After Koran Burning, Indefensible Violence

On book-burning and criticizing other religions.

I’m not a person of the Book, whether it be the Bible, the Koran, or any other so-called holy book. As a secular humanist, I’m a person of many books. Book burnings appall me. Criticizing Pastor Jones for his action is my second favorite choice. My favorite would have been to ignore this attention-seeking ignoramus.

The question about the “inflammatory” action of Jones says more about Islam than about Jones. Rather than condemn Pastor Jones for exercising his free speech right to act as a buffoon, I condemn violent responses to his action. No book is more precious than a human life. Books can be replaced, but not human lives. Muslims who felt justified, if not obligated, to kill U.N. workers and others in Afghanistan because of Pastor Jones did more to turn world opinion against Islam than any infidel could ever do. Things got worse when the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan called burning the Koran “insane and totally despicable,” but did not similarly condemn the slaughter of U. N. workers.

There were also violent reactions several years ago when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Muhammad. Atheism, as well as any religion, should be open to criticism without fear of violent reaction. We counter bad speech by good speech, not by killing people. I would not have been so appalled had Muslims taken an eye for an eye approach and burned a Bible in response to the Koran burning. They could even have burned Carl Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World,” since Sagan called into question the demon beliefs of Muslims, Christians, and others.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are known as the three Abrahamic religions because of a spiritual tradition associated with Abraham. As the myth goes, Abraham was a man of such faith that he was willing to kill his son because he believed God wanted him to do it. Such actions should be condemned by all humans, of whatever faith or none.

Image via Al Jazeera English.

Herb Silverman
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