Burning the Qur'an for fun and profit
Pastor Jones wants to burn books calling the Qur'an hate filled. He's probably right. Of course, you could say the same thing about the Bible. With believers back to to accusing each other of crimes against god, it's a good time to be an atheist.
Pastor Jones original announcement to burn 200 copies of the Koran met with a storm of protest. Everyone from the President of the United States on down has chimed in condemning the action. The media has had a field day. The level of attention given over to the spiritual leader of less than 100 people, planning to burn 200 copies of what he claims is a hate filled book, seems out of all proportion. Why the world-wide attention? One reason may be that Pastor Jones is right.
The message from our political leadership seems to reinforce this view. President Obama called the actions of Terry Jones "contrary to what this nation was founded on," but the bulk of his comments focused not on the principle, but on the reaction the book burning would have in Islamic nations. The President said: "We are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform." "This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sacrificing for us to keep us safe. You don't play games with that." According to news reports, Defense Secretary Robert Gates followed up by phoning the Pastor and warning him that he was putting the lives of US soldiers at risk - especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Canada, the government chose to respond through the Defense Minister as well. Peter MacKay expressed concern about the safety of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan saying. "By burning the Qur'an, it sends a horrible message of intolerance. It will, in some fashion, encourage further violence."
They are right course. Burning the Qur'an, is bound to get a violent reaction in Islamic nations - riots and murder at a minimum. So will printing cartoons depicting the prophet or writing an unflattering books about Islam. So in being right, everyone from the U.S. President to Peter MacKay are making Pastor Jone's point for him. If the Qur'an isn't hate filled, if Islam isn't a violent religion, why all the concern for the Islamic reaction and so little for the principle? Everyone, the media included, paid attention to Pastor Terry Jones because they knew the violent reaction burning the Qur'an would generate in Islamic countries and they knew it would make great grist for the mill - even better television.
It is the right of Pastor Jones to burn the Qur'an or any other book. But by doing so, the Pastor is also making a point in opposition to his intentions. By choosing to burn the Qur'an, to make his point about Islam, he is also making a point about Christianity - that it too is a religion of intolerance and yes, even hate. After all, what kind of people burn books? 100 years before the rise of the Nazi's would prove him right, the German author Heinrich Heine wrote: Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. (Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821 )
The Calgary Herald Weighs In
All this has led to some very entertaining responses. One of the funniest is from, where else?, the Calgary Herald (Canada's largest Christian daily). In a piece entitled: Real followers of Jesus would never burn Qur'an, (Friday September 10, 2010) The Herald's Editorial Page Editor Licia Corbella appeared to follow the line of many others by questioning whether the Pastor Terry Jones is a 'real' Christian. This is an all too common game of the religious. When Islamic terrorists murder innocent people, representatives of the Muslim community are quick to say those responsible are not true Muslims. When a Christian Pastor threatens to burn books in front of his church, Christians deny him as not a real follower of Jesus. Sometimes they deny him three times. It seems the religious can't wash their hands often or fast enough.
It is worthy to note that the Islamic terrorists who blow up buildings and kill children make precisely the same point about their non-violent brethren. It seems peaceful Muslims that fail to follow any number of violent fatwa's aren't considered real Muslims either, at least to those who believe that killing is a moral calling of the faith. At this rate, there won't be any Muslims left in 3 years. Christians are faring no better. There are far too many Christian sects to count and all of them sincerely believe the other guys haven't got it quite right. They all know this, because god told each of them personally.
Amongst this rabid finger pointing as to who is a real Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever, Ms. Corbella seizes upon the opportunity to claim the moral high ground for Christianity. She writes: Virtually all religions share the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But Jesus took things a step further that that. He said: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .' I get it. In a tip of the hat to George Orwell, Ms. Corbella is telling us, All religions are good, it's just that Christianity is better than the others. Oh that mischievous Jesus, always taking things a step further.
Sitting back and watching the party.
All in all, it's a good time to be an atheist. Let's face it, the past couple of years have been difficult for atheists because the focus of religious intolerance has been on us. (I blame Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens for this.) Now that the religious are back to their usual behavior -- attacking one another for not believing in the 'true' god, or being 'real' -- we atheists can duck under the radar, sit back and watch the party (as disgusting as it is).
Maybe one day, when the religious grow up just a little, they will give consideration to an idea. Perhaps the problem isn't that some religions are good, or bad, or violent, or right with god, or not. Just maybe, the problem is with religion itself.
Just a thought.
A small thought - really. Totally undeserving of a fatwa. Or a book burning. Please, I have a family.
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