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.
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