1. shaxanth27 says

    Ha! I know that store, right in the center of town. The great part is it’s been like that as long as I can remember.

  2. says

    Finally a good label. Here in Japan they say ‘Religion/Non Fiction’ which has always bothered me. Then again they also have sections in music stores called ‘Black Music’ and no one seems to understand why that’s racist. One step at a time I guess.

  3. Grimalkin says

    I… don’t get it… A myth doesn’t mean a lie or something that isn’t true. It just means a story that frequently deals with the supernatural and expresses a world view. How does that not fit religion? How would a religious person not identify with that term?

  4. Prillotashekta says

    At the Half-Price Books in Cedar Rapids, IA, Religion is lumped in with New Age, Mythology, and Urban Legends. Right where it all belongs.

  5. idlemind says


    In common parlance “myth” means an untruth, mistaken though that definition may be. I also think a lot of people equate “myth” with the various Mythologies they learned about (poorly) in school — Greek, Norse, etc. They’d tend to call what you’re referring to a “parable,” since that is the accepted term for most Christians for a fictional story meant to convey a higher truth.

  6. Cathy in Seattle says

    I work in a library which uses the Library of Congress Call Number system (as opposed to the Dewey Decimal system) and where you’ll find the books on religion in the “BS” section.

  7. says

    At least in the case of Hinduism, religion and mythology are very very closely related. Any educated (in the proper sense of the word) Hindu realizes that Hindu mythology is powerful in the sense that Joseph Campbell spoke about in his “The Power of Myth.”

    I think it is that understanding that explains why Hindus are not ever up in arms about what science has to say in its attempts at comprehending the world. How old is the universe, what explains the diversity of species, and matters of this sort have scientific explanations. Some of these matters have mythological counterparts but it is very clear that the myths are stories that are to be taken allegorically at best and should not intrude in the full understanding of the matter.

    The Abrahamic religions claim that the “books” they are based on is divinely revealed and have valid historical and scientific information in them. The Indic religions don’t make that claim. Which is why someone like me, a nominal Hindu, has never had to struggle with the findings of science and never have to worry about whether I will go to hell just because I don’t believe in some big daddy in the sky.

  8. David says

    I love the way the middle book looks like a squished can, as if the books on either side were expanding and crushing it.

  9. says

    Michael, I found the Left Behind books in the ‘Fantasy’ section of a bookstore here in Japan once. (Junkudo, in Osaka.) I don’t know if they’re still there, but at least that was totally appropriate!

    I suspect the ‘religion/non-fiction thing is just because they don’t have enough categories, so it’s two categories together rather than one including the other.

  10. Mystic Olly says

    Re #11

    Am I the only one chortling that the Library of Congress classes the Bible under BS?

    Perhaps there are some good guys in Congress (probably in the admin department).

    Oli the Oily.

  11. says

    I’ve always found it amusing that my local Half Price Books shelves crap like Zacharia Sitchin and Carlos Castaneda in science fiction.

  12. katie says

    I have to admit, I got a little carried away when I got my Chapters gift certificates this year. I was perusing the evolution section and saw three copies of The Edge of Evolution. Something in me snapped just a little, and I picked them up and carried them over to the Christian section.

    *Bad Katie*

  13. Cassidy says

    Meanwhile at Barnes&Noble in Cary, NC (Raleigh), The God Delusion is in the science section. I actually said something about it to an employee one day who happened to be standing there and she was like, “Oh, that’s the evolution section.”

    Which, I was mildly ok with the fact that they’re considering disbelief in gods evolution, but I suspect that they were really just afraid to offend the Christians by putting it in the religion section.

  14. says

    Funny thing… Didn’t even blink at that. I was tryin’ to read the titles on the shelf, thinking maybe that was what was funny.

    Well, y’know. Of course that’s the section title.

  15. Borthers says

    I recently found the McGrath’s awful “The Dawkins Delusion” under the “Science” section (really!) in a local Borders – of course I asked for it to be moved to the “religion” section immediately, and surprisingly, it was!

  16. efp says

    I wonder when Mythbusters will get around to the bible. “If we build a 90-ft tall mechanical zombie Jesus… will it walk on water?”

  17. says

    Sadly, in my neck of the woods we’re not quite as uhmm with the times. I found the bible, and other god-praising nonsense texts under “Non-fiction.” I wanted to complain about that but never got around to it. Next I go to the public library I will make a nice little stink.

  18. Faithful Reader says

    Joseph Campbell said something to the effect that religion is what you get when your mythology hardens into dogma.

  19. Rick says

    What I do in bookstores is take a few copies of “The God Delusion” from the section in which they have been shelved and place them in the religious section, where the people who really need it can find it.

