Open letter to PZ Myers

Dear Paul,

I’ve read your writing for years, and have generally admired it.  While I haven’t always agreed with you, we’ve generally seen eye-to-eye on the big issues.  It is out of my respect for you that I’d ask you to re-examine some of your thoughts about the recent non-burning of the Koran.

Of course it’s legal to burn anything (well, usually not cannabis). But speech has consequences. These consequences are not always apparent to people, who may be blinded by their own beliefs, by their own position of privilege, etc. Your careless response to the aborted Koran burning fails on many levels, but especially on the level of empathy.

I’ve already argued that burning books is a form of expression that carries a lot of baggage.  You may feel like a despised minority due to your atheism, but I gotta tell you, from my perspective as an atheist and an ethnic minority, you’re full of shit on this one.  Despite your atheism, you comes from a position of privilege that you are  perhaps too incredulous to see.   The first clue to this blindness comes early in your post:

People just aren’t getting it; they’re so blinded by an inappropriate attachment to magic relics that they’re missing the real issues.

Yeah, but no.  The primary problem from the perspective of a white, male, employed atheist sitting in a house munching on lutefisk and aqvavit (don’t you love stereotypes)  is that of people’s inappropriate attachment to objects.  From the perspective of the poor, deluded people, it’s the threat implied by the action of destroying something sacred to them.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to erect such an enormous straw man to fight, but review this statement.  Humor me.

The problem isn’t a few books being burned; that’s not a crime, and it doesn’t diminish anyone else’s personal freedoms. The problem is a whole fleet of deranged wackaloons, including the president of the USA in addition to raving fundamentalist fanatics, who think open, public criticism and disagreement ought to be forbidden, somehow.

And seriously, this whole silly contretemps would have evaporated if a few people learned to shrug their shoulders and react rationally instead of feeding the fury with Serious Pronouncements and Reprovals.

Paul, the problem isn’t the legality.  It does diminish people’s personal freedoms.  It diminishes their sense of safety and security.  If I become afraid to practice my religion because of violent bigotry, I’m less free.  To tell me to get over it is some seriously fucked up victim-blaming.

I’m tempted to ask you the following question, but also afraid to.  If I could legally obtain a Torah for you, would you burn it? (I wouldn’t but it’s a thought experiment.)

If the answer is “no”, then you’re a hypocrite.  If the answer is “yes”, then you have no understanding of history, of oppression, of fear.

Whether or not you think it appropriate, people imbue objects with meaning.  Why else try to save your house from burning down?  You have insurance, don’t you?  But most people don’t want to lose a house and the objects it contains because they have meaning.  Religious objects are no more or less irrationally revered than family photos.  People give them meaning.

It’s appropriate to call out people on harmful beliefs, to criticize Catholic beliefs about homosexuality, Torah passages about rape, Koran suras about violence.  But collecting and burning religious texts is not simple criticism, it is an attack on the people who hold these texts dear, no matter how irrational they are.

To ignore this is to betray a sense of bigotry, one to which you may be blind.  Think of this as a gentle reminder.

In friendship and collegiality,

Peter

193 Comments

  1. codemenkey

     /  September 11, 2010

    Are not Muslims and atheists in the same position in this country being despised minorities? Is not burning a Qu’ran precisely the same sort of vandalism as which takes place on atheist billboards? That whole reciprocation thing kind of comes into play; if we want to be supported in our endeavors to be recognized, should we not stand up for those who strive for the same?

    • “Is not burning a Qu’ran precisely the same sort of vandalism as which takes place on atheist billboards?”

      Not at all. The latter is outright vandalism, involving as it does damage to the property of another person or group. Burning one’s personal copy of an atheistic text such as “The God Delusion” would be a more apt example, and I imagine PZ (given his destruction of one such volume in “crackergate”) wouldn’t be too bothered by it. Nor would I.

      • Ariella

         /  September 13, 2010

        codemenkey has it right, it’s the same sort of intimidatory gesture that makes the victim feel attacked, disrespected and threatened.
        The burning is technically legal, as was PZ’s move, where vandalism is not, but that does not change the effects of the action.

  2. Peter, you just don’t seem to get that the fact that believers don’t get a wild card to impose their believes on non believers.

    They can cry and play offended as much as they like, but that will not make me get on my knees and follow their rules.

    If anything, this is test for the torlerance of muslims.

    • Dianne

       /  September 11, 2010

      How is asking people not to burn the Koran imposing a belief on non-believers? As far as I know, no (sane and moderate) Islamic leaders are demanding that Jones or PZ Myers or anyone else actually read, much less follow, the Koran.

      • By “imposing their believes on us” i meant the assumption by muslims that somehow their religious rules apply to non-believers as well.

        We do not have to hold their fairy tails books sacred.

        That’s all.

        • Completely irrelevant and off topic

          • No, it isn’t, and your thinking it does shows how much you’re missing the point. If muslims, no matter if it’s three or all of them, threaten to go apeshit because some asshat plans to burn a book they like (which is his own bloody property and his to wipe his arse with if he pleases), we cannot reply by shakily asking for forgiveness and promising never to think such naughty thoughts ever again. They have ridiculous demands, based in their obscene little fairytales, and we will tell them to fuck off with those demands. They will threaten violence, and it will only increase the vehemence of our contempt.

            Concerning the article: seriously, PalMD, someone in Florida burning some fucking book limits your freedom? Are you serious? Are you that desperate to stop this idiot from doing this stupid little thing that you’ll actually try to set up this laughable strawman? How about me blaspheming when I stub my toe? Does that limit your freedoms too?

            As soon as I buy a bible, a tora, a quran, a copy of Moby Dick or the latest Batman issue, I own it and it is mine to do with as I please. That is the end of it. I limit no one’s freedoms by destroying them. If you feel so threatened by someone setting fire to a religious text, I’d say he’s not to blame for attacking your liberty, but you are for being a weak-kneed, pearl-clutching ninny who apparently will happily parade around freedom of speech on a stick until the wrong people are offended.

            Bah, what disappointing nonsense this letter contains.

          • A completely asinine and ahistorical analysis. Nice.

          • Thanks for addressing what I said. I feel thoroughly refuted.

          • RvS

             /  September 13, 2010

            You, Sir, are asinine by so carelessly dismissing a good rebuttal.

            Which sensibilities should we take into consideration and which can be carelessly dismissed when it concerns what is “holy”?

            Cows are sacred to Hindu’s, so I guess we should stop eating cows?
            Or do we only stop eating cows when they start threatening with violence?

          • Ahh well, isn’t it nice how easily one can dismiss statements one cannot refute.

