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 starfall
    November 23, 2007

    This will just make more room for the books by the good christian authors like Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. After all, being a christian means your a moral person, right? (dripping with heavy sarcasm)

  2. #2 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.

  3. #3 Olaf Davis
    November 23, 2007

    After reading the book, the committee will complete an evaluation form that examines a “wide variety of criteria” including grammar, plausibility, language, plot, etc.
    What? Are they hoping to find a few stray split infinitives so they can justify keeping the book out on non-religious grounds? This sounds very suspect to me.

  4. #4 Danley
    November 23, 2007

    Get rid of library computers, Bill Gates is an infidel too.

  5. #5 Jason Spaceman
    November 23, 2007

    Yet another reason why the Ontario govt. should stop funding the Catholic school system.

  6. #6 Peter Ashby
    November 23, 2007

    I read recently that Bill Gates was a christian. I read so much stuff I can’t remember where I read it, but no, thank goodness for indices. It was in George Walden’s God Won’t Save America and it is not the sort of thing he would get wrong. Where is your info from?

  7. #7 Tulse
    November 23, 2007

    Yet another reason why the Ontario govt. should stop funding the Catholic school system.

    Abso-frickin-lutely.

    To clarify, however, I think the complaint isn’t so much that Pullman is an atheist, but that the His Dark Materials trilogy is explicitly anti-religious (one of the protagonists sets out to kill God, after all), and explicitly anti-Catholic (at least, anti-alternative-world-Catholic).

    With that said, I heard someone on the radio this morning make that argument, and say that since schools wouldn’t allow books that promote racism or homophobia or anti-semitism, it shouldn’t allow these books either. And I thought, “Yeah, books that argue for atheism and against religion are exactly like books that promote hate. No wonder atheism is so reviled.”

  8. #8 raven
    November 23, 2007

    When and where are the book burnings? Really to do this right, they have to actually burn the books in a public display. Refreshments are optional but a drunken mob definitely makes for a more authentic spectacle.

    They should toss in the Harry Potter books too. AFAIK, Harry wasn’t Catholic, and the books do deal with magic.

  9. #9 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.

  10. #10 Jonboy
    November 23, 2007

    My favorite poet Robert Frost has to go,he wrote.

    “I turned to speak to God, About the world’s despair; But to make bad matters worse, I found God wasn’t there.”

  11. #11 BMurray
    November 23, 2007

    It’s a Catholic school. Surely if you sign up for a Catholic school you get what you pay for — the censorship of this particular book seems like the least of your problems when trying to eke an education out of a religious institution.

  12. #12 AJ Milne
    November 23, 2007

    After reading the book, the committee will complete an evaluation form that examines a “wide variety of criteria” including grammar, plausibility, language, plot, etc.

    … plausibility, huh?

    Excellent. I’d like to ask this committee to reconsider the presence in their carefully vetted collection of the bible, the qur’an, and the vedas, should any of those be present.

    I mean, hell, priorities, people. If we’re gonna purge the collection of works that lack ‘plausibility’, let’s start with the worst offenders.

    … makes ya wonder, really, where the hell the cold readers were on these things, whether, y’know, the writers thought at least to run it by someone, say, hey, y’know… you see anything wrong with this?

    I’m picturing that, now: God brings the bible to a writer’s meeting, for feedback:

    CRITIC 1: Okay… now let’s get this straight. Then Cain has kids, right?

    GOD: Yep.

    CRITIC 1: About where that wife comes from…

    GOD: Oh. Right… Ummm… Well… hadn’t so much thought about that.

    CRITIC 1: We’ll leave it with you.

    CRITIC 2: Now this burning bush… this some kinda metaphor?

    GOD: Not especially.

    CRITIC 2: See, I was totally getting this VD vibe.

    GOD: I’ll keep that in mind.

    CRITIC 2: How ’bout just a disembodied voice?

    CRITIC 1: No, I like the whole concreteness of the bush at least… it’s absurd, but it’s there… a voice, y’know… not enough oomph.

    CRITIC 2: How ’bout a wilting pillar?

    CRITIC 1: Not funny.

    CRITIC 3: Anyway, let’s talk plot. I’m trying to put the whole thing together, here. Protagonist creates world, gets pissed off with how that turns out, drowns most of this creation for ‘sinning’… I’m not clear on this… he made them, right?

    GOD: Right.

    CRITIC 3: Then he made them to sin, right?

    GOD: Right.

    CRITIC 3: Then why didn’t he drown himself?

    CRITIC 1: I was just reading that as some sorta passive-aggressive, self-hating anti-hero thing.

    CRITIC 2: Okay, I can go with that… and now that you mention it, he sort of does punish himself later… or sort of… has a son… who’s also himself… umm… what’s that about?

    GOD: It’s a mystery.

    CRITIC 1: No, kid, a mystery is something you leave out of explicit exposition, keeps people guessing, or let’s them imagine what’s behind that. That, my friend, is pretty much a contradiction. You can become your own stepson, by various unpleasant contrivances, if you live in the Ozarks and your mother is willing… but your own son, not so much.

    CRITIC 2: But then he does have himself crucified.

    CRITIC 1: And brought back from the dead.

    CRITIC 2: Who does that?

    GOD: Who does what?

    CRITIC 2: Who brings him back from the dead?

    GOD: He does.

    CRITIC 2: But… he’s dead.

    CRITIC 1: We’ll leave it with you. Turning to this new testament thing, we’ve some issues with continuity/consistency between the accounts… Or is this supposed some sorta Rashomon post-modern multiple points of view thing? I’m getting slightly different takes, here on what actually happened. Anyway, I marked up your copy…

    CRITIC 2: Oh, and about the title.

    GOD: Yeah?

    CRITIC 1: ‘The good book’? What is that?

    GOD: Well…

    CRITIC 1: It’s been done, man. There’s already ‘A heartbreaking work of staggering genius’. You can’t do ‘The good book’ It’s not funny anymore.

    GOD: Actually, it wasn’t supposed to be funny.

    (Crickets chirp)

    CRITICS TOGETHER, AFTER SUFFICIENT PAUSE: Oh.

    CRITIC 1: Listen, umm, guy?

    GOD: Yeah?

    CRITIC 1: So this whole thing… this… umm… this isn’t supposed to be a satire.

    GOD: Umm… no.

    CRITIC 1: Oh.

    CRITIC 2: That… umm… changes things.

    CRITIC 3: Tell ya what… maybe you could leave it with us a bit longer… Maybe we can get back to you next week?

    CRITIC 2: Two weeks.

    CRITIC 1: Three.

    CRITIC 2: Three it is. Oh, and in the meantime?

    GOD: Yeah?

    CRITIC 2: You do have a day job, right?

    GOD: Yeah.

    CRITIC 2: Good.

  13. #13 Jefe
    November 23, 2007

    To be fair, it was a Canadian Catholic School board that pulled his books. Now for the life of me I can’t understand why we still have “catholic” seperate schools and schoolboards in Canada.

  14. #14 j
    November 23, 2007

    “Pissant prudery.” I love it.

    The best part is that this kind of censorship will do nothing to deter the determined. Lolita was banned from our school library for pissantly prudish reasons. Upon finding out, I bought my own copy and have been lending it to various classmates. I should start my own mini-library, composed solely of the most offensive books.

  15. #15 David Utidjian
    November 23, 2007

    Shouldn’t this list include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)? I do not know if he was a full on atheist but many of his writings were critical of religions and Christianity in particular.

    -DU-

  16. #16 Brett
    November 23, 2007

    You have no idea how pissed I am about this. As an atheist married to a Catholic, and a Green candidate in the last election (the only party to advocate ending the funding for the separate school board), I am furious.

    What really chaps my ass is that atheists are the last remaining faith-group (and I know we’re not that, but it’s a useful shorthand to use) that they can discriminate against.

    Fortunately, since the province gives them money, we get to tell them what to do. I think I’ll write some letters.

  17. #17 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.

  18. #18 Arcturus
    November 23, 2007

    Plausibility? Since when is a fiction/science-fiction book reviewed for plausibility??? This is insane!

