Burning Religious Texts

Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Thoughts | 10 comments

There has been a lot of stink over Pastor Terry Jones and his proposed 9/11 Qur’an burning party, so I thought I’d throw my opinion into the ring and see what comes of it. I’d be interested to see what you think too.

Pastor Terry Jones is a religious nutjob, part of a cult which is not only openly anti Islam, but also openly homophobic. As he is a Charismatic Christian leader, I hold his opinions as extremist anyhow, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that someone like him would be proposing such a stunt.

I don’t have a problem with burning the Qur’an, just as I have no problem with PZ Myers and his treatment of the Christian sacrament. The book is just a book, and that’s that. It’s a physical object, nothing more. While he’s at it he can throw in all his copies of the Bible also. Makes no difference to the world. The media have brought so much attention to his proposed bonfire, and all over a little book-burning. This is not a Fahrenheit 451 situation. He owns the books, and if he needs something to cook his hamburgers over, so be it. Who am I to say what a whackjob like him can do in his own backyard?

As a symbolic act though it is quite sickening to see this man using the tragedies of September 11 to justify his hatred of other people. The tragedies of 9/11 were perpetrated by people who were Muslim, true. But the broad brush of “they are all terrorists” is just not acceptable in today’s society, just as it would be remiss of me to say that all Christians are waiting for the Rapture to come so they can sit with God in heaven while the heathens like myself burn below.

All  this hype about 9/11 and the Muslim community is a little unsettling. I am by no means defending Islam as a good thing, in fact I’d say it’s more than a little backward in this day and age. However all the Muslims I know, apart from following Islam, are decent and kind folk, and I can forgive them for their faith as they were indoctrinated into it at a young age, as is done in their communities. It’s the “eye-for-an-eye” attitude of this pastor that gets my goat. He thinks that by burning the Muslim holy book (like I said, whatever) he will somehow prove that he and his faith, and America for that matter, is better than the Muslim community? And this is about MUCH more than the Islamic community center proposed for a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero.

Ground Zero is not a holy Christian site. It’s the site of one of the most heinous acts to be perpetrated on humanity in living history. The fact that, so some people, it has become synonymous with their Christian God is a little more than unsettling. Not every one of the people who perished in 9/11 were Christians, in fact there were people from all faiths in the buildings when they came tumbling to the ground. Every life lost on that day was a tragedy. Every one, regardless of their faith.

So the argument that Islam is somehow provoking a backlash by proposing this centre is moot. Sure the hijackers were Muslim, but does that speak for every Muslim? There was an Islamic prayer room on the 17th floor of the Twin Towers, and there is a pre-existing Islamic prayer space much closer to Ground Zero than the proposed Islamic community centre that’s been there for years. It makes no difference in the long run to have a community centre there, in fact it may be helpful in healing some of the bad blood that 9/11 has brought to the surface.

The proposed Qur’an burning is supposedly a reaction against this Islamic community center to try to teach Islam the lesson that “You cannot mess with America!” But the only thing it will achieve is that extremist Muslims will see this act of stupidity as a provocation, and because of all the attention this has received from the media, they may well act upon it in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

This is not about “Freedom of speech”. This is about “Should this idiot be allowed to possibly provoke the people of Islam into a mindset of revenge upon Americans?” He can say anything he likes, because he is an American, but he is throwing stones for the hell of it. And the Islamic faith is much more easy to agitate than that of most Christians.

And one last thing. Religion in this form is dangerous. Hatespeak is dangerous. People who breed this hatespeak are dangerous. This is because these things are not done in their own names, but in the name of their God. No responsibility will be taken, because this is the way they interpret the “wants of God”. Surely it’s not that Pastor Terry Jones is a narrow-minded, bigoted, nationalistic, bible-thumping reactionary himself, is it? Seems all too convenient, don’t you think?

EDIT: See what Olbermann and Obama have to say about this outrage.

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  1. Yes indeedy AC! Great post.

    Religion cannot be blamed for one man being an idiot and then other men being idiots back and on and on. (though can we blame the media for giving this bloke international attention?.

    I agree that this form of religion is dangerous but if it weren’t religion it would be something else. Until man can live in peace with his fellow man without trying to dominate him we will always find something to fight over.

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  2. Agreed. The problem is the whole “Eye-for-an-eye” attitude. It’s why we have the situation in Isreal and Palestine. The initial stone throwing has faded away into obscurity, and has become a situation where they are always at each other’s throats. Nothing good can come from this attitude.

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  3. The does reflect the minds of Christian FundaMENTALists in the United Christian States of America. I am Australia, a bedreggled refugee from the “Holy” Roman Catholic Churc, no proudly Atheist.I tear up bibles. The “Holy” Bible and the “Holy” Quran are the worst books of fiction ever written and should be classified Horror/Fiction, not suitable for under 18.


