Michael Schmidt-Salomon’s new anti-religion children’s book: A true embarrassment

Michael Schmidt-Salomon and illustrator Helge Nyncke’s new children’s book Wo bitte geht’s zu Gott?, fraqte das kleine Ferkel (which roughly translates to How Do I Get to God, Asked the Small Piglet) currently holds top spot on Amazon in Germany. From what I have seen of it, it is also a boatload of disingenuous unreasonably slanderous socially unreproductive garbage.

goddelusionforkids.jpg

The Friendly Atheist reviews some background information on the children’s 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 have 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, the piglet and hedgehog com the following 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 does not live in a [a synagogue, cathedral, or mosque].”

As The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, notes, the religious authorities were caricatures of the rabbis, muftis and bishops. These characters appear to be blended embodiments of the worst attributes of the most detested religious authorities that the Schmidt-Salomon and Nyncke could think of. The rabbi and mufti are said to be presented as psychotic, loud, violent, teeth-baring, mercilous theo-tyrants. The bishop is depicted as a fat child abuser. Here’s how Schmidt-Salomon speaks of his book:

Author Schmidt-Salomon said the book was “desperately needed considering the enormous mass of religious children’s stories.” He added that 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.”

I whole-heartedly agree that there is a need for children’s books that show the value of reason, intellectual honestly, wonder, secular ethics, and so on. What I do not agree with is attempting to combat religious children’s books by filling up bookshelves with disingenuous unreasonably slanderous and socially unproductive caricatures of religion. By doing this, the authors of this book are no better than the religious fundamentalist who teaches their child to equate atheists with Stalin and Satan. Just as chidren should not be left defenseless against the scientifically untenable and ethically problematic stories of religion, they should not be left defenseless to the statistically inaccurate and ethically problematic anti-religious caricatures of Schmidt-Salomon and Nyncke’s book.

Another point. Schmidt-Salomon claims, through the Hedgehog, that there is nothing missing in life without God. I agree that there need not be anything missing. However, there often is. Organized religions provide community-based forum for child-raising, the pursuit of personal and social development, happiness, meaning, and so forth. While we should not need to believe in a deity to have such a community, it is nevertheless the case that the nonreligious tend not to be a part of this sort of community. While surely there are many that are simply uninterested in being a part of such a community, there are many that are or would be interested, but they simply have no known options. I see great value in establishing non-faith-based communities that provide a forum for families, personal and social development, meditation, philosophizing, encouraging and facilitating prosocial behaviour, and engaging in fun social activities.

Anyhow, that was a brief aside. The main point of this writing was to express my opposition to publications like that of Schmidt-Salomon and Nyncke. Lets be ethical in our activism. Lets take the high road rather than trudging through the gutter.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

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Comments
22 Responses to “Michael Schmidt-Salomon’s new anti-religion children’s book: A true embarrassment”
  1. Randy says:

    Hear ye!

  2. Emily says:

    hell, that’s bloody awful. It’s so much worse when someone who supposedly wants to further the acceptance of atheism does something like this, I would much rather the old (hilarious) kids books given out by various churches that try to say the opposite. At least those are funny. This is just a bunch of hurtful pithy lies. Very sad.

  3. Ricky says:

    This book is just a symbol of artistic expression and freedom. If you feel it is “unproductive” or distasteful or insulting, then that’s your problem. I am glad somebody feels no shame in publishing a book that lambastes religious belief. If somebody wants to express their beliefs and feelings in the form of a cartoon book then they should have the right to do so. If you don’t like, then don’t read it to your children. There is a lot worse “art” that young people are exposed to today.

  4. Ricky says:

    Art, in any form, is not necessarily about “activism.” Many writers, painters, musicians, and fashion designers create new products for the purpose of shock-value and breaking new ground. Most of it does not stand the test of time. One person’s art is another’s trash. Let’s not condemn a person’s creativity because it doesn’t suitably fit with one’s own ‘important’ political agenda.

  5. ronbrown says:

    Ricky:

    First off, I have every right to criticize his work just as he has every right to make it. Lets not put his rights to communication over mine, or vice versa. Second, he is being hypocritical. Look at this:

    Author Schmidt-Salomon said the book was “desperately needed considering the enormous mass of religious children’s stories.” He added that 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.”

    By producing a book so completely slanted, he is contributing to children being defenseless against another collection of socially divisive disingenuity.

  6. Ricky says:

    Ron,
    as a parent I am aware of the rubbish that sits on bookstore and library shelves that are intended for children. Is this book really worse than children’s stories such as: a wooden boy who’s nose grows when he lies: or a flying boy who never grows up: or pigs who burn big, bad wolves; or songs about magic dragons, sea monsters, walking-talking snowmen, etc?