    Plus, it’s a library, where you have to go and pick-up the book. Maybe they don’t have enough space on their shelves.

    So their problem is that an anti-God book is sitting in the library of a Catholic school. Well, looking through my university’s library catalogue I see some books on Creationism. Maybe we should consider the great Catholic example and BURN them all. After all, they are promoting a non-scientific view and it has nothing to do with the academic environment. What would they think about that?

  19. #19 Kristine
    November 23, 2007

    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein (and daughter of atheist philospher and writer William Godwin).

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

    Katherine Hepburn.

    Yeah, and whatever happened to “teach the controversy”? They just want to censor the side they’re not on. Next time any blowhard spouts “teach the controversy” let’s reply, “By pulling books from libraries?”

  20. #20 CalGeorge
    November 23, 2007

    The disease is spreading…

    CBC:
    Two other Toronto-area Catholic boards of education are studying copies of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy after the Halton District Catholic School Board removed the children’s books from its library shelves. […]

    Both the Durham and Dufferin-Peel Catholic boards have said they will also review the popular children’s fantasy series.

  21. #21 Scott Belyea
    November 23, 2007

    So much heat, so little light. Yes, I disagree with the policy and the way in which they implement it, but almost nothing written here bears more than an incidental resemblance to what is actually going on.

    To take just one instance, the policy is that complaints trigger a move of the book from the shelves to behind the counter (where it can still be requested) while a committee reviews the complaints. In a number of cases in the past, the book in question has in fact been returned to the shelves.

    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”.

  22. #22 danley
    November 23, 2007

    Peter, you could be right. Who knows what Gates *really believes* now. This is what I was referring to anyway…

    Gates was profiled in a January 13, 1996 TIME magazine cover story. Here are some excerpts:

    “Isn’t there something special, perhaps even divine, about the human soul?” interviewer Walter Isaacson asks Gates “His face suddenly becomes expressionless,” writes Isaacson, “his squeaky voice turns toneless, and he folds his arms across his belly and vigorously rocks back and forth in a mannerism that has become so mimicked at MICROSOFT that a meeting there can resemble a round table of ecstatic rabbis.”

    “I don’t have any evidence on that,” answers Gates. “I don’t have any evidence of that.”

    He later states, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” So, Bill Gates doesn’t go to church on a regular basis, doesn’t believe much in the specific elements of Christianity, doesn’t think there is any evidence for souls, doesn’t know that there is any god, and doesn’t consider religion very efficient. Bill Gates is definitely irreligious and is definitely agnostic. He may or may not be an atheist, but he is also definitely not the sort of person whom religious believers have in mind when they claim that religion is necessary for charitable work. Bill Gates is thus an effective demonstration that charity is possible without religion playing any role whatsoever.

  23. #23 Tony Jeremiah
    November 23, 2007

    @12

    Pretty funny stuff.

    I’ve often wondered if the Bible wasn’t written as some kind of ancient satire, and, quite possibly, an ancient, linguistic version of the Rorschach Ink BLot Test. Basically if one has a reasonable sense of humor, it can be interpreted as comedy. If read seriously, it can be interpreted as tragedy. If read neutrally, it’s largely incoherent.

  24. #24 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.

  25. #25 Arcturus
    November 23, 2007

    This must be a follow up from those emails urging christians not to see the new movie coming soon. It does nothing but the opposite, more people will be curious to see what the controversy is about the movie.

  26. #26 Jason
    November 23, 2007

    @12 That was excellent. You made my whole day.

  27. #27 CalGeorge
    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. The problem is that the more scorn one feels for religious belief, the less able one is to appreciate “reformed” or “moderate” variants of the faith. After all, pro-gay Episcopalians and liberation theology Catholics still believe in Christ, the afterlife, sin; reformed Jews still find wisdom in the Old Testament. Strictly speaking, an atheist should have no truck with any of it. But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion–which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity–you’re not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there’s a mosque- or churchful of people who’ll choose the old-time religion if the only other choice is nothing.

    Thanks for the advice, Katha.

  28. #28 Janine
    November 23, 2007

    Forrest J. Ackerman

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    Russell Baker

    J.G. Ballard

    Iain M. Banks

    Clive Barker

    T. Coraghessan Boyle

    Berkeley Breathed

    Bill Bryson

    Noam Chomsky

    Roddy Doyle

    Bret Easton Ellis

    Harlan Ellison

    Jules Feiffer

    Germaine Greer

    Joe Haldeman

    Harry Harrison

    W. P. Kinsella

    Milan Kundera

    Gerda Lerner

    Armistead Maupin

    Malachy McCourt

    Frank Miller

    James Morrow

    Taslima Nasrin

    Ramendra Nath

    Robert Nozick

    Julia Phillips

    Katha Pollitt

    Arundhati Roy

    Jane Rule

    Pamela Sargent

    Robert Silverberg

    Bruce Sterling

    Gore Vidal

    Sarah Vowell

    Tom Wolfe

    This god safe library becomes a less interesting place to visit.

  29. #29 Peter Ashby
    November 23, 2007

    danley that is interesting. Walden’s book dates from 2006 so I wonder if his marriage has had an effect, you know, for the kids?

  30. #30 Arcturus
    November 23, 2007

    A notable addition to the list of “censured” books should be Heinlein’s.

    Look what he says in his books:

    * Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there.

    * Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything… just give him time to rationalize it.

    * Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly.

    * The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of conflicting values that anyone can prove anything from it.

    Does this library hold Heinlein books? I wonder …

  31. #31 AlanWCan
    November 23, 2007

    Funny, I read about this yesterday and the money quote from the principal who took the bbok out to read to see what all the fuss* was about was “Enjoying it so far”.
    *All the fuss seems to have been one lone crank.

  32. #32 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?

  33. #33 Susannah
    November 23, 2007

    #10:
    Well, if Robert Frost has to go, they can always substitute with Helen Steiner Rice, the “poet laureate of inspirational verse”.

  34. #34 Peter
    November 23, 2007

    Re. #21: if Scott is right that any complaint “trigger[s] a move of the book from the shelves to behind the counter” and not merely complaints about atheist authorship, someone ought to lodge a complaint against the Bible and see if the schoolboard follows their own policy. I bet not.

  35. #35 Jeff
    November 23, 2007

    When my older sister was in high school, my dad found out that she was supposed to read The Good Earth, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Scarlett Letter; he went to the school and demanded an alternate reading list of Christian-friendly, sex-free books. He got it, and she had to read different novels than the rest of her class all year. When I went to the same school two years later, I made sure my parents had no idea when we were assigned novels to read, because I wasn’t about to go through the same embarrassment she endured.

    I think you might be under the impression that this list of other books to ban might cause people like my dad to pause and think twice; but to be honest, most people like him would be pretty happy with banning every one of those titles.

  36. #36 Alex
    November 23, 2007

    “Get rid of library computers, Bill Gates is an infidel too.”

    So are Steve Jobs (Apple) (Source: http://www.nndb.com/people/520/000023451/) and Linus Torvalds (Linux) (Source: http://www.nndb.com/people/444/000022378/). This amuses me.

  37. #37 Jeff
    November 23, 2007

    I’d like to add; I received a stupid “warning” email about avoiding the upcoming Golden Compass movie and the novel on which it’s based from my moronic Christian brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago. I had never heard of the book, but immediately shared the email with my daughter and bought two copies for us both to read 🙂

  38. #38 Phoenix Woman
    November 23, 2007

    They wouldn’t try this crap if Harper wasn’t in charge.

    It’s a Catholic school. Surely if you sign up for a Catholic school you get what you pay for — the censorship of this particular book seems like the least of your problems when trying to eke an education out of a religious institution.

    I refer everyone to the 1989 Sandia Labs study that George Bush the Elder requested, then ordered suppressed.

    Why did he suppress it? Because he was hoping that it would say that private schools beat public schools every time. It didn’t, and one big reason why was that the private schools were dominated by the parochial/religious-based outfits that refused to teach actual science, which meant that getting into an accredited college in the hopes of getting a BS or MS (much less a doctorate) was all but impossible.

