A Recipe to Ruin All the Good Children’s TV Shows: Insert God

Phil Vischer, the creator of the Christian-themed VeggieTales, explains the problem with secular children’s TV shows:

But for all the educational strides being made and all the pro-social “vitamins” cleverly inserted into our kids’ media diets, there is one ingredient sorely missing. There is no God on Sesame Street. No clue will ever point Blue toward his Creator. No matter how far Dora explores, she will never bump into the divine. The world of children’s media, to put it bluntly, is as atheistic as a Richard Dawkins book club. And that missing ingredient will cripple our children if we let it.

In other words, why would we ever want to let children learn things for themselves? Or ask questions? Or discover that morality doesn’t come from above? Nope. Can’t have that. Must indoctrinate them with bullshit from a young age!

In Vischer’s world, if you’re not talking about god, you’re actively opposed to him. And teaching children how to be good citizens and critical thinkers can only happen through the Christian faith.

Though if a group of children did have a Richard Dawkins book club, that’d be one hell of a learning experience… great idea, Phil!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • supplysidejesus
    • Annie

      That was awesome.

  • Neal

    I can get behind this idea… if we start inserting God into little kids’ shows, it will be a lot more obvious that he’s a fictional character.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    These people can’t go five seconds without babbling about gods. It’s disturbingly obsessive.

  • Bruce Wright

    You know, the other day I picked up a book about how to grow flowers in a garden.  It never ONCE mentioned God. There is no God in my textbook on Computer Programming. No game of Clue will ever point Colonel Mustard  toward his Creator. No matter how far I drive in my car, I will never
    bump into the divine. It’s like the whole world was designed by Richard Dawkins!

  • Canadian Atheist, eh!

    When you live by an assumption, you die by it. So does Vischer’s take on this actually surprise anyone? 

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I was just mentioning to 
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/dadsbeyondbelief/ that Veggietales has actually turned out useful, in that it gives me a chance to discuss Christianity with my son.  We watched an Easter one the other day, and ended up talking about Spring/new plants/baby animals/eggs/rebirth/Jesus.

  • Anonymous

    Avatar: The Last Airbender had a good deal of interaction with gods/spiritual beings. So does a lot of anime. Oh wait, you mean your god? Oops.

    • Gunstargreen

      In fact if Christians do show up in anime they’re usually bad guys.

      • Anonymous

        I probably don’t watch enough anime. The only Christian thing that comes to mind is Neon Genesis and the absurdly over the top wedding in Castle of Cagliostro.

      • Rebecca Sparks

        No, not really.  At least they weren’t especially villainous in least in the stuff that I watch/read, ie. Akuma no Love Song, Haunted Junction, Record of the Lodess Wars, Fist of the North Star… and others.  Strait out Christianity is fairly rare, though.  Mostly you get Buddhism & Shinto though.

        What I appreciate though is that there’s rarely heavy-handed morality in even fairly religiously themed work that deals with kami/gods.  It’s much more on par with other fantasy works.  Which is why you can get stories like Saint Young Men or that hilarious story where God was a busdriver who died, and Jesus was a women who was gathering her reincarnated saints. (If someone out there remembers the name, please comment.  I would like to read it again.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/otakumommy Sheila Tagavilla Davis

    Jesus & Satan are on South Park. I guess that would make South Park morally superior to children’s shows :)

    • Conspirator

      When The Simpsons first came out lots of Christian and “family” groups were opposed to it because of Bart’s antics and language.  Now some of those same groups have changed their tune about it because it’s one of the few prime time shows in which the characters regularly attend church, there’s been negative results shown to not going to church, and characters like Ned Flanders, while annoying, are still shown as being overall good people.  

      So who knows, in another 10 years, South Park could be viewed differently just because it’s willing to have those characters.  

      • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi

        I read planet simpson quite a while back, which explained how the Simpsons was a commentary on American society. Marge observes holidays “both religious and secular”. Springfield has every geographical feature bordering it: a port, a desert, a river, because it’s supposed I be America. I reckon th religious aspect could not b ignored. Still, examples like the Simpsons and south park are aimed at adults, not kids. They don’t share time slots with Dora, sponge bob etc. I think they are very different beasts to the type of programming being discussed.

