The God Delusion for Kids

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.”

goddelusionforkids.jpg

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…

Check out a couple images from the book:

goddelusionforkids2.jpg



goddelusionforkids3.jpg

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.”

(via MediaWatchWatch.org.uk)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    ooookay….

    This reminds me of a german religious version of “Help Mom! There’s Liberals Under my Bed”.

    Children as pawns in a political game. I guess atheists can learn from the Jesuits after all: Give me the child until the age of seven, and I will give you the man.

  • Karen

    That sounds quite vile.

  • Cindy

    I don’t think the rabbi or mufti would invite a pig into their temple/mosque!

    I thought the summary was good until I saw the images. Way too many word per page for a kids’ book. And all it does is distort religious figures. Kids will meet a nice preacher and realize that the book was over the top and doubt its premise. Why can’t the anti-religion point be made without such venom?

  • Sarah H.

    Ugh. The one thing secularists don’t need is to jump on the bandwagon of teaching children through belittling the beliefs of others. If schools would teach logic starting sometime before the college level many kids would be able to grasp the point this book is trying to make on their own.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    You know, this is just so developmentally fucked up for kids the age it’s targeted to.

    You have to give kids developmentally appropriate stuff, or your just fucking with them because you can.

    The other day we were reading the newsletter published by our local zoo, and it had a great guide for teaching kids about the fact that gorillas are endangered. You don’t tell a four year old child that gorillas will be wiped out in the wild in their lifetime. It’s not developmentally appropriate.

    For a child younger than five, the message you should be teaching is “gorillas are cool.”

    A little older and it’s “gorillas are cool, and they live in africa.”
    tweens can get “gorillas are threatened in the wild, but there are people working to save them and here’s how we can help.”

    We’re doing the same when teaching our daughter about religion. We’re at the first stage: People all over the world have religious beliefs. They are all very interesting! Church is one of the places where people talk about God. Nana and Grandpa are Christian religion, Kyla’s family and Joey’s family are Jewish religion. Some people believe in Buddha, some people believe in Jesus, some people believe in Ganesh.

    As she grows up, nothing we will teach her will contradict that starting point. I think the next level she’ll get is how to talk to and about people with different beliefs, and how to be socially acceptable and non-disapproving to others, but also how to deal with people who do not reciprocate.

    This book…. ARRRRGHHHHH. At least if this story is an accurate report on what it depicts.

  • K

    It’s hysterically funny. I want it in English!

  • grazatt

    Hey, Preacher! Leave those pigs alone!

  • http://http://atheistangpinoy.blogspot.com/ John Paraiso

    I think I won’t find a copy of this book in kidergarten class

  • BZ

    Just awful. What is the effect of the banned books list anyway? I’m not much for censorship, but there are things that should be illegal to put into the hands of young children. I’m thinking things this hateful could really go on that list. Which is a shame, cause it could have a nice message otherwise.

  • Chas

    It’s is such a shame the author presented such an extreme point of view, because there is a very real need for kids growing up in atheist hosueholds to understand what “everyone else” is talking about (i.e. religion) and why their families don’t believe. One of my six years olds best friend’s from a religious household and he has these “neat stories” to talk about.

    Where are stories for our children? This isn’t one I’d bring home.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    The portrayal of the Rabbi is especially disturbing given Germany’s recent history. I guess old habits die hard.

  • Rovakur

    Ausgezeichnet! Ich moechte ein Exemplar. (Hmmm…I can’t type umlauts or special characters… Gee, I thought this was the friendly atheist…:))

    I am very skeptical about accepting anyone’s translation of anything, especially so when it comes to German. I am also skeptical of translations of what the critics have said. Having learned a good deal of German, I know that a great deal is difficult to directly translate, and it is quite easy to misinterpret or (I suspect with the media) exaggerate, given different meanings for different contexts. (Yes, any language is like this to a degree–which is something too often overlooked or disregarded.)

    Where are stories for our children? This isn’t one I’d bring home.

    You may or may not have been rhetorical, but I want to have a go at this, anyway. There’s His Dark Materials. [This isn't directed at Chas, but is rather just a general comment: I think people really need to read it before they can objectively criticize it. (I'm an atheist and I feel the same way when it comes to religious--or any--texts).] One freethought book for children that you probably find palatable is here. This one has nothing to do with religion, but there’s the Ender’s Game series (and here).