  39. #39 Bob Munck
    November 23, 2007

    Bill Gates is an atheist. Steve Wozniak is an atheist. (Not sure about Steve Jobs.)

    I’ve met Jobs; I have a pretty good idea who his God is. And given the Mac, iPod Nano, and iPhone, he has a better argument for his belief than the ID people do for theirs.

  40. #40 Hardy Bourland
    November 23, 2007

    Mark Twain, of course. See “The Mysterious Stranger.” Best book he wrote.

  41. #41 Theo Bromine
    November 23, 2007

    Quoth BMurray: It’s a Catholic school. Surely if you sign up for a Catholic school you get what you pay for

    It’s a Catholic school in the province of Ontario, fully funded by my tax dollars, while still being allowed to discriminate by religion by not permitting enrollment of non-Catholic students. I’m paying, but I’m not getting what I want.

  42. #42 Matt Heath
    November 23, 2007

    More free publicity for His Dark Materials, that’s a silver lining.

    Why do Catholics groups think the books are particularly against them anyway? A church where John Calvin took over and abolished the papacy is at least as much a protestant church as a catholic one. Evangelicals should pissed off, and drumming up publicity too!

  43. #43 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.

  44. #44 True Bob
    November 23, 2007

    And on the wiki list of atheists, our own eminent PZ Mighers:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZ_Myers

  45. #45 True Bob
    November 23, 2007

    I was unaware that being atheist is now in vogue. Do I need a new wardrobe, too, now?

    Morons. It isn’t “in vogue”, we’re just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and the noise is getting attention.

  46. #46 Julie K
    November 23, 2007

    HP Lovecraft was also an atheist. I rather like this quote:

    “If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”

  47. #47 Stephen
    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.

    A science section in a Catholic school? That would make interesting reading.

  48. #48 Jake
    November 23, 2007

    I can never send you trackbacks, haloscan keeps insisting that your trackback URL isn’t valid, so here’s a link to what I said:
    clicky

  49. #49 SF Atheist
    November 23, 2007

    Wouldn’t this list also have to include Einstein?

  50. #50 Pierce R. Butler
    November 23, 2007

    Uh, G.B. Shaw was the only person to win both a Nobel and an Oscar … before 2007.

  51. #51 Mrs Tilton
    November 23, 2007

    Tulse @7:

    Pullman is an atheist, but that the His Dark Materials trilogy is explicitly anti-religious (one of the protagonists sets out to kill God, after all), and explicitly anti-Catholic (at least, anti-alternative-world-Catholic).

    I’m not so sure about that. Pullman’s alternative-world church had a papacy based at Geneva, IIRC. For those not au fait with the two main traditions of western Christianity: the pope is, well, the pope, obviously symbolising the RC side of things. Geneva, as the adopted hometown of John Calvin, is nearly as obviously a symbol for reformed Christianity. (Frank Herbert did something similar, albeit to a different end, with his ‘Orange Catholic Bible’.) Pullman didn’t develop the theme at length, at least not in the two thirds of the trilogy that I read, but I’m pretty sure his intention was to suggest a unified RC/prod church as a way of saying, ‘I’m not terribly interested in the varying surface details; at bottom all this Christianity is pretty much the same thing.’ Not so much anti-catholic, then, as anti-western-Christianity-in-general.

  52. #52 Marc
    November 23, 2007

    #48: Well, yes, in a way. He has explicitly denied any belief in a personal god but the many “god”-metaphors he used when talking about he cosmos make it a least plausible to view him as some kind of pantheist along the lines of Spinoza, who sees the whole of existence as divine.
    Personally, I think pantheism is just a variant of atheism: if god is (in) everything – every tree, every grain of sand – then he is nothing one needs to concern oneself with. So, if someone insist on being “one with the universe”, as is the case with some of the Eastern cults or among the New Age crowd then I consider that meaningless but also harmless.

  53. #53 Willy
    November 23, 2007

    I’m totally wowed out that nobody mentioned Carl Sagan…

  54. #54 Mrs Tilton
    November 23, 2007

    Stephen @46:

    A science section in a Catholic school? That would make interesting reading.

    I am very far from a fan of the RC church, Stephen, but your comment is a little bit ignorant. The science sections of virtually all RC school libraries virtually everywhere are pretty much the same as in secular libraries. At least from the 20th c. on, the RCC has not generally been anti-science. Consider the description by Francisco Ayala of the science education he received in Spain — Franco’s Spain, in which the RCC had a chokehold on education and didn’t hesitate to use the schools to indoctrinate the nation’s children. What Ayala got in the science classroom was: science, full stop. No priest tried to subvert the lessons to his church’s ends.

    A few right-wing catholics flirt with ID creationism these days, it’s true. But that is a new and a minority thing. It’s also essentially an evangelical protestant thing, and I suspect the RC infatuation with ID will end soon enough, like the morning after a serious night on the tiles, as that church gets its first sober look at what it brought home the night before and gingerly extricates itself from its partner’s arms lest the partner awake.

    There is a list of crimes as long as both of our arms that the RC church has to answer for. But anti-science agitation really isn’t very high on that list.

  55. #55 Ferrous Patella
    November 23, 2007

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

  56. #56 Peter M
    November 23, 2007

    A few more, with quotes:

    I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into it by all the organized hustles.
    — Woody Allen, Rolling Stone, 1987
    What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? *** Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years.
    — John Adams, letter to John Taylor, 1814
    I don’t have any beliefs or allegiances. I don’t believe in this country, I don’t believe in religion, or a god, and I don’t believe in all these man-made institutional ideas.
    — George Carlin, quoted from Reuters/Variety “Notable Quotes” for April 25, 2001
    Not one man in a thousand has either strength of mind or goodness of heart to be an Atheist. I repeat it. Not one man in a thousand has either strength of mind or goodness of heart to be an Atheist.
    — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to Thomas Allsop, ca. 1820,
    Knew I how to pray, to intercede for your [broken] Foot were intuitive — but I am but a Pagan. (however, she may have been a Unitarian–which definitely isn’t being a Christian)
    — Emily Dickinson, letter of 1885 to Helen Hunt Jackson
    I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.
    — Thomas Edison,
    My childhood was full of deep sorrows — colic, whooping-cough, dread of ghosts, hell, Satan, and a Deity in the sky who was angry when I ate too much plumcake.
    — George Eliot,
    As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect.
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

  57. #57 Rey Fox
    November 23, 2007

    I guess if I can find any silver lining in all of this, it’s that they are well on their way to making His Dark Materials the most-read fantasy series of ALL TIME. Or, if it can’t top Harry Potter, then it would at least go down as a critical classic along with all the other banned books like The Cather In The Rye. That’s what I think about in order to keep myself from hurting my hands punching the walls over these snivelling anti-knowledge fuckheads and their bullshit crusades.

    I nearly spit out my drink with the mention of “plausibility” too. Are we going to scrutinize C.S. Lewis’ precious little stories for the plausibility of a talking lion?

    Let the kids with half a brain read His Dark Materials. Then hopefully move on to Garth Ennis’ Preacher when they’re old enough to appreciate sex and violence and black humor. Let the tower of lies crumble.

  58. #58 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2007

    So much heat, so little light

    So a little mockery of a bad policy is an excess of heat?

    What are we supposed to do instead? Rather than laughing at these people and writing stuff, would you rather we retired to a fainting couch somewhere?

  59. #59 DiscoDan
    November 23, 2007

    I am very disappointed in PZ’s shrill discussion of this story. It is, at best, misleading, and at worst defamatory. No School Board is “screaming” to have any books removed from shelves.

    As Scott pointed out — and as all of you should have recognized if you had read the article, done a little research, etc., instead of jumping to a knee-jerk reaction — the book was only put behind the counter (where it is still able to be checked out) while it is being reviewed.

    This is standard policy when a complaint is made on any book. You can disagree with the policy that there should simply be no review process, or that reviews should be handled in a different way, but please, don’t twist the situation to make it sound like the Catholic School Board of Halton is actively censoring books.

    Dozens of books have been reviewed in this way because of complaints (Harry Potter, Snow Falling on Cedars, etc.) and in every single case the complaint has been soundly rejected by the Catholic School Board and the book has been returned to the shelves.

