Should Atheists Censor Books Like This One…?

Sometimes an ethical question can strike you when you least expect it.

A few days ago I found myself wandering idly through the book section of a charity shop, lazily looking for something requested by a friend for her three-year-old son. I picked out a thin book at random, and stopped dead when I realized what I was looking at.

Creationism for kids!

The book, titled The Creation Series Book 6, Animals, is part of a Creationist book series oriented towards children ages 3 to 4.

It includes lovely illustrations:

In the beginning
no animals lived on the earth.
God spoke and
made animals out of soil from the ground.
God gave the animals grass and
leafy plants to eat.*

You may be wondering what that asterisk is all about.

Here’s what it says at the end of the book:

The animals were tame vegetarians and lived alongside man quite amicably when God made them on the same day of creation (the sixth day). It was only after the fall of man (see Genesis 3) that some animals became wild and aggressive and changed from being vegetarian to meat eaters, e.g. lions.

Presumably the giant paws and teeth of the bear in the illustration were used for digging for and chewing on roots. The stinger on the scorpion was probably filled with nice apple juice. And the quills on the porcupine were simply to protect it from excessive hugs! No word on what happened to the happy dinosaur.

I guess explaining how God drowned all those nice animals plus a whole bunch of human children and how the dinos were left off the ark is for the more mature 9 and 10-year-olds.

I quickly flipped through the book, halfway between dismay and amusement, then put it back and started to leave the store. Somehow, I was unable to do it. Images of wide-eyed children being misled by well-illustrated nonsense plagued me. In the end, I paid 50 pence (around 75 cents) and took it with me.

Generally speaking, when it comes to books and children, the consensus is that the more books children read, the better. But here, the aim is just the opposite; I bought to book to keep it away from the eyes of children.

This was not a book in a public classroom, nor was it masquerading as accurate scientific data (though it manages a startling number of scientific inaccuracies for a book with a word count considerably less than this posts’) and doesn’t mention Hell or Judgment at all, but I’m still very uncomfortable with the idea of more kids turning their eyes away from science in favor of superstition.

I know that in the larger scheme of things, removing one book from one store will do next to nothing in the battle for secularism, but I’m still left to wonder: Is there something inherently bad about taking a book to prevent it from being read? Also, what in the world should I do with the damn thing, considering I balk at the idea of tossing any book, even this one, in the garbage?

[Update]: I see from the comments that there may be some confusion about the purchase of the book. I bought it from a charity shop that sells donated materials, including this particular book. My very modest sum will go towards local hospice care, not towards creationist publishers.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • 8thgypsy

    Don’t balk – toss!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1522266185 Ronald Neely II

    Buying it just to keep anyone else from seeing it is a bad idea.  That counts as a “sale” for the author and only encourages the continued publishing of drivel like this.

    • Gus Snarp

      I don’t think the author gets any money or that they or anyone official knows a sale took place given that this was probably a used book.

    • Udt123

       I agree but for a different reason. If you hadn’t bought the book, then whoever ended up buying it would most likely have been of that mindset anyway.
      It’s not like a 4 year old would be shopping for their own books…!

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Actually, that’s why I bought the creationist picture book I found at the library sale. Young children definitely do shop for their own books there. I see them unaccompanied all the time, and as the books are only around 25 cents, they can purchase them without asking for permission or money from their parents. Also, the picture book was masquerading as a normal book about dinosaurs, with no hint of the creationist content. I bought it because I didn’t want some unsuspecting kid to think that it was an actual science book.

    • Isilzha

       Seriously?  Have you never been in a thrift or 2nd hand store and don’t understand the concept?

  • Savoy47

    Wow that god of theirs is worse than I thought.  Eve ate an apple and god gets mad and makes animals start killing and eating each other because of it.  

    • Barbara

      That makes God even more appealing, doncha know? If God is that frigging looney bins vengeful and he’s on your side, that’s straight up comfort right there. (At least to some Christians.)

  • jdm8

    You bought it, it’s yours to do with it as you please.  I don’t think it makes economic sense to buy it in the first place.  The bookstore can easily order a new one, maybe even happens automatically, so maybe you’ve cleared that shelf of that one book for one week.  And you’ve put a little money into the system to have more books made.

    • Josh Hyde

      This was a charity bookstore, though, and I imagine that the book was a donation to the store, rather than one they attempt to keep in stock.

    • Kim

      She bought this used book from a charity shop for 50 pence. The book will only reappear if somebody donates another one.

      • Isilzha

         I don’t understand why so many people keep missing this point!?

  • Galen O’Neil

    I think the JREF has a library of psuedoscience books, you could donate it to them. Thought it might cost more to ship than it would cost new. Maybe a local skeptic’s group has a library?

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    Well, how do you feel about conservative Christians either perpetually keeping library books they don’t like checked out, or outright stealing them?

    http://articles.latimes.com/1991-08-25/news/vw-2103_1_provocative-books

    • Onamission5

      In fairness, she purchased the book, which has the same effect on access to the text as anyone else purchasing the book. She did not steal it from the library. Purchasing a book from a non-profit and stealing from a non-profit are two different issues. Stealing a text from the library causes financial harm to the institution itself, as well as harm to the people they are trying to serve.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        That’s why I also mentioned the tactic of repeatedly checking out a disliked book from a library. An otherwise fine and normal action can become shady when it’s done for the express purpose of denying access to others.

        Claudia could have bought the book as a fun coffee table book for atheist get-togethers. Or she could have bought it to more easily blog about it. But she admits the main reason she bought it was to keep it away from children. I’m not comfortable with that.

        • Barbara

          I often put books on hold from my library. Doing this ensures I am in the waiting line to check it out and the person ahead of me cannot repeatedly renew that book.

          • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

            Which means you had to know the library carries that book without coming across it on the shelves, put forth extra effort filling out forms, and wait.

            Checkout denial isn’t hard censorship, but it’s effective in much the same way car alarms are effective at making one thing enough of a pain that it gets passed over.

            • Barbara

              I have young children who aren’t going to patiently wait as mommy wanders the shelves, so putting books on hold has become somewhat of a necessity. :) The public libraries in my county are all connected together, so if the library closest to me doesn’t have the book I want, it can be delivered from another library. So convenient! And there’s also an online catalog to search for books by author, subject, phrase, or title. It searches through all the libraries in the county and you can place a hold with one click of a button. Not the best search tool, so sometimes I search on Amazon and then copy paste the book title in the library search. But still, not much effort needed on my part. 

              Don’t know how libraries are set up in other parts of the country, but those censorship people aren’t going to get far in my neck of the woods. Unless they outright steal the books, which has happened on occasion. :(

              • ReadsInTrees

                Are you in Maine? This is how our system is set up. I can request materials, and they’ll come from any library in the state. No need for Netflix!

            • Kodie

              Nobody has to be psychic to know what books are carried by their library. You make it sound difficult to look it up, see if they have it, and, like, fill out the equivalent of a grant application to get a book out of the library. Even before computers, you didn’t have to come across it on the shelves.

              Yes, you do have to wait. I have to wait 2 days-2 weeks at the most typically, and it’s delivered to the library of my choice. If it’s a new acquisition and I didn’t get the jump, my wait will be longer.

              But you are acting like it’s too much effort to find a book at the library and request it. I don’t even have to go to the library to do that, and takes about 30 seconds.

  • Bubbles

    Censorship?  Do you not let your kids watch Flintsones too? It is disappointing that this would even come to someone’s mind.  What you should do with it?  Read it to your kids. It is a silly fairy tail similar to anything Disney or Seuss wrote.  If you want someone to be a rational thinker, the worst possible thing you could do is censor information.  Instead teach them how to process it and rank its validity.  Or in kid speak: A dino with a lion? Isn’t that silly.

    • CaitLeonard

       The difference being parents tell their kids that the Flinstones are fake but that the Creation story is real. If the book were marketed as a fiction, with God just being another character, that would be another story.

      • http://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/ D-Ma

         But this would present the purchaser with the opportunity to teach their children what some other people believe and explain to them that it is just a fairy tale.  It could present as a very teachable moment.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I might get the book to use as an educational tool for my children- something to demonstrate the absurd beliefs held by irrational people. The same book in the hands of a credulous parent, however, could be quite damaging to a child. Claudia’s intent in buying the book was to ensure that some innocent child, whose education she had not control over, might be spared an iota of intellectual damage.

  • D. Edward Farrar

    Unfortunately, the fact that you paid for the book means the publisher will now believe there is a market for it and will probably print more!

    Oh-my, see how the road to Hell (in which, I do not believe, but it is nevertheless a useful metaphor) is  paved with good intentions.

    • 0xabad1dea

      Used book – that someone implicitly didn’t even want anymore. 

    • Jennifer English

      It was purchased 2nd hand.  I doubt resales have any effect on the publisher/market for a particular book.

    • Jbandsma

      No it won’t. The book was in a ‘charity’ shop…what we on this side of the pond would call a thrift store. The publisher will never know it was re-sold. It would be different if she bought it in a bookstore.

  • Jennifer English

    Well she bought it at a thrift store.   If it were a new book, then it would count as a sale to the author but since this is 2nd hand, I don’t believe it does.

    I don’t know if taking the book off the shelf did any good.  Children who would receive a book like this are already getting brainwashed.  One book more or less probably doesn’t make a difference.

    As far as what to do with the book?   Use it for paper crafting.  Lots of colorful pictures would make awesome paper beads.   http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Paper-Beads/

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.tingley Richard Tingley

    Censor, no. Make illegal to classify it as non-fiction, yes.

  • Skeletaldropkick

    Yeah, no need to censor, tho I totally understand your reaction. In my family, that book would just get read alongside all the other creation myths, such as Atum, Purusha, papa and rangi etc etc, and my absolute fave, Audhumla.

    Then you talk about what is actually most likely; amino acids, evolution and vast amounts of time.

    To do well in our society, you need to have a good understanding of the prevailing religion. It is how it is presented, not what it says. It is a creation MYTH. My kids are teens now and still have a strong desire for truth. But I do remember how scary it was for them to be exposed to religion.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

      i’m not scared. i always tell the N&Ns the truth. keeps things really simple. “do you love Jesus, Aunty CD?” “no, (nephew), i don’t. i don’t think he’s real. some people do, but i don’t.” you’d be amazed at how much milage i’m getting and will get with the others as they age with stuff that simple. and i bring up religion, sometimes. i tell them about gods and goddesses that i studied in school, different ones they don’t hear about often. 

      just plant the seeds, man. plant the seeds. it’s painless. over exposure is as effective as under exposure, in the task of preserving a child’s ability to have critical thinking faculties. 

  • Kahomono

    I do it all the time with Bible tracts, Chick comics, Watchtowers, etc.  I see no difference.  You paid for the book, you own the book, you may now do with it as you see fit. (I hope you recycled.)

    • Kahomono

      So now here’s a poser: when tracts are left out to take for free, is there any justification for taking more than one of each?  My inclination is, no there is not… but there is seldom-to-never a stated restriction.  Occasionally, I see “TAKE ONE” if a rack is unattended, but that’s about it.

