The Burnings Continue

Pastor Terry Jones, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida and Future Book Burner

Book Burning

The only censorship that I can support is for a person wishing not to be exposed to something they find objectionable is for them to simply avoid it. Censor their own access to the objectionable book, movie, TV show, artwork, idea or whatever.

Religions have a long history of burning what they object to – from witches to books to music recordings.

Christ Community Church members burn Harry Potter and other books

Even as an atheist, I find it disconcerting that an American Christian group is intending to burn the sacred text of another religion. But not really surprising.

Which makes me wonder why any religious person bothers atheists at all – surely it must be easier to convert a believer of one religion to another than a non-believer into a believer of one or another. It’s the other religions that are competing for same pool of believers, after all; atheists don’t recruit.

In many ways, becoming an atheist is very much like coming out queer.

The culture that any of us have grown up in has a majority of heterosexuals and believers in one religion or another. It can be a difficult process to realize that you are not in the majority on either or both counts and it is a difficult process to come out as either or both.

Easier now for people since there’s more people who are publicly atheist or queer. Overall, you have to have a self awareness and be strong enough to be honest about who you are to people who reasonably need to be in the know.

It’s funny to me that in the US, an atheist stands are far less chance of being elected to public office than a gay or lesbian politician.

But I digress…

Book burnings are not an effective means to eliminate ideas – largely because the publicity around the burning event draws the idea into the public sphere. People who would have been indifferent now become curious what’s so offensive about the book, movie, music – and hopefully, will seek out the objectionable material to decide for themselves.

Aside: I own many gay and lesbian books just because they were banned by Canada Customs. It’s not likely that I would have bought many of them had they not been placed on a shelf near the front door of Little Sister’s with a sign that read “Canada Customs doesn’t want you to read these books.” Tabooness is tasty.

Much like the way that protesting a movie increases the box office, book burnings are more likely to increase sales and discussions. If only for the copies bought to burn.

Nazis cleansed "un-German" thoughts into a roaring fire on the Opernplatz in Berlin. May 10, 1933

More than helping spread the “objectionable” idea, the burning of books should be intolerable to anyone not stranded and lacking any other kindling for a fire.

Ideas that are accessible to the masses is an important measure of freedom and rights in any civilization; even bad and offensive ideas. Maybe even especially bad and offensive ideas.

It’s important for people to be exposed to a variety of information, if only to allow a person to defend their beliefs against that information.

That we are in a time period where uneducated amateur opinion repeated often and loudly is deemed on equal footing with educated professional opinions is disturbing. There’s a place for them in public discussions – heck this blog is full of amateur opinions – but not on equal footing.

Aside: This is why Intelligent Design shouldn’t be taught in biology any more than Holocaust Denial should be part of the history class.

But more than the access to ideas and drawing awareness to the material being objected to, is the larger message of hypocrisy.

Any religion or it’s sub-versions demands special consideration and even reverence for their own sacred texts, dogma, rituals, symbols and hierarchy of authority — even from non-adherents. Most religions include the concept of “doing unto others”.

For one religious group to burn the sacred text of another religious group demonstrates the selfish, delusional and hypocritical nature of religion and it’s adherents. Or maybe they believe in “doing unto others before they do unto you.”

Quoran burning is permission to Bible burn.

These same people would be infuriated if any group or individual decided to have a bible bonfire.

Burning Beatles records in Waycross, Georgia. 1966.

As appalling as book burning is to me, I recognize that sometimes people can only understand why an action or behaviour is bad when they are the target of it. Although that’s still not a guarantee that they can turn it around and see why others object to being so treated.

I regret not having a Bible to BBQ for filming and uploading to youtube – but perhaps someone else might and send in the link.

No size spoonful of sugar would help that medicine go down.

Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina burnt non KJV Bibles last Halloween