  20. Greg says

    Even here in the US, you will find some bookstores have a section similar to “Religion/Myth.” It’s where they put all the “other” stuff, like analyses of The Davinci Code, The Portable Atheist, Gnostic/Nag Hammadi books, etc. The “Religion” section in these stores is typically populated by various versions of the Bible, Koran, translations thereof, analysis thereof, etc. This is the way my local Borders is set up, actually. Although I think they have a single section called “Bibles” filled with… you guessed it, Dr. Seuss. (Sarcasm.)

  21. Josh says

    I once lived in a small town in rural central Virginia (Falwell’s old stomping grounds). The local Christian bookstore – what other kind would there be? – shelved its few books on pagan hoo-ha or “alternative” religions under the heading Errors Exposed.

  22. says

    Myth: “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.”

    Um, that sounds right? So?

  23. Henry B says

    There’s a little thing I do whenever I go into a Border’s or B&N…

    I always grab some bibles and reclassify them to the Myth or Fiction departments. Sometime they stay there for days before anyone notices.

    My kids giggle.

  24. YSTH says

    I admit that it took me awhile to “get” this. I’m thinking; “yeah…so what about this?”

  25. False Prophet says


    When I worked at the reference desk of an academic library, that was our favourite moment: students would come up to the desk and ask, “where are the bibles?” We’d point over to the reference shelves and say, “Over there, they’re shelved under ‘BS’.”

    Under Dewey Decimal Classification, religion and mythology are all together in the 200s. Or rather, mythology is lumped into the 290s with all the other non-Christian religions.

  26. says

    I’ll always remember, right around the time I rejected Christianity, I noticed in the library that all the books on religion were on the shelf right next to the crazy books on UFOs and Bigfoot. I thought it was rather fitting since they all make about the same amount of sense.

  27. says

    Atanu Dey,

    >> At least in the case of Hinduism, religion and mythology are very very closely related.

    Its a shame isn’t it? When Hinduism could have easily been related to Philosophy.

    For the uninitiated Hinduism (which literally means the [religious] practices of Indians) has over the years clung more to the irrational practices [ex: mythology), instead of the completely rational and philosophical arguments which some of its practitioners adhere to or once did.

  28. BaldApe says

    The problem is the custom of dividing books into “fiction” and “nonfiction.” IOW, true, and not true.

    The thing is, myths are true in a sense. The story of the tortoise and the hare is true, but not literally. In the same sense, many, if not most, of the stories in the Bible can be called “true” even if they didn’t happen. The story of the good samaritan is true in this sense, whether or not an actual person from Samaria did what Jesus said he did.

    That’s part of the reason for the intense reaction to any implication that the stories in the bible aren’t true. It seems to remove the truth from the parts that are, in a metaphorical sense, true.

    And part of the reaction is due to the fact that people who believe that each and every word is true are looney wingnuts, too.

  29. BaldApe says

    “Or rather, mythology is lumped into the 290s with all the other non-Christian religions.”

    I’ve often asked how one can define superstition in a way that is not making fun of someone’s religious beliefs. The only answer I get usually amounts to “My religious beliefs are true.”

  30. baryogenesis says

    And, #2, isn’t the section which would include Sylvia Browne half-hidden behind a pillar on the second floor?

  31. says

    I think it is that understanding that explains why Hindus are not ever up in arms about what science has to say in its attempts at comprehending the world.

    There was recently a big fuss made by “fundamentalist” Hindus in California about teaching the beginnings of humans. Basically they wanted text books that said humans were however many millions or billions of years old as one of the holy books says.

    From what I’ve read, and that isn’t a ton, a lot of Hinduism has become more fundamentalist since the British colonized and started giving people political representation based on religion, with Hinduism being considered a unitary religion as opposed to a loose collection of beliefs that different people subscribed to. Since then there has been political pressure for people to identify as explicitly “Hindu” as opposed to say, someone who worships a specific set of gods and goddesses that fall under the Hindu pantheon.

  32. says

    I’ve always heard mythology described as a religion that no longer has any followers. It’s the end-state of the evolution of faith. The stories continue in the culture but only as amusing relics of history.

  33. Sastra, OM says

    I frequently place religions like Christianity in the same category as myth, astrology, alien abductions, Theosophy, New Age, magic, animism, ancient astronauts, and pseudoscience. Religious people think I do this because I am attempting to show scorn for Christianity. On the contrary, my background was in the second group. I am showing respect for myth, astrology, alien abductions, Theosophy, New Age, magic, animism, ancient astronauts, and pseudoscience.

    They’re none of them accurate or true, but all believed to be true for similar — and interesting — reasons.

