German family ministry slams “atheism for kids” book
Is this book too subversive for children to read? How do I get to God? asks the little pig looks like a typical children’s book, with a cover drawing showing a cute little pig gazing skywards. But the subtitle hints there may be something different inside. It reads: A book for all those who don’t want to be fooled. This is a book about atheism for children, a “Dawkins for kids” as one reviewer dubbed it.
The book tells the story of a little pig and a hedgehog that go looking for God. They meet a priest, a rabbi and a mufti, all of whom are portrayed as crazy. More on that below.
Germany’s Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth wants the book placed on a list of literature deemed dangerous for children. Not just because it is atheist but, the ministry said, because it mocks religion. “In the book, the three great world religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism are scorned,” it said in its application for putting the book on the danger list. “The distinctive characteristics of each religion are ridiculed. Especially the Jewish faith is slurred by the portrayal and characterisation of the rabbi.” Further on, it clearly says that the portrayal of the “mad rabbi” and the details mentioned about Jews make the book anti-Semitic.
Author Michael Schmidt-Salomon says he has received so many emails since the book came out in October 2007 that he can’t answer them all. In an FAQ on his website, he flatly rejects the criticism: “I don’t ridicule religions, they are ridiculous all by themselves.” As for the charge of anti-Semitism, he says:”Since 1994, I have regularly been cursed as a ‘Jewish pig’ and threatened massively because of my Jewish-sounding name. So I claim the right for myself to openly criticise those Orthodox Jews, as well as fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, who are struck by divine madness. This naturally has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”
Deutsche Welle has a story in English about the little piggy book and the uproar it has caused. Salomon’s website in German has several illustrations showing the priest and rabbi and an FAQ responding to the emails he’s received. There’s also a website for the book called ferkelbuch.de (“piglet book”) with a zipped press kit (Download der Pressemappe) with the ministry’s letter and other information.
The “new atheists” have been quite successful recently with books criticising religion for adults. Do you think there should be atheist books for children as well?