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Flanders is really the devil.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a simple fix for this.  If you are a Christian and you want your children to get the message about god, then teach it to them yourselves!  It isn’t too hard to say to your kid that Blue’s curiosity is a gift from his creator or that Dora is able to explore so many amazing places because of a divine, intelligent designer.  Don’t pass off your job to educate your child about your beliefs to Sesame Street.

    • Fargofan1

       Speaking of Sesame Street, in 1983 the show dealt with the
      real-life death of Will Lee a.k.a. Mr. Hooper. The adults explained death to Big Bird, without using euphemisms or any reference to God or an afterlife. It was beautifully done and very moving, to this day. It would be a shame to turn a show like that religious.

  • Anonymous

    Most of us grew up with children shows that didn’t spout off the god nonsense. We all came out ok, and that was not the reason I became an atheist. 

    • Alex

       Hell, I watched Superbook on TV as a kid, and still ended up in the same atheistic boat :)

    • Waltz707

      I watched Veggie Tales, and saw the morals, not the god. 
      #ProudAtheist

  • Erik Cameron

    “No clue will ever point Blue toward his Creator. No matter how far Dora explores, she will never bump into the divine.”

    I think there is a valuable lesson in here somewhere.

    • Anonymous

      Because Blue was created by 3 people?

      Now that I think about it, I should drop by my parents house later.  Never too late to stop and say hi to my creators……

  • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi

    Yup. Another one who misses the point. Children’s TV is absent of any religious content so that the largest section of the kid’s demographic can be marketed to. The whole point in making it absent is to protect the beliefs of everyone. A Christian, Muslim or atheist child can watch the same show and template themselves on the hero. If the hero of a kid’s show professes a particular religious belief over others, that automatically alienates potential market. It’s not that kid’s TV is expressly trying to leave god(s) out, it’s that they are trying to keep as many kids of different backgrounds included.

    • NickDB

       But But we can’t have that. Won’t someone think of the children!!!

      /s for just in case.

    • Anonymous

      Wish I’d said that… Children’s shows are for ALL children, not for trying to indoctrinate non-Christians into Christian theology. Duh!

      Like x 1000

  • Mankoi

    This disturbs me. Manly the fact that I’m getting so used to this kind of lunacy that my first thought was that he got Blue’s gender wrong. 

  • Anonymous

    First, let me say that I think Veggie Tales are actually quite clever and zany in that perfect way that kids love and adults can appreciate. My kids are too old to watch them now, but I still sing some of the “Silly Songs With Larry,” because they are hilarious. That being said, explaining Bible stories with animated vegetables isn’t exactly a sure-fire way to raise kids to believe in God and the Bible.  (For example, VeggieTales’ King George and the Ducky is a revised version of King David’s sin with Bathsheba. Murder and adultery are presented as stealing a rubber duck and sending a poor veggie to be creamed by getting pies thrown at him.) The message at the end of every show is “God made you special, and he loves you very much.” Sure, it teaches kids about God, but it’s a sanitized, safe, all-loving, (dare I say “fluffy”?) version of God that really has little resemblance to the God presented in evangelical Christianity, at least. When the kids get older and understand the “real” versions of the cutesy stories, they will either accept the intellectual leap or they won’t. My guess is that the cartoons make the leap more difficult, not easier.  I’m sure Vischer really believes in what he’s doing, and I thank him for the many laughs I’ve enjoyed watching the shows, but I would be very, VERY surprised if any child later cites Veggie Tales as pivotal in their spiritual development as an adult.

    tl;dr- Sometimes an animated veggie is just an animated veggie.  

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      My son already has the notion that things in cartoons are less real than things in ‘real’ movies.  Seeing live-action Spiderman cause him to expend some brain cycles.

    • Guest

       “Sanitized and safe” is exactly the version of God that is presented in mainstream evangelical Christianity. But I agree with your larger point. Kids have got to learn about Christianity somewhere, they might as well learn it from a singing tomato.

  • icecreamassassin

    There is a hell of a lot of god in the Lego Bible, but last I checked, there were a lot of parents pissed that kids might look at it.  Wonder if Vischer has an opinion on that.