            I think you are are just a troll who wanted to ride on the koran-burning-“contoversy” wave to get some hits to your site.
            And i must admit that by picking on P.Z. you got quite a bit of attention, unfortunately that included mine.

          • pandera

             /  September 14, 2010

            I invested meaning into rob’s post. You have deeply offended me by douchily and cravenly dismissing it while avoiding all substance in your reply. I feel threatened by your sour tone. (seems to be your m.o. – are you sure you want to post on the internet? Maybe a private journal would be safer?) Have you no empathy sir? At long last, have you no empathy?

          • Matt

             /  September 13, 2010

            PalMD,

            If you think it isn’t on topic, then you missed literally the ENTIRE point of PZ s orginal post.

        • Dianne

           /  September 13, 2010

          We do not have to hold their fairy tails books sacred.

          So…asking people not to burn books, especially if that request is made because you’re worried about people who you strongly disagree with will get violent if the burning takes place is holding those books sacred? I wouldn’t burn the Koran, the Bible, the Karma Sutra, or the collected works of Jack Chick. Especially not if I thought doing so would cause (for example) Chick’s followers to get agitated and become more likely to shoot yet another OB. But that doesn’t mean I hold any of the above sacred.

          • I suggest you read P.Z.’s reply to this crappy open letter.
            http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/09/sunday_sacrilege_respect_is_no.php

            Excerp: “No one is saying you can’t irrationally revere some religious object — we’re just saying you can’t tell others that they must irrationally revere your religious object, and you especially can’t tell others that their cheap, mass-produced copy of your religious object must be treated in some special way.”

            That is exactly how i feel about it. I couldn’t make it any clearer.

          • Nick

             /  September 13, 2010

            Dianne, it’s very likely that at this moment, just by the way you live your life, you are doing something that would cause someone in the world to want to do violence to you and others. Are you wearing a burqa at the moment? Because there are no doubt some Musmlims who would want to stone you for your immodesty. Does that mean you ought to cover yourself, lest their intolerance spill over into violence? Or is it more reasonable to recognize that crazy, evil people will always find excuses to do crazy, evil things, and that this is hardly a reason for good people to surrender their freedoms.

  3. Galwayskeptic

     /  September 11, 2010

    This isn’t constructive or fair. The statement,

    ‘this whole silly contretemps would have evaporated if a few people learned to shrug their shoulders and react rationally instead of feeding the fury with Serious Pronouncements and Reprovals.’

    is a true one. Giving this guy the oxygen he needs, through publicity has resulted in this kind of response:

    http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2010/09/koran-burning-been-there-done-that-say.html

    Where was the furore regarding that particular burning? How does one actually ‘stop’ somebody burning books, under the legislation that exists in America?

    I respectfully suggest that you have forsaken your characteristic rationalism in respect to this event. I agree with you that there is a problem regarding Islamophobia in America, but I don’t think this is an appropriate front on which to fight it. I can see no way of meaningfully tackling the problem; assuming no laws are broken by that idiot pastor. I would contrast that with opposition to ‘the ground zero mosque’ where groups are suggesting that the rent or purchase of private property, on the free market be opposed on the basis of the interested party’s religion. That would be a clear violation of the first and fourteenth amendments of the United States’ constitution. Opponents of the kind of discrimination we’re discussing (and I would consider myself one) have a lot more to work with in a case such as this. However, those same amendments grant the right to that abominable pastor to burn his books. I don’t agree with what he’s doing, but it’s the price we pay for freedom of speech.

    Also, I don’t understand the distinction you’ve made in your previous post between PZ’s desecration of the cracker and the burning of a Qu’ran. There is no distinction, aside from the fact that nobody fears violent retaliation from cracker worshippers? Here’s a link to a report regarding the response to the pastor’s plans and I’ve highlighted a few quotations which I would take umbridge with:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/asia/11afghan.html?hp

    “If burning the Koran ever did happen,” he said, “every foreigner in this country, one hundred percent of them, will be in trouble. Every Muslim is responsible to show their reaction to that. It is the right thing to do.”

    “The police commander said protesters outside the German base were angered because of reports that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, had attended an award ceremony in Berlin for the Danish cartoonist whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad angered Muslims worldwide.”

    I don’t believe that the threat of violence should cause us to favour the symbols of any religion. I’ve haven’t observed any such similar response to ‘blasphemy’ against any other religion and so can only conclude that these responses are born (maybe subconsciously?) from fear of retaliation. Discrimination is better fought within the constraints of the law and without the ‘baggage’ of religious symbology distracting from the issues.

    I hope this issue gets settled amicably. Both you and PZ have proven yourselves staunch opponents of irrationality and ignorance. Whatever, the outcome, it won’t stop me reading your excellent blog, which I find both educational and thought-provoking.

  4. I would like very much to see a respose to the Galway skeptic’s post which sums up my thoughts exactly. I think we need to make a clear distinction between what types of behaviour we disapprove of and the types of behaviour we would deny people in a legal sense. The real problem here is surely people asking for disproportionate sensitivity on religious grounds? I wonder of those adopting Peters point of view fear the Islamic backlash more than the threat to moderate Muslims *sense* of security. It’s a sad day when we put fear before our freedom.

  5. Lutefisk Burrito

     /  September 11, 2010

    PZ can talk all he likes, but he will never personally burn a Koran. I think he’s afraid to fuck with these folks.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 11, 2010

      He did mention he ripped out a few pages, along with pages from the Bible and The God Delusion and tossed them in the bin along with the cracker of ‘crackergate’ fame.

      It’s not a game of dares we’re playing here. That was (I think!) a one-off incident designed to illustrate his point, that religion should be afforded no special treatment and that the treatment the student of the original crackergate, was unacceptable. That behaviour was specific to the context of that story and the political pressure and terrible treatment that student was experiencing at the time.

      There’s no real reason why anyone should burn a Qu’ran. It’s stupid. In my opinion, so is discussing the subjective, symbolic significance of burning a book. It’s a sad day for skeptics when they see fit to wade into the murky, self-righteous waters of religious symbolism. If you’re interested in what my argument is (and I don’t presume anybody is), see above.

  6. @Kevin
    I understand that some of these concepts may be new and complicated, so I’ll simplify it.

    I would refuse to burn a Koran not out of fear for what would happen to me, but out of concern for what would happen to Muslims.

    • Kevin Mc Inerney

       /  September 11, 2010

      Readers will note that you have not addressed GalwaySkeptics post.

      “I would refuse to burn a Koran not out of fear for what would happen to me, but out of concern for what would happen to Muslims.”

