Where Did the Hotel Room Bibles Go?

Well, for the 130 Scandic hotels in ten European countries, they’re gone! Why? Because a humanist complained about it. As a resolution, the hotel chain now has a collection of religious/spiritual texts at the front desk. You can pick up any you’d like. It actually gives you more options than before without forcing any one of them upon you.

For most people, this is a good decision…

But, according to someone whose blog exists entirely to make this one post:

Mr. Olle Nordahl, Swedish head of the Gideonites, the organization who places free Bibles in hotel rooms all over the world, is devastated.

[my translation:] – We distribute Bibles because we know people are helped by it. People find comfort and support by reading the Bible.

Scandic claims that instead of a Bible in every room they will now have a set of Christian, Jewish and Muslim books available for their customers at the reception. But Mr. Nordahl feels this is not the same: – It’s the spontaneous reading of the Bible in one’s darkest hour that helps the most. The Bible should be available at your room, not in the reception. Who’d walk down to the reception and wait in line to read the Bible, Mr. Nordahl asks.

Austin Cline has a great response to this:

Oh, dear, people might not read the Bible if they have to make any sort of effort to obtain one! How awful!

In fact, I think that these two Christians are correct: most people won’t bother if they have to make an effort. This serves to demonstrate how just how little importance they attach to the Bible; indeed, if they truly cared, they’d probably have their own Bible with their own preferred translation with them.

Very true. Christians want people to come to Christ on their own; they say it can’t be forced. And yet, in this case, where some effort might need to be exerted (at the very least, someone could call ahead of time and request the Bible be put in their room), that’s too much to ask of anyone.

If you have a problem in the middle of the night in a hotel room, call a friend. Look at a picture of your family. Call a doctor. I don’t see how a Bible’s going to help you much if you’re not already a Christian, but if you disagree, walk the few steps to the receptionist and ask for one.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Scandic hotels, humanist, Olle Nordahl, Gideonites, Bible, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Austin Cline[/tags]

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    Well, I guess that I understand what you are saying on this Hemant, that it shouldn’t be a problem for people to make a little effort to study the Word if it really is their Holy Book. Of course, I feel a little differently because I had an incident happen to me where a Bible like that saved my life. But, that’s just me, I guess…

    Thanks for posting this! It’s interesting!

  • Lou Doench

    Wow… thats sad… I guess I can’t steal any Gideon Bibles when I visit Scandinavia.. Bummer

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I like that more texts will be available. That’s just plain good customer service in a pluralistic society.

  • Vincent

    But where will I put those warning labels?

  • http://atheista.net benj

    I guess the room service crew was really lazy and forgot to refill the tissue paper holders. Sorry. couldn’t resist. Teehee. :p

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    I think the bibles should be replaced with clever joke books, so when people are down on their luck, they can laugh it off.

  • http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com Chris Hallquist

    Oh boy.

    I can’t understand why atheists are annyoed by the Gideon Bibles. We should be working hard to identify hotels that don’t have Bibles, and provide them with some, on the grounds that the more people read the Bible, the less likely they are to see it as an infallible moral guide.

  • Karen

    I can’t understand why atheists are annyoed by the Gideon Bibles. We should be working hard to identify hotels that don’t have Bibles, and provide them with some, on the grounds that the more people read the Bible, the less likely they are to see it as an infallible moral guide.

    I think what ticks atheists off – and probably people of other faiths as well – is the singling out of the bible as the one “special holy book” that’s in the hotel room. What if a Muslim traveling salesman has an emotional crisis in the wee hours? What’s he supposed to do? Shouldn’t there be a Koran in the drawer for him to use as a source of inspiration? (Thankfully in the Marriott hotels you can find your Book of Mormon!)

    If we want to help and inspire travelers, I think the idea of having various spiritual texts available is the best one. How about adding a selected works of Bertrand Russell, or Robert Ingersoll, or Richard Dawkins as well? That would be truly ecumenical.

  • http://atheista.net benj

    How about having Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry? Everyone would love that! Now that’s a fun read that has relatively few religion-based morals. ;) I’m sure it can help the Muslim traveling salesman as well!

  • Richard Wade

    It’s the spontaneous reading of the Bible in one’s darkest hour that helps the most. The Bible should be available at your room, not in the reception. Who’d walk down to the reception and wait in line to read the Bible, Mr. Nordahl asks.

    My darkest hours have always occurred in the reception, never in the bedroom.

  • Tim

    This isn’t really on the current topic, but….I love how the guy in that article compares the acquisition of the Bible to that of Porn:

    I feel Mr. Nordahl has a point. For instance, how many customers would watch the adult TV-channels available at all Scandic hotels if they had to ask for them separately at the reception?

