There’s a particular type of book that I avoid at all costs. Well, to be completely honest, there’s two types of books I avoid at all costs, but for pretty much the same reason.
Religious fiction and self-help books.
I don’t mind reading how-to books, I’d like to clarify. It seems to be the self-help category that falls prey to bogus spiritual voo-doo more often, so I tend to avoid those. The religious fiction type of books . . . well, there are probably talented, interesting and funny authors who write religious fiction. I did like the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series growing up, as well as pretty much any Jack Weyland book. I know Narnia is technically religious fiction, though the allegory is secondary to the story.
My real problem with religious fiction is the not-so-subtle proselytizing that usually pervades it.
I hate when you pick up this type of book in the library. I browse the sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction sections. Occasionally I’ll hit the romance and YA sections. Also the non-fiction, but you don’t run into this problem nearly so much there.
So you grab a book (maybe the cover art is awesome, or the title sounds cool) off the shelf. It looks interesting, so you read the back, flip through a couple pages to see if you like the writing style, and figure it sounds good.
Then you get home, and you’re reading it. Interesting premise, kind of cool characters . . . then *bam* you’re hit with a sermon about purity rings or the evils of swearing. WTF? I was just reading a book! I’m relaxing! Why am I being hit with a church lesson? If I wanted one of those, I’d, you know, be in church.
This is becoming a particular annoyance to me because it used to be that religious fiction was a rare thing to stumble across in the library or a regular bookstore. You had to search that stuff out, and if you were buying a book at a Christian or LDS bookstore, you knew you were buying an entertainingly packaged sermon.
Now religious fiction is all mainstream. You pick up a book in the fantasy section about angels, thinking it sounds like a cool premise (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet had fun with it in Good Omens), and it’s a disguise! A snake in the grass! Religious fiction masquerading as fantasy!
The thing is, I can’t automatically dismiss every book about angels and demons — there are lots of awesome fantasies that play with those mythologies. The Demon’s Lexicon, for instance. Or The Mortal Instruments trilogy. American Gods deals with religious mythology, in a sense.
It’s irritating, and I can’t help feeling frustrated. Sure, I put the book down and don’t finish it. Sure, I forget the title — but it’s yet another instance where I feel, vaguely, as though someone is pushing their beliefs onto me. I already get it almost everywhere else — “You would be so much happier if you believed in God,” I’m told. Or you help someone at a store or at college and you get a, “God bless you.”
Or you befriend someone who’s religious, add them to your FB or whatever, and you’re inundated on a daily basis with scripture quotes and Jesus references. And because I don’t want to offend anyone or tell them what they should believe (you know, like what I would appreciate — do unto others as you would have others do unto you?), I don’t debunk their little FOX tidbits or religious quotes.
I don’t start a comment thread arguing whether Jesus actually did exist, let alone die for our sins. I don’t point out the other scriptural references that specifically speak against wearing mixed fibers, eating lobster or shellfish, or the fact that Jesus commands you sell all your goods and give the money to the poor. I don’t do that because it’s rude to push your beliefs on others, and I don’t like to be rude.
But I’m getting really tired of how rude religious people are. Knocking on my door at odd hours, mailing me pamphlets and postcards, and now infiltrating the library!