10 Books That Screwed Up the World (And 5 Others That Didn’t Help) by Dr. Benjamin Wiker“[Progress] is bringing us to a new age of technological barbarism, wherein humanity becomes ever more religiously obsessed with health and sexual pleasure as pseudo-gods, sacrificing anything and everything to these twin deities.”
Ideas are important because ideas are what generate all behavior and action. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that, “As a man thinks, so is he.” In fact, as a result of publishing their thoughts, the greatest thinkers of history have inspired and motivated others to take action of some kind.
Nobody can deny that the world has problems: poverty, disease, war, ignorance, crime — just to name a few. I guess most people would consider it a noble thing for a person to dedicate his life to eradicating one or more of these social evils, and there have been and are many such individuals. But there are right ways to go about it and wrong ways. Benjamin Wiker’s book, 10 Books that Screwed up the World (and 5 Others that Didn’t Help) explores with a touch of humor and occasional sarcasm, a total of 15 books which have been powerfully influential over the past 500 years, but not in a good way. Wiker explains how the philosophies expressed and taught by these writers have contributed towards creating a society which, in many ways, is on a path of self-destruction rather than reform.
Throughout history, there have been people who have viewed humanity as consisting of two major groups: the perpetrators of evil and the victims of evil. The conclusion these individuals inevitably draw is that either you fall into one camp, or you are, by default, in the other. As a result of this view, “the great love of mankind of the future gives birth to a great hatred for people,” as the focus turns towards getting rid of the trouble-makers.
Yes, the world has problems, but what must be kept in mind is that it is not the world that needs saving, but men. Christianity teaches that Man is fallen and corrupt, and the only solution exists outside of himself. God knew this and provided a plan, a way of salvation. But all of the writers discussed by Wiker in this book were atheists; they all denied (or ignored) the existence of God. And if there is no God to provide salvation, then it is up to man to provide it for himself. Wiker sums up their attitude like this:
“If this world is our only world, this life our only life, then it would seem that every effort, any means, and all passions fair or foul should be unleashed in an effort to transform the miseries of human life into a durable earthly happiness.”
These philosophers also rejected the concept of sin. Morality is not based on what God says is right and good, but on what I think or feel is right and good. Considering the fact of man’s depravity,
“If you really want to test whether there is an original and indelible fault that warps the human soul [ie. original sin] and is impossible to erase without divine intervention, then put power into the hands of those who, rejecting the existence of God as well as sin, wish to bring heaven to earth.”
Individuals such as Marx, Lenin, and Hitler provide good examples of this point.
The writers discussed in this book also rejected the idea that man is an immortal soul, made in the image of God and accountable to Him. Instead they viewed man as something else: savages, animals, ghosts in machines, or even gods. In their desire to reform the world, they imagined and strove towards “mythical states of nature, entirely fictional alternative Edens…impossible utopian paradises,” and presented their new ideal world as scientifically achievable. “Exchanging the truth of God for a lie,” society has elevated “science” over religion in the name of progress. In actuality, modern-day thought has displaced the religion of theology with a different religion: society has become “ever more religiously obsessed with health and sexual pleasure as pseudo-gods, sacrificing anything and everything to these twin deities.”
So, who were these “great thinkers” and “reformers” of society that Wiker’s book examines? Here they are, in historical order:
If the list above includes one (or more) of your heroes, I regret to inform you that, according to Wiker’s assessment, he or she has contributed one of the books that has done the greatest amount of damage in the history of the world. (Wiker says, “You’ve heard of the Great Books? These are their evil opposites.”) Each chapter in Wiker’s book provides a synopsis of one book, its author, and the philosophy behind it, and explains how these dangerous philosophies have influenced later philosophers, have come to be accepted by society, and have been responsible for the misery, ruin, and death of literally millions of lives.
Now let me clarify: Wiker is not suggesting that we ban these books or have a big book-burning session. On the contrary, he suggests that these books should be read so that we (Christians in particular) are familiar with them and can better combat their effects. In Wiker’s own words,
“The best cure—the only cure, once the really harmful books have multiplied like viruses through endless editions—is to read them…Seize each one by its malignant heart and expose it to the light of day.”
However, I have to admit I’m kind of selfish with my time. As I always say, life is too short to read bad books, and some of these works are Beasts in more way than one! So I am very grateful for a man like Benjamin Wiker who took the time to read them and provide a helpful overview for someone like me, so I don’t have to go through the torturous task of doing it myself.
While it’s true that “bad ideas have bad consequences,” it is conversely true that “good ideas have good consequences.” So to help provide balance to the above text, Wiker suggests his companion book : 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read (Plus Four Not to Miss and One Impostor).
Note: This title is included on my list of non-fiction books I believe every Christian should read.
Dr. Benjamin Wiker is a husband and a father of seven children. He graduated from Furman University with a B.A. in Political Philosophy. He has an M.A. in Religion and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics, both from Vanderbilt University. He is a teacher, writer, and speaker.
- Dr. Wiker’s Blog (www.benjaminwiker.com)
- The culture war was never a fair fight (theweek.com)
- When the State Replaces God (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- The De-Christianization of Western Civilization? (ajmacdonaldjr.wordpress.com)
- The Great Thinkers (thegreatthinkers.org)