back to article Bible THUMP: Good Book beats Darwin to most influential tome title

Members of the Folio Society have named the Bible as the most important book of all time, with Darwin's On The Origin of Species coming in at a close second place. The literary group commissioned YouGov to survey more than 2,000 British grown-ups and ask them which book they thought was the most valuable to human civilisation …

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  1. Matthew Smith

    The Mythical Man-Month - Fred Brooks

    The C++ Programming Language - Bjarne Stroustrup

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      The C++ Programming Language

      BLETCH.

      I detect purposefully inflammatory, senseless remarks and irreverent trolling.

      Or else the IT horizon of dear commentard must be smaller than one of a neutron star.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. JDX Gold badge

        I'd rate it as pretty important too and I haven't ever read it, and I'm a Christian. I don't agree with Islam's teachings but it's a very important book merely because so many people do - similar to the bible in that respect. Together they have shaped our world (for better or worse is for each individual to decide).

        1. Psyx

          Whether we like it or not, and utterly regardless of our own levels of piety, the most important books in human history are those which shaped world culture, and continue to shape it. Religious texts dictate the morality of entire civilizations. Four of the top five books pretty much have to default to being the core tomes of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Our ways of life, calendars and ethos are inspired by them.

          Somewhere in the top 10 you'd have to fit the Little Red Book, too. It's an almost non-religious religious text, in that it shaped the most populous nation of earth. And of course they were inspired by The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Even if you hate all things left of centre, half the planet didn't and they shaped their culture, which in turn resulted in a lot of changes in our society and the Cold War.

          "Together they have shaped our world (for better or worse is for each individual to decide)."

          So Bible and Quoran... but no Bhagavad Gita or Buddhist texts? Only half of the world's religions are important? ;)

  2. Tim 11

    brief history of time??

    It's an OK book but it's not top 10. I'd have the selfish gene over that anyday

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: brief history of time??

      It's had WAY more impact.

      1. Psyx

        Re: brief history of time??

        "Re: brief history of time??

        It's had WAY more impact."

        I don't believe either books are close to top 10 material, given that upward of 98% of the world has never read them (all the way through at least) and that neither have heralded any social change or shifts in society, nor major things in the thinking of the intelligentsia.

        It's quite hard to think of a popular science book that makes the grade, unfortunately. Lot's of great books, but I don't think that there are any which caused major shifts in thinking on a scale that could be measured globally. One could probably make an argument for Daniken having more popular influence.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    The bible is a book ?

    Personally I thought it was propaganda, can someone explain the difference.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: The bible is a book ?

      >Personally I thought it was propaganda, can someone explain the difference.

      I'll get my primary school-age daughter to help you out, if you like.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: The bible is a book ?

        Well, that's a bit unfair, the bible isn't one book. How about we stitch together the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Origin of Species, Relativity and Lady Chatterly's Lover (you have read the Song of Solomon?) as a more fair competitor?

    2. Jim 59

      Re: The bible is a book ?

      Pedants will say the bible is a collection of books. Ultra-pedants will argue the Magna Carta is a single page book and should be top of the list. Trolls will vouchsafe their dismal political opinions / (lack of) spiritual beliefs, and generally try to appear the cleverest person in the room while also having read non of the listed books in their entirety. And somebody will say "sheeple".

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: The bible is a book ?

        Pedants would say that it's a collection of 66 books.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: The bible is a book ?

          And not 666, as some might have believed

          1. Gazareth

            Re: The bible is a book ?

            The Bible's an usual series, in that it started dark and edgy, then got rebooted to light and fluffy.

            1. Jedit

              "The Bible ... started dark and edgy, then got rebooted to light and fluffy."

              Inevitably this happened when the authors sold the movie rights. I understand the going rate for a Gospel was thirty pieces of silver, which really isn't much for the Greatest Story Ever Told.

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: The bible is a book ?

              >The Bible's an usual series, in that it started dark and edgy, then got rebooted to light and fluffy.

              No it's just a rip off of the Terminator

              In part 1 the central character is an all powerful destroyer who doesn't stop wiping out everybody who opposes him

              In part 2 he is switched 180deg into a fluffy empathising do-gooder who is there to sacrifice himself to save everyone

              1. Khaptain Silver badge

                Re: The bible is a book ?

                @Plee

                >I'll get my primary school-age daughter to help you out, if you like.

                That is a very disturbing statement. Whatever you do , don't let them grow up without first filling their minds with dogma.....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The bible is a book ?

            or 616, in case any QI watchers are around

            and just for fun, for those that voted for the Bible? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CPjWd4MUXs#t=44

            "My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it OK to call the police?"