    Let’s also be fair and note that, while the MSM reports cite the fact that the “author is apparently an atheist” as the root of the complaint, the truth is that it has more to do with Pullman’s quotes such as:

    “My books are about killing God” and “I am trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief”.

    I have no doubt that the Halton Catholic School Board will, once again, rule that the complaint is ridiculous and the books will be back on the shelves in no time.

    “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”

    I’m actually not so sure of this — my understanding is that the original complaint was actually a standard letter obtained from a US group that attempting to stir up trouble across North America.

  60. #60 Chris
    November 23, 2007

    #27: Because of course it’s only Muslims that can be scary; the Christians assassinating doctors, firebombing clinics and trying to take science out of science classes couldn’t possibly convince anyone that religion is a crock.

    At the very least, the fact that many people are passionately devoted to so many mutually inconsistent belief systems should be a clue that passionately devoted belief is no guarantee of truth.

  61. #61 Ktesibios
    November 23, 2007

    Mark Twain, of course. See “The Mysterious Stranger.” Best book he wrote.

    It’s been known since the late ’60s that the version of “The Mysterious Stranger” published in 1916 is a pastiche of three manuscripts, two unfinished and one finished but not satisfactory to Twain, put together by Albert Bigelow Paine with an ending written by Paine. That version really shouldn’t be considered to be authentic Twain.

    Six years after Mark Twain’s death, Albert Bigelow Paine, the author’s literary executor, brought out a bowdlerized edition of The Mysterious Stranger, which he patched together from Mark Twain’s three unfinished manuscripts, produced, Paine asserted, during a period of supposed creative paralysis. Scholars have since discovered that Paine’s edition of the book was largely based on the earliest of those three versions, onto which Paine then grafted the final chapter of the last version. Indeed, Paine changed so many of the book’s essentials that it cannot be said to accurately reflect the author’s mood and thought at all.

    http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/1165001.html

    Paine has since been shown to have severely bowdlerized much of the material written by Twain which was published posthumously, apparently because he feared that the anti-religious, anti-patriotic views which characterized Twain’s later writing would offend the public. It’s only fairly recently that the unaltered texts have seen publication.

    Also, the SOB falsified the identity of the immortal “G. Ragsdale McClintock”; it’s only recently that I learned that there’s primary evidence to prove that “McClintock” was S. Wolton Royston, not Watson as Paine had it in his Twain biography.

    If you want a truly authentic taste of what Twain thought of contemporary Christianity and its followers, check out “Letters from the Earth”; recent editions should be free of censorship.

  62. #62 Waterdog
    November 23, 2007

    Re: comment 21. You may be correct in that they are simply following policy in undertaking this review (we only have their word for that; as mentioned, we don’t know how consistently they apply policy). But if we let this all happen behind closed doors, who knows what their decision will be? We have to let our outrage show right now, that this crap will not stand, so that they do put the book back on the shelves at the end. We have to stand up for intellectual freedom, as the American Library Association does with their list of banned books each year.

  63. #63 Moses
    November 23, 2007

    #50

    Pullman’s alternative-world church had a papacy based at Geneva, IIRC.

    If I remember right, the office of the Pope was abolished. The headquarters moved to Geneva from Rome.

  64. #64 Azkyroth
    November 23, 2007

    When you’ve got concern trolls berating you for “shrillness” in criticizing religion, it’s a sure sign you’re doing something right.

  65. #65 Glen
    November 23, 2007

    Okay, this post should have come with a “swallow liquids first” warning. So should have several of the commenters’ comments. I can think of my own list, and list of categories: As Jews are the longest offenders, they come first…

    Someone mentioned Heinlein. Best quote (though lazily quoted from memory): One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh. Works for me.

  66. #66 Kelly
    November 23, 2007

    #30, Heinlein also said “One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh”. I like that one.

  67. #67 Glen
    November 23, 2007

    Kelly,

    You and I are clearly on the same page. I simply did not thumb through a thousand-something page book. Even if a tad misquoted, one of my faves.

  68. #68 Graculus
    November 23, 2007

    It’s a Catholic school. Surely if you sign up for a Catholic school you get what you pay for
    Erm, no, it’s funded publicly. A hangover from the Plains of Abraham and all that. They also have to meet the same academic criteria as the public schools, including teaching evolution, etc.

    1) There has been, over the years, a growing push to “integrate” (absorb) the Catholic system into the public system, being as the public system is no longer Protestant. This is just helping that sentiment along.

    2) Halton? HALTON?!? That’s not exactly a hotbed of seething religiousity. This sounds more like an activist wanker or two got on the school board. *sigh*.. Between this and the Crossroads complex, maybe it’s time to nuke Burlington. It’s not like anyone would miss it. Except for the Lee Valley store.

  69. #69 Dan
    November 23, 2007

    The book was pulled from the shelves for the simple fact that the author is an atheist. I find it odd that some here would say that this school board was justified in using the irrelevant spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) as a reason to censor this harmless work (or even shroud this work in a controversy solely of the Catholics’ creation).

    Personally, I hope that, as a result of all this manufactured outrage, the Catholics get smacked hard enough to finally get the message that their mythology is irrelevant to the education of our children.

  70. #70 _Arthur
    November 23, 2007

    The first page of each book should indicate clearly that the book and its author(s) have passed the IMPRIMATUR, IMPRIMI POTEST and NIHIL OBSTAT tests of morality.
    No one should be allowed to print material lacking these authorisations; not to be printed be printed, sold, or posted anywhere on the Web. We need a 200,000-strong Morality Police to enforce those strictures, to be paid by a special levy on Atheists, Sodomites, Jews and other Heretics.

  71. #71 TheBrummell
    November 23, 2007

    Halton? HALTON?!? That’s not exactly a hotbed of seething religiousity. This sounds more like an activist wanker or two got on the school board. *sigh*.. Between this and the Crossroads complex, maybe it’s time to nuke Burlington. It’s not like anyone would miss it. Except for the Lee Valley store.

    Yeah, the same Halton that’s right next door to me (here in Guelph). The same Halton that showed up here a little while ago for objecting to HPV vaccinations for the most stupid of reasons. Why did I move to this awful province, anyways? Things out west were so much less authoritarian… but I digress. I agree that it’s probably an activist wanker or two, possibly on the school board. And as it’s been said before, the Catholic schools in Onterrible are funded by public tax money. So we’re certainly getting something other than what we paid for.

    As for nuking Burlington… meh. There’s no real point, when the nearby targets include both Halton-of-the-halfwits and da Hammer (Hamilton, possibly the worst city in Canada). But if you really wish to push the button, I won’t object too much… both cities are downwind of me.

  72. #72 GDwarf
    November 23, 2007

    #58,

    I think the entire problem is that arguing that a book was written by an atheist and promotes atheism is sufficient reason to review it.

    I mean, honestly, after the release of the movie it’s going to become a popular series, but most kids aren’t going to go up to the counter to ask for it. Instead they’ll use the library catalogue or browse the shelves. In either case they won’t find it. In many ways this is the effective equivalent of removing the book from the library.

    Now, if it contained content that might not be suitable for grade 9 students, then I could maybe see allowing the review, but when the sole complaint is that it’s pro-atheism, I just can’t accept that, any more than I could accept the book being put up for review because it supported equality for blacks.

  73. #73 Graculus
    November 23, 2007

    TheBrummel: Hamilton is far, far better than London, which manages to be the Ontario Bible belt, corn belt, insurance capital AND Aryan Nations central…..

    And you are a lot closer to London than I am, here in the Hammer. However, I grew up in Burlington, so I have a right to bitch. It’s a cemetary with lights.

  74. #74 Keith Douglas
    November 23, 2007

    Jefe: Institutional inertia at its finest – i.e. nobody wants to amend the constitution.

  75. #75 Monado
    November 23, 2007

    OK, all you experts on atheism: did Voltaire really say, “A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle”? Did someone else say it? Or is it just made up?

  76. #76 Corey Schlueter
    November 23, 2007

    DiscoDan is right about Ontario Roman Catholic board’s policy on reviewing books.

