Atheism and Astrology? August 4, 2008

Atheism and Astrology?

Would anyone like to offer up a guess as to why Atheism and Astrology are in the same section in this bookstore?

(You can’t read the word “Atheism” in the picture, but rest assured it is there. Click the image for a larger version.)


In case your first thought was that the categories are just in alphabetical order, then please explain why the books underneath belong to the “Wicca” section…

(via Letters from a Broad…)

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  • In most bookstores in the UK, books about atheism are put in the “Spirituality” section, or at least next to it. Other than putting it under “A” in the non-fiction sections, I don’t know where else I would put it to be honest.

  • Hey! They’ve got the Druid Magic Handbook. When did Wizards start publishing spell books for individual character classes?

  • David D.G.

    LOL at Oliver — that is a GREAT comment! =^D

    Provided that books on various religious beliefs are all shelved in the same section, I see no reason why atheism shouldn’t be shelved along with them in some fashion — including not just works on Wicca and paganism, but everything from Christian apologetics to the Book of Mormon, as well as copies of the Bible, Quran, and Torah.

    But astrology? WTF? I don’t see how that got grouped with stuff of a spiritual nature. Sure, astrology is a totally superstitious belief system, but it’s not a religion; that’s an entirely different sort of superstitious belief system.

    ~David D.G.

  • Darryl

    These are all the books that are alternatives to the major religions. When you have a small religion section this makes sense.

  • Skylar

    Well, the bookstores I know (in the South) are set up in this kind of fashion:

    Christianity (with 4 gazillion subsections), close to one row, if not more
    Bibles, about three sections
    Judaism, one section, but only because they also put all the Holocaust books there, and maybe the 3 books about Hinduism. No Islamic books that I’ve ever seen.
    Metaphysical and/or spiritual (depending on the store), about 3 sections, mostly Wicca, magicky things

    I can’t really remember seeing any atheism stuff, but I guess they’d just shove it in nonfiction, alphabetical by author’s name, that way you can’t find more than one without making a sincere effort?

    But I could see them putting it next to all the other “funky” beliefs perpetuated by silly people who don’t know any better and refuse to grow up. Makes it a lot more convenient when someone decides to witness in the bookstore based on the books you’re looking at. Might as well lump all the heathens together to make witnessing that much more effective. And add the social shame and stigma of being caught looking in the “metaphysical” section, particularly if you’re an atheist.

  • In the Borders store I always go to, Science is put next to the astrology/pseudoscience section.

  • TXatheist

    Because the store is in Madison WI and the owner is mad that FFRF is headquartered there….

  • TheDeadEye

    Heh, I always thought Atheism belonged in the general ‘non-fiction’ section.

  • Miko

    In the Borders store I always go to, Science is put next to the astrology/pseudoscience section.

    While we’re on the subject, the “Complete Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide to Intelligent Design for Idiots” type books often get misfiled on the science side of that line.

  • Dustin

    I’ve been there a couple times: they were the only place I could get my textbooks for my women’s studies class. I’m sure the reason for this classification is that they have so few books on non-feminist subjects that it’s just easier to throw two tangentally-related ones together that start with the same letter.

    I’m pretty comfortable with myself, not to mention a male liberal/feminist, but I felt really weird shopping there. A lot of moonbat literature. The store is pretty much epitomizes every ultraliberal stereotype.

  • Wes

    Would anyone like to offer up a guess as to why Atheism and Astrology are in the same section in this bookstore?

    I would argue that they’re not.

    The sign says “Atheism/Astrology”. On the left, the “Atheism” side, are all atheist books, while on the right, the “astrology” side, are all astrology books. So my guess is they just used one sign to denote two sections. And the overall section looks to be some kind of General Spirituality or Alternative Religion section. Below the Wicca shelf are general self-help meditation books and stuff. So my guess is that they included Atheism along with all the other minority religious viewpoints, such as paganism, astrology, wicca, meditation, etc.

  • Because they confused the words “astrology” and “astronomy”?

  • Stephen

    I have no problem with it…as long as Christianity, Islam, and judaism are filed under Fiction/Ignorance.

  • Motherpeace Tarot is either really heavy or that shelf is bowed.

    The heavy books are on the top and the lightweight ones are on lower shelves. Not the best or safest storage method but whatever works.

  • Mark

    I bet they have the books on theoretical physics between gardening and fashion.

  • anom

    Somebody probably just moved it there, a religious person maybe?

  • David D.G.