      I would refuse to prevent the burning of Korans for fear of what would happen to the freedoms of Americans and moderate Muslims living in the US.

      Again, I would like to see a response to GalwaySkeptics post which is a more comprehensive overview of my position.

    • “I would refuse to burn a Koran”

      Which is irrelevant too, because nobody asked you (or PZ) to burn a Koran. But while asking for “respect”, you effectively argue for suppression of free speech.

  7. proflikesubstance

     /  September 11, 2010

    Excellent post. I think it is critical that we recognize that how WE perceive our actions is not necessarily how others perceive them. To lose sight of this is to say that the experiences and opinions of others matter not to you unless they see the world through your eyes.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 11, 2010

      How do you propose we act in ways that will not offend others’ perceptions of the world?

      • Galwayskeptic

         /  September 11, 2010

        *all others; not just Muslims, that is.

      • I never suggested we should avoid offending others. I suggesting we should avoid threatening them.

        • Galwayskeptic

           /  September 11, 2010

          Agreed. I won’t be threatening any Muslims now or anytime else. I shall encourage others to act in the same way, while protesting incidents where explicit, observable threats take place.

          I know the burning of Qu’rans could be/will be perceived as threatening to Muslims. However, there’s nothing we can do about it other than to express our solidarity with Muslims experiencing real, constitutionally forbidden, discrimination. So much of that takes place that I only question whether this instance is really the best field on which to fight this battle.

          I say look to New York, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. People who expressly AREN’T leaders of a congregation of 50 people and take them on instead.

          Barrack Obama finally found his testicles/felt pressured enough to today make this statement:

          “This country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.”

        • Offense: I am burning a copy of your holy book because it is stupid.

          Offense: I am drawing a picture of your sacred prophet because you are acting silly.

          Threat: I am going to kill you for burning my sacred family photos.

          Threat: I am burning a cross on your law to remind you that a group of armed men want you to move out of the neighborhood.

          Threat: I am burning down your house of worship and you should feel lucky if you are not in it when I do it.

          • Offense: I’m burning a Koran just to show that I can.

            Threat: We are going to burn a pile of your sacred texts to remind you that you are despised in this society and that we can do anything to you.

          • African Americans had no legal recourse when they were beaten and killed for living in a neighborhood. The burning cross on their lawn was a specific threat that they, the actual people living at that house, would be killed if they did not move. That made it a direct threat, not just an insult.

            The Gainesville bonfire is no such direct threat.

            I have heard of no problems with Muslims being denied legal recourse in this nation which is good. If anyone makes a direct threat they should be prosecuted.

            As an atheist I am “threatened” all the time by general statements about how I should not be allowed to live in this country. I consider them to be insults until there is a specific reason to feel I will come to harm.

            I still don’t see how someone burning copies of my sacred family photos should be considered threatening to me.

          • Dianne

             /  September 11, 2010

            Threat: I’m going to burn a bunch of copies of your sacred text even though I know that doing so is likely to get a bunch of people hurt or killed in order to get my way (ie meet with a leader of your religion.)

          • Ah, yes. The “think of the children” argument.

            I don’t think that this, shall we say, less then average intelligent pastor had a secret master plan to meet with Imams in NYC and ruthlessly created world violence so he could get a free Halal meal in Manhattan.

  8. Christina Pikas

     /  September 11, 2010

    It’s a matter of being considerate and respectful. A considerate and respectful adult does not go around intentionally hurting other people or destroying things other people hold dear. It doesn’t matter whether or not you share their beliefs, you do it out of respect. You can still be an atheist and respect that others do find these things important.

    It’s no better to disrespect Catholics or Jews than it is to disrespect Muslims – it’s just that you’re less likely to get bombed or have your fellow citizens overseas killed as a result.

    • Dianne

       /  September 11, 2010

      It’s no better to disrespect Catholics or Jews than it is to disrespect Muslims – it’s just that you’re less likely to get bombed or have your fellow citizens overseas killed as a result.

      Yeah, yeah, tell it to George Tiller. Or the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Or of the IRA. Or victims of the Irish famine. Or to people “relocated” to make room for settlements in the West Bank. I don’t blame Christians or Jews as a group for any of the above, but the fact remains that there are no religions that have never had any atrocities committed in their names. And I am deeply afraid of a Christian bombing of Park51.

      • Kevin Mc Inerney

         /  September 11, 2010

        There is a great deal of goodwill and kindness on behalf of those urging us to condemn Terry Jones and protect Muslims. It is cruel and inconsiderate to intetionally destroy that which is held sacred by another individual. But, I plead with you you to consider that which I consider sacred; freedom of expression and tolerance. Does my atheism mean that I am robbed of any consideration and respect because I have no God to bolster my convictions and sensitivity regarding freedom of expression and personal liberty?

        • Are you intentionally idiotic or is it simply natural? You are completely off topic. WTF are you even talking about?

          • Allienne Goddard

             /  September 13, 2010

            I understand that you might be feeling put upon by all the criticism of your position, but that appears completely unnecessary. I’m not a regular, so perhaps you have a history with Kevin with which I am not aware, but if not, you are just being lazy. It is quite easy to see that Kevin is suggesting that his own deeply held beliefs about freedom of expression and tolerance ought to deserve the same consideration as the sacred beliefs of Muslims. You might simply have reiterated that the essential point to your argument is that Muslims are a far more marginalized group than either freedom of expression and tolerance or atheists, and that consequently the act of disrespect does not have the same effects. Jesus, I was able to see all that, and I’m completely drunk.

            P.S. If I am actually posting to the Miley Cyrus appreciation board and have misunderstood the conversation, then I apologize.

          • Nick

             /  September 13, 2010

            Pal, if you don’t understand the argument Kevin is making here, then I would suggest you are the one being idiotic (or willfully obtuse). But sadly, it seems like in the case of this particular topic you are more interested in insulting people who disagree with you than in addressing their substantiative criticisms. I’m sorry, but it does very little to support your position.

  9. Dianne

     /  September 11, 2010

    I’m not feeling the most friendly towards religion today. It’s the anniversary of the day that a few fanatics ran a couple of planes into some office buildings a few blocks from where I live. People are remembering the event in a number of ways including reenacting the crucifixion of Christ in downtown Manhattan (yeah, I don’t know what that has to do with anything either), passing out pamphlets saying Muslims, gays, and abortion are evil (wait…what? aren’t most hard line Muslims also anti…never mind), blocking off nearby streets (presumably to keep people away from Park51, but it’s inconvenient for me since it blocks the most direct route to the store and the park) and screaming and honking horns in front of the WTC site.

