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.
- Douglas Adams (1952-2001): British radio and television writer, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992): Russian-born American author of science fiction and popular science books.
- Dave Barry (1947-): American humor columnist and author of Big Trouble, among others.
- Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?): American writer, author of The Devil’s Dictionary.
- Marshall Brain (1961-) Author of WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com and GodIsImaginary.com
- Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917–): British scientist and science-fiction author.
- Vardis Fisher (1895-1968): American writer, scholar. Author of atheistic Testament of Man series.
- Nadine Gordimer (1923–): South African writer and political activist. Her writing has long dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. She won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991.
- Jan Guillou (1944–): Swedish author and Journalist.
- Sam Harris (1967–): American author, researcher in neuroscience, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation.
- Harry Harrison (1925–): American science fiction author, anthologist and artist whose short story “The Streets of Ashkelon” took as its hero an atheist who tries to prevent a Christian missionary from indoctrinating a tribe of irreligious but ingenuous alien beings.
- Christopher Hitchens (1949–): Author, journalist and essayist.
- Michel Houellebecq (1958–): French novelist.
- S. T. Joshi (1958–): American editor and literary critic.
- Ludovic Kennedy (1919–): British journalist, author, and campaigner for voluntary euthanasia.
- Pär Lagerkvist (1891-1974): Swedish author who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951. He used religious motifs and figures from the Christian tradition without following the doctrines of the church.
- Rutka Laskier (1929-1943): Polish Jew who was killed at Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 14. Because of her diary, on display at Israel’s Holocaust museum, she has been dubbed the “Polish Anne Frank.”
- Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006): Polish science fiction novelist and essayist.
- Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837): Italian poet, linguist, essayist and philosopher. Leopardi is legendary as an out-and-out nihilist.
- Primo Levi (1919-1987): Italian novelist and chemist, survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp.
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799): German scientist, satirist, philosopher and anglophile. Known as one of Europe’s best authors of aphorisms. Satirized religion using aphorisms like “I thank the Lord a thousand times for having made me become an atheist.”
- Pierre Loti (1850-1923): French novelist and travel writer.
- Joseph McCabe (1867-1955): English writer, anti-religion campaigner.
- China Miéville (1972–): British Science Fiction author.
- David Mills (author) (1959–): Author who argues in his book Atheist Universe that science and religion cannot be successfully reconciled.
- Camille Paglia (1947–): American post-feminist literary and cultural critic.
- Harold Pinter (1930–): British playwright, screenwriter, poet, actor, director, author, and political activist, best known for his plays The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978). Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005.
- Terry Pratchett (1948–): English Fantasy author known for his satirical Discworld series.
- Philip Pullman (1946–): CBE, British author of His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy for young adults, which have atheism as a major theme.
- Ayn Rand (1905-1982): Russian-born American author and founder of Objectivism.
- Ron Reagan (1958–): American magazine journalist, board member of the politically activist Creative Coalition, son of former U. S. President Ronald Reagan.
- Salman Rushdie (1947–): Indian-born British essayist and author of fiction.
- José Saramago (1922–): Portuguese writer, playwright and journalist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.
- Dan Savage (1964–): Author and sex advice columnist. Despite his atheism, Savage considers himself Catholic “in a cultural sense.”
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950): Irish playwright, only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925) and an Oscar (Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1939 for Pygmalion).
- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822): British Romantic poet, contemporary and associate of John Keats and Lord Byron, and author of The Necessity of Atheism.
- Warren Allen Smith (1921–): Author of Who’s Who in Hell.
- Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007): American author, writer of Cat’s Cradle, among other books. Vonnegut said “I am an atheist (or at best a Unitarian who winds up in churches quite a lot).”
- Ibn Warraq (1946–): Best-selling author and secularist scholar of Islam currently living in the United States. He is a Muslim apostate and an outspoken critic of Islam who has written extensively on what he views as the oppressive nature of Islam.
- Gao Xingjian (1940–): Chinese émigré novelist, dramatist, critic, translator, stage director and painter. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000.
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.