  7. ronbrown says:

    Ricky: Yes, I think it is worse because it teaches socially divisive lies that can breed hate, fear and rejection of religious people. And even if it were no worse, does that make it okay? If I steal your car and someone criticizes me for it, it probably wouldn’t be a valid rebuttal for me to say “well, my stealing this person’s car any worse that when another person steals someone else’s boat?”

  8. Ricky says:

    Firstly, many have even accused Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion of being “devisive” which “can breed hate, fear…”
    Secondly, the motivation of many atheists including some at CFI was instigated by their ‘hate, fear, or rejection’ of religion and religious people. I am dismayed when atheists attack “agnostics” for their apparent fence-sitting.
    Each one of us can judge for ourselves whether a statement is “devisive” or full of “lies.” We don’t need the thought police or the morality squad telling us what to think and believe.

  9. ronbrown says:

    Ricky: I never said that this book should be banned. I simply suggested that in my opinion it is hypocritical, counterproductive, and divisive. Also, I have not read Dawkins’ books, so I can’t comment. But I have heard such sentiments expressed before.

    As for other atheists, I’ve met a few that have really pissed me off and whom I’ve referred to as “embarrassing atheists”. In fact, here is a post verifying my just mentioned position and actions that I made on the Freethought Association of Canada website on April 7, 2007 (I also posted it on the Secular Alliance Facebook group): http://freethoughtassociation.ca/forum/index.php?topic=658.0

  10. Eddie says:

    I find it hard to comment since I haven’t seen the book first hand, but it may be that the characterization is necessary since children are not able to absorb nuances. Children only get the “grey” around 10-13 years old so one can only portray these figures as black or white. Secondly I doubt the characterization will change the reaction of children to these people since this is something that is heavy regulated by the parents or surrogate parent (who is with the child’s) reaction to the other adult.

    As a new parent I’d also probably use this book since the harm that can come from religious ideas (especially hell) is so great I have no real problem characterizing those people as was mentioned. In the end my daughter’s reactions will mirror my own regardless of a books portrayal and it helps to have a fictional “villain” she will know about when near the mall you have “Repent!! God is coming back from his 2000 year lunch break!!” to simply categorize him as silly and go back to nagging for a new doll.

  11. ronbrown says:

    Eddie: I would rather my child be agnostic than to have a belief of someone/thing that is based on gross and socially divisive caricatures, though. And I do think that the book could have an effect on children’s reactions to these people. If children have trouble with nuances at early ages, they could also have trouble with hyperbole and in understanding the parents’ explanations of how this book is exagerating.

    Interesting semi-relevant story: I recall reading a while back that after the Friday the 13th movies started coming out some people were starting to look at the name “Jason” very differently.

  12. Donald says:

    I think the key ingredient missing from this debate over what a book means to certain individuals is this: Everyone has a perspective
    that either reinforces, validates or confirms their current bias mindset, this mindset determines how we interact with other people which depending on our personality, is either
    low-key unassuming, or some variation in between or to the extreme end of the spectrum, highly agitated and resistant to new or conflicting ideas.
    With this in mind, the simple over-reaction is to ban it because it doesn’t reinforce the “can’t we all just get along pacifist mindset” or it’s too offensive to the big 3 religions.
    My response to this reaction is this: Instead of condoning multiple personality disorders via
    multiple religions, shouldn’t we be asking why adults require their own designer fantasy religion?
    Shouldn’t we be asking why any religion is getting upset?
    If the collective resources of all those offended religions can’t get their separate deities to agree to smite the blasphemers, then who is really in charge here?
    If it takes the (sic)”free will” of offended religious penitents to mount a common offensive
    attack on the offending “book”, then how mighty
    are any deities that are created by man to be all powerful, yet so physically weak, that the deities must rely on the hubris and deception of mortal man to do all their deities “dirty work”?
    I think to assume for one moment, that we all need to reach out to reasonable elements of all religions is both short-sighted and self-deprecating, and in the end, life-threatening to
    those of us comforted by our knowledge that life is finite and only foolishness of gullible
    humans to shake hands with potentially dangerous
    religiously motivated infidel killers, is surely
    the quickest way to validate religious insanity
    so that when chaos is king, the religious zealots will “feel” free to ignore “man’s law” and do unprovoked internecine against all perceived infidels, regardless of actual religious belief, if this is what you want because a book that illustrates the known extremes of a few religions, then you are not
    aware of the long-term goals of most religions.

    “First the olive branch to bring in the outsiders, then, if they refuse to submit to our way of thinking, kill them while their guard is down as our (sic) god will be pleased
    with our love and obedience to his will upon our
    free will to do (sic) his bidding as it is written”

    Did I mention that all god’s are illiterate?
    So illiterate that it takes the suspension of disbelief that mortal man wrote the (sic) words
    of (insert specific name of deity here) the god of toaster ovens will punish your food if you
    don’t worship his thermostat and observe a moment of silence as he heats up your sinful food to a devilishly delightful warm delicious
    temperature, your snack is now saved from being
    thrown into the rubbish heap that was known as
    hell then, but it’s only the dump now, to avoid the embarrassment and confusion of making penitents of other kitchen appliances, feel deceived and cheated at having worshipped the wrong kitchen appliance.