    Can we just get over this a little now? I know the people who lost relatives will always mourn, but does that give them the right to abuse others? My main thought on 9/11/01 was that this was an awful act. So awful that I didn’t want it or anything like it to happen again anywhere ever. It seems eternally shameful to me that the majority of people reacted by demanding that we do the same thing (ie use planes to destroy buildings) in not one but two other countries almost immediately after. Do you feel better somehow knowing that Iraqis and Afghanis have also lost relatives and city centers? The only revenge I want now is recovery. A rebuilt trade center, stronger, prettier, more desirable as office space. A vital, multicultural downtown. Let the WTC be a tourist site like the “hollow tooth” in Berlin, a memory of a worse time, but don’t forget the present.

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Blah blah blah, some dudes blew up some building, no one really cares. What’s silly is that this made you annoyed with ‘religion’.
      Do you think that they would have done what they did without any political or economic motivation, such as America fucking with their countries repeatedly and violently?
      In 1392 Emperor Hammurabi spared the lives of 6000 people after their priests intervened and convinced him God would oppose their murder. Also, there were some political and economic benefits. Has this now made you happy with religion? That’s twice as many as ‘religion’ killed before. No wait, there were some political and economic benefits, it would be foolish to ascribe blame to one aspect of his decision without, y’know, investigating the context.

  10. Eleusis

     /  September 11, 2010

    Remember the violent reaction that Muslims had to the Danish cartoons? We’re supposed to kowtow to that insanity? Muslims are hypersensitive to any offense to their religion, and any cognitive behavioral therapist will tell you that the proper treatment is repeated exposure. Do it often and conspicuously until they understand that their violent, primitive insanity will not dictate the behavior of the world.

    There is no reason to be “considerate and respectful” of people who threaten to kill anyone who offends them. Fuck them.

    • Eleusis

       /  September 11, 2010

      Also, some imams put a fatwa on Mark Zuckerberg for allowing the Everyone Draw Muhammed Facebook group. But they can’t go after all 12,000 people who posted images to the group. This is why the more people who are involved, the better. Post a thousand videos of Korans burning on YouTube. It will be great psychotherapy for them.

    • Kevin Mc Inerney

       /  September 11, 2010

      What about what we hold sacred? Freedom of expression. Do we let our values just disintegrate slowly in a poison bath of cultural relativism. If Muslims, even moderates, are so offended by free speech then they should go somewhere where they won’t be offended. The same goes to Terry Jones.You can have values and convictions without a god or a holy book. I believe in free speech for better or for worse. Some clealy don’t

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Yeah, there used to be a guy at my school who was incredibly touchy. People had been picking on him for years, and he’d never been a particularly friendly guy to begin with. We used to actually stick his head down to toilet, for real, and he was always finding himself on the end of a gang beating. (we never killed him though!) He said it’s because we were racist, but it wasn’t that. We used to play a great game where one person would tap him on the shoulder when he was talking to someone else, he’d turn, see no-one then when he turned back the first person would slap him in the face, and we’d all run away giggling.
      Anyway, towards the end he was a right arsehole, even when no one was hitting him he was twitchy and aggressive as fuck. He would threaten to hurt even kill people who got on the wrong side of him.
      I was never considerate or respectful to him and I’m proud of it, because he didn’t deserve it.

      • wow

         /  September 13, 2010

        Sounds like you guys were the bullies and he was the one being bullied, to me. What’s it like being an asshole?

  11. Yes, the Danish cartoon incident was exactly analogous to a book burning in the U.S. Well played.

    • Actually it is. The Danish cartoon incident started out because a newspaper with a heavy anti-immigrant stance wanted to show a despised minority (conveniently called “Muslims” even though it really consists of any person from a non-Western country) who was the boss in Denmark.

      In other words, they wanted to put the Muslims into their place (no, it had nothing to do with free speech, as the same newspaper had refused a couple of years earlier to print cartoons making fun of Jesus).

  12. Burning Korans is little different from showing up at funerals with signs that read “God Hates Fags”. Is PZ also going to defend the Westboro Baptist Chruch?

    Something can be an entirely legal exercise of free expression and still be completely and totally asinine.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 11, 2010

      How do you work that one out genius? PZ has on numerous occasions attacked that church and has stood by victims of oppression in many instances. That’s why he got ‘Humanist of the Year’ in 2010. He’s used his blog to draw attention to issues such as clerical child sex abuse, victims of fundamentalist religious violence and many feminist causes.

      You have contributed to this debate a woefully off-target soundbyte. PZ didn’t defend burning Qu’rans. Read his post before commenting, would you?

      Nobody is denying the burning of the Qu’ran is asinine, but what do you suppose we do about it?! It’s the question nobody’s answering. All I’ve seen is empty rhetoric. You want your first amendment rights? Then you can’t stop him burning Qu’rans, no matter how distasteful you find it.

      Oh and by the way, your comparison makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Ariella

         /  September 13, 2010

        Yeah, he attacks that church because he’s a giant hypocrite. It’s ‘freedom of expression’ and not respecting inanimate objects when he does it, but he won’t defend it when they do it.
        What they both need to learn is that it’s asinine and aggressive when either one of them does it, and puts them both in the same category of aggressive shit stirrers.

        • wow

           /  September 13, 2010

          Now this, I agree with.

        • Tyro

           /  September 14, 2010

          He has insulted them, attacked their arguments and called them names but he has always maintained the position that they should be free to put up their idiotic signs and make their idiotic speeches.

          It’s the same thing here. He says that people should have the right to burn Korans but that we should have the right to call them bigots and idiots. That you somehow imagine it’s hypocritical to support freedom of speech while thinking the content of some speech is idiotic shows how little you understand these issues.

  13. We are right back to arguing over the right to not be insulted.

    If I were to make copies of my “sacred” family pictures and sell them, should I insist that everyone revere them as much as I do and forbid them from being destroyed?

    • It puts PZ in good company with Palin and Dr Laura

      • Galwayskeptic

         /  September 11, 2010

        PZ in company with Palin? The collegiality has evaporated and PZ hasn’t even responded yet!

        Evidently, seeing opposing points of view is causing serious cognitive dissonance. This isn’t how rational people debate an issue. How about we all leave the hysteria and hyperbole to creationists, anti-vaccers and the rest of their ilk!

      • Your’e joking, right? Your argument is based upon who agrees with whom?

  14. Kevin Mc Inerney

     /  September 11, 2010

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions but at least we’re all being repsectful. Fuck that. What do you propose we do with people who burn their own property? If you don’t have an answer then your needlessly drawing attention to a devise topic. Congratulations.

