I have old friends in Texas who have never read a whole book in their entire lives. I’m not kidding. And it sort of horrifies me, you know?
I’m not whacking at them, particularly, but … the type.
If you don’t read, it makes your entire life this small, single piece of a disconnected puzzle. You might figure out some of the larger connections occasionally, but for the most part you’re stuck where you are. It’s like you’re on a raft on a vast, choppy sea, and it’s not a very big raft.
What reading (and, you know, science and reason and philosophy and all the other things you learn through reading) does for you is it builds bridges. It gives you a telescope, and radio, and the vision to see the foundation below you. It’s a connector.
That little raft you’re on becomes an island, or a continent, that you’re firmly set on. There are connecting roads to all parts of it. And there’s less unknown every day. It’s you in the midst of a web of interconnections.
For the people on these rafts, the ones who don’t read or don’t believe in the things you can learn from it, they will take any little driftwood stick of mysticism or religion that floats into view and grab onto it as if it was life itself. ALL the non-readers I’ve known have been either superstitious or powerfully religious.
Once they get stuck there, it seems almost impossible to get them clear of it. You might tell them there’s this bigger land that they can be a part of, if they’re only willing to work for it, but … they’re not willing. They’re content, comfortable with where they are.
I’m not greatly educated, but I count myself lucky that I was always a reader. Reader enough to know there’s this huge land I live on, reader enough to see the bridges and roads and connections. No, I’m not privy to a lot of it, because I didn’t put in the work. But if I had, I could live in any part of it, and find friends there, and satisfying work to do. I’m not alone. I’m part of a very large community that accepts and includes me, and all those like me.
This is post 11 of 12 of Blue Collar Atheist’s Blogathon in support of the Secular Student Alliance. Donate by clicking the “Contribute” link in the SSA ad over in the right column. Or go to the Secular Student Alliance directly.
Or just click this button (It’s the exact color of Pepto-Bismol, isn’t it? Makes me think it’s a way of saying “I’m sick of how powerful religion is in our society, and I want young people to be offered this other choice.”) :