The Berenstain Bears and Religion

As a kid I loved reading The Berenstain Bears books.  I remember owning several as a kid and checking out several others at the library.  As I grew older my interest in these books wanted as I moved on to junior adult books and eventually adult books.  It’s probably been 20-25 years since I last thought much about The Berenstain Bears.  This changed the other day when I was looking for a book at the local library.  I passed by the children’s section and noticed a huge section of Berenstain Bears books.  The one that struck me was titled “The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You”.  What?  Since when did the Berenstain Bears become religious?

I spent a few minutes looking at other books in the series and noticed several titles with a religious theme.  Then I grabbed one that didn’t have a religious title, “Hurry to Help”.  The book is about the bears helping others, a very nice message to send to kids.  However, every third page had a reference to Jesus/God.  WTF?  What happened?

The Berenstain Bears were introduced in 1962 by Jan and Stan Berenstain.  There are now over 300 titles in publication.  As Jan and Stan aged (now passed away), their son Mike became a partner in 2002 and fully took over in 2012.  Starting in 2008, Mike pushed the Berenstain Bears in a more religious direction.  Thus the religious themed Berenstain Bears books I found at the library.

It’s kind of a shame to see a good kids’ book series (okay, maybe a bit hokey) turn religious.  You can’t help others without religion and God?  That’s the message being sent in “Hurry to Help”.  Give me a break!  It’s time kids be taught they can be good without religion!!!

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3 thoughts on “The Berenstain Bears and Religion

  1. I remember those books from my library trips as a kid; they were always a little “goody-goody”, but never religious. I’m shocked to hear how they’ve changed. As someone raised in an agnostic household, I always bristle when people claim religion is the only way to provide children with a “moral framework”. My parents never took me to church a day in my life, but they are two of the most generous and kind individuals I have the privilege to know (and they extend this behavior to everyone, not merely people of their own ilk). They instilled these values in me through their own example, not through preachy doctrine. Religious friends claim I am an “exception” for having such a high degree of integrity without ideology, but I disagree with them. I am no more or less inherently moral than the next human, but why should I need the promise of heaven or the threat of hell to do the right thing? Religion is not a necessary condition for one’s “moral compass”. I’m dismayed the Berenstein Bears’ authors felt compelled to contaminate children’s books with overt religious messaging. That’s one series from my childhood that, sadly, I will not be sharing with my own future children.

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