      • amycas

         Watchtower magazines and other JW literature gets left in the laundry room at my apartment complex all the time. I usually take one from each stack and throw away the rest. It’s not on a rack or anything. They’re not paying to have their literature available; it’s just sitting in stacks on the counter.

  • Joel Palenychka

    I recommend re-purposing the nice illustrations for a fairytale book of your own. Cut them out and use them as scrapbook material or your own home made children’s book about fantasy versus reality.

    Buying it from a charity shop isn’t going to support the author, it’ll support the charity. Taking it because you don’t want someone else to read it… well, that kind of edges on censorship. Buying it to take home, scan, and use in a post about just how crazy people are getting about creationism is just simple processing of information.

    Best solution? Mark the book up with suggestions on how ludicrous it’s claims are and then donate it back to charity. The charity shop gets two donations for it’s cause and some child gets an introduction to critical thinking. Win-Win. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Chemical42 Cassie Muldrow

    Normally I don’t think that censorship is right at all, but I understand what you did and why you did it.  The person who bought that book would not have treated it as a fairy tale, and they would have used it to help brainwash their children.  They probably will still anyways though, even if they have to buy the book new.  Unfortunately, we can’t and shouldn’t tell people how to raise their children, so this will continue.  I think that the 50p was an easy price for your conscience and your protest against this sort of thing.  You’ve shared the info with us, and found a use for such a terrible book.  Now that its use is over, don’t hesitate to throw it away.  You’re still thinking of it as a book, but I think a book should be more than bound pages, it should contain something of value- and this one clearly doesn’t.  Throw it away, it’s nothing more than rubbish!

  • 0xabad1dea

    Well, you paid for it, and it went to charity. So as long as we concede that someone could lawfully buy and hide The Magic of Reality for the same reason no matter how much we think kids should be reading the latter instead… 

    But even so, taking pictures of it and posting it online for discussion still counts as a constructive use of the book – no-one could accuse you of sending it down the memory hole!

  • Kim

    I’m a biologist. This made me laugh. Tame vegetarian lions… so were the lions’ teeth and digestive system always specialized for meat, or were the lions just so depressed after the “fall of man” that they decided to go in for some extreme reconstructive surgery?

    I don’t think that buying the book was wrong. Stealing the book would have been wrong.

  • Carla

    “Should Atheists Censor…” NO. The answer to that question is always a resounding NO. Censorship is the tool of those who wish to prevent free thought, and those who fear knowledge. We are on the side of evidence and science and reason and realityand knowledge, not fear and ignorance. We do not fear religious ideas, we disagree with them. Discussion, reason and evidence are our “weapons”, NEVER EVER EVER censorship or ignorance. Those ideas, however incorrect, are out there, and we benefit no one by pretending otherwise. (Does that mean that buying this book was wrong? Not really. But the concept as a whole is.)

    • https://me.yahoo.com/by_proxer#d8791 Proxer

       Seconded.

    • Isilzha

      Actually, there are many religious ideas that I fear, especially the CONSEQUENCES of those ideas!  

      • Alex

         Doesn’t mean you should ignore them — quite the opposite, be aware of them and learn to recognize their effects.

        • Isilzha

          Bah…much more than recognition is needed.  We need to actively work to eradicate the effects of many of these ideas.  For example, when religion gains a foothold one of the first things to happen is the rights of women begin to erode.  We can’t just stand idly by and say, “Yep, when people believe X then Y tends to happen.”  All Ideas are NOT equal and books are not sacred tomes just because they happen to be books.

    • Paige Jeffrey

      Agreed. Kids need to be aware of the beliefs out there – and then need to shown how to ask questions and learn for themselves why they are wrong.

      I can appreciate the intent behind buying the book, but there are plenty of good-natured religious mothers who do the exact same thing for the same reasons to books on science. At the end of the day, the better thing to do is eliminate censorship and instead ensure our children are learning to think for themselves.

      Really, this is the same thing as the books on unicorns and dragons that I read as a kid. I believed they were real and wanted them to be real, but discovered the truth as I got older. I’m not fostering any desire to start a dragon cult these days.

      • Carla

        If you want to get that dragon cult going, give me a call!

    • Alex

      +1. Same can be said about presenting creationism in a science class. History of science is important, and, like it or not, just as the germ theory wasn’t fully accepted until late 19th century, people at one point did not have any alternative to “goddidit” when it came to development of life. Some are still clinging to that archaic belief (there are also those that still insist that the Earth is flat), and that may be silly, but we ought to know our past.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeCascio Joe Cascio

    I’m not in favor of any censorship. But your buying a single book doesn’t amount to censorship, any more than someone buying a used copy of The God Delusion. It’s when people engage in coordinated political activity to universally ban books they don’t like that I think it becomes censorship. I think it’s better to call these books out as prime examples of systematic attempts to indoctrinate children into rejecting science and evidence and rationality. Nobody can make the case for someone being a fool better than the fool himself.

  • http://twitter.com/jfoley3 John Foley

    I’m an atheist, but would never support censorship of any kind. Historically, religions have been great at censoring, to avoid the truth coming out. That  is definitely not a concern here. 

  • Xeon2000

    I can confidently say that I disagree with censorship, even in this case. If a school wants to use the book to teach children how the world began, that’s a completely different fight, but the book should be free to exist and be read by anyone.

    I understand your visceral reaction; however, you don’t get to determine what people can and cannot read–even if it’s silly. The scale can easily tip the other way and suddenly you find what you want to read being censored.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    You bought a book, at a bookstore, for the requested price. There is nothing remotely unethical about that, regardless of your intent in buying the book. Is it unethical for me to purchase a Bible to use as toilet paper? Absolutely not.