    Last month, a group opposed to same-sex marriage wanted a book discussing homosexuality removed from the Waterloo Region Roman Catholic libraries because it did not agree with Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality. The board rejected to removal and decided to keep a book available as reference.

    The board rejected the idea.

  77. #77 Monado
    November 23, 2007

    In Ontario, people can choose whether to send the education portion of their taxes to a “Separate” (Catholic) school board or a public school board in their area. So if you didn’t tick off that option, your money is not funding a religious school.

    My favourite Mark Twain book is “Letters from the Earth,” which was not published until 1962! Paine hung onto it until he died, and it wasn’t until years later that Bernard de Voto took up the work. It’s quite scathing about religion and about God’s intentions as indicated by his works (e.g. his favourite creature is the fly). Reading it was enough to convince me that he was his generation’s version of PZ Myers or Christopher Hitchens–the moral atheist outraged by the cruelties perpetrated in the name of religion.

  78. #78 Monado
    November 23, 2007

    Here’s a quote from “Letters from the Earth”:

    Then at last, Noah sailed; and none too soon, for the Ark was only just sinking out of sight on the horizon when the monsters [dinosaurs] arrived, and added their lamentations to those of the multitude of weeping fathers and mothers and frightened little children who were clinging to the wave-washed rocks in the pouring rain and lifting imploring prayers to an All-Just and All-Forgiving and All-Pitying Being who had never answered a prayer since those crags were builded, grain by grain, out of the sands, and would still not have answered one when the ages should have crumbled them to sand again.

    More here.

  79. #79 Azkyroth
    November 23, 2007

    Now, if it contained content that might not be suitable for grade 9 students, then I could maybe see allowing the review

    Such as?

    (Please, do share. I actually remember being a grade 9 student and could use a laugh.)

  80. #80 Azkyroth
    November 23, 2007

    OK, all you experts on atheism: did Voltaire really say, “A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle”? Did someone else say it? Or is it just made up?

    Voltaire died in 1778. The first modern “bicycle” was apparently created in 1839, although something called a “velocipede” was created in Voltaire’s lifetime, so it might just be a loose translation… (See here)

  81. #81 Caveat
    November 23, 2007

    Well, the author must be pleased, this should cause sales to skyrocket. Remember the list that the Popes used to put out every year? Guaranteed income-booster.

    Yes, it’s the bloody Catholic board, at it again. Funded by taxpayers due to some constitutional shenanigans from around 1867. Really time to review the policy and dump the idea.

    Above, someone commented that non-Catholics are not allowed to attend the ‘separate’ schools as we call them up here. That is false. Anyone can attend a Catholic school in Ontario.

    I’m sick of all this religious tripe and it seems to be more prevalent in the past few years than it has been for many decades.

    I really don’t care what gets these people through the night, I just wish they’d keep it to themselves.

  82. #82 Caveat
    November 23, 2007

    “OK, all you experts on atheism: did Voltaire really say, “A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle”? Did someone else say it? Or is it just made up?”

    Gloria Steinem in the 60s said:

    “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”

  83. #83 Pierce R. Butler
    November 23, 2007

    The fish without a bicycle quip is usually attributed to Twain, fwiw.

  84. #84 Pierce R. Butler
    November 23, 2007

    That was Steinem’s worst line, and arguably the worst in feminism…

  85. #85 Kseniya
    November 23, 2007

    Quoting a friend of mine: “A religion that can’t stand up to a children’s book is one sorry-assed piece of shit.”

  86. #86 coathangrrr
    November 23, 2007

    I think the entire problem is that arguing that a book was written by an atheist and promotes atheism is sufficient reason to review it.

    It isn’t sufficient reason. The complaint about it, which has not been released from what the article said, is sufficient. Clearly this is a case of the fundies abusing legitimate, or mostly legitimate, processes for political reasons.

    Maybe atheists could start writing to request reviews of the Left Behind series. I imagine they’re rather violent.

  87. #87 Observer
    November 23, 2007

    I am absolutely amazed that the Canadian taxpayers are forced to fund religious schools. To me that’s the real embarassment. If a truly private religious school wanted to ban books by atheists, that wouldn’t bother me in the least. But if they wanted to do it on my dime, that’d piss me off.

  88. #88 gex
    November 23, 2007

    “What are we supposed to do instead? Rather than laughing at these people and writing stuff, would you rather we retired to a fainting couch somewhere?”

    Oh, PZ, you should know by now, that censorship is the only way to debate ideas. Or at least it is so with the religious. Apparently their almighty God with his omnipotence cannot withstand a few books critical of his works. Who knew? Omnipotence is not all it is cracked up to be.

  89. #89 Peter M
    November 24, 2007

    Accountants and lawyers seems to have done what God was unwilling to do — zap the head of Oral Roberts U. He resigned. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071124/ap_on_re_us/oral_roberts_scandal

  90. #90 KC
    November 24, 2007

    I’m a atheist and an avid reader of Pharyngula, but yeah, you’ve misrepresented this situation entirely.

    -This is a Catholic school board, in Canada – as you are probably aware, we don’t have separation of church and state – and in Ontario, the schools receive public funding. This is not an evangelical push akin to Kansas and Dover, this is a library thinking they might have an offensive book not appropriate for children on their hands.

    -As people have mentioned, the policy is that it was simply moved behind counter and is still available on request.

    -This is a school library – I’d be surprised if it even has even a couple of the books listed in the OP.

    Sorry, man – this is one of the rare times your credibility is lacking.

  91. #91 Azkyroth
    November 24, 2007

    this is a library thinking they might have an offensive book not appropriate for children on their hands.

    Frankly, that in itself is blameworthy.

  92. #92 Master Mahan
    November 24, 2007

    I recommend simply replacing any books suspected of containing secret anti-Catholic propaganda – perhaps disguised in anagrams – be replaced with a head-sized bucket of sand.

    Of course, it’s impossible for even the Church to keep track of every book that might contain a different viewpoint. I give 3 to 1 odds Catholic schools eventually solve the problem with illiteracy. The Church never was big on reading, after all – not even the Bible.

  93. #93 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.

  94. #94 Bad Albert
    November 24, 2007

    Excuse me KC,

    The main issue here is that a single person was upset the book’s author was an atheist, as if that automatically disqualifies its inclusion in school libraries. If this school board had any integrity at all it would leave the book on the shelf until the review is completed. After all, it was already on the shelf when this began so at least one person must have decided it was okay.

  95. #95 Sean
    November 24, 2007

    No, if the schoolboard had any integrity then they would follow their established procedure for handling a complaint: Put the book behind the counter, but leave it available for checkout while staff members read the book and fill out a review form. If the book passes muster then it goes back on the shelves.

    The posts from individuals which sound as if they have firsthand knowledge of the situation indicate the school is doing so and commonly returns books to the shelves. Pointing this out does not a concern troll make.

  96. #96 Curt Cameron
    November 24, 2007

    I don’t think Marshall Brain is the man behind WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com. A guy named Marshall Brain is behind HowStuffWorks.com, and he’s no atheist. I’ve read an article on Creationism and Evolution which seems to prefer the former. (He’s also sympathetic to the idea that the US government planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks.) Unless there are two Marshall Brains, I think you need to update that one.

  97. #97 Peter Ashby
    November 24, 2007

    All hail the Ives, All hail the Ives….

  98. #98 Peter Ashby
    November 24, 2007

    Re fish without bicycles:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTT2-TNuegM

  99. #99 SEF
    November 24, 2007

    because the author is a convicted felon

    Ah, but they’re Catholics, remember. So they believe that all he has to do is to claim that he’s sorry (and that he believes in the imaginary dysfunctional family) and he’ll magically be all shiny and new again. Unlike all the atheists who never committed a crime in the first place. That’s one of the major stupidities and dishonesties of their religion (though they do have rather a lot of them to go round).

  100. #100 Azkyroth
    November 24, 2007

    Ah, but they’re Catholics, remember. So they believe that all he has to do is to claim that he’s sorry (and that he believes in the imaginary dysfunctional family) and he’ll magically be all shiny and new again. Unlike all the atheists who never committed a crime in the first place. That’s one of the major stupidities and dishonesties of their religion (though they do have rather a lot of them to go round).

