Monday, July 23, 2012

Quotes: Voltaire

"A good book corrupts bad taste." ~Voltaire 

I have personally been very surprised at how many people of formerly questionable character seem to turn around after an encounter with a really good book.  Whether it be a classic, such as Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; or more contemporary fare, such as Ted Dekker's Blink, Frank Peretti's Prophet, or Joel C Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam, a good book works wonders in the reader.

Some books transport us to places of fantastic adventure.  For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien's immortal Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Some take us to the high seas, such as in Treasure Island; or pit our wits against nature itself, such as in Robinson Crusoe.  Some are filled with very obvious moral lessons, such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, while others trim theirs with magic, sword fights and fantasy, as seen in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series.

What is amazing is that some books which garner controversy today would have been commonplace in years past; likewise, classics from yesteryear are met with heavy criticism today- Declared as being insensitive and intolerant unless heavy revision is made.  Prime examples of this include the Harry Potter series- Which garnered a great deal of harsh words from many sources, not just Christians- As well as the Series of Unfortunate Events books; both of which would have been well received if written fifty or so years ago.  Many of the classics which people today deem worthy of massive revision include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Conversely, certain things which are now well received would have, and did, cause controversy a mere thirty years back.  The book Lolita, for instance, was roundly denounced in many circles when it was written- Even being banned in two countries the same year it was published!  Yet today, somehow, it is finding its way into mainstream society's acquiescence. More recently, the book Fifty Shades of Grey was published to critical acclaim- But society in general would have rejected it for its subject matter thirty years ago.

In light of his quote, I believe Voltaire would be suffering from massive heart palpitations, (and possibly stroke), were he alive today.  Rather than good books corrupting bad taste, bad taste has corrupted good books.  Perhaps it began with the sanitation of classics, as I've heard one professor suggest, but it has certainly culminated with a mass loss of good taste and decency.
The "Slippery Slope Argument," which some will no doubt accuse me of making here, is only a fallacy when one ignores the fact that history proves it to be accurate, albeit simplistic, in many cases.  The decline and ultimate dissolution of of common society can routinely be traced to an at large societal decision of now questionable nature.  While I cannot say for certain if that decision was the revision of classic literature, it is clear that the over-sensitivity of society to foolish things, while remaining apathetic to things which demanded their concern, began somewhere.

An example of the vehemence directed
at the Bible
The number one book on the revisionist's hit list; the greatest transgressor of offense and political incorrect subject matter; is the Bible.  What is the reason?  Slaves in the Bible were not solely of darker skin- They were of all different nationalities.  The youth of married women, perhaps?  This was a custom that held even one hundred years ago; however, with all fringe movements aside, the majority of modern Bible followers agree such a marriage to be damaging today.  Perhaps it is the warfare, adultery and bloodthirsty actions of the kings within the pages of the Bible?  How so, when one look at the reception that modern entertainment receives shows not a one victim of the same vehement vitriol as is directed at the Bible.  Not a one is demanded to undergo revision for "insensitivity."

So, what could be the cause of the spite and anger revisionists direct at this single text?  Why is the demand for revision not extended to books such as the Qur'an, or the Mack Bolan series?  Why are shows such as The Shield not dealing with the same call?  Why are movies such as 300, Pathfinder, or Sin City met with demand for more, rather than a wall of silence?  What about music by such bands as Slipknot or Cannibal Corpse?  What makes the Bible such an offensive book?

The only conclusion I've been able to reach, my friends, is that which rests in a common nickname for the Bible itself: "The Good Book."  It is the best sort of book, where every evil is punished; where every wicked deed is answered for; and wherein is found a solid, concrete code of moral conduct.  The Bible is the ultimate enemy of a society consumed by bad taste, because it is the ultimate good book.  Because it stands as the last unflinching standard of unwavering morality.  Because it reminds all who read it that there is a final judgment; that they are responsible for the actions carried out in bad taste, or against anything else contained in that moral code.

Because, as Voltaire so accurately observed, "a good book corrupts bad taste."


  1. Lol... This is well done, my friend. And it is so terribly true. People raise a fuss because they feel condemned by it. "How dare you tell me that stealing, cheating, and decieving are wrong- surely the end justifies MY means!!"" ---shakes head--- it is a sorry society we have become when we truly believe that wronging another will be good for all of us. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Very, very glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the comment- It's very encouraging! God bless!


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