    To turn this into a question worthy of philosophical discussion, you would need to have stolen the book. Or obtained it from a library and then “lost” it, or perhaps redacted its contents before returning it. Now the issue of ethics becomes interesting- how do you assess the situation when you have to perform an unethical act (stealing) in order to achieve an ethical end (protecting a child)? These are the sort of “is it ethical to throw a stranger in front of a train in order to save ten innocent people” questions that philosophers love to analyze.

    Personally, I would not have bought the book, because it would have conflicted with my personal ethics to send any money at all to the authors and publishers of such dangerous rubbish. My approach would be to take it to the manager of the bookstore. Show them the book, explain how it conflicts with the very purpose of a bookstore and how much intellectual damage it could do to a child. Perhaps the store would be willing to remove it from inventory. That’s a sort of “censorship” I have no ethical problem with at all.

  • Sven

    My 5 year old son asked his mom (we are not married) where words comes from. She’s an idiot and so her answer was “when God created people”.

    She told me this tale in a text message and followed it with the happy exclamation “He’s so smart!”
    Not for long, moron. Not if you keep that up.
    I have him weekends and holidays and such which total about 1/3 of the year. I’ll try to repair the damage next time he’s with me.

  • Atoswald

    From the price of the book, I am assuming this was a used book? I could be wrong. If  it was from a used book store, then there is little danger of the item being restocked. If it was in a used book store, I might have done the same thing you did. Generally, I staunchly oppose sensorship, but a book like this is (in my opinion) unhealthy for impressionable toddlers. Just as I wouldn’t let my children read Playboy magazine, I wouldn’t let my children read that garbage. I work in a library and although it pains me, I have to destroy old and damaged books all the time (in fact, I destroyed a donated bible that was marked up and damaged just yesterday.) If the book is used, has any stains or other damage, destroy it. After all, not only is the content possibly damaging to young minds, the soiled pages can become a health risk if they develop mildew or mold. If you just can’t bring yourself to destroy it, contact JREF or CFI to see if they have any suggestions. You shouldn’t feel too bad either way, protecting children from misinformation is a good thing.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

      forgive me Atoswald, i am going to be a pedant. but i find it interesting you’ll argue in favor of protecting children from mythology and ignorance and compare that to them seeing a naked female form. while my mind is open to the idea that there are sound, scientific reasons why young children should not see the adult human form posing suggestively, i hope you realize that the main reason societies find that “icky” is because of religions. note how you didn’t say “porn” or “Playgirl.” if you were a fundie you’d have probably said “Manhunt.” heh. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1418001700 Cheryl Stone-Hamilton

    I had a secular bumper sticker stolen from my car.  Probably some Christian thought they were doing the right thing.

  • Tainda

    No one should censor any book.  Period.

    It’s our duty to learn from books and this one teaches that creationists are not very bright :)

  • Onamission5

    Am I the only one who thinks you should edit the book for accuracy, and then put it back?

    • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

      It wouldn’t make it into a customer’s hands – they check books for that sort of thing.

      • Onamission5

        A book store likely would, and a library as well. I am guessing that charity shops don’t.

        • light

           Yes they do I work in a Charity shop three days a week and we check every book that comes in fortunately the charity shop I work at has a non-partisan rule and therefore any religious or anti-religious literature of any religion or group is recycled. 

          • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andrew Brookfield

            Good ole Red Cross, AMIRITE?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

    Used/secondhand store purchase? Not that bad. It’s not like you’re destroying the last copy in existence. Although Amazon thinks that book hasn’t been released yet, there’s two used copies of the set out now. Getting rid of the last one might be like getting rid of the smallpox samples, but this seems just a vaccination.

    And, with a secondhand purchase, it’s not like you’re sending money back to the cretins responsible for making it. Buying it new might be more problematic.

    Toss it. You can think of it as carbon sequestration via landfill, if it helps. 

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

    I want an apple juice dispensing scorpion, dammit!  Oh Eve, you had to go and ruin EVERYTHING!

  • Istj04

    I censor “literature” like this all the time-by NOT READING IT! Its real easy to do! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaimekris Jaime Isham

    This would be roughly the same as a parent not allowing a child to watch an R-rated movie, or read the Harry Potter series. Parents have always been shaping what their children view, and there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with that.
    As for the book, cut up the cute illustrations and decoupage with them! Everyone loves decoupage. 

    • TheAmazingAgnostic

      Your argument is completely irrelevant.

      A parent may have the right to shape what *their* kids view, but every random individual does not have the right to shape what other people’s kids view.

      If you have ever worked at a public library before, you would know that books containing very little objectionable content (such as Bridge to Terabithia) are frequently challenged by angry fundamentalists. These people want to remove anything and everything that goes against their “values” from the library shelves.

      What would I say to these people?

      It is absolutely *impossible* to remove all controversial books from public libraries. If you do not want your kids exposed to certain content, you should do a better job of screening the books that they pick up or check out.

      I  am not saying that “anything goes” in a public library. “Mommy, look at this book I found! It’s called Fifty Shades of Grey!” would be awkward not only for the parents but for the library as well. Am I saying that we shouldn’t stock such books? No, but they should not be put on display and should be kept out of areas where children could *potentially* reach them.

      Finally, since I am rambling here, I am going to conclude by saying this: unless a book is hate speech, X-rated, or extremely seditious (and by this, I mean that the book promotes terrorism or illegal activities), then it probably has a place in the library. 

      That is why I am strongly against this kind of censorship. Even though this creationist book is complete nonsense, it is not dangerous for children to read. Their brains are not going to explode because they read that lions were once vegetarians. In fact, most kids already get a good dose of this garbage at churches all across America.