    “My good man, be sure to provide me, a guest of your fine Scandic hotels, with all the adult sleaze and depraved pornographic entertainment there is to be had. My room number is 417, my name is Mr. Goodman and I represent the Mayor’s Office”.

    It’s just an ironic comparison, I think…

  • John Payan

    Dear Richard,
    Your comment about your darkest hours made me laugh so much I just had to say thankyou.
    John Payan

  • Kim G

    How about adding a selected works of Bertrand Russell, or Robert Ingersoll, or Richard Dawkins as well?

    Thanks for the reading material Karen. While I’d heard of Russell (for Math classes) and Ingersoll (can’t remember where), you prompted me to do a little reading on Wikipedia. Looks like I have some reading to do. :)

  • Richard Wade

    LOL! Tim, that’s very funny. John, you’re welcome.

  • Kim G

    Of course, I feel a little differently because I had an incident happen to me where a Bible like that saved my life.

    I’m not sure exactly how to say this Tim, but if the bible is that powerful for you, then I recommend carrying one with you all the time, especially on travel.

    I honestly don’t care if hotels want to put bibles in every room. But, I do agree that they should also put books from other religions and beliefs in them too. Of course, at that point it’s far easier and cheaper to keep fewer copies of these books at the front desk.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve heard a story for years about some guy who was carrying a Bible in his left breast pocket and it stopped a stray bullet from piercing his heart. Are you the guy?

  • http://acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Well… there goes my lifetime supply of [almost] free Bibles.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I honestly don’t care if hotels want to put bibles in every room. But, I do agree that they should also put books from other religions and beliefs in them too. Of course, at that point it’s far easier and cheaper to keep fewer copies of these books at the front desk.

    I think Bibles are given free of charge to the hotels by The Gideons.

    If they want other texts, I don’t expect the Gideons will pony up for them.

    I think it’s becoming more and more curious in a diverse society why (except out of tradition) Hotel chains allow the Bible to be put in the room.

    Could I contact Holiday Inn and donate a million copies of Atheist Manifesto? I’m guessing not.

    How about the Satanic Bible, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead?

  • Karen

    Thanks for the reading material Karen. While I’d heard of Russell (for Math classes) and Ingersoll (can’t remember where), you prompted me to do a little reading on Wikipedia. Looks like I have some reading to do.

    You’re very welcome! Just to whet your appetite, I highly recommend the eulogy that Ingersoll delivered at the funeral of poet Walt Whitman It’s lovely and lyrical.

    To read more about these guys and other sadly-little-known American secularists, pick up Susan Jacoby’s “Freethinkers.” It’s a fascinating book.

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    I’m not sure exactly how to say this Tim, but if the bible is that powerful for you, then I recommend carrying one with you all the time, especially on travel.

    Funny thing is, I try to. And I completely agree with you. Which is why I said in my post that people who regard it as their Holy Book shouldn’t have a problem with getting their own, or going downstairs to get one. Also, I totally agree with having other Holy Books in the rooms. As a Christian, I should be getting to know at least a little bit about every religion and belief. Even the Bible tells me to do that.

    Are you the guy?

    No, one night I was going to commit suicide, and hadn’t looked at a Bible in a very long time. I was crying, and had had my belt around my neck to hang myself. I saw a random Bible and opened it up, and found the verse I needed to at that very moment. Psalms 46:10-11. I suddenly felt peace and stopped crying, and fell asleep. Funny thing is, I didn’t get saved until about a year and a half later. Between those two events (and before the first for a few years) I was an atheist, too…lol. Oh well, that’s just my story, though. But, there’s your answer, too!

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    I for one usually find that there is a table or chair leg out of sort, causing a wobble, when I’m trying to write. The Gideon Bible always comes in handy, and I know I’d be a bit peeved to find that I’d have to dress and head down to reception to correct the problem. Though if room service would bring it up, that might help.

  • Mriana

    I never paid any attention before to it in a hotel room. I’ve honestly never noticed if there was one in the room or not, so I don’t think I’d miss it if they did that here in the States. I’ve been depressed before and I didn’t run to the Bible. I ran to a friend and then a therapist. For me, other humans is a comfort.

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    Hey Hemant,
    I just remembered…didn’t you say in a blog post on Off-The-Map that you’ve actually made it a habit to check and see if the Gideons hadn’t missed your hotel room? What are you gonna do now? :D

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    oops…I didn’t realize there was a conversation for converting Hemant…lol…sorry!

  • Richard Wade

    Tim, I had a feeling your story would be something like that. I’m glad you’re still alive, regardless of the process. Your life completes your part of the giant jigsaw puzzle. Please don’t mistake my chronic smart-assness for disrespect. Not at all.

    (smart-assity? smart-assism?)

  • Kim G

    Good points Siamang.

    Thanks Karen for yet more info

    Well said Tim (your response to me). Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you here dude.