  34. milkbone says

    Reminds me of the most accurate book title I’ve ever seen, courtesy of one of those “___ for Dummies” rip-offs:

    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Numerology

  35. says

    Greetings all,

    I am the person who took this picture and posted it at The Frame Problem. Some people have been asking what store this is. I have deliberately kept that a secret. The reason being that I would hate to risk losing the proprietors sales should some sensitive religious people come across this increasingly popular photo and start encouraging coreligionists in the Toronto area to not shop there.

    Since there is some interest from Toronto-area readers as to the identity of the store, I will be contacting the owner on Wednesday to see if he would mind if the store is identified.

    I’ll post his reply as an addendum to the photo post which PZ cites above.



  36. says

    @#12 (Atanu Dey) and – #41 (BaldApe)

    Hear, hear! Myths are stories, and humans communicate and think in terms of stories. However, there is a mistake in taking a metaphor for a story happening in time and space.

    I don’t love religion, but I love literature – so I’m curious about world myths. I don’t love religion, but I love music – so I love a lot of sacred music. I don’t love religion, but I love art and architecture. I don’t love religion, but I love dance and pageantry. (Heck, if I were to become religious finally it would be voodoo/Santeria. Drums are a must. No sitting in church for me.)

    So the paradox is, I end up learning a lot about religious practices because I am interested in human beings and how they live, but the dogma in religion makes my heart sink. It’s like a flower cart yoked to a dead horse.

  37. Ichthyic says

    (Heck, if I were to become religious finally it would be voodoo/Santeria. Drums are a must. No sitting in church for me.)

    ooh, if you like dance centered around drums, you MUST spend some time in French Polynesia.

    amazing stuff, and I think you especially would greatly appreciate the style of dance associated with it.

    I spent a month and a half on Moorea, and one of the local drumming/dance troupes practiced on the station lawn every day in the afternoons.

    fucking paradise.

  38. Kagehi says

    Hmm. Local “used” book store, I commented to the owner that, “Damn, I thought someone had finally shelved that book in the right place!”, when I noticed a copy of the KJV on the same set of shelves as “fantasy fiction”. Turned out I just missed the sign, and it the “spirituality” section was right next to the other one. But, had a nice chat with the lady and I am 99.9% sure she is a Unitarian, so at least mostly sane. By contrast, at Hastings, the “big” book store in town, they **always** place Seed, legitimate Archeology magazines and Skeptical Enquirer on the “same” shelf as… Astrology magazines, Mysticism, Christian Archeology, Ghost magazines, Cryptozoology, and every other kind of insane BS imaginable. Sigh…

  39. says

    Here’s Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent for India on the topic of religion and myth, writing around 1997:

    “The genius of Hinduism, the very reason it has survived so long, is that it does not stand up and fight. It changes and adapts and modernizes and absorbs–that is the scientific and proper way of going about it.

    Why is Christianity in so much trouble at the moment? Because it is so difficult for it to adapt, to face up to the scientific inventions of our times and the findings of history. It is also difficult for Christians to say that the most important thing about a religion is the myth that underlies it. That is the power. Anyone who thinks myth equals lie, as some people appear to do, is totally misled. Hinduism has this great strength. It is based on myth unashamedly.”

    I quote Tully not because he is some authority on religion (he isn’t) but as someone who has keenly observed India and Indians for decades and therefore may have an interesting take on it.

    I am a hard-core atheist — what else could anyone with any brains be anyway. As a Hindu (yes, atheism is a well-respected tradition in Hinduism), I take particular delight in the myths. My favorite god is Ganesh, the guy with the elephant head and huge human body. The stories associated with him are delightful and funny.

  40. Kagehi says

    Hmm. So.. The nuts trying to use “vedic” science to recreate ancient mythical weapons are what then exactly? lol As Greta states, the problem isn’t treating religion as myth, its that its nearly impossible to avoid treating it as myth in one case, then treating it as truth in another (she describes how she would act skeptical around skeptics and turn practically brainless around believers). I would say that the bigger problem is, anyone that **does** take it seriously, at all, in any form, risks falling down the rabbit hole, and discovering that they can’t get back out quite so easily.

    Hindu is hardly divorced of this kind of nutty stuff. But, you are right, it is more open to reality, usually, and much of it is intended to be treated as pure myth. Problem is, some of it, like Vedic, are *not*.

  41. says

    @#46, milkbone:

    …courtesy of one of those “___ for Dummies” rip-offs:

    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Numerology

    Actually, to be fair, I was seeing and (in one case, VW repair) using “Complete Idiot’s Guides” long before I saw my first black-and-yellow “For Dummies” book, so you might have that backwards.

  42. says

    Atanu Dey: Are you sure? Admittedly I haven’t looked into the matter much but I have seen articles (e.g. by Meera Nanda) about Hindutva and those sorts of groups stressing “Vedic science” which seems to be the Hindu version of ID/creationism.