      I would prefer that this post was never written. Once it goes through the Christian blogosphere, the main tagline will be “Atheists Conspire To Hide The Truth About Human Origins From Children.” 

  • @useyerbrain

    Although I, too, understand where you are coming from, censorship is never a good thing as previously mentioned. Not to mention a book like this might have the opposite effect that you may envision. It could help someone on the fence come to the same realizations as you i.e. that creations stories are pretty head scratching.

    My wife and I kept a childrens book of Bible stories with lots of graphic images of heads on platters, people being swallowed in great floods, and fathers prepared to sacrifice their own children. I can’t wait to show this to my three year olds and I am sure they will realize that the Bible is a pretty nasty story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaimekris Jaime Isham

     This would be roughly the same as a parent not allowing a child to watch
    an R-rated movie, or read the Harry Potter series. Parents have always
    been shaping what their children view, and there’s nothing inherently
    “wrong” with that.
    As for the book, cut up the cute illustrations and decoupage with them! Everyone loves decoupage. 

  • Brent

    Look at it this way, if you bought the book because you thought it was interesting you would still have kept that particular copy out of the hands of another child anyway.  So the concern is intent rather than the action.  I think this kind of book is dangerous to young minds but in a free society we still need to protect that type of book.  However, it shouldn’t never be found in a public school.

  • Iota

    That book might be fodder for several blog posts.

  • Karen

    I have a kind of reverse problem.  My mom, who has vastly differing religious and political views from my own, occasionally send me a book that shares her views (e.g. pro-Intelligent-Design, anti-global-warming, etc.).  

    I’m always a little stumped about what to do with them.  I normally give unwanted items to a local charity shop, but don’t want to encourage someone else to read these books!  Throwing books away sort of goes against the grain, but I don’t know what else to do with them.

    • Sue Blue

      My mother does the same thing.  I get books and magazines published by her church as “gifts” all the time.  I occasionally read them just to see what stupidity the church is up to, but usually I just recycle the magazine and shelve the books.  I, too, have a hard time throwing away books; I was raised to almost revere them, no matter what the contents.  Also, even though I disagree with my mother on religion, I don’t like to hurt her feelings by throwing out expensive books; if she sees them on my bookshelves she feels better.  I have, however, asked her to stop spending money on them – or to buy them for herself and loan them to me if I ask to read them.  I try to be diplomatic because I believe she sends them out of genuine concern.

      • Camorris

           Finding new homes for unwanted books has become a problem. I recently tried to donate a perfectly good set of Time/Life books to the local public library, but they won’t accept anything older than five years due to lack of space. Likewise, our local second hand book store had the same policy for the same reason. (But I was lucky to find an organization having a fundraising yard sale that was happy to have the set.)
            Recycling is the responsable way to get rid of used books nobody will take.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MarkPKnowles Mark Knowles

       They make great fire lighters. :D

    • ReadsInTrees

      I use junk books when I’m crafting, as gluing/painting surfaces, especially with rubber cement. Once you’re done getting the page all messy, rip it out, and you’ll have a clean surface to use next time. Not as big as newspaper, but tidier to store and convenient when you just need a little space  to work on.

    • Isilzha

       There’s some great art projects out there that use books for materials.  Do some googling and you can find tons of idea.  Roll the pages individually and make wreaths.  Use a shaped punch to cut out shapes to use on greeting card.  Hollow them out and use as a secret hiding place.  Make floating bookshelves.

      Try googling–”recycled books” crafts

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5736566 Scott Maddox

    My parents took Satanic Verses away from me just because of the title.

    • Isilzha

      Yes, people do ridiculous things to their kids for stupid reasons.  However, that is not remotely like what this woman did.  She didn’t take the book away from a kid, she bought a book that was for sale, for her own reasons and used it for her own purposes.

  • JT

    I’ve always been a fan of annotation of books. Counter false claims with reality. Then use it as a teaching tool.

  • The Captain

    Here’s the problems with what you did as I see them. And these involve general assumptions I know, but thats going to be the nature of this kind of talk.

    1.st contrary to what some posters here have claimed, this is not like preventing a child from watching a movie or show, well it is a bit with one big caveat of… it was not your child you where trying to effect the education of. If some idiots what to teach their kids this crap, well that’s none of your business any more than it is these idiots rights to try to thwart my attempts to get my kid a copy of Origin of Species for my kid (if i had one). 

    2.nd Since this was at a charity store, who did you probably prevent from buying the book? Certainly not a wealthy person, since they could just buy it at a regular store for full price. No, you economically bullied around a poorer person to force them to not teach their kids how they want. Now I know this is america and many people think that economically pushing beliefs onto others is a fundamental bedrock of society, but I assure you it’s not, and it’s just as wrong as physically doing it. At the very least you may have forced a poor person who was looking for this kind of book to have to make a greater finical sacrifice to buy such book full price at a regular store. Not cool.

    • Isilzha

      Oh, good grief, that’s ridiculous.  It doesn’t matter why she bought the book.  There’s likely no “poverty” test to shop at the store and buy items.  The book was for sale and she bought it.  It’s not like books are a rare commodity that take immense resources and time to produce.  It’s not like destroying the book really destroys the ideas.  She didn’t deprive anyone of anything.  I’m not planning on shopping at a thrift store today so are you trying to imply that all those who do are someone depriving ME of something that I could get more use out of than they will?  It’s just a ridiculous idea that goods must wait around until the best possible owner happens to show up to purchase them.  That’s not how the economy works!

