Why Do Hotels Have Bibles? The Answer May Surprise You

For as long as many can remember, hotels have had a Bible tucked away in the nightstand or dresser drawer of each guest room. However, few people have stopped to question why this is the case. In this article, we will explore the origins and significance of this practice, including the historical and religious reasons why hotels have Bibles.

We will also examine the controversy surrounding this tradition and consider whether it still holds relevance in today’s world. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or simply curious about the cultural and religious practices of the hospitality industry, this article will provide insight into a long-standing tradition that has fascinated and puzzled many for years.

The History of Bibles in Hotel Rooms

Bibles in hotel rooms have become an expected amenity, but why are they there? The answer may surprise you. The tradition of having them there has a long and complicated history that started more than 100 years ago.

Let’s take a closer look at the history behind this curious custom.

The Gideon Society and the Origin of Hotel Bibles

The Gideon Society is a non-denominational Christian organization founded in 1899 by businessmen and Christian leaders in Wisconsin. The organization’s mission is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to distribute free Bibles in public places.

It is said that the tradition of placing Bibles in hotel rooms started in 1908 when a traveling salesman, John Nicholson, checked into the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. Upon learning that the inn did not have a Bible, he gave his own to the manager with the suggestion that it be placed in each room.

This idea was later expanded by the Gideon Society, which has distributed millions of Bibles in hotels worldwide. The Bibles are usually small and unobtrusive, with the organization’s name and contact information included inside the cover.

While the primary purpose of the Gideon Society’s distribution of Bibles is to spread the gospel, the presence of Bibles in these rooms has also been seen by some as a symbol of hospitality and a nod to tradition. However, the Gideon Society encourages to only place Bibles in rooms if they are comfortable doing so and to respect the beliefs of guests who may not share their faith.

The Spread of Hotel Bibles

Spread of Hotel Bibles

They have been a common sight for decades and their history can be traced back to the early 1900s.

In 1899, a group of Christian businessmen founded The Gideons International, an organization dedicated to distributing Bibles around the world. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that The Gideons began placing them, starting with the Superior Hotel in Montana.

Over time, other religious organizations such as the American Bible Society and The Salvation Army joined in on this type of distribution. Today, it is estimated that there are around 3,000,000 hotel rooms with Bibles worldwide.

However, in recent years, there has been a trend of removing them from their rooms due to declining readership, changing religious demographics, and an increasing focus on secularism.

Whether or not they will continue to be a fixture in these rooms remains to be seen.

While exploring various aspects of hotels, you might also be curious to learn about the behind-the-scenes process of maintaining those spotless glass shower doors in hotel bathrooms.

The Significance of Hotel Bibles in the Mid-20th Century

It had a significant influence on the spiritual and cultural landscape of the mid-20th century, and its history carries with it some surprising and unexpected twists.

In the early 1900s, Gideons International began providing complimentary Bibles, and soon after, the American Hotel Association also got involved, recognizing the value of offering guests spiritual guidance.

During World War II, the government urged these owners to provide the book to soldiers, which helped reinforce the importance of these religious texts in American culture.

Today, they have become a ubiquitous fixture in hotel rooms around the world, taken for granted by many guests. However, their presence speaks to the legacy of the Christian faith in Western culture, as well as to the enduring human desire for spiritual guidance and comfort.

The Reasons Behind Hotel Bibles Today

reasons why Hotel have Bibles

Why exactly do hotels have Bibles? While the answer might not be what you expect, it’s an interesting story nonetheless.

Catering to the Religious Needs of Guests

Catering to the religious needs of guests is a crucial aspect for the hospitality industry to make their stay comfortable and memorable. They have been a part of the guest room experience for years in many hotels and their presence is not limited to any particular religion.

Some guests seek out hotel property for a quiet escape from the hustle-bustle and turn to this book for personal reflection and inspiration. The presence of Bibles in the room could give a sense of safety and calmness to guests who may be experiencing stress, anxiety, or grief during their time away from home.

Moreover, they respect the religious beliefs of their guests, and providing religious materials is good customer service.

Though not all guests share the same views or beliefs, the presence of religious materials in guest rooms acknowledges that community in diverse ways is important.

Providing a Sense of Comfort for Guests

They have been a part of the hospitality industry for decades, and they serve a multitude of purposes beyond just providing religious reading material for guests.

