Reviewing Religious Books

Religion is a touchy subject for many people.  Religious books are sacred to many people, and any negativity toward them is considered blasphemous, and likely to incite anger.  But as a literary subject, are they open for reviewing?

I think that those who don’t mind the backlash from either side of the fence can go ahead and review them.  But for me, I’d rather avoid that.  Because of one of the reading challenges I’m going to attempt, I will have to read The Bible. That’s a very long book that many people find difficult to finish.  I’ll approach it from a literary and cultural point of view, as I have no interest in the spiritual side of things.  However, I will not write a review.  I have no need to make people angry.

I’ve seen several reviews of religious books on Goodreads, and they were usually either extremely favourable or quite negative.  The positive ones are basically done by religious people who simply agree with what it has to say.  The negative ones are either mocking or actual analyses of the books based on how consistent it is, readability, and more.  Those people are often criticised angrily.

My question for you is this:  Would you attempt a review of a religious book?  Leave a comment.

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14 thoughts on “Reviewing Religious Books”

  1. I would probably be just dumb enough to attempt it. I should add however, that I value the Bible above other religious works, so some might say my perspective is skewed.
    Enjoy reading a book that for nearly 400 years has helped to shape and steady the English language.

    1. Thanks for the comment. One reason I don’t want to review the Bible is because I want to respect other people’s choice in religion, but also because I’m not interested in a debate.

      Are you talking about the King James Bible?

  2. I would be stupid/courageous enough to review a religious work. If I was not an adherent of that particular religion however, I would attempt to be respectful and would not write the review from the perspective of why I did not “practice” this faith. Religion or devotion to science (there is now a church devoted to the worship of science) are personal and criticism – especially that which is in mocking in tone – will evoke a hostile response the same as any other “fighting words.” Even being careful not to step on someone’s toes, I would go into the review understanding someone will dislike it and attack me for not believing or either being too respectful. It honestly is a no win situation.

    1. Yeah, exactly why I wouldn’t do it. Someone will be offended, and when it comes to religion, some people can even be violently offended and go as far as threatening harm or death. Nope, don’t want that.

  3. I’ve read a healthy bit of religious material from an assortment of groups. Religion and myth have had such a vast impact on the world that it’s only fair to discover what each branch believes straight from the horse’s mouth. But would I ever publicly “review” their official texts? Absolutely not. I agree with you that reviews on religious texts often meet with extreme feedback, especially for those who have negative points to make about the books; but more than that I would be hesitant to review them because of how complex those texts are. For example, the Christian Holy Bible (I’ve liked the KJV best, simply for translation accuracy) is actually not one book; it’s a library (As the Latin word “biblia” means) of different authors and styles that spans thousands of years. So to review the bible would be an enormous task, because to do it right you actually have to review each book in it separately. And to a great degree you have to understand the teachings and lifestyles behind the each author to fully understand what the words are saying. I would dare say that the Pope would have a hard time writing an accurate review for the Bible. And if he did, it would certainly be longer than the Bible itself.

    1. Good point on the Bible being written by many people. The styles would change a lot from person to person, and sometimes there are contradictions with what another person wrote. I wonder if someone has attempted to review each book of the Bible 🙂 But you’re right, it would be an enormous task.

      However, for me, reading the Bible would be of interest to me culturally, along with any other religious texts. They often show a way of thinking different than mine, as well as a very old way of thinking.

      By the way, I’m currently reading your book. Enjoying it so far.

      1. I absolutely agree that reading religious texts is a great way to step into the cultures of other people. That’s one reason I’ve loved studying them so much. Religion tends to have such a weighty affects on the behaviors and lifestyles of those who follow them. To be straight, our entire world has been so affected by religions of one type and another that there really isn’t anyone who can claim to be totally irreligious; religious teachings are intrenched in the fabric of our societies, even atheistic ones. It’s an amazing thing.

