for one or two specialties, which makes them ignorant of 90% of what’s around them - the proverbial “absentminded professor”. this why a theologian and the scientist can’t have a cognizant discussion.

So, I say “thou shalt read”! and widely" Unfortunately the only people who have time to do that are retired and sitting in a comfy chair on the porch.


While I agree with much of what is said here: oral cultures have dominated history until the printing press, reading and books were status symbols, contemporary culture is now dominated by social media and communicating largely through condensed aphorisms and soundbites, I can’t help but feel an anti-intellectual undertone to this entire piece. This is such a long standing American problem, and is also part of what ails our contemporary culture of misinformation and the shallow grasp of issues and our world by so many, theological ones not excepted. We have a culture of ignorance that is actually dividing and killing our country, many Christians in the middle of this tragic breakdown.

In the end, the spiritual life is lived by faith and demonstrated by real outgoing love for one another. One doesn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to live this. But, one doesn’t have to diminish intelligent, informed faith, either. Reading and education, which go hand in hand, certainly fuel that.



More important is how we read,

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” Luke 10:26

This conversation brought to mind that as an adolescent reading a lot of American writers of the early and mid 20th century I was amazed at all the Biblical allusions that peppered the work of Faulkner and others. I didn’t see how anyone without a strong religious education could fully understand their work. On the other hand, my lack of knowledge of mythology seriously hampered my understanding of literature. Sorry about veering off.

I do not have to limit a sense to develop the others. Rather, I would try to use them all to the fullest for as long as I can.

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The minute one realizes that Jesus had no part in writing any of the gospels and that he didn’t know Paul née Saul, EGW or any other purported prophets personally, the whole question of trying to understand Jesus’ good news by reading about it in a letter or a book is called into question.

Indeed, the essential message of the Bible seems to be that while our maker does desire communication with his creatures, he rarely does so verbally or en masse. The fact that there is only one report-perhaps apocryphal and irrefutably hearsay-that he committed anything to writing leads one to suspect that our creator finds words and language severely, if not utterly overrated.

That is, the method by which we’ve been bequeathed the Bible is virtually insurmountable evidence that our creator has little or no use for words and definitely prefers that we learn about him, not through out of context passages in reams of paper, but rather by one-on-one interaction with his first and ongoing love letter to us, which vibrant valentine is also called The Book of Nature.


Yes, and when it comes to a study about creation, the rocks are crying out but nobody’s listening. :thinking:


Except that we have the book of nature that includes the beauty and grandeur of skies, galaxies, mountains, seas and land teeming with life, but that also contains earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts, etc., that destroy life, including potentially the lives of thousands of human beings at once (i.e. the southeast Asian tsunami of 2005, that killed upwards of 250,000 people). The book of nature also reveals a world into which we come screaming and crying at birth, and often leave in pain and suffering…with nothing more if it is the limit of our understanding of God.

What picture does this give of God? What becomes clear about it? What does it communicate that is consistent with what we do know of Jesus from the gospels, or is that picture valueless? How can what nature communicates give a consistent picture of God in and of itself, and one that would reveal something more loving and beneficent than the picture we do have of Jesus? How is this more of a love letter than the picture of Jesus of Nazareth?


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Jesus never wrote me one letter, loving or otherwise.

I get it, Bruce, but taking the full spectrum of what nature is and does, including its destructiveness, what kind of love letter is this from God?


In the full spectrum, the tragedies and disasters are overblown by people’s tendency to dwell on the negative.

I wonder why many parents allow their children to sit in front of a 3D screen during their brain developmental years.
I wonder why numerous “Christians” rely more heavily on modern readings than they do the Bible.
I wonder why many readers choose drama and emotionally excitable reading over biblical truths.
I wonder why many avoid more technical reading.
Sometimes I wonder if reading can lead to a closed mind rather than an open mind to biblical truths. Choices, I presume.
One observation I have heard is that reading leads to laziness. Excessive, I presume.

What is a 3D screen, not sure I have ever heard of this before

What are you talking about i.e. reading = laziness!?

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I don’t believe you really wonder about many, if any of the list of things that supposedly perplex you, which is one of the fundamental issues with reading and writing.

That is, language allows one to say things diametrically opposed to what he means.

However, according to Socrates, there are even greater dangers involved than the possibility of intentional deceit or engendering laziness.

As discussed with Phaedra, he alleged that reading and writing encouraged mental weakness and forgetfulness among those whose purported goal was wisdom:

(And no, I’d rather not discuss the further implications his remarks have might have for the author of this comment….!


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Alisa, your wonderings remind me of my 3 yr old son who would counter a statement, just about any statement, with “Why?” many times each day. I recommend that you read the lyrics of “I Wonder as I Wander” written by John Jacob Niles. He, too, addresses the very human tendancy to wonder, but he does it less acerbically.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I
I wander as I wonder out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow’s stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s angels in heaven to sing
He surely would have it 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
As Jesus the Savior he did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

I wonder why christians ride in their vehicles to church rather than walking or horse and buggy or even a donkey. :wink:

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TV and computer monitors then. Not the true 3D where the viewer senses depth, but the viewing we are most accustomed to that we see more than just 2D.

I have heard non-readers comment that reading leads to laziness. Probably out of balanced reading, or excessive reading is likely what is meant since we do all need exercise too.

Children who read a lot may “stiff” their chores but it has nothing to do with laziness. People who read a lot are driven by curiosity and fuelled by imagination. Reading is an active pastime. In reading you are required to invest the words, not simply stare at the book.
Reading does not create lazy people. I would argue that (mentally) lazy people don’t read.


Yeah, excessive or more accurately I think it would be compulsive obsessive is often confused with laziness.

I am sure our resident psychologists could confirm the root issue.

Based on analysis it seems that every time something new is introduced like printed books, radio, records/CD’s/DVD’s, TV, computers, etc. the adults cry indolence and try to connect these with what ever the newest thing out there is.

So we should challenge anyone who says that person is ‘lazy’ because he/she uses whatever the newest thing is. It is, I think, ironic as the actually ‘lazy’ one is the person who calls out others when they themselves couldn’t be bothered to learn what the root cause is to begin with.

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