The current #1 book on Amazon (in Germany) is Wo bitte geht’s zu Gott?, fragte das kleine Ferkel, written by Michael Schmidt-Salomon and illustrated by Helge Nyncke.
That title roughly translates to “How Do I Get to God, Asked the Small Piglet.”
A quick summary of the book:
The book tells the story of a piglet and a hedgehog, who discover a poster attached to their house that says: “If you do not know God, you are missing something!”
This frightens them because they had never suspected at all that anything was missing in their lives. Thus they set out to look for “God.” Along the way they encounter a rabbi, a bishop and a mufti who are portrayed as insane, violent and continually at each other’s throats.
After visiting the religious figures, piglet and hedgehog come to a realization:
… nothing of any importance has been missing from their lives.
“I think that God doesn’t even exist,” the hedgehog says at the end of the book. “And if He does, than he definitely doesn’t live in [a synagogue, cathedral or mosque].”
The descriptions of the religious authorities are extremely exaggerated and suggest only the worst that each faith has to offer. The leaders are depicted as fundamentalist, hell-bent against everyone not in their “club,” and desirous to do anything — anything — to please their God:
The rabbi is drawn in the same way as the caricatures from the propaganda of 1930’s Germany; corkscrew curls, fanatical lights in his eyes, a set of predator’s flashing teeth and hands like claws. He reacts to the animals by flying into a rage, yelling at them that God had set out to destroy all life on Earth at the time of Noah and chases them away.
The mufti fares little better. While he greets both animals at first as a quiet man and invites them into his mosque, he soon changes into a ranting fanatic. He assembles a baying Islamic mob and holds the animals up in a clenched fist while condemning them to everlasting damnation through bared teeth and an unruly-looking beard.
The insinuation here is that all visitors to mosques are extremists and every imam who appears reasonable is, in truth, nevertheless, a preacher of hate.
The bishop, a pale fat man with a clearly insinuated predilection for child abuse, makes up the unholy trinity…
The author explains why he wrote the book:
Author Schmidt-Salomon said the book was “desperately needed considering the enormous mass of religious children’s stories.” He added that he the book offers children and their parents the opportunity to read about agnostic beliefs if they choose.
“Children also have a right to enlightenment,” he wrote on a Web site set up dedicated to the book. “They should not be left defenseless to the scientifically untenable and ethically problematic stories of religion.”
Now, if a book like that appeared in America, what would happen?
Immediately, Religious Right groups would be in a tizzy. They’d be calling for the banning of the book.
What are groups in Germany doing?
The German Family Ministry is pushing for the children’s book… to be included on a list of literature considered dangerous for young people.
The German department responsible for reviewing children’s literature is scheduled to discuss whether the book presents a danger to children’s upbringing in a March meeting.
I haven’t read the book, so I can’t attest to how badly distorted the caricatures of the religious figures may or may not be.
That said, I’d understand if people were upset with the portrayals of the leaders. That would be an argument worth listening to. Obviously, not all religious leaders think or act the way the ones in the book do.
Still, the book teaches a number of important lessons to children:
- Respect should be earned, not assumed.
- Children should see religions as a whole instead of one little segment of it.
- They should be critical of everything they see.
- It’s true they wouldn’t be missing out on anything worthwhile if they chose to live a life without religion and God.
There’s no reason to think this knowledge poses a “danger to children.”