  15. Kevin, you’ve ceased to make sense.

    • Kevin Mc Inerney

       /  September 11, 2010

      Here is what I am asking you PalMD.

      What do you propose we do with people who want to burn their own property such as the Koran?

      A. Nothing……..

      B. Something………

      If B then please give your reasons……….

      • If you were to engage in a more honest and open reading of my post, you wouldn’t have to ask just a pigheadedly ignorant question.

        I don’t propose we do anything to people who would, for example, burn Qur’ans.

        I don’t expect that explaining it to some whackjob religious fundamentalist in FL will change him. I would expect a non-fundamentalist non-whackjob to understand the difference between doing something offensive, and doing something threatening.

        • If it’s really a threatening act, it should be illegal. Threatening people with harm should be illegal. In fact, I thought threatening people with harm was illegal in the US.

          Why hasn’t the pastor been arrested then?

          • You’re being purposely daft.

          • Andrew

             /  January 19, 2011

            You are the most annoying blog host I’ve come across in awhile! Just be respectful. Sam Harris comes to mind, you could take lessons from him. Look up to him a bit, ya know?

        • I doubt Terry Jones decision to cancel the Qur’an burning will melt the hearts of the hardline extremists who are the one’s posing the real threat to American citizens. The threat to Muslim-American citizens should be minimimized by the those Muslims coming out and making their tolerance known with a shoulder shrugg of indifference. And to their credit I am aware no large protests by American-Muslims. Upholding the first amendment and simultaneously condenming those who practice it is just strange to me. Religious intolerance, for instance burning Qur’ans, and religious sensitivity are two sides of the same coin and we can’t appease one by attacking the other. What I mean by that is, the more we appeal to Muslims’ sensitivity the more we inflame the sensibilities of Terry Jones and his ilk while also undermining our own freedoms. It’s lose lose. The reason we ultimatley side with the Muslims’ sensitivities is that we are more afraid of them. Is that fair? Should Terry Jones start bombing innocents too in order for us to consider his feelings? We can’t afford to bend over to either side when it is the very same religious sensitivity & intolerance which caused the entire conflict to begin with. A hardline needs to be taken which says you are free to practice your own religion within the confines of the rights we all must live under together and nothing extra. No milk and cookies for the cry baby.

        • RvS

           /  September 13, 2010

          Dear PaIMD,

          I honestly do not understand why burning a book is somehow a threat to (all?) Muslims. It is offensive, but there is no call for (violent) actions that somehow infringe upon the rights of Muslims.

          PaIMD wrote: “Threat: We are going to burn a pile of your sacred texts to remind you that you are despised in this society and that we can do anything to you.”

          This does not hold any water, Sir. Burning a book in no way means that “we can do anything to you”, neither does it follow that “you are despised in this society”.

          PaIMD wrote: “I would expect a non-fundamentalist non-whackjob to understand the difference between doing something offensive, and doing something threatening.”

          Apparently there are multiple people who seem to have a different view then you do on this. It would be helpful if you could explain why this offense (as I see it) is “an expression of an intention to inflict pain, injury, evil, or punishment.”

        • MosesZD

           /  September 13, 2010

          It was honest. You just don’t want to acknowledge your straw-man-argument sand-castle.

          It’s not your cheap, mass-produced book of little literary worth or practical use. Neither does it belong to any other single protester any where in the world. It is HIS damn book and he can damn well do what he wants.

          Just like anyone is allowed to burn his/her own flag. Regardless of how you, or any other, person may get butt hurt over it…

  16. OK, let’s look at it from the perspective of a different religion.

    Cows are sacred to Hindu believers. Is a Texas barbecue insulting to many Hindus? I’m sure it is. Are Texas barbecues a threat to Hindus?

    Of course the difference is in intent, not in the act, which is the problem. Dianne doesn’t seem to care about the intent. She thinks it was nothing but a publicity stunt yet still sees it as a threat. That would mean that any Texas barbecue that is part of a publicity stunt would also be a threat to Hindus.

    I’m guessing that PalMD sees the Koran burning not as a stunt, but as someone sending a threatening message. So I’ll grant him a difference in intents between the Gainesville Koran Barbecue and the Great Texas Cow Barbecue.

    But if that’s the case then we really do need to condemn the intent and not the action. We need to condemn the hatred while maintaining the principles of free speech. I don’t hate Muslims as a people. I do think that any religious person is deluded into an unreasoned world view.

    If I burned a pile of Korans to protest a lack of reason in the world would that still threaten Muslims? If I burned a pile of Korans, Torahs and Bibles all at once would it be threatening to all of the followers of Abraham? What if I threw in copies of the Rig-Veda and Kojiki into the same pyre?

    Of course condemning intentions is a dangerous road to follow as well since it requires the thought police to enforce.

    • Cerus

       /  September 11, 2010

      “we really do need to condemn the intent and not the action. ”

      Are you being purposefully obtuse?
      Jone’s intentions are entirely intertwined with his actions. He did not set out to say that his burning of the Qurans were his first amendment right. His intent was to attack Muslims and he made it known that his actions followed this line. His purpose was to threaten and bully to incite others into violence. He made it clear that those were his wishes, and when he got his wish he pointed and said “see they’re violent.”

      Also, if you burned a stack of religious texts to protest a lack of reason, I would suggest you look inward before striking outward.

      • You know that Jone’s intent was to incite violence. (Incitement to violence really is a crime in the US and Jones should be arrested if there is reasonable evidence of that intent.)

        Dianne above knows that Jone’s intent was to gain publicity.

        I know that Jone’s intent was to insult Muslims. (Actually, I don’t “know” that, but if you get to play why can’t I?)

        What is the sacred text of the thought police? I’d like to add that to my bonfire.

        Look inward before striking outward? “Close cover before striking match” seems like more useful advice.

        • Cerus

           /  September 11, 2010

          Kengi,

          I have no sacred texts, for all texts have biases and omissions, even the Constitution which allows me to say these things and defend the Pastor’s actions is still biased.

          I never once said I didn’t still support his right to burn the Korans, I disagree with him doing it because given his past writings, I doubt his intentions, and I don’t think that his later claims of “it’s our rights because we’re American” had any play until he received great media attention, which was the problem in the first place.

          As per your repeated chicken little calls of “thought police”, upon canceling his event “Jones said that his church’s goal was ‘to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical.’

          http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39113743/ns/us_news-security/

          He told NBC that ‘we have definitely accomplished that mission.”

          So, I wonder how would he approach doing such a task?

          In addition, if the man, or you, wants to burn the books, instead of reading them and pointing out where Muslims are wrong, he has that right and I will defend it to the death, but don’t dare say you’re doing so in defense of reason and don’t expect me to defend the celebration of ignorance.

