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Burning books

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Steve Newport
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I am currently in the process of moving due to a burglary. I figured now would be a good time to sort through the mass of things I've accumulated over three years and either make some money off of them or just get rid of them.

I've reached a moral dilemma going through my collection of books. Due to a religious past and some world-religion classes I took in college I have accumulated a small number of books whose contents I entirely disagree with. These books span christianity, catholicism, buddhism, and islamicism (including their individual scriptures) and some books specialize on their leaders, homosexuality, and apologetics excusing violent philosophy, as well as much more innocent but still persuasive fiction.

  1. Would I be as bad as those who preach these philosophies if I were to sell the books for profit?
  2. Would I be making the world a worse place if I were to give these books away?
  3. Would I be like the numerous genocidal regimes if I were to destroy these books so as not to further the spread of false ideas?
  4. I know it cannot be my duty (nor is it right) to decide for other people the information they intake, but is allowing what's in my possession back into the world a slap in the face of Objectivist philosophy?

Would something 'non-destructive' like putting in a flyer or quote pointing to a good Ayn Rand novel be beneficial? If so where could I get these?

I would like a response 'in general' to the question, but for further thought her is a list of my books:

Non Fiction

  • "Approaching the Qur'an" ~Michael Sells
  • "Muhammad - his life" ~Martin Lings
  • "Jesus - A Revolutionary Biography" ~John Dominic Crossan
  • "Wild at Heart" ~John Eldredge
    An actually compelling book that basically encourages men to be men and live by the passion and strength that defines them, but also encourages men to be men of god.
  • "An Ounce of Prevention" ~Don Schmierer
    An anti-homosexual book for preventative parenting
  • "Safe People" ~Cloud and Townsend
    Never read this book. A christian-themed relationship advice book

Fiction

  • The Christian Bible
  • "Buddha" ~Karen Armstrong
  • The Traveler's Gift - Andy Andrews (never read)

I appreciate your thought and responses! Thank you

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There have been two times when a book was so bad that I wrote a very negative review on Amazon, and immediately listed for sale there as well. Both times the book sold. If the buyer did not read my review, that's too bad for him. If he did, then he bought the book knowing what he did.

Think of it this way: when you go on Amazon or eBay to buy a book do you really buy it based on the recommendation of the seller? Most of the used books I buy come from professional book-sellers who -- I assume -- are basically neutral about what they sell. I have never bought a book based on the fact that some particular person was selling it: always on a recommendation other than the seller.

If you want another take, consider this: sometimes, a used book you re-sell means one less person buying it new. To the extent that happens, you take dollars from the seller of (say) new bibles, and put them in your pocket!

Primarily though, I see nothing wrong with selling books you disagree with. It would be dishonest to praise them.

Edited by softwareNerd
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First of all, I would say comparing your actions with your own private property with the actions of the Nazi book burning parties is a bit out there.

Second, it's not your reponsibility to further any sort of discussion with competing arguments.

Third, who would you be making the world a worse place for? If yourself, then burn em, or throw em in a tree shredder or use the pages for toilet paper.

But, if anything, I would say you could at least try and recoup some of the costs back by selling them to a person who wants to hear competing arguments, that way it's a fair trade. After that, do what you want. They're yours to do with as you please.

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1. Would I be as bad as those who preach these philosophies if I were to sell the books for profit?

2. Would I be making the world a worse place if I were to give these books away?

3. Would I be like the numerous genocidal regimes if I were to destroy these books so as not to further the spread of false ideas?

4. I know it cannot be my duty (nor is it right) to decide for other people the information they intake, but is allowing what's in my possession back into the world a slap in the face of Objectivist philosophy?

1. A book's text can be good or bad: good if the reader thinks critically, accepting good ideas and rejecting bad ones, or bad if the reader accepts false ideas. I think the appropriate thing to do is give the buyer the benefit of doubt and presume that person is rational. They might be studying it for a course or just to learn - I myself have been planning to read some theology (Aquinas) to see it according to its proponents. Selling the books is an appropriate course of action.

2. Giving the books away would be appropriate if you don't wish to spend the time or effort selling them, but since there's probably a willing buyer I'd just try to sell it. Leaves you with a few more bucks, and displaces a transaction with the publisher (as sNerd indicated).

3. The right to property means the right to your own property. A totalitarian government's censorship is claiming the right to destroy someone else's property. Respect for truth demands rejection of falsehood, and that means not acknowledging falsehoods as legitimate. The ideas in such books cannot justify your protection of them. If you really want that text out of the world, by all means burn it - it's your exclusive right, and in the cause of truth.

4. I wouldn't consider it a "slap in the face" to Objectivism.

An observation: your questions are all framed in terms of "being worse than (some form of evil)". Life is about creation of values and achievement...the pursuit of good, not avoidance of evil. And certainly don't accept unearned guilt.

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softwareNerd, Chris.S, The Individual,

Thank you very much for your responses, all very good points that were not so easy for me to conclude. I appreciate it!

TheAllotrope,

Thank you very much for your extended response. Your thoughts were in the back of my head when posing the question, but your last statement gives me a humbling provocation as to why I didn't trust them. I sincerely appreciate your honesty and positivity.

As a side note: with a bit of research I found that making a dime off these books is going to be more work than profit, especially with many amazon sellers selling books for a penny + reasonable shipping (A business model I don't quite understand). I figured I might donate them to a church if they'll agree to hold them in their library. Studying different religions, for me personally, was a big factor in my transition out of the lifestyle.

Again, thanks a lot

~Stephen Newport

www.StephenNewport.com

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I've reached a moral dilemma going through my collection of books. Due to a religious past and some world-religion classes I took in college I have accumulated a small number of books whose contents I entirely disagree with. These books span christianity, catholicism, buddhism, and islamicism (including their individual scriptures) and some books specialize on their leaders, homosexuality, and apologetics excusing violent philosophy, as well as much more innocent but still persuasive fiction.

I've acquired a few Christian books over time (about six) and refused to sell them at garage sales, etc... I won't allow anyone to read the book from my actions and will keep them out of circulation by destroying them some day. Probably, I'll just throw them in the trash; burning them would require much more work.

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