      What if she didn’t buy the book and the person who bought it did so solely to provide fodder for her kid’s craft projects.  What if she just cuts out a few pictures, discards the rest, her kids make a poster, and a few weeks later the poster is put in the trash.  MEIN GOTT!  That horrible person deprived everyone else from getting use from the book.  They even denied the OP the warm, fuzzy feeling of buying the book and putting up a blog post about it!

      • The Captain

        ” It’s just a ridiculous idea that goods must wait around until the best possible owner happens to show up to purchase them.” This is the cry of the social darwinist. Sorry, but economic actions have a moral component. As a hypothetical (and admittedly simple) example if a wealthy person where to buy all the coats for sale within a town just before winter, would that be a moral action if it left all those who could not “outbid” them without coats for the winter?

        • Isilzha

          Wow…you’re really stretching moral obligation to the EXTREME here.  Social darwinism?  Really? 

          Well, who gets to determine who “deserves” the goods the most?  You?  And what criteria are you going to make such judgments?  I don’t think you have the moral foundation to judge a dog show much less be the arbiter of who has the “right” to buy a children’s book and evaluate their reasons for the purchase (seriously, will people have to submit essays for each and every fraking loaf of bread or book they want to buy?).

          There’s a reason why the market system and capitalism, for the most part, works.  It may not be the idea economic system, but it’s heaps better than communism, socialism or juche.

          • The Captain

            So for you then a company could purchase the entire water supply of a country, then prohibit anyone from drinking the water? All in the name of capitalism, that somehow makes it O.k.? That is fundamentally a moral question yet is just a simple market transaction no? 

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              Interesting how you’re comparing creationist progaganda to winter coats and clean drinking water! Children don’t need creationist picture books, and if their parents are bound and determined to indoctrinate them, they can pay full price for the books, or get creationist material (probably for free) from their church.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    I certainly don’t see it as a problem. I once bought a creationist picture book from the library sale because I didn’t want any unsuspecting children to come across it and think it was factual.

  • MichaelD

    Suddenly reminded of when my grandmother and her friend bought all the Ouija boards at toys r us to keep them away from kids.

  • 1000 Needles

    “What in the world should I do with the damn thing?”

    Do you have a table or chair that is wobbly? Or perhaps you could brush up on your origami skills.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I wrote an Ask Richard column about this very same dilemma three years ago.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2009/07/22/ask-richard-hard-to-throw-away-books-even-gawdawful-ones/

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    We ran into the same dilemma a few years back.  We found Ken Ham’s book on dinosaurs at a used booksale a few years back.  I was going to leave it, but my young daughter pointed out that some other kid might find it and think it was a science book.  So she bought it (for $1) and mailed it to PZ, who wrote a very fun blog post on it.  Wins all around.

    • Deanna

      I did the same thing.  At my local used book store, I ran across “D Is for Dinosaur” by Ken Ham and Mally Ham, and I bought it, just so one less book is in circulation.  And, then, I went to Amazon to see how the book is reviewed.  Where people have reviewed the book, at the bottom of each is a “Was this review helpful to you?”.  I make sure to say “no” for all the positive reviews and “yes” for the negative ones.

  • Jenny

    I didn’t buy them. Whenever I found books like this in thrift stores and the like I’d find the biggest ugliest encyclopedia thick books on the shelves and stick it behind them.

    I’m not evil, I’m just keeping the good books from getting overlooked.

  • SJH

    Is it really that bad that a child would be mislead by a flawed creation story? Children are given flawed information all the time but I think they will turn out fine. Regarding something as insignificant as a children’s book of creation stories, I don’t think any of us are in a position to determine what is best for everyone else. It seems that it is a little judgmental to think that I know what is best for every child and I need to control the outcome for everyone else on such insignificant issues. Let the parents make that decision.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    I went into a Half Price book store once in search of some Atheist reading, I asked the clerk where I could find that section, she pointed it out to me and while I was browsing the shelf a nice gentleman came over and looked over my shoulder for a bit. I had a hunch about what he was up to.

    I bought a book and left the store and played out my hunch. A few minutes later the man came out with a bag full of books. Got into his car and drove around the back of the store. I waited until he left. Got out of my car, walked around the back, found a dumpster there, opened the lid and right on top of the other trash was the bag, took the bag out, opened it up and found all the books from the Atheism section.

    Free books!! Sort of, in Tacoma it’s illegal to take trash out of the can, it now belongs to Waste Management and the owner of the business. So I took the books back into the store told them what had transpired. they looked at me with bemusement and the clerk performed the “didn’t see it, hear it or speak it” pantomime routine.

    Free Books!! 

    • Alex

       Sad, but what can you do. Books have probably endured more abuse than anything in history, and will for as long as they exist.

  • Hellbound Alleee

    I bought a copy of “A History of Man” by L Ron Hubbard, at a thrift store. I’m glad it wasn’t censored. It continues to give us wonderful moments of hilarity. Clams!

  • Alex

    Why censor something like that? Smart kids will grow out of fairy tales, and stupid ones will not be convinced by difficult science anyway — why study when you can just trust in Gawd?

    Leave it alone. We shouldn’t allow this to be used to teach creationism as a valid scientific theory in public schools, but we have freedom of speech for a reason. I’m sure we’d be pretty upset if some Christian fundie threw a fit and tried to censor Dawkins’s book for kids or something like that.

    • 0xabad1dea

      Before you just assume that smart kids will grow out of fairy tales, you should know that as a teenager I seriously considered suicide because of the conflict between what I was taught (creationism/biblical literalism) and what seemed true but in direct contradiction to it. I thought God would hate me and punish me for straying and reading false, devil-written science books.

      Pulling out of that was very, very difficult, and I almost didn’t. 

