Pharyngula

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian, OM
    November 23, 2007

    From the article:

    “Pretty soon the only book in their library may be the Bible.”

    I’ll bet that sounds just wonderful to many.

  2. #2 Brownian, OM
    November 23, 2007

    Wow, the twits really crawled out of the woodwork to add their two cents on the forum, didn’t they?

    From half the responses on the page, I’m tempted to wonder whether Catholics can read at all.

    In case there are any Catholics here who might be wringing their hands at all the Catholic bashing, I’ve got some advice:

    Don’t wanna be criticised for being a bunch of bloodthirsty, savage, murderers who squelched nearly every attempt at free thought when they weren’t massacring whole continents? Then don’t have the fucking history of the Catholic Church!

    Assfaces.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2007

    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.

    Wave goodbye to everything by Feynman, for starters.

  4. #4 S
    November 23, 2007

    To comment #4 and comment #6

    Bill Gates is an atheist. Steve Wozniak is an atheist. (Not sure about Steve Jobs.) Linus Torvalds is an atheist (His favorite book is Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene). Richard Stallman is an atheist. So, Christians practically have no choice but to remove all computers, which is fine because all they do with computers is spread their ignorance efficiently.

  5. #5 Brownian, OM
    November 23, 2007

    I could go on, but why bother? For a “science” blog, there seems to be a distressing leap to condemnation with little regard for or interest in … what are those awkward things called that IDiots always ignore? … oh yes – “facts”.

    “Thanks” for being so “short” and “to the point”, “Scott”, but “I” have to “wonder” why, if you “feel” there’s no “point”, you “bothered” at all?

  6. #6 raven
    November 23, 2007

    Off-topic. Katha Pollitt, on the vogue of atheism, in the Nation:

    There’s no question in my mind that horror at militant Islam and fear of Muslim immigration lie behind at least some of the current vogue for atheism–you don’t make the bestseller list by excoriating the evils of Lutheranism or Buddhism.

    That is part of it. But not all. A least as much is due to fundie Xians. The Xian terrorists roaming the USA attacking and occasionally murdering MDs and scientists. The wingnuts trying to sneak creo myths into kids science classes. The theocrats trying to take over the US government with no little success. There is a backlash against these guys. A recent poll shows that 49% of the US population is sick of fundies trying to ram their ignorance down everyone’s elses throats.

    The most effective spokespeople for atheism are Robertson, Kennedy, Falwell, Haggard, Dobson, and their hordes of trollish brainless followers. Dawkins is way behind.

    While the fanatic Moslems are probably worse, they are over there causing problems for other Moslems. The death cult Xians are over here following in their footsteps.

  7. #7 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.

  8. #8 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.

  9. #9 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.

  10. #10 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.

  11. #11 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.

  12. #12 Norman Doering
    November 24, 2007

    David Marjanovi? wrote:

    Then you are in fact an agnostic. Atheists consider the probability of the existence of anything supernatural to be completely negligible…

    Are you sure God is supernatural?

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

    Pullman doesn’t consider the probability at all, like an apathetic agnostic (“I don’t know, and I don’t care”).

    Pullman wrote a series of books that are essentially about theological views. I think he cares more than you do.

    I like SteveM’s def:

    Agnostic is the belief that the existence of God is absolutely unknowable. It isn’t just doubt about God’s existence.

    But it has problems too and in this case the problem is related and it’s that there are thousands of different ideas and definitions for “God” out there. Some you can know to be bogus and non-existent, others you can’t know anything about.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 24, 2007

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

    Tsss.

    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.

  14. #14 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 24, 2007

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

    Tsss.

    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.

  15. #15 Norman Doering
    November 24, 2007

    I asked “Can you define your terms, ‘God’ …”
    David Marjanovi? answered:

    … try the most wishy-washy ineffable concept you can find, because that’s the one that’s most common around me.

    Do you have an effable concept of how the universe got here?

    Can you explain why there is something rather than nothing without getting wishy-washy?

    Hint; I consider “the universe is a quantum vacuum fluctuation” to be wishy-washy, ineffable and probably true.

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