    I agree (although I assume you’re not suggesting that a convicted felon should never be forgiven).

  101. #101 bernarda
    November 24, 2007

    As has often been commented, atheists usually want people to read the bible or the koran or other books on mythology so that they will see what crap these books are.

    Other atheist writers who deserve mention.

    -Robert Ingersoll, probably the most prominent American atheist of the 19th century.

    -Baron d’Holbach, the Frenchman often considered to be the first contemporary atheist. His books were burned by the king in the 18th century. Try, “The System of Nature”.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/8910

    “If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men.”
    (Paul-Henri, baron d’Holbach / 1723-1789 / System of Nature / 1770)

  102. #102 Stephen P
    November 24, 2007

    Disco Dan / KC: I agree with you that, judged solely as a reaction to this particular story, PZ’s reaction is over the top.

    But it would be worth asking yourselves how long the Catholics have had this review policy, and how it came about. The fact is that as long as Catholicism was free to dictate its own policies, such a book would probably not have made it to the shelves in the first place. If it had, then on discovery it would have been immediately destroyed. Catholics would have then been forbidden to read it, on pain of excommunication and anything else that the Inquisition felt appropriate.

    The reason that Catholics have in many areas adopted more sensible policies is because they were pretty much forced to by modern society, with public opinion led by people like PZ. We aren’t talking ancient history here: the notorious Index still existed as an instrument of law until a few years before the first man landed on the moon.

    And don’t make the mistake of thinking that no-one wants to reverse this. The price of liberty is eternal vigilence.

  103. #103 robhoofd
    November 24, 2007

    What about the paper the books are printed on? Does this come from theistic factories? The texts may be pure, but what if the substance of the book itself is not? And what if even those pure books have been touched by -horrors- an atheist? If I were a Canadian, I’d be torching down those filthy libraries right now. and mailing every other Canadian bibles packed in sterilized airtight shrinkwrap, together with a few bottles of 98% alcohol for recleansing, just in case an infidel touches or even sees the Good Book.

  104. #104 Ugo Cei
    November 24, 2007

    Since you mentioned a couple Italian authors, I will add another one: Dario Fo, playwright and actor, Nobel Prize for literature in 1997.

    And of course, the list would not be complete without mentioning Ian McEwan.

  105. #105 maureen
    November 24, 2007

    And a 3 GBP prize for the first library to ban Beowulf, the Norse Sagas and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

  106. #106 Lars Dietz
    November 24, 2007

    But is Pullman really an atheist? From the FAQ at his site:

    “His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?

    I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

    Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.”

    Sounds more like an agnostic to me. Although that doesn’t make any difference to those people, they think he’s going to hell anyway.

  107. #107 Graculus
    November 24, 2007

    I am absolutely amazed that the Canadian taxpayers are forced to fund religious schools.

    Not exactly. In Ontario you have to check off on your tax form if you support the sperate system. The default is public.

    This is, BTW, the exact same school board that was responsible fot the afformentioned HPV vaccine kerfuffle. More of this crap will just hasten the next Constitutional crisis (the Canadian national sport, for those playing at home).

    When the Conservative candidate in the last provincial election started talking about funding “faith-based” schools, not only did his support plummet, but a lot of people started saying “and while we’re at it, about the Catholic schools….” The more the Christians push, the more likely that they will get cut off at the knees, here.

  108. #108 Norman Doering
    November 24, 2007

    Lars Dietz wrote:

    But is Pullman really an atheist? From the FAQ at his site:
    “His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?
    I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.
    Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.”

    Sounds more like an agnostic to me. Although that doesn’t make any difference to those people, they think he’s going to hell anyway.

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

    I think you don’t understand the definition of atheism.

  109. #109 GDwarf
    November 24, 2007

    Again, to those arguing that it’s just part of the normal review process and that the faith of the author/ anti-religion of the texts isn’t what’s being looked at, the news article seems to refute that.

    Apparently an internal memo stated that the book was up for review because a parent complained that it was a pro-atheism book written by an atheist.

    That’s the entire reason.

    All you need to do to get a book removed from the shelves is complain that an atheist wrote it, apparently.

    That is a fundamentally flawed system, right there.

  110. #110 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.

  111. #111 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.

  112. #112 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.

  113. #113 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.

  114. #114 SteveM
    November 24, 2007

    @110 “I don’t know and I don’t care” is ignorant apathetic, not agnostic. Agnostic is the belief that the existence of God is absolutely unknowable. It isn’t just doubt about God’s existence.

  115. #115 Marcus Ranum
    November 24, 2007

    Whenever a story like this crops up, the point to make is the following:

    We have a case study of where this leads. Namely, the muslim world. Aside from reading the Koran, you’re looking at a tremendous number of people who are functionally illiterate. The muslim world – all together – publishes something like 1/2 as many books, annually, as Finland. “But that’s OK, it’s their choice!” Right? Sure, it is. But aside from Nobel Prizes for literature to apostates, can you name a significant invention that has come out of the muslim world lately? And do you think that being a bunch of illiterate ignorant koran-bangers has anything to do with the fact that, militarily, all the muslim world can do is feed cannon-fodder? The high point of the muslim world was after the siege of Vienna and it’s been downhill ever since.

    Yeah, by all means, start banning books in order to protect christianity. We have a great case study of the geopolitical effect of being ignorant during the nuclear era. It’s called islam.

  116. #116 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.

  117. #117 Marcus Ranum
    November 24, 2007

    Add to the list Voltaire, Paine, Sagan, Einstein…

  118. #118 raven
    November 24, 2007

    To be consistent and fair, the school library should get rid of any books written by Pagans and various Moslem, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu etc.. infidels. After all, what is worse, someone who is an atheist or someone who worships false gods with wildly heretic doctrines. There goes Socrates and all the Greeks and Romans.

    While there at it, they should get rid of any books tainted by the heresy of Protestantism. The Protestants tried to destroy the RC church and killed tens of millions of Catholics during the Reformation wars over a 400 year period. Even today, they try to steal away Catholic members with some success. As Ratzinger just reminded us, they aren’t real churches anyway.

    Hmmm, looks like the school will have to get rid of 90% of their library books. Should have enough for a good old fashioned book burning. I can see how the videotape will be a big hit on Youtube and impress the rest of the world.

    The school could finish up by exiling the librarians to Siberia, but since they are already in Canada, that would be sort of redundant.

  119. #119 Theo Bromine
    November 24, 2007

    quoth Monado: In Ontario, people can choose whether to send the education portion of their taxes to a “Separate” (Catholic) school board or a public school board in their area. So if you didn’t tick off that option, your money is not funding a religious school.

    Not exactly – both the public and Catholic systems are directly funded by the Ontario government, per capita according to student enrollment. It is true that property taxes can be designated public vs catholic; however, the revenues from property taxes do not cover the total cost of education, and the balance is made up from general provincial taxes, with no choice of directed funding. (See http://www.oneschoolsystem.org/faq.html for more details)

  120. #120 raven
    November 24, 2007

    can you name a significant invention that has come out of the muslim world lately?

    You are being unfair here.

    1. Suicide bombers. Before the Moslems got into this, most people would have said that getting humans to blow themselves up as cheap guided weapon delivery systems was impossible.

    2. IEDs. While they didn’t invent these, they have added important incremental advances such as copper slug penetrators.

  121. #121 Theo Bromine
    November 24, 2007

    qoth Caveat: Above, someone commented that non-Catholics are not allowed to attend the ‘separate’ schools as we call them up here. That is false. Anyone can attend a Catholic school in Ontario.

    On the contrary, Catholic schools are legally permitted to refuse admission to non-Catholics until Grade 9. For high school, admissions are required to be open to all students, however, schools often have “entrance interviews”, implying that there are admission requirements that must be met.

  122. #122 Spurge
    November 24, 2007

    The Japanese were using humans to guide bombs during WW2.

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

  123. #123 Mike
    November 24, 2007

    #72

    If Pullman’s trilogy is about killing god, then it promotes deicide not exactly atheism. If it promoted atheism, god wouldn’t need to exist in it in the first place.

