Friday, September 18, 2009

Do your beliefs affect your reading?

There seem to have been some really interesting topics of late over on the book club forum, like the one I discussed the other day about what I have learnt from books. One that I am finding particularly interesting at the moment is whether our beliefs influence the type of books that we read. For beliefs you can read religion. I am aware that to some, religion is a touchy subject, but I have found myself fascinated by this thread and the answers that members have given.

They are for the most part talking about fiction as opposed to non fiction, as the majority of members prefer this type of book, but a glance through my "I have read this year" list will show that I read both, although this has not always been the case. There was a time not that long ago, when I read nothing but non fiction, necessitated by the fact that I was writing a book of this genre. Non fiction of course covers many different areas, but the type of books that I read at that time (and my library is still dominated by these) were mind, body and spirit, religion and alternative history, with a healthy dose of science (mainly books on human evolution and genetics, which I studied for a year - in rudimentary form, via Birkbeck). Unlike most of the other members, I therefore answered the question from the perspective of both fiction and non fiction.

While those who read mostly fiction stated that in the main their beliefs did not effect their reading, when I thought about it, the opposite is true with me. They much colour what I read. I find myself actively seeking out books (like The Shack for example) that reinforce my views. Books that examine the human condition and our views of God form an important part of my reading. Books such as Conversations with God, the works of Eckhart Tolle and when it comes to fiction, books about other countries and cultures and days past - the other day I bought six books, two of which were about the Salem Witch trials, and one about a woman in China who decides she longer wants to be a Communist. This year I have also read books on Afghanistan and Northern Ireland - all books that look at the motivations of the character within, which are in their way, tales of how the characters faith was tested. Reading such things helps in a strange sort of way to strengthen your own faith, when you see that the trials that these characters go through and the growth and learning that they experience.

It makes me wonder though whether the other members are being really honest in their own assessment - after all we have this interest in human affairs, it is what makes us human in the first place. To me an interest in humanity is the same thing as an interest in spirituality, because well, we are all spiritual beings whether we like to admit it or not. I have learnt over the years however that when it comes to faith and belief, many people do not appear to know the difference between religion and spirituality, tarring them with the same brush. That then is the key, for I view the two things are separate entities where others believe they are the same. So, what do you think, do your beliefs affect your reading, and if so how?

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