    • Anonymous

      We got a copy for our son (12) as a Christmas present.  We had a ball going through it.  I would recommend it to any one for a few hours of fun as a family.

  • westley
  • Jcuff

    Now I know why i enjoyed these programs with my kids when they were small!  And by the way, Blue is a “she” not a “he”.   Don’t these people ever actually watch the programs they complain about so much?

  • Cuddlewoozle

    I feel the OCD need to point out to him that Blue is a girl, not a guy.

    http://www.nickjr.com/blues-clues/about-blues-clues/blues-clues-characters.html

  • charvakan

    “Characters help each other and care for the environment, the poor, and the needy, but never from a religious motive or as a response to God.”

    So it is better to be good to avoid displeasing a god than being good because it is the right thing to do ?

    • Anonymous

      Apparently. :-P 

      This follows their crazy notion that people cannot be good without god. 

  • Kelly

    Dude, Blue is a girl. That’s all the proof I need that this guy doesn’t know the first thing about children’s programming.

  • Bburgis

    How about on GCN when they aired ‘Just The Facts; The Adventures of Enoch” for E/I Broadcasting Credit,  filmed in a studio to look like Beekmans World or Bill Nye The Science Guy but instead of science kept calling the Bible “the ultimate data master” yargh!

  • Anonymous

    I grew up with stories of a benevolent son of a God. In fact, I loved the Mighty Hercules as a kid!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMm7XwdD_M

    As for Veggie Tales: When I found out that it was religious in nature, I was kind of disgusted. I later heard though that it didn’t really work that well; kids would grow out of it and put in the fictional kids mental bucket eventually. (I hope this is true.) 

      

    • Anonymous

      Wait a minute. That episode makes Daedalus, the one arguably geek character in Greek mythology, a bad guy. Today Daedalus could play a Tony Stark-like character who uses his superior intellect to create technologies to fight the bad superheroes.

    • Waltz707

      It is totally true: kids outgrow Veggie Tales

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    “And that missing ingredient will cripple our children if we let it.”I would be interested in understanding how his reasoning works here. Maybe I should sign up for his special newsletter?

  • Greisha

    It looks like Dora is doing a good job.

  • Anonymous

    but I tried to watch Veggie Tales and it sux. I let our babies watch it and they fell asleep each and every time…

  • Anonymous

    When I grew up in the 1960′s, I saw the following:

    Race Bannon killed people, lived in a domestic relationship with the unmarried Dr.  Benton Quest, and together they took in some orphan boy from a Third World country without any apparent legal authority to do so.

    Fred Flintstone had a compulsive gambling problem.

    Jane Jetson stole her husband’s wallet.

    Wonder Woman tied people up with her lasso and made them “obey” her.

    Roger Ramjet and Underdog both tweaked on “energy pills.”

    And a stoner, his talking Great Dane, a lesbian and an unmarried hipster couple debunked “supernatural” illusions used as covers for criminal activities.

    So with those bad examples, no wonder I became an atheist.

    • Anonymous

      Wonder Woman is really little more than a bondage fantasy. She gets tied up herself all the time

  • TiltedHorizon

    Phil Vischer, has a problem, it seems children can learn morals and ethics without ever having to mention god. If such a child is allowed to grow into an altruistic adult then someone may start to think god is not necessary to be a good person.  GASP!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    I’d rather my children grow up watching Veggie Tales than letting them watch whatever Hemant watched as a child. That way my kids won’t grow up with such a dirty mouth and then they can express themselves without resolving to curse words.  So much for being “good” without God. 

    • Pureone
      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        And your point is….

        I would never go back to his church if I was an attender and heard that. There are lots of pastors out there who have some issues. They are not perfect. Just because a man has an education from a different school, does not make him a saint.

        Myself, that word simply isn’t in my vocabulary and I would never say it. That isn’t what goes on in my mind or my heart.  I would expect the same from my pastor.  

        That sounds a bit tough, but yeah, it’s supposed to be. Actually the Bible speaks to pastors being held to a higher standard.

        If a student goes to first grade and cusses the teacher out why do they get in trouble? Because it’s wrong!

        Your video link does nothing to change this.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          I would also think that it is easier to slip and say it versus intentionally typing it. But again, they are both wrong and speak to what is taking place on the inside of one’s heart.