  13. Tim says:

    Organized religion is nothing more than a means of controlling a mob of simpletons for political purposes. Who in their right mind would believe the non-sense about a man awakening from the dead or living in the mouth of a whale. What’s this crap about turning the other cheek when someone does you wrong?

  14. Sergej says:

    that is great book , much more interesting as a Bible.

    I hope it would be a new “Bible” .

    see

    http://www.ferkelbuch.de/

    or
    popetown DVD

  15. MaddyD says:

    Methinks the OP doth protest too much. I am personally not concerned about whether religionists are offended by this book or any other that calls into question their belief systems, as they are foisted upon us in the public sphere without our consent. I am equally as unconcerned about whether the caricatures of the rabbi, bishop or mufti are accurate, “slanderous” (please), or denigrate religious people.

    Those people are not required to believe in their invisible boogeymen. They are not required to follow men who manipulate their fears and cause them to follow in lockstep. They are not required to care one whit about whether their characterizations of atheists as evil, statnic, deceived or deceptive are offensive to us.

    All of the above is a choice. They have made their choice. I will make mine.

    I am, therefore, not required to be concerned about whether they take offense at what I choose to teach my children about their insanity.

  16. im says:

    Das Buch ist sehr zu empfehlen und leistet einen Beitrag zur Imunisation der kindlichen Psyche gegen religiöse Wahnvorstellung.

  17. mark santos says:

    Herr Salomon!
    Sie haben etwas gutes getan, gegen Bischofin Margot Kaes
    smann, die mit Ihrem Buch nicht begeister wird! Auch Ihre
    Bruder Wolfgang Huber, Mixa, Meisner, Ratzinger wurden
    mit solchen atheistischen Einsatz nicht gerade freundlich!
    Weil die biblische Genocide, Rassismus, Vandalismus oder
    Kannibalismus, Inzeste, Massenvergewaltigungen storen
    in Deutschland niemanden! Aber gleichzeitig werden Millio
    nen Bucher uber Holocaust und lieben Gott geschrieben!
    Uber 60 Jahre trennen uns von Hitler, trotzdem die Geno-
    zide, Rassismus werden propagiert von Politiker, Theolo-
    gen, Religionslehrer, Bischofe!
    Die Juden propagieren ihre Holocaust, und gleichzeitig Ge-
    nocid in den Bibel, und diese Bibel ist ihre eigene Bibel.

    Danke!

  18. mark santos says:

    Herr, sehr geehrter Herr Schmidt!
    Ihr Buch ist mir keine klare Definition der Bibel. Es handelt sich nicht um die Existenz Gottes, sondern um sehr archaischen Rassismus, Kannibalismus, Vandalismus, Sklaverei, Genozide und tiefsten Intoleranz.
    Ob Gott existiert, ist es unwichtig. Er ist nur eine Erfindung, ein Alybi fur die Grueltaten, die gemacht sind und gemacht werden noch heute, wie vor 3000 Jahren.
    Ob Hitler, Bush, Obama im Spiel sind, es ist wichtig, das solche Solutionen im deutsche Kindergarten zu finden sind. Zu Hause, als Familienbuch, im Internet, auf die Strassen
    bei sog. Zeugen Jehovas!

    Danke!

  19. mark deuteronomovic says:

    Herr Salomon!
    Ich grusse Sie sehr herzlich, weil ich Sie sehr mutig finde! Sie, wie
    auch Herr Buggle, haben kein einfaches Leben mit einem giganti
    schen Armee von Theologen & Parasiten und mit dem christlichen
    Erziehung! Die judisch & christliche Erziehung ist die schlimmste
    Feind der Menschheit uberhaupt.

    Wir haben die Kriege im Irak, Afganistan, Pakistan, und bald auch
    im Iran, und uberall sind christliche Soldaten aus alle Landern der
    Welt. WASP, AIPAC, NeoCon, Mossad, NATO!!! Dabei ist auch die
    Militarisch & Biblische Unterstutzung. Braucht man was mehr???

  20. Ralph says:

    In my opinion, these religious caricatures are based on truths. There ARE religious fundamentalists, and they are not a tiny group of 3 or 4 people either. They number in the millions and their beliefs and actions are often vicious, violent, and destructive.

    There is a laundry list of religious tyrants abusing children, of followers of Islam and Christianity comitting murders and rapes in the name of their God, etc.

  21. Jose Miguel says:

    The biblnot to mention the Koran) contains many genocidal, criminal stories and is actually taugth to innocent, defenseless children. So why beiing so upset by this book?

  22. our kitchen appliances are well maintained and taking good care of by doing some routine maintennance once a month ..

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