    Quality books for kids are hard to come by. We don’t have kids, but I have a niece and nephew, and books are our primary gifts to them. Anyway… Gotta get some shuteye. :)

  • Syckls

    I thought atheists were supposed to be freethinkers. Now we see atheist propaganda being directed at children? Thankfully, most people here have called this book out for what it is: bigotry.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    The German Family Ministry is pushing for the children’s book… to be included on a list of literature considered dangerous for young people.

    Always with the lists of bad books. Doesn’t anyone ever get a better idea than this?

  • Maria

    Ugh. The one thing secularists don’t need is to jump on the bandwagon of teaching children through belittling the beliefs of others. If schools would teach logic starting sometime before the college level many kids would be able to grasp the point this book is trying to make on their own.

    I agree. While I agree it’s good to explain you don’t need god to be good, teaching children to stereotype is not going to solve anything. I wouldn’t tolerate a xtian book portraying Jews and atheists that way, and I don’t approve of this stereotyping at all either. The stereotyping part is what’s wrong with it.

  • Miko

    The portrayal of the Rabbi is especially disturbing given Germany’s recent history. I guess old habits die hard.

    So the portrayal would have been less disturbing without Germany’s recent history?

  • I like tea

    Hahaha, I love Germany. Now, the pictures at face value seem to corroborate the news story, but I’m still not assuming anything; if I were to assume anything (which I’m not), it’s that the news story is exaggerated. I remember when a big stink was raised over the Christian game Left Behind: Eternal Forces because certain incredibly irresponsible news outlets reported that the game involved “killing infidels” and random bull like that (in fact, the game keeps track of civilian casualties and encourages keeping the count at zero). Despite being atheist, and despite the fact that the game is awful from any objective standpoint, I stood up to defend it on several message boards in the interest of veracity. Too many people were simply attacking it based on sheer ignorance.

    So I’m not about to attack this based on a news story, a couple pictures, and some German text.

    I’m not much for censorship, but there are things that should be illegal to put into the hands of young children.

    Like the Bible.

    (Hmmm…I can’t type umlauts or special characters… Gee, I thought this was the friendly atheist…:))

    Hey, it’s the friendly atheist, not the freundlich atheist. :P Also, whät?

    Still, the book teaches a number of important lessons to children:

    * Respect should be earned, not assumed.

    Wait, what? That’s a pretty cynical way to look at it. I’d rather give others the benefit of the doubt and respect them until they do something to lose it. I wouldn’t want to teach my kids to assume that any random person they meet is unworthy of their respect.

  • Oink

    It´s always a bad idea to judge a book by its cover, but to judge it by second or third-hand descriptions with an obvious Pro-Religion standpoint is certainly not a wise decision.

    If some of you had actually read it, you would know that it is in no way hateful or intolerant. It is making fun of Religious Fundamentalism, hate and intolerance, but the author never tells the reader that God doesn´t exist or that all Religions are wrong. Not even once.

    It´s also quite disturbing how some of you can blame the author for his allegedly negative portrayal of Jews and use the “All Germans are Jew-hating Nazis” stereotype in the next sentence. Even the chairman of the Central Comitee of Geman Jews, Mr. Kramer, doesn´t consider this book to be anti-semitic.

  • Steven Carr

    Curiosly, the pictures shown both are on from http://www.ferkelbuch.de/buch.html

    Did the authors of the critical article read the book, or just pick the pictures from the web page?

    And is it just me, or are the hands of the Jew perfectly normal and not at all claw-like?

    Here is the passage that the Ministry in Germany consider to be hate-speech, and is anti-Semitic, and should be banned from public sale.

    My own translation…. I must warn you not to read this passage unless you are used to anti-Semitic hate speech, and are prepared for the horror of modern anti-Semitism propaganda.

    DO NOT READ FURTHER IF EASILY SHOCKED!!!

    One day, said the Rabbi, God got so angry with mankind, that he decided to destroy all life on the Earth.

    ‘All life?’ said the Piglet, shocked. ‘All human babies, all grandmas, and all animals?’