  • Kim G

    @Karen – Getting a little off topic here but I’m currently reading Sagan’s “Variety’s of Scientific Experience” and enjoying it. On deck is Edward O. Wilson’s Pulitzer prize winning “On Human Nature”.

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    No Richard, I take no offense at all. I’m sure you’ve read and heard a hundred stories just like mine. It’s important to me, I’m sure you understand why. Thanks for the comment, too!

  • Kim G

    Good points Siamang.

    Thanks Karen.

    Well said Tim (your response to me). Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you here.

  • Kim G

    Good points Siamang.

    Thanks Karen.

    Well said Tim (your response to me). Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you here.

    (third attempt to post this)

  • Kim G

    Good points Siamang.

    Thanks Karen.

    Well said Tim (your response to me). Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you here.

    (fourth attempt to post this)

  • Robin

    I wonder if the hotels buy the bibles or if churches donate them? I would guess the hotels buy them and in that case I find it discriminating.

    While it never bothered me on a personal level to see a bible in my hotel room being an atheist. (probably out of conditioning) It occurred to me, just now, that it might be to people of other faiths. So maybe the hotels should stop buying them and inform the religious that they will allow them to donate their choice/s of religious propaganda to be placed in the rooms, and atheists also be allowed to donate an informational pamphlet etc as well.

  • Kim G

    Good points Siamang.

    Thanks Karen.

    Well said Tim (your response to me). Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you here.

    (this is my fifth attempt to post this)

  • Kim G

    Have I been magically block from this website? I’ve tried 5 times to post and failed each time. I’ll be lucky if this goes through.

  • Kim G

    This is what I’ve been trying to post for the last hour:

    I think Bibles are given free of charge to the hotels by The Gideons.

    If they want other texts, I don’t expect the Gideons will pony up for them.

    I think it’s becoming more and more curious in a diverse society why (except out of tradition) Hotel chains allow the Bible to be put in the room.

    Could I contact Holiday Inn and donate a million copies of Atheist Manifesto? I’m guessing not.

    How about the Satanic Bible, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead?

    Good points Siamang

    Just to whet your appetite, I highly recommend the eulogy that Ingersoll delivered at the funeral of poet Walt Whitman It’s lovely and lyrical.

    To read more about these guys and other sadly-little-known American secularists, pick up Susan Jacoby’s “Freethinkers.” It’s a fascinating book.

    Thanks for the additional info Karen.

    people who regard it as their Holy Book shouldn’t have a problem with getting their own, or going downstairs to get one. Also, I totally agree with having other Holy Books in the rooms. As a Christian, I should be getting to know at least a little bit about every religion and belief. Even the Bible tells me to do that.

    Well said Tim. Sorry you went through what you did. I’m glad you found something to keep you with us. We’re better off with you around dude.

    (sixth attempt to post this)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Tim– I still check to see if the Bible is in my hotel room. Though recently, I’e come across a non-Gideons copy and in one hotel room, there was nothing (someone beat me to it!)…

    Kim– I’m not sure why my spam filter was catching you, but it was. It should be fixed now!

  • Kim G

    Thanks Hemant!

  • Vincent

    Richard,

    “I’ve heard a story for years about some guy who was carrying a Bible in his left breast pocket and it stopped a stray bullet from piercing his heart. Are you the guy? ”

    That was Lt. William Preston Mangum at the First Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War.
    The bullet was deflected from entering his heart where it would have killed him instantly.
    Instead it pierced his chest and lung and he lay in a hospital bed for a week before dying in agony from gangreen.

  • http://www.righteouspath.org Tim

    Here’s another incident of a man being shot in the chest and a Bible saved his life.

    http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/news-article.aspx?storyid=68592

  • Richard Wade

    There’s another story about a Viet Nam veteran who was in a firefight on the last day of his tour of duty. He was airlifted out of the battle with only one round left in his rifle. Back in the States he carried that “lucky bullet” in his left breast pocket for years until one day while walking down the street he passed by a really crazy street preacher. The street preacher was building up into a frenzy screaming at the top of his lungs and waving his arms with a Bible in his hand. The Bible flew out of his hand with lethal force and struck the veteran directly in the chest, but the bullet stopped the Bible and saved his life!

  • goyo

    Tim: I’m glad you didn’t randomly open the bible up to any pages of numbers or deuteronomy with those endless geneologies. I’ve almost hanged myself after trying to read those.
    Seriously, the whole random nature of opening the bible to find meaningful passages sounds like an urban legend to me. I’ve heard those so many times, and the few times I’ve tried, have never had the luck of anything coherent.
    I’m glad you found something to stop you. Why didn’t god himself stop you? Is that ok that he would have allowed you to kill yourself? How can you think that he is active in your life, when there is absolutely no evidence that he cares or does anything?


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