On what your creator’s been thinking.
The idea was an interesting one: to write a children’s book for children that are raised atheist. – Afterall, there’s a wide range of more or less religious or religion-oriented, some educative, others affirmative books for children of all kinds of faiths, particularly for Jewish and Christian children. – It could have been a book that would positively encourage some morale or another, independent of any religion, maybe lay out the history of atheist thinking.
Michael Schmidt-Salomon (author) and Helge Nyncke (illustrator) set their hands to task and created the book Wo bitte geht’s zu Gott? fragte das kleine Ferkel (What way, please, is God? the little piglet asked). Style, spelling, punctuation and capitalization mistakes in the book’s title aside, the book has stirred quite some controversy over here and even had the Bundesfamilienministerium (federal office for families, women and social issues â€“ I’m not kidding you) move for the book to be officially listed as not suitable for children, which would have made it illegal for any minor to obtain or be enabled to get access to the book.
So what was all the fussing about? In a nutshell, a piglet and a hedgehog try to find out where God lives and go to the Temple Mount and try to visit a synagogue, a church and a mosque. The piglet and the hedgehog are rudely turned from each doorstep with reference to their non-affiliation with the respective religion. The rabbi, the bishop and the mufti sending the two animals away are portrayed with unpleasant features in the text as well as in the illustrations. In the end, those three representatives of the three Abrahamite religions get into a violent fight; the accompanying illustration shows the rabbi trying to suffocate the bishop with a Torah scroll while the bishop is hitting the mufti in the head with a Bible while the mufti is apparently trying to break the rabbi’s ankle. In the meantime, the intimated piglet and the hedgehog are sneaking off.
I am pretty sure all readers are aware that even non-believers of or non-adherents to Judaism, Christianity and Islam may visit synagogues, churches and mosques as long as they behave respectfully. So does this fatal contextual error give us a solid idea of the quality of this book? I think it does.
It is not a positive book, not a book that would positively affirm a child’s atheism, but a book that encourages scorn towards religions. It is a book that, by its illustrations, seems fit to leave children with a scary visual of rabbis, bishops and muftis. And at that, in my humble opinion, the book is nothing but pathetic, generalizing and using the same scare-techniques its authors accuse the religions of.
Taken to task on what seem to be not only anti-religious but antisemitic tendencies throughout the book, the author claimed that he, because of his last name, had been a target of antisemitic propaganda for years and that he had only aimed at tackling the extreme forms of religious observance. The book’s publisher describes the author to be an author, philosopher and musician as well as a spokesperson of the Giordano-Bruno Foundation.
Eventually, the book did not make the index of abolished books as the examiners did not see any bias towards a specific religion. And if not for the self-sustaining demographic of those that confuse cultural ignorance with atheism, we could be safe to assume that the days of the book were counted. Being as fond of diversity as I am, I still hope to see a few quality atheist children’s books someday. If the atheists cannot write those themselves, what about having some religious folks do it? I’ve already got a suggestion for a title: So you will, Godforbid, be worm food someday?