          As Milton once said, “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” To burn the books is to set reason back and put censorship and irrationality forward. I would argue that to promote the reading of those books from cover to cover would create more atheists than those pages turning to ash ever will.

          • Cerus

             /  September 11, 2010

            As Milton once said, “Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

          • “but don’t dare say you’re doing so in defense of reason”

            Yes, I see how committed you are to freedom of speech…

            You have elevated the paper, ink and canvas to the same level as the ideas contained in a book. No matter how many Korans that Jones and others burn the ideas within, stupid or otherwise, can’t be suppressed in the fire. Flag worshipers have the same misconception.

            I won’t be making any of my own book bonfires (unless I’m cold), not because I’m concerned about insulting people or because it is somehow evil, but because it would be a pointless act. The religious of the world need to see that as well. Copies of books are not sacred to me. Crackers blessed by men in dresses are not sacred to me. Copies of my family photos are not sacred to me. Try to look beyond the physical media. This isn’t Alexandria in the first century.

            Take a break from Milton and read “Fahrenheit 451”.

          • PCB

             /  September 13, 2010

            You’re being far too literal in your argument. Yes, it is just a book that is owned by the person burning it and, yes, the ideas (horrid and backward though they may be) will carry on, but you miss the point completely. It’s symbolic destruction of the ideas contained within the “paper and ink” that upsets people. It is meant to be an insult and a threat. (old meme alert: KILL IT WITH FIRE!)
            That said, I agree that one has every right to destroy their own property (to an extent) but seriously, this is what the whole “don’t be a dick” thing was about. The preacher is being a dick, and he has every right to be, but should he? What’s the point outside of drawing in more tax-free cash for himself? This isn’t about freedom or rights. It’s about being a reasonable human being.
            Furthermore, are you really saying that you agree with this fundy asshole symbolically stating that his belief structure will burn all others from the earth? ( Of course Islam comes first for tea party wackjob cred on 9/11.) Yeah, it’s his right, but should he?
            (I know he backed out because he got outplayed on the “patriot” card by the administration stating that the book burning will “harm the troops.” I couldn’t help but reply.)

          • Ariella

             /  September 13, 2010

            Exactly, it’s his right to be a dick, but what has he gained from it? PZ should look to that as a lesson.

          • The more I think about it burning some books (maybe by Milton?) might not be pointless. It was pointless right up until people made the wad of paper and canvas sacred.

            I’ve got some Milton lying around somewhere. I’ll go out in the alley and burn a copy of something he wrote. The point? I guess to annoy Cerus. Otherwise it would be pretty pointless since it’s a warm evening.

  17. The Blind Watchmaker

     /  September 11, 2010

    I agree. We are talking about intentions here.

    If I burn a picture of you and film it so that I know that you will see it burn, then it is obvious that my intent is to let you know that I hate you. My intent is to make you feel threatened. I shouldn’t be surprised if you reacted badly to this display.

    Same thing.

    • The thought police have arrived! The Watchmaker has the ability to know the intent of my actions and considers those intents obvious. Just because you are filled with hate for others doesn’t mean you should assume others are filled with the same hate.

      Someone might burn my picture because they think I’m ugly and film it because they want the world to know how ugly I am. Maybe they don’t hate me but just hate my last haircut and are sending me a message to get a new barber.

      Even if you do it because you hate me, I still would not feel threatened by you. I would start by thinking you were kind of stupid for thinking that burning my picture would harm me somehow. I would figure that you were some sort of ignorant fool who believed that my soul was captured in that picture and you were preventing me from getting to the afterlife.

      If you like I can provide links that explain how photography works. It is not magic that captures people’s souls.

      • Ariella

         /  September 13, 2010

        Man, it’s sad when people start dissembling and using the fact that we can never know fully what’s going on in someone’s head to suggest that we can never know anything about their intentions. – If they’re burning the surplus from a bookshop, which includes some Korans then no one is going to think it’s an attack on Islam or Muslims – this Pastor was clearly intending one. If you can’t see that then you’re being stupid, willfully or otherwise.

  18. We condemn intentions all the time. It doesn’t require thought police to distinguish first degree murder from second degree murder, even though a crucial distinction there is whether the murderer acted with “malice aforethought.” That’s a measure of intention and mental state, and jurors and police have no trouble acting on that basis. Neither is it hard to distinguish the intent distinguishing a hate crime from other crimes.

    And that latter is the best analogy, though it is only an analogy as no one is suggesting criminal sanctions. People are legally allowed to burn a Koran so long as it’s their Koran and they obey local laws concerning open flames. But it might still be a bad idea, just as it would be legal, tasty, and in poor taste to hold a barbecue protesting Hindu nationalist violence in India.

    Hate speech is still speech, and rightly receives first amendment protection in the US. It should get the same protection in other countries as well (though it doesn’t always). But the intent of burning a Koran in this case is very specifically and explicitly to signal that Terry Jones and his supporters think Muslims are not welcome in their community, in their country, and perhaps in their world. It’s the same symbolism as burning a cross on your own land, but in clear view of your black neighbors, or burning your own Torah in front of a Jewish audience. It may be protected speech, but it’s a bad idea because it tells certain populations of people that they are not welcome in your community.

    When PZ tore off sheets of a Koran as part of Crackergate, his intent was not to say that Muslims are unwelcome any more than his intent was to say that Catholics are unwelcome. His point was that religion is unwelcome, which creates its own set of problems, but it’s an important distinction. Whether it’s a distinction that should temper any of the open letter above is an exercise left to the reader.

    • Sheesh

       /  September 13, 2010

      And that latter is the best analogy, though it is only an analogy as no one is suggesting criminal sanctions.

      WHY NOT? If this is such a huge and unmistakable threat as PalMD [and you?] insist[s] why hasn’t this man, this pastor, and his co-conspirators been arrested.

      THREATENING PEOPLE IS ILLEGAL.

    • Sven DiMilo

       /  September 13, 2010

      When PZ tore off sheets of a Koran as part of Crackergate, his intent was not to say that Muslims are unwelcome any more than his intent was to say that Catholics are unwelcome. His point was that religion is unwelcome

      No. His point, which was explicit, had a meaningful context you are disingenuously eliding,and which was made with the cracker, a Koran page, and a page of Dawkins, was that “nothing is sacred.” It’s stupid to get violent over mere objects.
      And you are lying.

      • Ariella

         /  September 13, 2010

        It’s interesting, he got all violent when he caught me trying to steal his family photo albums.

  19. Samantha

     /  September 11, 2010

    Interesting discussion.