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  4. Hi Marty. Agree with your sentiments. I hope it’s OK to draw our attention to

    Sept 17 – The 1st International Meal with a Muslim Day ?

    Started by a friend, who is AGNOSTIC – at the atheist end.

    His response to the Quran burning was to do something to bring dialogue instead of hate. Please note, one does not have to AGREE with another to live peacefully with them, and we have more in common than we have not – eg our love for family, friends and desire for a peaceful life.


    Please share with everyone you know, and spread the word via the facebook page / event, twitter, etc.

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  5. Very nice post Martin. My main problem with that burning, is not the burning itself, but WHO is burning it and WHY.

    There is no one more blind, than those who do not want to see.

    He basically claims all muslims are terrorists, yet fails to realize that there are many christians that are just as bad. If he were to protest all of the crimes perpetrated by religion perfect. Burn them all together- Bible, Koran, Torah, Mormon…

    IMO, one does not get to pick and choose. It’s all or nothing.

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  6. Excellent discussion of the issue, Marty. I was particularly taken by this: “…sickening to see this man using the tragedies of September 11 to justify his hatred of other people”. Indeed that’s what this Quran burning is about.

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  7. This is not about “Freedom of speech”. This is about “Should this idiot be allowed to possibly provoke the people of Islam into a mindset of revenge upon Americans?”

    I can’t agree. This is every bit about freedom of speech. And I actually defend this idiot’s right to his expression of free speech no matter how idiotic it is. And, yes. He’s an idiot. But there’s no crime in that. Your question could just as easily be re-written thus: “Should we allow our freedoms to be held hostage because we fear the consequences of exercising that freedom?” So long as Jones is not vandalizing property not his own, inciting to violence or discrimination he is free to express himself as he feels.

    And I celebrate that.

    The problem doesn’t lie with this religiot. If we fear a backlash because of the reaction of some Muslims and then the problem lays with those people who would do violence. Should the cartoons that depicted Muhammed in a Danish newspaper have been banned? Absolutely NOT. Violence as a reaction in either case is reprehensible and I condemn those that responded with violence. NOT those exercising a basic freedom.

    The Quran is just a book, as is the Bible. Or Dianetics. Personally, I find The Rights of Man a far better read than any of those first three. It says a good deal about Islam that we expect not public discourse, but public violence at anything perceived to be slanderous to that religion.

    We could cave in, ban burning the Quran or other symbols some people hold sacred (wrongly, I believe), and erode the values that America was founded one (and which much of the west has followed). We could, but I ain’t gonna. If we cave in here, where does it stop? In Europe, threats of violence in the street are a tool that imams use quite openly for political gain.

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    • your right…at least as much as defending the right to free speech be he an idiot or not.

      But arent there at least some rules about civilised free speech? One of the things that struck me both times in the States is compared to Aussie, where we too honour free speech is…hmm…Americans lacked a tad of self restraint in expressing their views.

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  8. Many of you are familiar with me on here in my short time commenting on this blog. We’ve had many sparring discussions that have sometimes turned negative because we disagree so vehemently. That said, I have to say that it is men like Mr. Jones that do more harm to the Christian church than any number of atheists could possibly do.

    A common trend that I have seen in my discussions with atheists here on WordPress is the tendency to lump all religions into the same boat and call them all bad. I often get met with lines like, “atheists don’t fly planes into buildings” and other such comments. I continually plead for atheists not to lump all religions together when constructing arguments, but to take each one at face value for what it is.

    That’s where issues like Mr. Jones come in. This man places his propaganda firmly under the Christian banner, but no evangelical church would embrace his philosophy. This is a radical viewpoint that is not supported foundationally AT ALL in New Testament Scripture. “Eye for an eye” is not a principle by which the New Testament church was instructed to live by, so the modern-day church ought not to be living by it either.

    I don’t know what religion Mr. Jones should be flying, but it’s not Christianity. As a Christian theist, I land firmly on your side when it comes to this issue. This man’s 15 minutes of fame will end up costing more Christians their lives than any serial killer, and as a Christian I don’t condone his actions any more than I condone Fred Phelps, Muslims, etc. The amount I condone of their works is ZERO. Zilch.

    I know it’s asking a lot to continue to ask you to focus your targets even more specifically than just Christianity v Islam v Hinduism v Judaism. But I would ask that when situations like this come up, please don’t label these types of men as Christians unless their perspectives are in complete line with Scripture. If you’re ever unsure, I’d be happy to lend an evangelical’s perspective.

    Let’s let this story die in the media and on our blogs, so that this type of behavior doesn’t get the appearance of a reward.

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    • and this is in my humble opinion what is needed. Christians saying no, we dont support this nonsense, Muslims the same to their nonsense speakers and along with atheist’s we can all say this behaviour is unacceptable.

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