      • Alex

         I’m sorry to hear that, but it seems that your problem was bigger than simple availability of fairy tales. Biblical literalism usually implies strict religious upbringing — and that’s a whole lot worse than reading about grass-eating lions that lived alongside dinosaurs. My point was not so much that we are free to fill kids’ minds with all kinds of bullshit, but rather teach them to discriminate between real knowledge and fables — critical thinking that is (which, by the way, yours truly wasn’t really taught seriously until college), and then we won’t have to worry nearly as much about kids learning the “wrong” things.

        Power of persuasion, I know, and all that, but the answer to that is not shielding young minds from evil, but rather equipping them with adequate tools to deal with it.

        • Isilzha

           Perhaps you don’t realize that books just like that are very common tools used in strict religious households.  Religious instruction of children relies on a variety of tactics.  Some of those tactics use colorful pictures and ‘happy’ tales of vegetarian lions lying down with the lambs.  However, even though that tale doesn’t seem too frightening on the surface, there’s still plenty of nastiness to it.  The next part tells kids that they are dirty, wicked, broken things that destroyed all that beauty, goodness and harmony and they must pay for that ‘sin’ for eternity.

      • Isilzha

        I spent a while thinking that I must be the antichrist!  Obviously there was something intrinsically evil inside of me if I was questioning the bible and wanting to explore different ideas.  For people to believe that religious teachings do no harm is just pathetically naive. 

    • Isilzha

      You also have the freedom to buy a book for sale for whatever reason and do whatever you like with it once it’s your property.  Buying the book doesn’t affect anyone’s freedom of speech.

      • Alex

        Of course you do. The question was about censorship, though.

        • Isilzha

          Well, the actual question is if BUYING that book when you’re not interested in the content is a form a censorship.  It’s not. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IKVVNPKPMBDXQJDAIREAS5IQLM Mike

    If you had opened the book and found pictures of adult men having relations with pre-teen children would you have said okay, free speech, or would you have removed the book from circulation?

  • Tredweller

    I once bought a book for a similar reason. It was at the local library’s annual sale and it was an industry-standard textbook on tree care and maintenance. Unfortunately, it was old enough to include some erroneous information in support of some discredited practices. I keep it for historical context, but mainly I bought it so some amateur would not buy it and wreck their trees following bad advice.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

    nope. you paid for it. it is yours to determine its fate. 

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t think we should censor books, but censoring requires a level of power we simply don’t have. You bought a book, you didn’t steal it. You paid the price, you can buy it for whatever reason you want and do what you please with it. This works for me because I can’t see it scaling up. No one could buy up all the copies of the book and have any impact, large sales at book stores would only result in more books printed and more people having access to it, and attempting to buy up all the used books would simply be impossible.

    I’ve bought a lot of books in my life, and most of them I’ve either resold to used bookstores or passed on through book exchanges or youth hostel bookshelves. But there are a few that I’ve bought that I thought were so terrible and expressed such terrible ideas that I would not be responsible for letting them fall into someone else’s hands. Sure, people will still read that book, but I’m not responsible for it. Now I bought those books to read in the first place, so maybe that makes my choice to keep them locked away forever more defensible, but you, well you saw one copy of one book that you could take out of circulation. I’m OK with it. But don’t steal any from the library.

  • Skimmilk

    One just needs to make sure that the kid reading it knows it is a fairy tale. Nothing more.

  • Shrubber

    Over the years, a very few book have made my “Never Again!” list, but when they do, I have had no compunction about removing the offending material from the physical universe.  Nothing so dramatic as a book-burning, but a well-placed trash can serves as well.

  • Chakolate

    It’s not generally a good idea to kill animals, but if you saw a poisonous snake in a playground, you’d remove it, right?  This is no different.  You’re not advocating shutting down the publisher, you’re removing (probably futilely) one book.

  • Karlaschlesinger

    Oh, folks here are taking themselves too seriously. You did nothing wrong, it’s not like you took a flamethrower to a Christian bookstore…wait, would that be wrong?
    Kudos for your quick thinking.

  • Uncoolmom

    What makes you think that children would believe this book is true? They are bombarded every day with books that contain talking animals, mythical animals, magic and all kinds of other fantasy. As an atheist parent I feel that it is very important that my children understand the difference between reality and fiction. They need to know that stories are valuable, even if they are not literally true. When they were young, my kids had a book of bible stories, they also had a book of Indian creationist stories (that had a beautiful illustration of the world on the back of a turtle), but I made sure that they understood that all these stories were fiction, fiction in the same way that it is fun to pretend animals can talk and Santa Claus exists, but we all know it’s not really true. Creationism needs to be treated the same way, it’s a story that the Christian culture likes to tell, but it’s clearly so ridiculous that we all know it’s not true. But to be a well educated person, we need to know and understand this story, along with other bible stories, you can’t understand society and literature without some knowledge of the bible. The real danger of books like this are the adults that try to tell kids it is literally true, a well educated child knows it’s fiction, just like he knows that animals can’t really talk.

  • BenZ

    19 mammals prominently pictured with a small scorpion, a couple frogs, and a little turtle… This book should picture only a giant pile of beetles it wants to convey at least modern animals with any accuracy.

    • BenZ

      oops! Dinosaurs aren’t mammals. That was dumb. Don’t tell my PI.

  • Elli Pemberton

    This is a little wibbly-wobbly. The problem with the book is that it’s stating it like fact, and if it isn’t in the context of being a storybook, it could be damaging.

    I think it was right of you to remove it from the situation, though. Bible stories will almost never be presented as a storybook, so you could potentially have prevented some amount of religiosity from occurring. 

    As to whether it was ethical on censorship grounds: you wouldn’t try to explain violent rape to a three-year-old unless there was some pressing need to do so. Content and context vary depending on development and maturity.