    While I don’t agree with the church’s tactics, and I do think it’s intentionally causing offense (which, if I remember my Bible correctly, is kind of anti-Christian sentiment – I could be wrong), I do support their right to do it in the same sort of free-speech blahblahblah that everyone else has a right to. Do I think it’s based, not from a loving place, but from a racist, hate-mongering place? Yes. Do I think it qualifies as hate-speech? Nope.

    We as the American public have been demonized by Muslims everywhere, based on the actions of a small, wackaloon sect that has no bearing on the actual feelings or desires of the larger group. Sound familiar? While yes, the stupidity of the smaller group is somewhat endangering to the whole, it serves to dish up to the US what Muslims the world over have been feeling.

    About 4 years ago, I was eating breakfast in a park in Lyon, France. A man came up and asked if me and my companions were American – he’d heard us speaking English. We said we were, and we chatted a bit. About 2 minutes in to the conversation, he said, “I am a Muslim. But I don’t hate Americans! I love America, and want to visit some day!” Although we reassured him we thought no such thing of him, he felt it necessary to mention it a few times over the course of our half hour conversation. I felt awful then that this was the perception that the international community has of Americans. At the time, I couldn’t fathom what that feeling must be like… I think I’m a little closer to that now, but I’ve still got the privilege of living in a quiet little corner of the US where it doesn’t affect me.

    Does PZ’s reaction mean that he’s lacking in empathy? That’s debatable. But I can’t find anything wrong with his logic, either.

  20. Michele

     /  September 11, 2010

    I want to thank you for writing your post, PalMD. When I read PZ Myers’ blog this morning, my heart sank. I reacted as you did — it was the smugness that dismayed me. What the world needs right now is NOT more derision.

    I don’t have a dog in the religion fight. I am a true non-believer in this area: I don’t believe in religion or atheism. Neither side can definitively prove its point and frankly, I just don’t care. It’s irrelevant to me. I do believe all organized religions have the potential to be dangerous, and that fundamentalism in all its forms is actively dangerous. Some other things I believe in: science, human dignity and freedom of thought.

    When I was 16 and very angry at the Roman Catholic church, the religion of my birth, a much wiser but not much older young man told me that when I truly let go of belief, I would lose my anger. He was right.

  21. I am surprised that supposedly intelligent and skeptical individuals are having so much trouble distinguishing between ardently supporting the legal right to be a complete asshole and thinking that being a complete asshole is a good idea. To place this in a different context, telling some dude that he is acting like a complete asshole and interfering substantially and antisocially with the peace of mind of his fellow citizens by strutting around Starbucks with a fucken gun on his hip is not the same thing as interfering with what he perceives as his second amendment rights.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 12, 2010

      “I am surprised that supposedly intelligent and skeptical individuals are having so much trouble distinguishing between ardently supporting the legal right to be a complete asshole and thinking that being a complete asshole is a good idea.” [CITATION NEEDED]

      Nobody thinks it’s a good idea that I can see. Find a post in which the commenter says that burning the Qur’an is a good idea, would you please. I am surprised that a skeptical individual can make such confident statements without evidence.

    • I think I’ve figured out how it works. If a person decides to burn the koran then this is a valuable expression of free speech and must be protected. On the other hand if a person decides to criticize the burning of the koran this is a vile threat to free speech and must be shouted down at all cost. It’s all very rational and objective and besides did you hear about the terrible things that muslims do in their own country?

      At least, that’s the impression I got from reading some of these comments.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 12, 2010

      Everybody here has said burning a Qur’an is stupid! Most people are just making the point that there’s nothing we can do about it!! How many comments can you read expressing those sentiments and STILL walk away with a completely different idea?!

      • Nothing we can do about it? Interesting that you feel only legal remedies are useful, especially givenyour concern about the rights of book burners vs those of others.

        • Galwayskeptic

           /  September 12, 2010

          I’m not concerned about the rights of one groups VS the rights of another. What I’m concerned about is that the same rights apply to us all equally, with no special allowances being made for any group.

          That said, I’ve already acknowledged the difficult situation Muslims face in the United States and I do sympathise with their plight. I think burning the Qur’an is stupid on many levels.

          I think what you’re calling for is for everybody (and especially I suppose, your largely rational and intelligent audience) to show their solidarity with Muslims by condemning this act. However, a lot of people here are nervous about condemning the literal burning of books, as pertains to insulting Islam.

          When you can make a clear distinction between condemning religious discrimination and condemning the implicit criticism/insulting of religion; then you will have my vote. The former I abhor; the latter I uphold as a right of an rationalist and someone who recognises religion as often being a barrier to sound thinking.

          The two are inextricably linked here! That is the source of the controversy among the commenters on this page. It’s a subtle distinction that requires a more nuanced communication than you’ve provided, Pal. Sorry!

          I hope I’ve made my position clearer. I would hate to be confused for a bigot.

          • Galwayskeptic, you might want to try reading PalMD’s post one more time. The argument is that this sort of book burning isn’t just an act of criticism- because of its history and meaning in our culture, it’s an act of bigotry and a threat of violence. As far as I can see he does draw a clear distinction between criticizing religious beliefs and religious discrimination.

            “I would hate to be confused for a bigot.”

            Well, you know what they say about that, don’t you?

          • Sheesh

             /  September 13, 2010

            it’s an act of bigotry and a threat of violence.

            THREATENING PEOPLE WITH VIOLENCE IS ILLEGAL.

            Why hasn’t this man, this pastor, and his co-conspirators been arrested?!

          • Sheesh, indeed. Threats of violence are only illegal if there’s an incitement to immediate unlawful action.

          • Sheesh

             /  September 13, 2010

            So threats are legal? Whoa, whoa, whoa. If that’s the case, if even making scary, burny threats are legal then how are we going to stop this absolutely unacceptable pastor from doing these terrible “crimes”?

            How can we stamp out more expressions like this if it’s legal?!

          • Reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit, is it Sheesh?

          • Galwayskeptic

             /  September 13, 2010

            No. I’m not aware of what ‘they’ say about it or even who ‘they’ are. Obscure, generalist statements are the hallmarks of a weak argument though. A master of reading comprehension yourself, you might want to go back to my posts and pick out examples of bigotry. I think you’ll find the opposite.

            The argument ‘because of its history and meaning in our culture’ just isn’t good enough. This is an idiot leader of a congregation of 50 we’re talking about? If you want to invoke the historical significance, you’ll have to take the context in which previous book burnings have taken place into account. This is not a state-sponsored action or even one supported by the vast majority of people. This is worth taking into account before one starts drawing comparisons with actions that occurred in Nazi Germany! That state and that time was a sociological phenomenon. I find these everyday invocations of Hitler and Nazi Germany tiresome and poorly informed. I would imagine that some would find it quite insulting to compare the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis to an idiot pastor burning a few Qur’ans in Florida.