Here are some reasons why they have them in their rooms:

  1. Comfort for guests: For many travelers, staying in a hotel can be a foreign and impersonal experience, but seeing a familiar item like a bible in their room can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity.
  2. Historical norm: In the past, they have been known to provide spiritual guidance and comfort to travelers in need, and this tradition has carried on through the provision of Bibles in hotel rooms.
  3. Cultural expectations: Depending on the location and clientele, having a bible in each room may be the norm or the expectation for some guests.

While not all of them may provide this book, those that do have recognized the value it brings to many of their guests.

Aesthetics and Tradition

They have become the norm, gracing the bedside tables of every major hotel room across the globe, but the reason behind this tradition might be surprising.

Initially, placing them was seen as a way to promote Christianity and provide spiritual guidance to travelers far from their homes, congregations, and families.

Today, however, it has become more of a cultural and aesthetic token, symbolizing a sense of comfort, hope, and safety for guests away from their homes. It has been seen as a sign of respect and hospitality towards guests who may have different religious beliefs.

While some may see it as an outdated tradition, many of these institutions continue to equip their rooms with Bibles, recognizing the historical and cultural significance of this practice.

The presence of a Bible in a hotel room serves as a reminder of the importance and influence of religion as well as the role it played in shaping our culture and society.

Alternatives to Hotel Bibles

hotel bible alternatives

For many years, they have been a common fixture around the world. But not all guests may be comfortable with it in their room.

In this section, we will take a look at some alternative options to the traditional book which they can provide to their guests.

Digital Versions of Religious Texts

In recent years, many of them have started offering digital versions of religious texts as an alternative to traditional paper copies of the Bible. This shift is part of a larger trend toward providing guests with a more personalized and tech-savvy experience during their stay.

There are several benefits to digital religious texts, including:

  • Convenience: Guests can access religious texts on their mobile devices or in-room tablets, making it easier to read and study on their own time.
  • Accessibility: With digital versions, guests can access religious texts in multiple languages and formats, making it easier for people of different faiths and backgrounds to read and understand.
  • Cost and Sustainability: By switching to digital versions, they can save money on printing and shipping costs, and reduce their carbon footprint.

While some may argue that the presence of religious texts in hotel rooms is a form of proselytizing, hotels aim to provide guests with a sense of comfort and guidance during their stay, regardless of their faith.

Multi-Faith Options and Practices

While many of them still offer a Bible in their rooms as a tradition, others are now offering multi-faith options and practices to accommodate guests of different religions.

Here are some alternatives to it:

  • Quran: Some of them are now offering a copy of the Quran in their rooms, catering to Muslim guests who follow this holy book.
  • Torah: Jewish guests can request a copy of the Torah from the hotel staff if they desire to pray or read during their stay.
  • Buddhist texts: Some of them are providing Buddhist texts and meditation practices to guests who want to connect with their spiritual side.
  • Yoga mats: Several hotels are now offering yoga mats in their rooms, catering to guests who want to practice yoga and meditation during their stay.

Non-Religious Materials

hotel room books

Have you ever wondered why hotels have Bibles? The answer might surprise you. Hotels have been placing Bibles in their rooms for over a century as a way to provide moral guidance to guests. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards inclusivity, and hotels have started to offer non-religious materials as alternatives to the Gideon Bible.

Some of the popular options include:

  1. Humanist texts: These include works by famous humanists like Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.
  2. Philosophy books: Philosophy books like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, and The Art of War by Sun Tzu are popular choices.
  3. Mindfulness books: Books on mindfulness and meditation like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe are gaining popularity.

This shift towards inclusivity is a way for them to cater to the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of their guests.

Criticisms of Hotel Bibles

For years, many of them have chosen to provide their guests with Bibles as part of their amenities, but this practice has not been without criticism. Some claim it is a way to push a certain religious agenda, and others say it is an outdated custom that detracts from the hotel’s true purpose of providing a comfortable place to stay.

Separation of Church and State?

Their presence has been criticized as a violation of the separation of church and state, but there are other reasons why hotels offer these holy books to their guests.

One reason is that hotels view Bibles as a way to cater to the needs of their guests, many of whom may be religious and appreciative of having access to a Bible during their stay. Additionally, they often partner with religious organizations or offer Bibles as part of their brand identity, rather than to promote a particular religion.

On the other hand, some critics argue that their presence is inappropriate, as it could be seen as an endorsement of Christianity over other religions, or an imposition of religious beliefs on non-religious guests.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to offer them is up to individual owners, who must weigh the potential benefits against the criticisms and controversies that may arise.

Waste and Environmental Concerns

While hotel bibles may seem like an innocent fixture found in hotel rooms around the world, they have been subject to criticism for their potential waste and environmental impact.