  • TheKevinBates

    Buying a book is the opposite of censorship.  The store will see that a book was purchased and order, either manually or via an automated order system.  Then the store sends money to the publisher, and the publisher will print more.  Then the publisher will give money to the author, and the author will write more.

    Sooooooo.  No, you shouldn’t “censor” a book like this.  Move it over to the fantasy section.  Or ask what this is doing in the nonfiction section.  But encouraging them is LITERALLY the opposite of what I think you wanted to do.

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    I cannot blame you for what you did. This book is indeed horrible; it is meant to indoctrinate children from the earliest possible age.

    However, I believe that censorship of this kind is wrong. I do not agree with Ken Ham and strongly believe that children should not be exposed to what he writes. Does that mean that I go and buy up all of that sleaze’s textbooks? No.

    Ultimately, at the age of 3 and 4, children are barely capable of thinking on their own. If their parents are creationists, then they will be exposed to a great deal of creationist material throughout their formative years. Buying up a single book and tossing it in the trash will not fix this problem; the solution is better science education in public schools with more of an emphasis on critical thinking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Murphy/1408010278 Anne Murphy

    Nothing wrong at all with what you did!  Think of it as adding to your collection of curiousities.

    When you purchase one book from the thrift store it has nothing to do with censorship.  You’re just making a purchase of something that interested you, for whatever personal reasons.  If your motives for the purchase include keeping it out of the hands of somebody else, so be it.

    If you’re trying to have a book removed from the shelves of a public library – THAT’S CENSORSHIP.  There are many books I find to be objectionable in the library where I work, but our job is to provide a diverse collection to meet the needs of all community members.  I help people obtain whatever they want, and even though I think they’re nuts it’s not my place to say anything or obstruct them in any way.Would I hesitate to buy something like this from a thrift store?  Absolutely not.  I love strange things like this.  Who cares if you beat some religious family to it?  It’s a charity shop – you snooze, you lose!

  • Mary

    It is interesting to read all of the comments on this one! I must admit, when I was comfortable enough in my atheist skin to finally got rid of all my Christian books, I threw most of them away. I do not consider this to be censorship at all. They were my books, and most of them were so flawed that they were basically rubbish. Yet they certainly had me convinced and inspired for years on end. I would rather the damage from the rubbish to end with me. 

    Your buying a book is just a small step from what I did. I still don’t think it’s wrong to do what you did, but only because you were thinking of children who are not yet able to think through these things for themselves. If you went around buying books just to keep adults from reading them, that doesn’t make any sense. Adults will think and believe however they choose to do so. But kids…little tiny kids…I understand what you did. I’m not sure I’d do it too, but I get it. :)

  • A Portlander

    I threw away $2 in a thrift store (charity shop) on the Ray Comfort edition of On The Origin of Species, and shredded the introduction. I say fair play to you.

  • Revyloution

    Buying the book was probably the worst course of action.  It sends a (small) signal to the proprietor that there is a market for that type of book.  When owners of stores see these kinds of signals, they seek to increase their stock of that type of material.

    Honestly, I don’t see this kind of a book as any more of a threat than Rudyard Kiplings ‘Just so Stories’.  If the parents would buy this for their kids, then they are already getting the full force indoctrination regime.  Adding one more book will hardly change the course of the child.   It would have been far better to take the money and buy good science books for kids, and donate them to a place where they might have a good chance of getting their hands on it.

  • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

    And that, right there, is why I stick to the Red Cross for both my volunteer work and my charity purchases.
    Support secular charities!
    The Red Cross cannot allow a single religious item on its shelves so as to remain “neutral” in all countries.
    (I did chuck out some books which were religious in nature but didn’t seem to be so and had accidentally found their ways to the shelves and I will continue to do so – under the manager’s instruction.)
    As for the book, Claudia toss it away like the trash it is – seriously. Use it as fuel for your fireplace, put the pages in your rabbit hutch for waste paper, use it to line boxes with breakables in it…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Belch/1595255587 Elizabeth Belch

    I once bought “To train up a child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. A “how to manual” for creating Stockholm syndrome, if you ask me. It’s been implicated in a few deaths and dozens of cases of “failure to thrive”.  Yes, I wanted to read it, to see if it really was as bad as I’d heard. But mostly, I wanted to keep it out of the hands of impressionable young parents lured by the promise of perfectly behaved children. I don’t feel bad about it AT ALL.

  • Lord Of All Creation

    People keep gifting my daughter (she’s 4) with “Disney Princess” books. I throw them in the trash, after I’ve ripped off the covers and shredded the pages. Disney Princess’ are the worst role m0dels, in my opinion.

    I have also bought (used) creationist literature that I’ve either destroyed or kept for reference. Anyone talking about ‘censorship’ doesn’t know the meaning of the word. What I do with my property is my business. I’m taking books from library shelves, or stealing them from bookstores, or petitioning publishers not to publish.

    And, FYI, my daughter already has 2 sets of disney princess books she does read, 4 disney princess dresses, as well as themed socks, boots, and shirts. I considering ‘Pruning’, otherwise such a high percentage of her library would only consist of fainting Princess’ and she’d never find “The Paperbag Princess”, or “The Frog Scientist” in amongst the dreck. Not allowing her to read a princess book would be censorship. Not accepting the umpteenth gift of either a creationist or princess book is like asking gideon not to put bibles in the hotel room. It’s not like our culture is knocking down her door trying to give her books on evolution and strong female protagonists.

    Claudia. Buy, burn, feel good about it. :)

    • Lord Of All Creation

      Sigh. Missed the important word ‘not’, as in ‘I’m not taking books from library shelves….’.


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