A new children's book is taking direct aim at "Heaven Is For Real," the bestselling book and feature film about a young boy who claims he ascended to heaven, met Jesus and interacted with dead relatives during a near-death experience.
Rather than focusing on theological themes surrounding God or the afterlife, "Me & Dog" — a book about a little boy named Sid and his dog Murphy that was written by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and illustrated by Eric Shansby — focuses primarily on secular ideals.
Weingarten, an atheist, told TheBlaze Tuesday that he was motivated to write the book based on experiences he had with his own dog (who, coincidentally, is also named Murphy). But that wasn't the only reason the writer penned his first kids' book.
Simon and Schuster/Gene Weingarten
Weingarten's frustration over certain "phony" themes that are presented to children in popular books and movies like "Heaven Is For Real" also served as a motivating factor.
"It bothers me particularly when the most impressionable people who will take a message away are children [being told] that the kid died on the table and came back to life — and in the meantime visited Jesus," he said.
While Weingarten said he's not hostile toward religion and has no contempt for people of faith, it's stories like "Heaven Is For Real" that leave him flummoxed, specifically when they target kids.
"I have some anger and frustration in me over what sells when the subject is religion, and if you go to Amazon.com and look up books about religion for children, there is no end to them and they basically are all about teaching your children about having to have faith … and none of that bothers me," he said. "I have no contempt for people of faith, but it is the nature of the things that sell that bothers me."
As you can imagine, "Me & Dog" can be read as more than a mere story about a boy and his pup. In fact, in an op-ed last month, Weingarten delved a bit deeper into the subject matter, explaining the themes embedded in the book and revealing the multiple ways readers might interpret the plot.
"It does seem to be arguing that if ours IS a world that is not ruled by magic, there is enough secular magic and beauty in observable reality to keep things fun and joyful and safe," Weingarten wrote.
The author also said that there are a few different ways in which people could read "Me & Dog."
The first option is that they can view it as "a sweet little book about a boy who goes on a walk with his dog, and accidentally steps on the dog’s tail, and the dog apologizes because it has an adorable, fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of existence."
Simon and Schuster/Gene Weingarten
Or, Weingarten said that the book can be viewed as "an insidious, deviant little parable brainwashing vulnerable innocents into doubting the existence of God."
There's also the middle ground approach in which readers walk away with both of these sentiments, he argued.
Either way, the author made it clear in both his interview with TheBlaze and his column last month that the book is an "antidote" to stories like "Heaven Is For Real," which Weingarten also described as "foul load of phony, credulous, opportunistic crap."
The author told TheBlaze that he's hoping the book's take-away for children is "whatever the parents encourage them to take away from it."
"I think it is the beginning of a dialogue that any secular humanist parent could have with their children if they choose to use," Weingarten said.
(H/T: Christian Post)