          • Anonymous

            I can’t even understand you. Please explain. What is “wrong” about the word ‘fuck’?

          • TheExpatriate700

            I learned curse words from where young boys are supposed to learn them-from my father, often when he was cut off while driving. When we would get home, there would frequently be little talks in the car along the lines of “O.k., don’t repeat those words I used when that stupid woman cut me off. Especially not the one that rhymes with punt.”

          • Judigh Bandsma

            You know, I just realized that every word that I know that you would consider ‘foul’, I learned at an all girls Catholic boarding school. I didn’t even know what ‘fuck’ meant when I learned to use it to great effect.

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

          You really should consider expanding your vocabulary.  Fuck is a fucking great word.

        • Annie

          Really??  Even if you thought the pastor did good work and helped others?  So much for christian forgiveness. 

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Yes, because there are strong correlations between a) the cartoons you watch as a kid and your vocabulary as a grown up and b) your vocabulary as a grown up and your moral character as a grown up.

      It’s a wonder Hemant hasn’t been fired for being unable to give a math class without ‘resolving’ to curse words.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        I wouldn’t know about how he teaches his math class. Sadly what normally happens in a class room, stays in the class room. I would hope that he would conduct himself professionally while being “on” in the classroom. But I’ve teachers who would curse and got in trouble for it. 

        I don’t know about strong correlations but you seriously can’t say that there is NO correlation. There is a correlation between actions and our influences. I know this blog is all about “free thinking” and what not, but you’re not entirely free. For example, you’ve been taught that it is polite to shake hands when you meet someone. That social concept is not held by all, but it is ultimately a product of some influence that you have accepted or are at least conforming to. So your surroundings, what you are taught by different influences. do make a difference. Alcoholism isn’t genetic. It’s a learned behavior. (I know some will try to argue that one). Of course one can rebel against those influences of course. But ultimately, it’s possible that incoming sources of information: language, actions, morals and behaviors, at least have some influence on how to end up. ANY childhood development course would tell you that.

        Why are children not supposed to watch rated R movies?

        As for (b), of course there is a correlation. “Our of the overflow of your heart the mouth speaks” If every fourth word out of your mouth is the f-bomb, then yeah, your moral character kind of sucks. If the words that come out of your mouth are always gossiping or putting someone down, then yeah, your moral character, again, kind of sucks. 

        • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

          Every time you comment here, regardless of the topic, your #1 gripe is how curse words are going to bring about the collapse of civilization.  What the FUCK?!

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’m a little taken aback by your frequent use of the ‘s’ word.

    • T-Rex

      I feel sorry for your children. I’m sure they’ll thank you when they grow up though. Probably while you’re sleeping.

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       He said “bullshit” on a blog meant for adults.  Oh noes!

      It’s hilarious to me that Christians think the mere word “shit” is somehow more offensive than teaching children that they are born so intrinsically evil that they deserve to be tortured for eternity. 

      You haven’t quite broken the record for most stupidity per word in a blog comment, but keep on trying.  I’m confident you’ll get there eventually.

    • Rebecca Sparks

      I never cuss–I was raised to be lady-like and “good”.  But while saying taboo words can be vulgar, I haven’t found a correlation between refraining to cuss and the other virtues like helping the sick and poor, taking a stand against abuse and bullying, or even just being friendly and kind.   Consequently, I don’t find it a helpful measure of “goodness”.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I hate doing proof by example, but I can’t help but think of Bono.

  • Keulan

    I’ll never understand fundie logic. If a TV show (or book, movie, song, whatever) doesn’t mention god(s), that doesn’t make it anti-theistic, it makes it secular. And it seems to me that putting Christianity in particular into entertainment these days always makes it suck. Mainly because Christian music, TV shows, movies, and books focus too much on the Jesus-y message and not even on making quality entertainment.

    I would argue that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the best new kids show, and it has no religion in it at all.

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       

      Mainly because Christian music, TV shows, movies, and books focus too
      much on the Jesus-y message and not even on making quality
      entertainment.

      Two types of music I can’t stand are contemporary Christian music and Celine Dion style love ballads.  When you can count on people buying your music because of their devotion to the subject matter, there’s no reason to bother making good art.

