Viewpoint: Banning books stops readers from gaining perspective

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Books have, in many ways, been one of the major highlights of my life.

I don’t say this because my life is particularly lame – in fact, I think I’ve actually lived a fairly exciting life for my 22 years on this planet – but I say this because books have made such a difference to me and because they have played such a major role in shaping who I am today.

Given that it is Banned Books Week, I think this is as reasonable a time as any to reflect on the fact that uncensored access to literature is one of the most important things we have as students and that we must fight to protect it.

I remember one time I was told not to read the book “Atlas Shrugged” and the reason given was that it was anti-Christian. The claim itself is not unreasonable – the book’s author, Ayn Rand, was an ardent atheist and is very vocal against Christianity in the book.

But it’s more the idea behind it that bothered me. Should we not read things that conflict with our own worldview? Do we have the right to censor the thoughts of others?

The answer is simple: No. We should absolutely read things that conflict with our own worldviews.

We should absolutely never tell people that they cannot read a book because of its content.

Having unfiltered libraries is one of the most important things to give someone who is looking to learn more about the world.

If reading something makes you re-evaluate your own beliefs, that is not a bad thing. If something is true, then it should not be too threatened by other opinions and beliefs.

True faith in something grows stronger when it is questioned – it is usually only false beliefs that are hurt by gaining more knowledge.

Despite Rand’s atheism and despite how much “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” have affected me personally – these two books literally changed my life and have made me the person I am today – I still believe in God. Rand’s arguments against the existence of God did not convince me.

Many of her other arguments about other things, such as the pro-capitalism message that drives both books, were convincing enough to change my opinion on those issues.

What does that say? Would I really have been better off not reading “Atlas Shrugged” because of an anti-Christian message? Certainly not. If anything, I am more informed in my opinion about religion than I was before reading the novel. That’s not a bad thing.

We are nearing the end of our formal education as students. If you are a student at Baylor, you’ve already finished your time in primary school, but many of us will eventually be parents of children who will be given choices about what books to read.

Let’s let that choice be theirs to make. If my child comes home asking to read something controversial, I’ll probably buy it for him or her if the library doesn’t have it.

Joshua Madden is a graduate student in information systems from Olathe, Kan., and is the Lariat’s A&E Editor.