SHOPPING FOR GOD

Wondering which religion to turn to for spiritual guidance? With a little help from Amazon, Radar’s got the answers.

With the advent of the internet our lives have improved in countless ways, not least of which is our ability to comparison shop for everything, from cars to home appliances to romantic partners. And yet one terribly important decision has remained unaided by the web until now: to what religion do you consign your immortal soul? Choosing a dogma is a daunting task. Pick the wrong faith and you could come back as a bee.

A few weeks ago Amazon.com introduced “Text Stats,” a nifty little feature that boils a book down to its core, allowing you to understand it without having to read it. (Great news for people who don’t have time to get into all the words and page-turning that reading burdens you with.) When Text Stats is applied to the world’s major religions, it creates a handy roadmap to eternity, a sort of Consumer Reports for the soul. Radar unleashed Text Stats on the Holy Bible (King James version), the TorahThe Koran Interpreted: A Translation, and, for those intimidated by the austerity of the ancient tomes, Life’s Little Instruction Book, a one-time best-seller and universal bathroom accoutrement. Below is what might be the most important analysis you’ll ever read in this life or the next. If there is one.

Readability
The readability stat is based on various arcane calculations that estimate the years of education required to understand what you’re reading.

Bible: You should be close to finishing the 10th grade.
Torah: You should be close to graduating from high school.
Koran: You should have at least a ninth-grade education.
Life’s Little Instruction Book: You should be beginning your final year in middle school.

Life’s Little Instruction Book and the Koran require a People reading level, while the Bible is more Newsweek. What comes as no surprise is the comparative sophistication of the Torah. Everyone knows being Jewish makes you smarter; that’s why they all wear glasses.
Winner: Torah

Common Words
Text Stats determines what words come up most often in a given work.

Bible: Shall, unto, Lord
Torah: Shall, unto, Lord
Koran: God, shall, Lord
Life’s Little Instruction Book: Book, little, instruction

The most common word in the Koran is God. That’s no shocker, considering that many Muslims invoke the word to preface everything from friendly salutations to martyrdom operations. The second- and third-most popular words in the Koran are shall and Lord, respectively. We sense a theme here, as the Bible and Torah share shall, unto, and Lord as their top three. By revealing so much similarity among the three major faiths, perhaps Text Stats will usher in a new era of religious understanding. Probably not. Life’s Little Instruction Book plays it safe by keeping it real, and it really pays off: All that Jewish, Christian and Muslim “shall” stuff sounds really bossy.
Winner: Life’s Little Instruction Book

Value
Text Stats tells you the number of words in a book for every dollar it costs.

Bible: 61,889
Torah: 6,869
Koran: 19,619
Life’s Little Instruction Book: 2,707

The best bang for your buck is the Bible, which offers readers nearly 62,000 words per dollar. The Koran comes in a distant second at 20,000. The Torah is even less of a bargain at 7,000 words-per-buck, though the biggest swindle is Life’s Little Instruction Book, which isn’t even half that.
Winner: the Bible

Characterizing Language
Amazon notes a book’s Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIP), which are assemblies of words that appear in the book one or more times but aren’t found with any frequency in other Amazon books.

Bible: Numerous
Torah: Numerous
Koran: Numerous
Life’s Little Instruction Book: Nil

Some statistically improbable Bible phrases like “fine flour mingled with oil” and “land that floweth with milk” inspire hunger. The Torah has some goodies like “bound her soul,” “shall wash his clothes,” “unclean unto,” and “thou shalt overlay”—all of which seem domestic or sexy. The Koran has “humbling chastisement,” “mighty chastisement,” “painful chastisement,” “evil chastisement,” and “terrible chastisement.” That’s a little too much chastisement, thanks.

Life’s Little Instruction Book has no SIPs, presumably because it’s simple and meant to be read on toilets. In this case, less is more, as it doesn’t leave one feeling hungry, unclean, or chastised.
Winner: Life’s Little Instruction Book

Overall winner: Life’s Little Instruction Book. Sure, it’s no bargain, but it’s the quickest read—not to mention the easiest. (If we’re going to bother finding a belief system, it better be something fast and digestible.) But the greatest strength of Life’s Little Instruction Book is that the odds of it inciting, inspiring or igniting anything are extremely slim. Which makes it our favorite good book of all.