    ‘And the piglets, the hedgehogs, the butterflies, and the little guinea-pigs??’

    ‘Yes, all life’, answered the Rabbi.

  • Steven Carr

    The German Ministry is also shocked by the picture which shows a Rabbi trying to suffocate a cleric by using a roll of paper. (Pieces of paper are notoriously often used in muders)

    It shows that the Jewish religion is intent on destroying other religions….

    You couldn’t make this up!

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved

    Is there an English version?

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    I still think it’s developmentally inappropriate.

    We always hear that Germany’s schools and scholastic standards and test scores are higher than ours.

    They should just give the Kindergarteners some Spinoza and Hume… they’ll work it out.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So the portrayal would have been less disturbing without Germany’s recent history?

    Slightly less, yes.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’d rather give others the benefit of the doubt and respect them until they do something to lose it. I wouldn’t want to teach my kids to assume that any random person they meet is unworthy of their respect.

    Excellent point.

  • Bob Burb

    I am really interested in buying an English copy of this book. Anyone who likes this kind of book should check out “The Brick Testament”, it’s a collection of sciptures taken directly from the bible and illistrated with lego’s.

  • Claire

    I like tea said:

    That’s a pretty cynical way to look at it. I’d rather give others the benefit of the doubt and respect them until they do something to lose it. I wouldn’t want to teach my kids to assume that any random person they meet is unworthy of their respect.

    I don’t see it as cynical at all. Respect is way too important to be handed out like Halloween candy to anyone who shows up.

    There is another (better) alternative to the automatic disrespect you mentioned; there is also suspension of judgement. Civility and the possibility that someone (or some idea) is worthy of respect – those are good freebies that everyone can be given, but anything more than that really should be earned. Otherwise respect becomes just another cheap commodity, like a dollar-off coupon.

  • Cade

    I tend to think that a bad caricature/straw man argument is worse than no argument at all. When the kids figure out that everything in this book is badly exaggerated that will probably be a big step backward.

  • Pingback: Michael Schmidt-Salomon’s new anti-religion children’s book: A true embarrassment « The Frame Problem

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » The German God Delusion Book Translated in English

  • Tom

    BZ said, February 1, 2008 at 8:57 pm
    Just awful. What is the effect of the banned books list anyway? I’m not much for censorship, but there are things that should be illegal to put into the hands of young children. I’m thinking things this hateful could really go on that list. Which is a shame, cause it could have a nice message otherwise.

    ==========================================
    Perhaps they should be allowed to read the king james bible ? with it’s
    nice messages like “II Kings, CH2:23 , 24, 25″ where bears attacked
    people for making a rude comment …

    or how even the newborns in a city were destroyed cause god was
    pissed, or how god instructed his army to kill every adult and child
    amongst the unbelievers but if they wanted they could keep the
    virgin females for themselves, this list is too long to complete here.

    but point is, the bible is filled with horror stories and tales of people
    killing and murdering in gods name under gods instructions. lets
    keep that one from kids too.

    We happen to be personal friends of the religeous fanatical family in
    eastern NC which experienced the middle son killing his older sister
    and younger brother with a rifle before shooting himself because God
    told him to save himself and his sibling from the sinful world. I am
    certain that access to the teachings of the bible at too young an age
    is wholly responsible for this act and the many numbers of similar
    ones like it in the news.

    just like violent TV… absurd ideas like the bible stories / concepts
    violent TV Shows, and any ” I am right / They are wrong ” perspectives
    should be kept away from im mature minds, ( of all ages :-)

  • Tom

    Wait, what? That’s a pretty cynical way to look at it. I’d rather give others the benefit of the doubt and respect them until they do something to lose it. I wouldn’t want to teach my kids to assume that any random person they meet is unworthy of their respect.
    ===========================================
    Try not to replace the word “Courtesy” with “respect… I certainly
    teach my kids to be courteous and civil to all human beings but
    to hold “Respect” in the high regard it deserves buy “NOT” just
    giving it to everyone cause they are breathing. Far too many
    people do not deserve respect or value it enough to try to.

  • Joyce

    Any idea whats the verdict on the German side … is there any thing I can read on the developments… and where?
    Thanks
    Joyce


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