Writer Chat – the Bible as literature

best book written by a committee

and being the best of a bad lot, is not really an accomplishment…..

Burning the Other Side

Pastor Terry Jones is flip flopping on whether they will or will not burn the Koran on Sept 11, 2010.

It think it’s good that he’s rethinking and perhaps realizing that this story got a lot bigger than he was perhaps expecting – or maybe he thought he would have at home support by other religious groups at least. Support is something he has not gotten – not other religious groups, not the US State Department and not the military.

Everyone is waiting on the decision of this new player on the international media stage to see if he will or won’t demonstrate his patriotism by putting US Troops and likely US and other Western tourists at risk. In fact, one protester has already died.

Reading the comments by a variety of people who are worried about this potential outcome has caused me to step back and look at what that really is saying.

When 9/11 happened, Westerners were cautioned to not blame all Islamic people for the actions of the Al-Quaida. For previous terrorists acts, this was an unspoken understanding, even though the US had a collective bruising with the USS Cole. But 9/11 was an attack not only directly on the sites, symbolically on the physical representation of the American military and economic power but an attack on all Western people.

The stock market took a dive and a lot of people, myself included, lost investments. The insurance companies took a savage beating and raised everyone’s rates to try to recover. Many companies lost their head offices, corporate records and resources and worst of all, employees.

Most people took a collective breath and tried to understand what kind of fanatical hatred does a person have to harbor to fly a plane into a building. Very few people in the US and Canada became vigilantes and sought revenge on anyone who looked Islamic or the Mosques.

9/11 was an attack on the Western world, collectively and individually. Crowds gathered along streets and city squares to collectively grieve and try to make sense – there were no violent riots, no lynch mobs no wide scale assaults on Islamic people or property or businesses.

Yet, there is 10 years later, the expectation that the Islamic sensibility is so frail that the childish actions of one obscure man launched to the international stage by his public temper tantrum will set off a violent riot and increase hostilities. Given the delayed violence over the Danish Cartoons, it is a reasonable assumption.

And that is what should give us pause.

Because how can the West ever satisfy, appease or come to terms with a mass of people who are not operating with the same basic assumptions and goals?

Conflicts are usually fought or diplomatically dealt with on even-ish footing – nation on nation, city state on city state, warlord on warlord. The West is dealing government to…, well, some government, some warlord, some non-governmental groups, but there is no central unifying organization for Western Countries to negotiate with.

How can the West deal with a people who’s sensibilities are so tender that any slight by any Western individual or small group is deemed to be the responsibility of all Westerners?

Especially since the West is not to take terrorist groups as a representation of the whole Islamic World.

Without each side being held to the same standards, there is no common ground.

We cannot refrain from active expression of our rights and freedoms – and no where in the world does anyone have a right to not be offended.

We cannot race to the lowest common denominator and see which side’s population can accomplish the most violent riot.

The middle east gave rise to the major civilizations that have driven history and many advances in mathematics and early science and culture. But what have they contributed to the world since Islam has dominated the region?

I get that the Islamic world is nursing wounds and perceived slights, but have they forgotten that they won the last crusades? The Templar Knights lost, withdrew and went home to be destroyed by European politics and Vatican greed.

Maybe instead of harboring hurts and reveling in resentment, Islamic nations need to decide what it is that the West has that they want and work to achieve it. Or, if they want to reject the Western world, then close their borders to any Western nation and just deal with the nations that they want to deal with.

Christianity in the US continues to slow science, undermine education and dominate US politics, resulting in the decline of the US as a leader/champion of human rights, innovation and scientific advancement. But Islam, being a theocratic and not secular democratic or even secular dictatorship, has effective ended any cultural, scientific or civilization advances in those countries.

It’s not the case that the citizens of Western nations are uniformly educated, enlightened, participating economically and have a sophisticated understanding of history and cultural diversity. But most individuals in the Islamic world have little or no opportunities to be any of those things. Especially women.

Christianity is hampering the US with a bronze age mentality, but Islam hampers by enforcing a bronze age reality.

The modern infrastructure and technologies in the Islamic world are largely imported similar to the way that Peter the Great forced Russia to modernize.

Collectively, we need to stop fighting over who’s bronze age superstitions are better than the other’s bronze age superstitions. Especially as many ages away that the bronze age is from the current information age.

I can no longer believe that the current crusade is about history, economics, culture or anything other than a childish “my god can beat up your god.”

The time for the spread of religion by the word or the sword needs to be over. If anyone thinks that their religion is so great, then let people be curious and convert as they will. If your religion is great and true and real, then the people will come.

One person’s faith should have no impact on any other’s person ability to participate in a religion of their choice – or not participate in any.

We need to stop allowing these so called peaceful religions to drive international conflict and warfare.

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