Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Thoughts on Burn a Quran Day

I know I'm a little bit late to the party here, but Burn a Quran Day is coming up on September 11th, and I wanted to get my two cents in.  A number of atheist bloggers have commented on the event, and to be honest, I don't really understand many of their reactions.  As an example, here's what Hemant at Friendly Atheist had to say about it:
Leave it to Christians to teach the world how to show love.
To mark the anniversary of September 11th this year, the non-denominational Dove World Outreach Center church in Florida will host an “International Burn A Koran Day.”
Pastor Terry Jones says he got the idea from “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” and that since the announcement was made, people have been sending him copies of the Koran for the event.
It’s amazing: I don’t care for the Koran. I think people have the right to burn their own books. Yet you put it all together like this, and I feel disgusted. 
Many other atheists had similar feelings about the event.

I understand that burning books has a negative connotation, because it is often used to signify rejecting knowledge in favor of blind faith.  But that's not the message here.  Again, the message is that Islam is false, and that it is a violent religion.  I may think that these Christians are being hypocritical given the god awful stuff in the book they are so keen about being sacred, and I certainly don't agree that the Quran is sending people to hell.  But I don't disagree that the Quran is just a book, and has caused a lot of problems in the real world.

Ginx at Anything But Theist made a good point about book burning, that made me really think about my position:

At the core of my ideology is to add more to the world. Even if I could erase all religious texts on Earth, I wouldn’t. It would make the world less rich. We should be adding more to our base of knowledge, not trying to redact it. Book burnings are censorship, an attempt to physically destroy knowledge (though it is merely metaphorical in this instance, because they are only burning a few of the billions of copies of the Quran that are in existence).

However, I think there is a relevant counter-example.  Most of you probably remember Crackergate, when P.Z. Myers desecrated a Catholic Eucharist by putting a  nail through it, and throwing it in the trash.  But what you may not remember is that along with the cracker, P.Z. also threw away pages he ripped out of the Quran and The God Delusion.  In his words:
By the way, I didn't want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur'an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything.

I don't remember any atheists getting upset about this when P.Z. did it.  I certainly wasn't; I agree that they are not sacred, as nothing should be.  So destroying books doesn't seem to be all that offensive, if we happen to agree with the message.  And while I may not agree with the Dove World Outreach church, I don't think this protest of Islam is any more offensive than Draw Muhammad Day was, with regards to what is being done.  While I'm not going to get involved with an event sponsored by some looney-tunes Christian group, it's not something I'm upset about either.

** I should note that Ginx also said:
"But you know what? To stop a book burning from happening is also censorship. The only time I would physically want someone to step in is if an angry mob descended upon a library with torches, and this is clearly a bring-your-own-book burning. You can do what you want with a Quran you own."
And I don't believe any atheists want to stop Dove outreach from expressing their opinions about Islam and Christianity. I also don't mean to single out Hemant's post; he's just the most well-known blogger than presented a very common opinion about the event, and it was his post that got me thinking about all of this. I still love you HM!
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