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Pedants would say that it's a collection of 66 books.

          What about the fact many of the 'books' are letters and one is only one page long? I think you need to be more pedantic.

        3. Irony Deficient

          Re: The bible is a book ?

          Crisp, pedants would say that the count depends upon which canon is used; for example, the Protestant canon has 66 books, the Roman Catholic canon has 73 books, and the Eastern Orthodox canon has 78 books. (I think that some of the other Catholic and Orthodox churches also have their own canons.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The bible is a book ?

        and some pompous tw*t will pretend they know everything that is going to be said!

      3. Psyx
        Happy

        Re: The bible is a book ?

        "And somebody will say 'sheeple'."

        (Probably Matt)

    3. JonP
      Coat

      Re: The bible is a book ?

      The bible is a book ?

      The clue's in the name ...

    4. william 10

      Re: The bible is a book ?

      A common mistake people make,

      The bible as a collection of writings, not all of the same category, some if it is undoubtedly historical records, some is poetry, some is philosophy, some is tradition, some is law - which has under pined western thinking for a very long time. So much of the modern world is conditioned around us by a time when the bible was central to most people lives.

    5. Psyx

      Re: The bible is a book ?

      "Personally I thought it was propaganda, can someone explain the difference."

      The two are not mutually exclusive.

      It's a book. It has stories in. Some of them are more interesting in terms of plot than anything Dan Brown has written.

  4. Cipher

    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

    Animal Farm by George Orwell

    Anthem by Ayn Rand

  5. Andy 97
    Mushroom

    "most important book"

    Das Kapital doesn't even feature in the top 10?

    That's 90% of university lecturers up in arms then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "most important book"

      Mein Kampff is back up in the popular lists too, seriously.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "most important book"

        Mein Kampff is back up in the popular lists too, seriously.

        And why not. Pulp fiction is always good, people are reading Hillary's book too etc.

        Also: It's either "Mein Kampf" or "Voight-Kampff", do not mix the two.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: "most important book"

          "Most important" is vague.

          "Had a hugely signifficant effect on history": "Mein Kampf", "Das Kapital" both qualify.

          "Has contents that everyone ought to know about": MK definitely not, DK probably not.

          BTW even as an atheist, I'll agree with putting the bible (or at least the New Testament" on the list. It's the foundation stone of our accepted system of morals and value judgements. Much of what's gone wrong recently wouldn't have gone wrong, if the people in charge had adhered more strongly to that moral framework.

          1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

            Re: "most important book"

            "It's the foundation stone of our accepted system of morals and value judgements"

            No.

            Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before.

            The idea that the world was total chaos before a highly edited compilation of short stories came out is a bit silly.

            1. Nigel 11

              Re: "most important book"

              Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before

              I'd argue that they didn't, or at least that no society had hitherto been founded upon them. The Roman and Persian empires, China, Japan, the other ancient empires I have read about, ran on completely different moral codes. Today's Islamic world and today's post-communist China likewise do not share our moral code (hence much trouble in today's world).

              The enlightenment refined the moral framework and downplayed the superstition and dogma. Darwin's church was Christianity at its best. Seems to me that things have been going downhill since then.

              1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                Re: "most important book"

                "I'd argue that they didn't, or at least that no society had hitherto been founded upon them. The Roman and Persian empires, China, Japan, the other ancient empires I have read about, ran on completely different moral codes."

                Don't confuse morality and customs. Morality is fundamental and is the same for everyone because it is determined by laws of nature. Customs are whatever rules and edicts considered expedient for inclusion by the author of the particular rule book, given his own baggage of life experience, understanding (or not) of it and political ambitions.

                Every religious book starts with the fundamental morality and then tries to distort it to justify and support enforcement of unrelated, petty and self-serving rules designed to preserve the position of power of the authors or their sponsors.

                "hence much trouble in today's world"

                I believe that the fact that our moral code is being routinely ignored by our own leaders has more to do with that then some fundamental difference in moral principles of different cultures in today's world.

                And also the internal conflict of some of the tribal/cultural/customary rules with those determined by fundamental morality.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "most important book"

                  > Morality is fundamental and is the same for everyone because it is determined by laws of nature.

                  Morality is fluid and changes decade by decade.

                  There is a very small number of laws which are indisputably set in stone such as those related to murder and rape. Note that they are not immutable, but have stood the test of time.

                  In essence it is likely that there is one true morality and we are approaching it over time.

                  The number of laws in that morality are likely to be very small indeed.

                2. fearnothing

                  Re: "most important book"

                  All morality, the Bible or otherwise, starts with a set of basic assumptions and premises. These are not built in to the universe, they are simply the best choices we know of for a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought and (to a certain extent) of action. Morality is NOT fundamental.