  • http://www.facebook.com/potorch John Perkins

    … Quigley’s Village… *shudder*

  • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

    Paul Caggegi -  Springfield has every geographical feature bordering it: a port, a desert, a river, because it’s supposed I be America.

    So, It’s Sunnydale.

    Anonymous – I think Veggie Tales are actually quite clever and zany in that perfect way that kids love and adults can appreciate

    That’s the kind of pandering that makes children’s programing suck so much.  Most kids want to know stuff and don’t need to be tricked into watching.  Those that do need to be tricked aren’t going to get anything out of it anyway.

    I’ve always regretted being the wrong age for Mr. Wizard.  I was too young for his first show and too old for his second.  He had no silly costmes, wacky music, or convoluted sets. (I’m looking at you Beakman and Nye), just cool experiments, although they should probably be called demonstrations since the outcome is already known.

    And finally, when I was growing up there were no good cartoons being broadcast (That’s all there was) on Sunday morning, just what me and my sister called “god shows”.  Even “Davy and Goliath” were boring and preachy. 

  • Elerena

    Reminds me of when the Westboro Baptist Church picketed Mr. Rogers funeral on the grounds that- surprise surprise- he wouldn’t turn his show into a pulpit.

  • Judigh Bandsma

    So, he didn’t grow up with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd? Sylvester and Tweety Bird? How about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck? I can’t for the life of me remember even one reference to a god of any kind in those cartoons, or in Tom and Jerry, etc. Come to think about it, even Mr. Rogers didn’t push god…and he was a MINISTER.

    • Piet Puk

       I remember watching a Tom & Jerry episode where Tom dreams he has died and goes to heaven (and later to hell). I loved that one, I could watch it over and over again. Of course I did realise that heaven and hell where as real as Tom & Jerry were.
      http://youtu.be/uHEsH0l5i9E

  • T-Rex

    Could it be that religious cartoons just suck in general and that’s why kids don’t watch them and there’s no demand for them? Ever try watching Davie and Goliath? Veggie Tales? Or any of the Bible cartoons they show on TBN, local channels or on Sunday mornings? I don’t go searching them out but when you’re flipping through those channels and come across one of them or the creepy puppet/dressed up actor shows, they just simply suck…horribly.

    • Rebecca Sparks

      I liked Veggie Tales-especially the silly songs with Larry.  They were 1000 times better than Mcgee and Me or The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.  Although I don’t always agree with their messages, Veggie Tales at least focus on the story as more than the trappings of a moral-sometimes going completely into silliness.  It’s probably the best of the bunch of Christian-themed kid shows.

      However, compared to other kid shows both educational and entertainment centered, it’s fairly average.  Worse, if you disagree with the message they’re presenting.

  • Rich Lane

    This sounds to me like he’s admitting atheism is the default position.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    “No matter how far Dora explores, she will never bump into the divine.”How true. Firstly, the more she explores the more truth she will open her mind to. Secondly, you will never find something that doesn’t exist no matter how far you travel looking for it.

  • Hellboy

    “But for all the educational strides being made and all the
    pro-social “vitamins” cleverly inserted into our kids’ media diets,
    there is one ingredient sorely missing. There is no Glorious Leader on
    Sesame Street. No clue will ever point Blue toward the failure of democratic nations. No
    matter how far Dora explores, she will never bump into the Gloriousness of the Glorious Leader’s wise policies. The
    world of children’s media, to put it bluntly, is as decadent as an prohibited materials-due to-containing-evil-and-sedition bookclub. And that missing ingredient will cripple our
    children if we let it.”Fixed.

  • http://twitter.com/cwebb619 Chris Webber

    I can say one thing, I am appalled at the amount of Jesus that is not included in my child’s TV viewing….we need more Jesus!

    atheistsocialworker.org

  • Anonymous

    “No clue will ever point Blue toward his Creator.” 
    I would actually enjoy seeing the look on Joe’s face when he realized that the round of ‘Blue’s Clues’ he was playing was really Blue’s attempt to convince him that the world was only 6,000 years old. I imagine the clues would be a banana (shaped perfectly to fit into a human hand!), A pillar of salt, and graphic image of rabbits screwing during the cambrian explosion.


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