The Library of Babel
by Jorge Luis Borges
The Library of Babel Theme of Religion
One of the coolest things about this imaginary universe in "The Library of Babel" is the way Borges manages to squeeze in a lot of references to different kinds of religious philosophies and religious history. You've got your mystics, your zealots, and your blasphemers, your orthodox religions and your breakaway sects. There's a religion that bears some resemblance to Buddhism, and there's even an Inquisition! By reflecting on so many aspects of religious history and thought, Borges is able to show us that sometimes religion can be a source of hope, while at other times it can be an instrument of intolerance and destruction.
Questions About Religion
- Is the narrator religious? What is the nature of his beliefs?
- Which religions in the story seem to be mainstream, and which are marginal? Do these groups come into conflict?
- Why do you think religion exists in the Library? Where do these religious ideas come from, and what purpose do they serve for the librarians?
- What is the author's tone when he discusses religion in the Library? Is Borges critical of religion? Is he reverent and respectful? Does he use religion as a source of humor?
Chew on This
Of all the religious ideas found in the Library, the narrator favors those that can be arrived at logically, and dismisses those that have no logical basis.
Borges' description of the Library's inquisitors and Purifiers is parodic, and shows him to be critical of Catholicism in particular and religion in general.