  124. #124 joolya
    November 24, 2007

    and explicitly anti-Catholic (at least, anti-alternative-world-Catholic).

    To be fair, Pullman is pretty ant-Calvinist as well. Pope John Calvin in his imaginary world abolished the papacy and replaced it with the Magisterium (or something like that), which was responsible for the Inquisition-like purges. So, he’s not just anti-Catholic, he’s anti-Church in general.

  125. #125 Doug Flutie
    November 24, 2007

    MOTHER TERESA?

    According her private letters, Mother Teresa was an atheist. Let’s ban her too!

  126. #126 SV
    November 24, 2007

    Ah, but they’re Catholics, remember. So they believe that all he has to do is to claim that he’s sorry (and that he believes in the imaginary dysfunctional family) and he’ll magically be all shiny and new again.

    Number 99, let’s get the history straight. Born-Again Protestants believe this, with some pretty dire consequences for politics today. Catholics believe that you cannot be saved by faith alone, and must store up a sort of bank account of good works. If you accumulate a lot of debts, err, sins, then you have to work them off. When priests started preaching that sins could be *paid* off instead (collected funds going to – surprise! – the pope), a lot of people got pretty upset and one German monk in particular raised a rather big fuss.

    Sorry. History nerd here.

    *******************

    What upsets me the most about this story isn’t that a book was targeted because the author was an atheist. What bothers me is that the Pullman books are the center of this controversy. Has anyone read them? I mean, all the way through? Pullman spends two and a half books criticizing religion, and then offers as his solution… a different religion. (A mushy, vaguely Buddist one, but nevertheless, a religion.) Whether Pullman is an atheist or not, the books certainly aren’t.

    And besides, the books are badly structured, internally inconsistent, the most interesting ideas are left half-developed, the motives and abilities of important characters vary wildly depending on the needs of whatever chapter it is, one character is set up as an evil, immortal, and practically omnipotent monster who nevertheless is defeated by an absurd cliche, at the end of the third book two characters willingly do with minimal permanent consequences something that the main theme of the first book described as a mind-destroying abomination… the list just goes on. I have nothing against fantasy books, but from a purely literary standpoint, these books are badly written. REALLY badly written.

    The first book is enchanting and seems full of promise. By the time you get through the last book? You want to throw them across the room for wasting your time.

    Why couldn’t one of the works listed in previous posts have been used to test the issue? They could have used Mark Twain, of Isaac Azimov, or Harlan Ellison, or Roddy Doyle, or Tom Wolfe, or even Robert Heinlein, for gawd’s sake. Instead people are arguing about this piece of mush.

  127. #127 NonyNony
    November 24, 2007

    #121 –

    If Pullman’s trilogy is about killing god, then it promotes deicide not exactly atheism. If it promoted atheism, god wouldn’t need to exist in it in the first place.

    I don’t know if you’re being flip or not, but the “God” in Pullman’s trilogy is specifically a pretender – an “angel” who was the first of his kind to form into existence and then told all the others who came after him that he created them and the rest of the “multiverse” of worlds that exists in the book.

    Actually, the “Authority” (as this “God” is called through the books) is, by the time of the books, ancient, terribly fragile and completely senile. The actual ruling of the Kingdom of Heaven is done by his Regent – the soul of an ancient dead human who became an angel and took power from the Authority. The Authority is a useless figurehead and his death in the final book is deliberately portrayed as both anti-climactic and as a release from a torturous life for the Authority itself.

    (Despite Pullman’s hopes, the book comes across as less “atheist” than “gnostic” – one of the main themes of the book is that we shouldn’t be just bowing to Authority and doing what we are told but that we should instead be seeking Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding – both from within ourselves and from the Universe as a whole. And while the book repudiates the God of the Christian churches across the universes as a pretender, it doesn’t really outright say that there was no Creator and that there is no God running things. That’s all a very Gnostic position to take.)

  128. #128 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.

  129. #129 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.

  130. #130 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.

  131. #131 katie
    November 24, 2007

    I did all my schooling in Ontario public schools…and the really depressing thing is that the Catholic schools are so much nicer than the public. Any time I had a school event (drama festival, conference, etc.) that involved a Catholic school…well, they had closed-circuit TV, a shiny new cafeteria, and a far better stage than ours. Not to mention much much nicer labs.

    Is it depressing that our school was excited when we got our SECOND microscope? …sigh…

  132. #132 guthrie
    November 24, 2007

    I diasgree with SV’s assessment of the Northern light trilogy, but cannot recall the details of the books well enough to point out exactly how.

  133. #133 coathangrrr
    November 24, 2007

    Yeah, by all means, start banning books in order to protect christianity. We have a great case study of the geopolitical effect of being ignorant during the nuclear era. It’s called islam.

    Yay! Start the five minutes of Muslim hate. The reason most of the places with low literacy rates have low literacy rates goes far beyond some religion. Of course, you clearly are interested only in propaganda, not any sort of actual truth finding.

  134. #134 Steve_C
    November 24, 2007

    There was no hate in that statement.

    Islam is full of ignorance, so is christianity… so are most religions.

    But islam is the most strict and the most reactionary… but pretend it’s about hate and not about the reality.

  135. #135 Tulse
    November 24, 2007

    No, more like a fideist: she knew there was no evidence, but she believed anyway.

    I’m not sure that “fideist” is the term I’d use, since to me that’s more of a theological position about the primacy of faith. In Mother Teresa’s case, the issue was that she did not feel the “presence of God” in her life. There are plenty of fideists who have faith and feel such presence. Her problem was a crisis of faith — while she seemed to “believe”, or think that she should believe, there was no actual feeling behind it. Her public face was essentially a lie.

  136. #136 Rob
    November 24, 2007

    At first when I read PZ’s post, I got angry like never before. Then it turned out the book was banned not because the author is an atheist, but because the book is anti-Catholic. Then we learn that the school where the book was banned is a Catholic school!

    Suddenly it seems like a non issue.

    PZ, you almost gave me a heart attack!

  137. #137 Tulse
    November 24, 2007

    Suddenly it seems like a non issue.

    Not to us Ontarians whose taxes actually pay for that Catholic school.

  138. #138 Kristine
    November 24, 2007

    @ #12 – Oh yes, the “It’s still available behind the counter” justification. And here I am going for my MLIS at a Catholic university, no less, and I doubt anybody in my classes would agree to this.

    The award-winning fantasy novel “The Golden Compass” was pulled from an Ontario Catholic school district’s library shelves over a complaint about the author referring to himself as an atheist.

    The public Catholic school board in Ontario’s Halton region, which oversees 43 elementary and secondary schools, also pulled two other books in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy as a precaution.

    “We have a policy and procedure whereby individual parents, staff, students or community members can apply to have material reviewed. That’s what happened in this case,” Rick MacDonald, the Halton board’s superintendent of curriculum services, said Wednesday.

    “The Golden Compass,” which has been made into an upcoming movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was first published in 1995. Controversy is surfacing now because of the buzz surrounding the film, said MacDonald.

    The complaint was issued after Pullman stated in several interviews with international media that he is an atheist. Officials declined to provide details on who filed the complaint.

    I feel so much better, yeah. Looks like the complainer didn’t do his/her research on a 12-year-old book, either.

  139. #139 GDwarf
    November 24, 2007

    #124: I actually quite liked the series. Sure, it was far from perfect, but it had quite a bit of imagination behind it, and I feel that any potential plot-holes were actually filled quite quickly. The characters, at least in the first two books, are quite consistent (It’s been quite some time since I read the third, so I don’t feel able to comment on it.) In fact, I didn’t notice any of the problems you described in the first two.

    The third may be different, I don’t recall, but I certainly don’t remember disliking it.

    They were hardly outstanding examples of literature, but I’d disagree that they are horrible works that no-one could really enjoy.

  140. #140 The Physicist
    November 24, 2007

    People can’t you what they believe,PZ can’t, and neither can they. I have learned to live and let live. It is Catholic schools after all. I recently seen where there are Atheist Sunday schools popping up in the western States, especially California.

