Pastor is shocked—shocked! at Costco’s labeling the Bible as fiction

November 21, 2013 • 6:51 am

This is a hilarious tale from Puffho in which a preacher, is shocked by finding the Bible at Costco—an American chain that sells products cheaply and in bulk—labeled as FICTION! OMG!

Costco recently roused the ire of Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach when he discovered a stack of Bibles with a ‘Fiction’ sticker at their Simi Valley, Calif. location. He told Todd Starnes of Fox News, “All the Bibles were labeled as fiction. It seemed bizarre to me.”

An affronted Kaltenbach tw**ted it:


Kaltenbach is the lead pastor at Discovery Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation located in southern California. He told Starnes, “People are pretty shocked and upset. We are supposed to be living in an era of tolerance, but what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant.”

A Costco representative told Starnes that there was a “human error at a warehouse,” and that it was “all fixed.” However, as of Nov. 18, Starnes reported that there was still “a boatload of Bibles in the Simi Valley store still marked as fiction.”

The labeling issue needn’t be so black and white, feels Kaltenbach. “If they don’t believe in the Bible, that’s fine – but at least label it as ‘religion’ as some bookstores do, or ‘inspiration’,” he said to Fox News.

As if there’s a difference between “religion” and “fiction”!

But, after more religious people turned this into a furor, Costco apologized yesterday (to Fox News, of course), as they’d more or less have to in this religious country:

Costco has issued an apology to Fox News, stating, “Costco’s distributor mislabeled a small percentage of the Bibles, however we take responsibility and should have caught the mistake. We are correcting this with them for future distribution. In addition, we are immediately relabeling all mislabeled Bibles. We greatly apologize for this error.”

But you can vote at the HuffPo site on how the Bible should be categorized in stores that sell books. Go weigh in! So far, it’s running on the nonbeliever side:

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 7.48.13 AM

h/t: Barry

62 thoughts on “Pastor is shocked—shocked! at Costco’s labeling the Bible as fiction

    1. Lazarus Long in Robert Heinlein’s “To Sail Beyond the Sunset” makes the same observation of “crucifiction” after his attempts at time traveling to discover the event wind up in vain.

  1. O, I am so glad you have found this story, Dr Coyne — out in the past 24 hours’ time.

    Came to me from an ffrf – feed.

    heh.heh: Idn’t the dude – pastor hilarious ?


  2. Come on, if we’re sharing “The Word of the Lord”, shouldn’t they just be given away? I almost always find religious materials in stores which cater to low income folks (dollar stores, discount groceries, etc). Preying on the vulnerable, perhaps?

  3. Can we get an apologey from the religious for trying to label evolution (and other solid science) as Fiction?

    Obviously we can’t….

    I would love to ask this pastor: just how weak is your faith if you feel this threatened by a few mislabeled books at a supermarket ?

  4. “We are supposed to be living in an era of tolerance, but what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant.”

    Can we also protest (however futilely) at the rampant misuse of the word “tolerant” as it applies to religion? It doesn’t mean what Christians think it means, and as I explain here it certainly doesn’t mean “respect”!

    1. That remark was ridiculous on a couple of counts: as you point out, “tolerance” doesn’t mean you get your way all the time and can do anything you damn well please.

      But also, this was a mistake! Does it make sense to call this mistake an instance of intolerance?

      1. Depends on the context. In the context of used car sales, con artistry, propaganda, politics & religion it is an ancient time honored tactic.

  5. There used to be a secondhand bookstore in Iowa City that had all the woo-y books in a section labelled “Alternative Reality.” I don’t recall, but imagine and hope the Bibles were there.

  6. Yeah, it sounds like one of their employees did a bit of guerilla labeling; I can’t imagine that’s the actual Costo-approved label.

    As for the poll, I support bookstores having a Religious/Spiritual section separate from general fiction and general nonfiction, so count me in the “other” group. Having them make some ideological statment via categorization is far, far, FAR less important to me than being able to quickly find the book I’m looking for…and sticking the bibles in with the novels doesn’t make it easier to find stuff, it makes it harder.

    Religious books are analagous to travel guides and cookbooks. The latter don’t belong in general nonfiction for exactly the same reason the bible doesn’t belong in general fiction: because my search efficiency as a customer is improved when they get their own section(s).

    1. I don’t have a problem with bibles being labeled fiction, but I have to agree that having a religious / spiritual section is convenient. There is so much of that crap, having at least some of it in one easily avoidable location is nice.

      Of course having such a section doesn’t prevent the religious & wooious (ha! I invented a new word) from contaminating the science, history, etc., sections with their fiction, so I don’t know if it makes a significant difference either way.

      A brief glance at the issue does reveal the hypocrisy of the pastor and those like him, though.

      1. Be realistic. If Costco and other mainstream retailers were going to take an ideological stance (via label) on this material, it pretty much isn’t going to be ours.

        Look, you’re basically arguing that an even treatment of via label does not reflect reality. While I agree with that, consider: you are asking why Costco doesn’t cut this label cake a lot less evenly, but you’re forgetting that, very likely, we aren’t the ones who get to pick the first piece.