                  "TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY." - Death, as depicted by Terry Pratchett

                  And yet despite this I am a strong proponent of deontological ethics. Go figure.

                  1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                    Re: "most important book"

                    "These are not built in to the universe, they are simply the best choices we know of for a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought and (to a certain extent) of action. Morality is NOT fundamental."

                    I'm afraid you contradict yourself in the above statement.

                    Basically, you are saying that a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought will have a range of choices available to them. If they consistently choose sub-optimally, they will either suffer or die. This is determined solely by the combination of natural laws exisiting in this particular Universe. A social thermodynamics, if you will.

                    Any society exisiting and prospering in this Universe will therefore follow a similar path of best decisions and will work out a set of key rules that guide them in making those decisions. Those rules will be common across the Universe and will describe the fundamental principles of successful social behaviour = morality, built into this Universe.

            2. Jim 59

              Re: "most important book"

              Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before.

              The idea that the world was total chaos before a highly edited compilation of short stories came out is a bit silly.

              To be fair, Folio did not say that moral values were non-existent before the Bible, just that the Bible codified them and heavily influenced what we have today. Which is indisputably true, as any law student will tell us.

              1. Khaptain Silver badge

                Re: "most important book"

                I would argue that moral values have existed since the beginning of man otherwise we would have wiped ourselfs out a long time ago.

                The fact that those morals were written down has very little importance other than as a means of propoganda ( albeit with an altruistic leit motif).

                If that book had been written without all the Sky Fairy nonsense then it would have been a very good but very short book.

                Everyone also seems to forget that Occident societies were not the only people on the planet. Moral values, I believe were well know and even documented within the middle kingdom..

                Confuscious was around 500bc...

          2. Andy 97

            Re: "most important book"

            This is not a sectarian rant, merely a statement of factual history.

            Organized Protestant Christianity give our ancestors access to a universal education system in this country. Without the Protestant Christian free schools many would still have been subject to the horrors of (almost) serfdom or worse.

            I'm sure there are examples of exemplary Catholic schools too, but let us not forget that reading was discouraged and that's why the Pope resisted the translations of the Bible from Latin.

            Perhaps the list should start with The King James Bible?

            1. Jungleland

              Re: "most important book"

              "Perhaps the list should start with The King James Bible?"

              You really should start with William Tyndale's version

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyndale_Bible

      2. Andy 97

        Re: "most important book"

        Hitler's book was just as influential I suppose, thankfully it's not part of core syllabuses on many B.A (hons) courses. That could change of course :(

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "most important book"

      That's because "Das Kapital" was trashed by Böhm Bawerk even before WWI and only hipsters sporting Che T-Shirts find any redeeming value in that multi-tome work.

      Note that Marx conveniently died before managed to finish his Magnum Opus so he never had to deliver on his promise that we would explain eventually how all of the demagoguery culled from a few centuries of communist collectivist dogma and moaning (always ending in tears and people being shot for not following the line to peasant freedom) actually makes any sense.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Flame

    The Bible

    Most rectconned book of all times. Rewritten several times and redacted according to prevalent dogma / papal edicts. The older part was about removing kebabs, chosen people being strong for their tribe and relentless hailing of genocide, with some rape throw in. Also possibly written at the time when human consciousness underwent deep remodeling, though that is evidently debatable.

    Flaming Bush icon, of course.

    P.S. "A Brief History of Time" on 3rd place? Utterly Ridiculous.

    1. Evil Graham

      Re: The Bible

      You can't deny it shifted a load of copies though. With that level of success I'm surprised they didn't do a sequel.

      1. Andy 97

        Re: The Bible

        I believe that was the book of Moroni (Mormon).

        Same players, but a new twist in the sub plot.

      2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: The Bible

        "You can't deny it shifted a load of copies though"

        Though Gove tried so had to shift thousands more.

        I wonder what the list would look like if it was based on books purchased rather than given away like a breakfast ceral toy.

        1. Jungleland

          Re: The Bible

          Worryingly, so many people don't read books anymore that it was probably the only title they could think of.

        2. monkeyfish

          Re: The Bible

          I wonder what the list would look like if it was based on books purchased rather than given away like a breakfast ceral toy.

          The bible would be at the top still (in the UK at least), but none of the others would be even close. Note that the bible is not included in the bestseller lists as it would win every year.

          1. Martin

            Re: The Bible

            Note that the bible is not included in the bestseller lists as it would win every year.

            Citation needed. How many people buy a bible each year, as opposed to schools or churches buying them in bulk?

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