To Take So Others Can't Have

Earlier today, I was walking to class after lunch and a man approached me. He had a strong accent that I really could barely understand (I don’t even know what kind of accent it was, but he was maybe Russian?). He was talking to me about this book that he was holding, called “The Journey of Self-Discovery”. I really couldn’t tell exactly what he was saying, but I made out words like “the afterlife” and “spirit”, so I assumed it was something religious. I then saw the words on the bottom of the cover of the book, “His Divine Grace”, underneath which there was a name. My first thought was “Oh, this guy is a Catholic and this book is written by a Pope or Bishop or something”. But then he opened the book and pointed to pictures of Buddha and other Hindu art. I made out words like “reincarnation” and “buddha”. It was then I realized what he was trying to tell me.

So he was offering two books (he showed me the other one, and it was obviously Hindu). He wanted to give me them, but he was asking for a small donation. This is where the moral theology comes in: I thought to myself, “If I take these books, I can go home and burn them and no one else will be able to get them from this guy. And I only have a quarter on me, and I don’t think I quarter is enough that I am materially supporting this guy, especially because it costs more than a quarter to make these books”. So I found a quarter in my backpack and gave it to him. He gave me one of the books, the “Journey” one. When I went to class, one of my classmates said, after seeing my book, that he was also offered a book and didn’t want it. So I took that from him too. I plan on burning both when I get home.

My question is: “Is it right for someone to accept these books (going as far as to pay for them) in order to protect others from being influenced by them?”

Also, should I burn them? That is my gut reaction, but I will wait until I get some answers first.

A very good question (as I’ve wondered the same kind of thing in other matters)—I look forward to see how some may answer. As for me, I’ve always worried when I see one piece of cheesecake leftover and I know I should eat it in order to prevent someone else from eating it and damaging their health.


I might have to use that one now…

But, more to the point, I’m not harming myself by taking the books. I am merely preventing others from getting hurt. Unlike cheesecake.

To me this falls under the category of “the guy is a crackpot,and you’re entitled to do anything reasonable to keep yourself safe, including taking the books just to get him to leave you alone.”

I don’t think you are really under any obligation to burn the books, although throwing them away sounds like a fine idea (or ripping out pages, etc., so no one else reads them, etc.).

There are always going to be crackpots in the world, and we can’t always help who comes walking up to us…

One time a polite young man approached me selling sun-catchers there were handcrafted. He said something about them and his faith. So, I asked what his faith was. It was the unification church. I wished him well and simply said that as a Catholic I could not contribute. No problem.

Same with, in a grocery store parking lot, I was encouraged to take a pamphlet. I asked, “Oh, is this from the Catholic Church?” and he said well it’s from the Catholic and protestant church(!). Again, no problem as I politely declined.

For some reason, I never seem to think of declining. I always think, “If I just take his stuff, less people will get hurt and I know he will leave me alone.”

There are lots of books and lots of other things that we do not want anyone to have access to for various reasons.

We can not spend all of our money buying all these things with the purpose of protecting others.

This man will replace his supply to include replacing what you purchased. The same as the stores will replace their sold items.

Your heart is kind. You did what you thought best in a new situation. He probably is trying to help others in the way he thinks is best - by promoting what he sees as good.


I agree. It’s a drop in the bucket at best. Still I understand the psychological reasons for doing it. It’s like when I throw away hastily strewn-about tracts to combat littering.

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