    2. Wouldn’t you then put Star Trek in with the religious books? There are plenty of Star Trek followers and believers. If not, how do you differentiate categorization of Star Trek and the christian holey book?

      Now, I wouldn’t mind having religion as a subset within the fiction category but, otherwise fiction is the proper label for bibel.

      1. Although I agree that the bible can take the label, I think there’s a danger of a slippery slope there. Should one put Plato’s dialogues into fiction? They, like the bible, the pseudononomous works of Kierkegaard, etc. might well to be put in a third category. Or, altnernatively, does the author’s intention matter? If so, how does one classify _The Boomer Bible_?

        To be fair, I think the easiest thing to do is to just forget the fiction/nonfiction distinction and have a category “religion” (and parodies, philosophical dialogues, etc. as other categories).

      2. No, it’s sci-fi/fantasy. Again, not in the general fiction category.

        There may occasionally be some gray areas and tough cases, but for the majority of books, it’s pretty easy to distinguish where they go.

        Fiction/nonfiction is not the sum total of all the possible labels. There is in fact so much varied literature out there that most bookstores will likely have 10-20 different sections, because having just 2 would be stupid. Heck, sometimes its even better to shelve books under multiple, conflicting systems so that customers who think differently can all find what they’re looking for. Want the latest Dan Brown novel? You’ll find it under “Recent Releases,” “Fiction,” AND probably “Bookstore recommends.”

        Why? Because IMO this is and should be all about making customer searches more efficient, not any sort of ideological label purity.

  7. From a purely economic standpoint, I’d say put the Bible in a Religion section along with any other religious works. All you do by antagonizing any group is ensure they won’t spend money at your store.

    1. You’re right, of course. Still, just once I’d love to see a book section accurately labeled “Campfire Tales of Nomadic Bronze-Age Goatherds.”

        1. And what “age” do you consider the origin of the flood story? The earliest hints come from Sumer (2270BCE-2083BCE), as does the Garden of Eden myth.
          In addition, Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE
          Wiki gives the Bronze Age from about 2700BCE to about 1400BCE, depending on the local circumstances.

          1. And what “age” do you consider the origin of the flood story?

            -The origins of the flood story are Bronze Age, but its status as a Hebrew text most likely came about in the 6th century BC, when Judahite scribes and elites were in exile in Babylonia.

            In addition, Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE

            -And Moses, as we all know, did not write any part of the Bible.

            1. Which is not terribly surprising, considering that he is a mythical being, on a par with, say Hercules or Orpheus.

        2. Even according to the most literalist fundamentalist creationists who put Genesis as recent as possible, the first Biblical events took place 6,000 years ago.
          Heck, that’s even still in the stone age!

  8. Should have been labeled ‘Adult literature, contains tales of sex and violence. Not suitable for children/’

  9. Well, fiction makes no pretense of actually being factual. The same cannot really be said of the Christian Bible. Not that there is really a “Dishonesty” section at the bookstore, but it would be nice.

    1. Not really. There’s plenty of fiction to be found in the Bible, but the Bible is not a single book and it cannot be classified by any single genre.

  10. I remember being in someone’s home and perusing their bookshelves. There were books on Greek mythology, Persian mythology, but strangely no books on Christian mythology.

  11. It wasn’t misclassified, it was mislabeled, as in someone put the wrong sticker on it. From twitter:

    Costco Today ‏@CostcoToday 18 Nov
    @toddstarnes FYI: The SKU you see is for CANTERBURY CLASSIC ASSORT, not the BIBLE. Hope this helps!
    Please let your readers know. Thanks 🙂

    Fox news is, as usual, unwilling to let a simple explanation get in the way of a “good” story.

    More here:

  12. The bible should be labeled ‘Religion’. That should make religious people and atheists happy. Religion is what the bible inherently is. However, the connotations of religion are changing for the better. More people recognize it has peripheral, shameful, destructive…something altogether worth actively avoiding.

  13. Starnes raised the issue to pastor and author Robert Jeffress, who said, “Let’s hope Costco’s explanation is true and not the result of having been caught attempting to marginalize the very foundation of Christian beliefs, the Bible. Christians need to call out organizations like Costco whose actions undermine Christianity – regardless of whether those actions are accidental or intentional.”

    Groan. The screaming about “persecution” and “undermining Christianity.” Christianity undermines itself by not being believable.

  14. I’ve been in bed with the ‘flu the past couple of days (and Nyquil’d unconscious) but heard about this several times. They must have put up a hell of a fuss!

  15. Well, perhaps the Bible should be placed in a seperate mythology section rather than with standard fiction. It would be strange, for example, to find the Illiad or suchlike labeled as fiction, or in the same location as typical contemporary novels. The Illiad, the Oddessy, the Koran, the Bible, and all other mythological texts should be located in their own section.

  16. It’s neither fiction nor non-fiction. It’s mythic storytelling, which combines elements of both. Trying to say it’s either fiction or non-fiction misses the point of what it is, even if it’s trying to make a point about what it isn’t.

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