    Wes wrote:

    So my guess is that they included Atheism along with all the other minority religious viewpoints, such as paganism, astrology, wicca, meditation, etc.

    Wes, how the heck is astrology a religious viewpoint, minority or otherwise?

    ~David D.G.

  • Darryl

    David, astrology is as much of a religious viewpoint as anything else. If they had to spell out what they believe, wouldn’t believers in astrology have to say that they believe that messages and predictions of what life and people are like are being put into the patterns of stars in the galaxy? Don’t forget, they think the stars give specific information for specific people. Kind of spooky if you think about it. It has to involve the supernatural doesn’t it? They look to something beyond themselves that they trust to help them without knowing just how it all works though they have a whole system developed. Sounds like a religion to me.

  • Radovan Karadzic

    “.. for the same reason the Christian Bibles are in the FICTION section of my local bookstore?” … he asked mischievously

  • ash

    Would anyone like to offer up a guess as to why Atheism and Astrology are in the same section in this bookstore?

    because they use the same classification methods as Birmingham city council’s blocking software?

  • Rob

    At the B&N where I work, we just recently had a categorization update where the atheism books around our store, found mostly in Philosophy’s general section or in Christianity (under Religion/Inspiration), were put in their own subcategory under philosophy, called Agnosticism/Atheism. In our store, the “flow” goes Philosophy —> New Age (which includes Astrology, Tarot, Wicca, and UFOs) –> Religion/Inspiration (which does give very little space to Judaism/Holocaust, as per our sales, but we do have a large Buddhism/Hinduism section).

    Oddly, Hemant, your book is STILL categorized under “Christianity”. I’ve submitted a title correction, and Home Office simply says “The subject/display for this title will not change”.

    Also, B&N seems a little inconsistent in terms of what they put in Ag/Ath (which I’ll accept for now, since it is a new category). “God Delusion” is under Evolutions subsection in Science/Tech, because it is shelved with all of Dawkins’ other titles. However, Hitch’s “God is Not Great”, which has more of an anecdotal “current events” format is in Ag/Ath, not our Current Affairs section (which has Harris’ “End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”. Eventually they’ll figure it out, I suppose.

  • So that people who are going for a book of horoscopes might just pick up Richard Dawkins by mistake.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Because they are written by British people (the atheism books) and you have a new age book with a “Drudic James Bond”. I kid you not- a book actually had that blurb in B&N- it was in the scifi fantasy section though.

  • As a skeptic, I am skeptical of this photo…

    But Hemant said it so you know that it’s true. I mean, the friendly atheist wouldn’t deceive us… would he?

  • In my country I find the books also in the strangest places. Mostly in one major bookstore it is underneath : Mind, Body, Spirit (which is not associated to religion). But the other day I saw a few in a bookstore under Religion. It was pretty amusing seeing as we have a strong Christian community. There was the book ‘God is not Great’ next to the other Christian books…

  • David D.G.

    Darryl, I think you are conflating religion with superstition; the first is a subset of the second, much larger category. I understand the parallel you’re trying to draw here, but would you also claim that Tarot usage/belief constitutes a religion? Or numerology? Or dowsing? Or the use of a Magic 8-Ball? Or the various odd practices pertaining to the acting profession (never whistling backstage, avoiding referring to Shakespeare’s Macbeth by name, wishing someone a good performance by saying “break a leg,” etc.)? These are all beliefs/practices of a superstitious nature, but they can’t all be religions.

    For something to qualify as a “religion,” there have to be certain features to it that astrology lacks, such as faith in the supernatural. Many (perhaps most) astrology buffs stridently claim that there’s nothing “supernatural” about it — that they are making use of natural phenomena. (Nonsense, of course, but that’s how they see it.) Many of them truly think of it as a science! That’s pretty much against the grain for anything called a “religion.”

    Another feature that is (arguably) universally present in a religion is a god figure, or multiple god figures. (One or two “religions” do not have this characteristic, which prompts some people to argue that they aren’t even really religions, but are philosophies instead. Frankly, I agree.) Even those astrology buffs who do regard it as dealing with the supernatural don’t seem to regard the planets and stars as gods. They sometimes see them as tools of God (or of Nature personified, or some such newage religious belief), but that no more makes astrology itself a religion than it makes meteorology a religion for those people who think God uses storms to express his wrath; in the latter case, the weather is a tool of their religious figure, not the focus of religion itself — and so it is with the stars and planets to astrology believers.

    Thus, astrology is superstition, but it is not religion.

    ~David D.G.

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