They are often viewed as an unnecessary and outdated amenity that is hardly used by guests. Their production, distribution, and disposal can have a significant environmental impact, with estimates suggesting that up to 30 million Bibles are printed each year for hotel use in the United States alone.

However, beyond their religious connotations, bibles can potentially offer a sense of comfort and guidance to hotel guests during their stay. Some owners have chosen to replace them with books covering a range of positive and uplifting topics or offer religious texts on request to help reduce waste.

The Need for Sensitivity to Diversity

The need for sensitivity to diversity arises due to criticisms of Hotel Bibles and the true purpose of why they have them in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, hotels do not provide Bibles as evangelism tools but primarily as a way to cater to diverse guest needs.

The increasing diversity of travelers and their unique religious and cultural requirements have led hotels to offer them a wide range of religious and spiritual texts. However, in recent years, the presence of Bibles in hotel rooms has drawn some flak from non-religious or non-Christian guests who feel that their beliefs are not being represented.

While they have mostly provided alternatives and removed them altogether in some cases, the shift towards a more inclusive and sensitive approach to diversity is essential. Hotel establishments need to make themselves aware of these issues to ensure that they cater to the diverse needs of their guests effectively.

The Future of Hotel Bibles

hotel room bible

They have been a mainstay in hotel rooms for centuries, but recently there has been a shift in the way that hotels manage religious-related items in their guest rooms.

This shift has implications for the future of the presence of Bibles in hotels, and it is worthwhile to explore what this shift could mean for the future.

Evolving Attitudes Towards Religion and Hospitality

Their inclusion has been a tradition for many years, but with evolving attitudes toward religion, some hotels are now removing them from their rooms.

The reasons for this include not wanting to make certain guests feel uncomfortable or excluded and a desire to keep in line with a more modern, inclusive concept of hospitality. While some guests may have appreciated having a bible in their hotel room, others found it unnecessary or even unsettling.

They are now adopting a more neutral stance, with some offering religious texts upon request and others focusing on providing amenities and experiences that will appeal to all guests regardless of their religious beliefs.

As a result, the future of hotel bibles is uncertain – they may eventually become a thing of the past or continue to be offered in a more limited capacity.

The Future of Spiritual and Comfort Services in Hotels.

In an increasingly secular world, the future of spiritual and comfort services in hotels remains uncertain. While the tradition of keeping Bibles in hotel rooms began with good intentions, it is now a divisive topic that hotels are reconsidering for inclusivity reasons.

Many hotels are now replacing the Bibles with alternative books that serve the same purpose of offering comfort and inspiration to guests. Some of the books that are replacing the Bibles include “Mindfulness” by Mark Williams, “The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama, and “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. These books offer a broader range of perspectives and can appeal to guests of different faiths and beliefs.

The future of spiritual and comfort services in hotels is headed towards more inclusivity and diversity. Hotels are recognizing the need to provide a variety of resources for guests to access, and the trend of replacing Bibles with alternative books is a step towards achieving this goal.


faq Hotel Bibles

Have there been any controversies surrounding the tradition of Bibles in hotel rooms?

Yes, there have been controversies surrounding their tradition, with some arguing that it is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Do all hotels have Bibles in their rooms?

No, not all hotels have them in their rooms. It is a tradition that is more commonly found in certain types of hotels, such as those with religious affiliations.

How has the tradition of Bibles in hotel rooms evolved?

The tradition has evolved, with some hotels now offering electronic versions of the Bible or other religious texts.

Can hotels be sued for not having Bibles in their rooms?

No, hotels cannot be sued for not having it in their rooms, as it is not a requirement.

Do guests ever complain about the presence of Bibles in hotel rooms?

Yes, some guests have complained about the presence of Bibles in their rooms, arguing that it is a form of religious imposition.

Is the presence of Bibles in hotel rooms declining in modern times?

It has declined in modern times, as many hotels have moved away from their religious affiliations and traditions.

Are there any other items commonly found in hotel rooms that have religious significance?

While they are the most common religious item found in hotel rooms, some hotels may also offer prayer mats, rosaries, or other religious items upon request.


In conclusion, the tradition of placing Bibles in hotel rooms has a long and complex history. From its religious roots to its current status as a symbol of hospitality and convenience, this tradition continues to raise questions and generate controversy.

Whether you believe in the significance of Bibles in hotel rooms or not, it is important to understand the origins and significance of this practice. By exploring the history and meaning behind this tradition, we gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and religious practices that shape our world today.