        I’m very glad to hear you’re enjoying my book. I hope I’ll get to hear your thoughts when you’ve finished as well as a note that you are picking up book two. 🙂 Speaking in the direction of your post above, the Kingdom Chronicles explore a vast amount of religious and mythological beliefs. I wanted to shake things up and tell a fantasy story that traverses a different road than the usual.

        1. Completely agree. While I’m not religious, I still find religions a fascinating part of culture and how it shapes both cultures and history.

          I’m reading your book a bit slowly, as it’s on my iPhone, and I don’t read eBooks very often. However, I’ll be reading it tomorrow, as my commute to and from work is a couple train rides with waiting time in between.

          If you’ve read my post earlier this month about my top 5 books of 2013, The Silmarillion made it in the top 5. I found it absolutely incredible to read. Tolkien created an extensive mythology and creation story.

          1. iPhones and other small screens can certainly make ebooks difficult to enjoy. This is a truth. Perhaps if you email me through authorsrford.com I could hook you up with a physical copy.

            You know, the Silmarillion is one book on my reading list that I haven’t had the opportunity to read yet. Tolkien’s books are amazingly, perfectly complex, and I guess I’ve been holding off too long on the Silmarillion, looking for an opportunity to dedicate more brain power to the story. 🙂 I need to pick it up soon. And with another top 5 recommendation… well… that emphasizes the point.

            1. I have no problem with reading on my iPhone, it’s just that I tend to only read it when I have to stand up on the train or ride the bus. However, I’m going to read it today during my lunch break. No need for a hard copy. In fact, I have so many books at home right now, and my family is planning to move overseas in less than 3 years, so we don’t need the extra books. After the move, I can buy all the books I want.

              The Silmarillion can’t be approached like a novel, just so you know. It isn’t a novel. It reads more like a cross between a history book and a mythology book. But it’s fascinating.

  4. I agree with everything that’s been said, and I commend you for attempting to read the Bible right through. I haven’t had much success with that. Eventually I changed tactics and tried to read the New Testament first, and I’ve gotten farther than before.

    I’m going to be honest. I can’t write a review of the Bible because I can hardly read it. I can’t get through a single chapter without getting pissed off. (Just to clarify, I have no issues with the language, it’s the content that gives me trouble). If I tried talking about it, I would make a lot of people very angry. I honestly feel like they are reading a different book than I am, sometimes.

    I usually use http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/index.htm, it’s indexed and searchable, and sometimes the comments make interesting points I hadn’t noticed. The best part about it is that someone took the time to keep track of the inconsistencies, and if one comes up you can take the link directly to the other verses that discuss a subject and compare. The most success I’ve had with the Bible is reading http://www.thebricktestament.com/home.html, and that’s only because it’s fun and funny and cute, and impossible to take seriously.

    BUT I really think more people need to stand up and be honest about this stuff. Your line hits it on the head: “Religious books are sacred to many people, and any negativity toward them is considered blasphemous, and likely to incite anger.” This is not acceptable. Religion should not have this immunity. It’s something that heavily influences people’s decision making, relationships, etc. People aren’t so afraid to speak negatively about political policies, scientific claims, or anything else in society that impacts how we live our lives, and it’s a terrifying double standard that if you put something under the banner of religion, no one can criticise it no matter how absurd or dangerous it is. And frankly, if you’re certain that your religious belief is true, you shouldn’t get offended or angry about it. When people bad-mouth vaccines or evolution I don’t get angry. I think they are misinformed and move on. (Point being, it’s their own fault if you piss them off by talking about their books in any way other than reverence).

    1. I agree with you so very much. And thanks for the great comment. I find that a lot of religious people are hypocrites. They say that they’re loving and tolerant, and they follow the teachings of Christ (for example), but when someone criticises their religion, they behave like they want to kill you. But then, their religion does teach that they should stone those who disagree with them. Glad that’s not legal in most countries, and I hope it’ll be illegal in all countries in the future.

      Although I do take exception to the anti-vaccination crowd, because I have a 2 year old daughter. Those who won’t get their kids vaccinated are endangering everyone else. People like Jenny McCarthy and the Australian Vaccination Network are extremely dangerous to young children.

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