A Canadian school board has decided to remove Philip Pullman‘s books from its schools’ shelves because people complained that the author is an atheist. This is a remarkable objection, obviously. I mean, we don’t see school boards screaming to remove Chuck Colson’s books from the shelves because the author is a convicted felon, which seems to me to be a much more serious indicator of moral turpitude than atheism, nor do we see a call to eject books by Ann Coulter because she is incredibly stupid, and is therefore a poor role model for students. It’s just atheism that spurs this objection.

I think we ought to run with it. The school board didn’t go far enough. Let’s purge school libraries of all books by atheists.

Wikipedia has a nice partial list to start with. Let’s throw all these authors out.

This is going to greatly thin out the science fiction section of the library, which some of those stick-up-their-butt board members will probably consider just dandy…and those degenerate romantic poets, good riddance. Not on this particular list, though, are all those godless scientists—we’re going to lose huge chunks of the science section, and particularly hard hit will be the contemporary scientists. Goodbye, Qs. And then philosophy — good grief, the devastation wrought on the philosophy block will be horrifying, and it will also spill over into theology.

Targeting the intellectual, literate segment of the culture, the kinds of people who write and read books, is simply guaranteed to hit large numbers of atheists, and it’s a powerful strategy for this school board to take, especially if they want to reduce spending on books. There is the problem that it’s often not easy to detect which books had an atheist author — it’s not the kind of datum that’s specified in the card catalog. Maybe we should also insist that publishers stamp some distinguishing mark on books by atheist authors to simplify their identification, like, say, a scarlet A on their spines.

We don’t have to stop there. How about if we also mark all of the books by gay authors, too? I’m sure many school boards would like to set those on fire. Maybe we could insist that all such books have pink covers, or perhaps a pink triangle placed somewhere prominently on the cover.

Why not have the author’s religious sect indicated, too? Many American protestants hate Catholics, so some Catholic symbol on the cover would help discriminating readers. I don’t see why I should have to read any books by an Episcopalian ever again, myself.

Then there are other indicators of an author’s unsuitability. Do they smoke? Do they eat meat? Are they Republican or Democrat? Do they have peanut allergies? Are they cat people, or dog people? Have they ever watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or The Passion of the Christ? Do they believe in UFOs? What are their positions on abortion and gun control? Tastes great, or less filling?

I think with only a little work we can make libraries completely safe for our children, and also cheap to maintain. We’ll rarely need to make any new book purchases, and staff can be cut drastically, since all we’d need is one part-time person to come along occasionally and dust the single shelf of short, unchallenging mental pablum…all of which will be so boring that no children will ever be at risk of desiring to read any of it.

Canada leads the way. I’m sure glad we can still find an occasional non-American to do something asinine and let us know that pissant prudery is a global phenomenon.


  1. #1 Tulse
    November 24, 2007

    “A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle” seems to be often labelled as “Vique’s Law”, but there seems to be little information on the Interweb about who “Vique” was. In any case, it seems that this usage is well before Steinem’s.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 24, 2007

    if god is (in) everything

    If everything is God, that’s pantheism. If God is in everything, that’s panentheism.

    The chances of no one mentioning Sagan has got to be one in…billions.

    Billions of billions!!!

    This is standard policy when a complaint is made on any book.

    You see, that’s where the culture shock lies. The idea of complaining about the existence of a book in a school library is alien to me.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 24, 2007

    If that’s an agnostic, Lars, than I’m an agnostic too.

    Then you are in fact an agnostic. Atheists consider the probability of the existence of anything supernatural to be completely negligible (as in Dawkins’ book chapter “Why There Is Almost Certainly No God”); Pullman doesn’t consider the probability at all, like an apathetic agnostic (“I don’t know, and I don’t care”).

    I agree that the difference is small, however, and irrelevant for all practical purposes.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 24, 2007

    “I don’t know and I don’t care” is ignorant apathetic, not agnostic.


    Are you sure God is supernatural?

    By definition.

    Can you define your terms, “God” and “supernatural”?

    For the former, try the most wishy-washy ineffable concept you can find, because that’s the one that’s most common around me. For the latter, try “something untestable that someone believes in”, though I have never bothered to think much about this.

    Pullman wrote a series of books that are essentially about theological views.

    OK. I stand corrected.


    According her private letters, Mother Teresa was an atheist.

    No, more like a fideist: she knew there was no evidence, but she believed anyway. She ended up wanting to be a bodhisattva.


    I doubt Muslims have any kind of monopoly on suicidal attacks.

    Of course they don’t. Let me just mention the PKK and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.