  141. #141 The Physicist
    November 24, 2007

    That should read – people can’t help what they believe.

  142. #142 coathangrrr
    November 24, 2007

    There was no hate in that statement.

    Islam is full of ignorance, so is christianity… so are most religions.

    The statement was not about Islam, it was about “the muslim world.” And speaking of “full of ignorance,” how about:

    The high point of the muslim world was after the siege of Vienna and it’s been downhill ever since.

    Right. It is pretty clear to me, as someone who actually has studied the region and the religion, that the majority of the people here have no fucking clue what they are talking about insofar as Islam is concerned. There is a consistent thread of Muslim bashing that is clearly based on racist assumptions and not on the real world.

    Does Islam have its problems? Heck yeah. But a bunch of white, male atheists are the last people in the damn world that are going to have any positive effect on the problems in the region. The persistent drone of “Muslims are stupid,” gets tiring and, to be honest, sounds exactly like the colonialist calls for conquering the barbarians, for their own good.

  143. #143 Steve_C
    November 25, 2007

    You seem to be jumping to a lot of conclusions.

    Ignorance doesn’t equal stupidity. Ignorance can usually be overcome with knowledge.
    Stupidity is more permanent.

    Hmmm… maybe the North Korean Women will have a positive effect, or perhaps Thai Buddhists… because it’s impossible for a white atheist male to understand complex geopolitical problems right?

    You don’t make a lot of sense. A major problem in the middle east is Islam’s unquestionable authority, one of many problems, along with poverty, corruption, etc.

    Don’t you need Islam to be muslim?

  144. #144 coathangrrr
    November 25, 2007

    To clarify, that wasn’t all aimed at you. You just happened to be in the way when it came out. That said.

    Hmmm… maybe the North Korean Women will have a positive effect, or perhaps Thai Buddhists… because it’s impossible for a white atheist male to understand complex geopolitical problems right?

    No, people in the region, moderate folks, radical atheists from the area, women. The point is that you don’t see Thai Buddhists arguing over what is wrong in the region and you certainly don’t see Thai Buddhists supporting invasions of and actions against states in the region. And as a white atheist male I must say that it is possible to understand, to some extent, the problems in the region; but blaming Islam as the sole or main problem is both patently absurd and what many people in the comments on this blog do.

    You don’t make a lot of sense. A major problem in the middle east is Islam’s unquestionable authority, one of many problems, along with poverty, corruption, etc.

    Islam clearly does not have unquestionable authority, seeing as there are secular states in the region, i.e. Syria, and there used to be more, like Iraq. Poverty, corruption, centralized state control and a number of other factors are far more important in regards to the position of the people in the region than the supposed ignorance inducing religion of Islam.

    Don’t you need Islam to be muslim?

    Well, that sounds like a bit more of a theological question than I would want to get into 😉 But my point was that “the Muslim world” is different than Islam in the same way that “the Christian world” does not equal Christianity. Part of the problem here is that there is a tendency in contemporary times to work from a Huntingtonian idea of clashing civilizations, which is not only an incoherent description of the world but also patently absurd. There is no monolithic “Islam,” nor is there a monolithic “Christianity.” And there is most certainly not a “Muslim world” outside of there being a set of countries which are Muslim.

    Of course, I expect few people here will accept this critique, and many will answer with some variation of “religion is bad, and Islam is the worst.”

  145. #145 Sean
    November 25, 2007

    Apparently an internal memo stated that the book was up for review because a parent complained that it was a pro-atheism book written by an atheist.

    That’s the entire reason.

    I just do not read the news article this way. The relevant passages is as follows.

    A memo issued by the board says the books are “apparently written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic and anti-religion,” the Toronto Star reported.

    The memo mentions the books are written by an atheist. The snippet of the memo neither includes nor excludes the author’s faith being a point of contention. It certainly does not support the claim it is the only point of contention for the nitwit who complained.

    How public is this process? Some folks earlier in the thread seemed to be living in that neck of the woods. Is the complaint itself public record? I would enjoy seeing a comparison of the complaint with the Scare Spam about the movie which has been circulating for the past couple months. Wanna bet there are a few paragraphs which match perfectly?

  146. #146 DiscoDan
    November 25, 2007

    When you’ve got concern trolls berating you for “shrillness” in criticizing religion, it’s a sure sign you’re doing something right.

    Again with the misrepresentation. If there is any single trait that defines trolls, it is how they refuse to let facts get in the way of a good discussion. Why are you misrepresenting what I said?

    First, I didn’t “berate” anyone. I noted that I was disappointed with the shrill tone of PZ’s post and how he misrepresented the story. Second, in no sense did I even mention PZ’s criticizing religion. I have absolutely no problem with PZ criticizing religion. I do have a problem with him misrepresenting a story to make it sound as if “stick-up-their-butt board members” from the Halton Catholic School System are “screaming to remove books from shelves.” That simply isn’t true. It isn’t what is happening. Period.

    You all do realize that twisting debates to serve different purposes is exactly the primary mode of argument of IDers and Creationists. Why engage in the same thing. There was plenty of material in this story to have a good discussion — some of which was brought up by later comments (e.g., how consistently is the policy applied? when did it originate? what would a good review policy look like? how would we like to see an ID book treated if we complained about it being on a school shelf, nature of funding for Catholic schools, etc.). But why misrepresent a story? It doesn’t further your cause and likely harms it since people can easily disregard future posts (“Oh, that’s the guy that doesn’t really research what he posts about, he just knee-jerks opposition to manufactured stories for pithy soundbites”).

  147. #147 chili pepper
    November 26, 2007

    I worked in bookstores for many years, and I used to delight in preparing our annual banned books window display. The best one consisted of our window covered with brown paper, with a few holes for the curious to look through.

    People were always amazed at the number of books there that they had read, and typically couldn’t understand what got some people’s panties in such a Gordian knot.

  148. #148 Jason Failes
    November 26, 2007

    Basically, Catholic objectors are making the following claim:

    “Those authoritarian, close-minded, violent bad guys in this book are obviously just like us, so ban it.”

    Um, why would anyone admit that, even tacitly?

  149. #149 Owen
    November 26, 2007

    The fiction section would be reduced to Mitch Alboum and the “At Home in Mitford” series!
    *shudder*

  150. #150 Keith Douglas
    November 26, 2007

    Norman Doering: Yes. There could not have been nothing.

  151. #151 Ajardoor
    November 27, 2007

    Ironically, the filthy books of ANNE FORKIN’ RICE (she’s Born Again, seriously) would be a-okay for this library just based on this one particular parameter but not books by the great men and women you mentioned.

  152. #152 windy
    November 29, 2007

    The muslim world – all together – publishes something like 1/2 as many books, annually, as Finland.

    I tried to find the source and this seems to refer to Arabic, not Muslim countries.

    “…the number of books published in the Arab world … does not exceed 1.1% of world production, although Arabs constitute 5% of the world population.” and “…in 1991, Arab countries produced 6,500 books compared to 102,000 books in North America, and 42,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Arab Human Development Report 2003: Building a Knowledge Society

    10000+ titles are published in Finland per year (but one could argue that’s overdoing it), so the figure seems to be about right for Arabs but the entire Muslim world probably manages to publish a few more books…

  153. #153 windy
    November 29, 2007

    (SV on Pullman)

    …at the end of the third book two characters willingly do with minimal permanent consequences something that the main theme of the first book described as a mind-destroying abomination…

    Are you referring to (SPOILER ALERT) a person separating from his or her daemon? It seemed to me that the first book is from the POW is Lyra’s culture where such separation is an abomination, and as Lyra learns about other cultures in subsequent books, things are not so black-and-white anymore. And it was a different thing from the irreparable “cutting” in the first book.

    What bugged me in the last book was the solution to the knife thing (ANOTHER SPOILER): “hey, we have this way to travel between alternate worlds, but let’s not use it ever again because ghosts will eat us”. WTF? You’re just going to accept that? The story does have its flaws but hey, it beats C S Lewis.

  154. #154 Greenfete Admin
    November 29, 2007

    Great article. Quite right.

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