            Overall, these are unsophisticated, emotive arguments that just don’t cut it with the rationalist, skeptical audience here. If the best you can come up with is to imply bigotry on my part, it’s a poor reflection on yourself and the point of view you claim to represent.

    • It is rare that I agree with Comrade PhysioProf, but this is one of those rare times.

  22. Bravo Pal!

  23. D. C. Sessions

     /  September 12, 2010

    Gedankenexperiment:

    It happens that I have a photograph (my own copyright and all that) of your child. It’s the only one known to exist from her last year before she died. Or perhaps a letter from her just before her death.

    There is no law stopping me from burning it.

    Carry on.

    • Galwayskeptic

       /  September 12, 2010

      Yep, Terry Jones was about to burn the only existing Qur’an. Analogy FAIL.

      • D. C. Sessions

         /  September 12, 2010

        Interesting. You thought that the analogy hinged on uniqueness?

        • qbsmd

           /  September 12, 2010

          analogy without uniqueness:

          It happens that I have a photograph (my own copyright and all that) of your child. It’s the only one known to exist from her last year before she died, though many copies exist, including at least one in your possesion.

          There is no law stopping me from burning it.

          Carry on.

          • JHM

             /  September 14, 2010

            Um… if many copies exist, how can it be the only one known to exist?

            Coherence fail.

      • Galwayskeptic

         /  September 12, 2010

        I can only make assumptions based on what you’ve written and since you’ve made uniqueness the core of your analogy, what other conclusion am I supposed to draw?

        Leave the figurative language behind maybe and state clearly what it is your saying?

        • D. C. Sessions

           /  September 13, 2010

          Leave the figurative language behind maybe and state clearly what it is your saying?

          The uniqueness would be moot if the letter/picture were not of great emotional value to you.

          • Galwayskeptic

             /  September 13, 2010

            Well the Qur’an isn’t unique. If a million copies of that photo of ‘my’ daughter exist, and could be purchased by me for a small price, then you burning that picture would be of no consequence to me.

            You doing so would doubtlessly be creepy but assuming you didn’t do it outside my bedroom window and didn’t break any regulations regarding fire safety, what would I do about it?

            I would probably keep an eye on the situation and should you start following me home or threatening me, I would report you to the police and ensure you were prosecuted. That’s not such a leap of reasoning now, is it?

            You know, that wasn’t such a bad analogy after all.

  24. Just can’t resist a dig at cannabis even in an utterly unrelated post.

  25. Neuro-conservative

     /  September 12, 2010

    9/11/10 in a nutshell:

    After public indignation and condemnation, Rev Jones forswears burning the Koran, not only for today, but for good.

    After public indignation and condemnation, Imam Rauf re-commits to building the Ground Zero Mosque, and threatens violence if it were to be moved.

    • Dianne

       /  September 12, 2010

      Imam Rauf re-commits to building the Ground Zero Mosque, and threatens violence if it were to be moved.

      Citation needed. I’ve witnessed and talked to people involved in both the pro- and anti-Park51 protests and the only threat of violence I’ve seen is the missile the antis brought to their protest. (Perhaps they didn’t feel quite like men without it.)

      Also Jones has not forsworn burning the Koran for all time. He said he would not burn it if and ONLY if he got to meet with Rauf. In other words, holding the people who might get hurt if he went through with it hostage to his petty desire for power.

  26. Yes, the precise problem of religious belief is that religous people *cannot* simply ignore the freedoms of the non-religious. They *cannot* just shrug thier shoulders when someone burns a bible, or insults God, or eats beef, or whatever. The religious mindset is unavoidably, even essentially, at permanent war with evryone else who does not belive the same thing. That’s the problem.

    When people say “they should shrug their shoulders and get over it”, I am not supposing for a moment that they *can*. I know that they can’t – any more than a serial killer can simply stop killing people. That’s the whole problem. That’s the danger, and always has been. They will always persecute to the very limit of their ability to do so: this wailing over the book-burning is simply that limit these days, thank God. A society must be vigilant to not give these people an inch.

  27. Jim Thomerson

     /  September 12, 2010

    If burning a Koran were a recruiting tool paid for by Al Qaeda, is it then an illegal act?

  28. What CPP said above. And especially what Pal said about not wanting to incite violence against Muslims.

    I assumed that this distasteful business was about burning an entire culture/race/Other in effigy rather than the book itself. We’ve already seen too much actual violence from Christians against real, living fellow citizens. I was genuinely very worried that this event would incite the Christians to further violence by giving them tacit approval to attack Muslims AND the rest of us.

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Yes, then you were generally worried about something stupid. Don’t worry, it happens to us all.

  29. Neuro-conservative

     /  September 12, 2010

    Really? Christian violence against Muslims? Is that the main problem?

    • Violence itself is the problem. Christians don’t get a free pass just because they look like me.

      • Neuro-conservative

         /  September 12, 2010

        I think you missed the point of my question. I am asking, where is all of this Christian-based anti-Muslim violence of which you speak?

        • We could begin with Blackwater, but then there are also the recent attacks against the cab driver and the convenience store clerk. However, I was speaking more broadly about Christian violence. Just off the cuff: genocide against indigenous Americans, Oklahoma City, various bombings of doctor’s offices, the assassination of Dr Tiller, the disgusting and awful sexual violence against children and so on. My point is that the Christian tradition is not above attacking other human beings.

          • Neuro-conservative

             /  September 12, 2010

            Above, you stated: “We’ve already seen too much actual violence from Christians against real, living fellow citizens.”

            Now you have moved the goalposts. Blackwater is not a Christian organization and has done nothing against fellow citizens. The attack on the cab driver was by someone who was known to be affiliated with a pro-Mosque organization. Timothy McVeigh was an avowed atheist.

            By contrast, violence by Islamists against non-Muslims is a real phenomenon in this country today. I patiently await your impassioned denunciation of their violence, including sexual violence against women and children.

          • Scahill from my link above has reams of evidence for the evangelical underpinnings of various Blackwater atrocities.

            It appears that you are arguing for the sake of argument. I am moving on.

          • *Timothy McVeigh was an avowed atheist. *

            No he wasn’t.

        • Dianne

           /  September 12, 2010

          where is all of this Christian-based anti-Muslim violence of which you speak?

          Ever heard of the Crusades? Or, to give a more recent example, Bush’s two wars? And while it hasn’t yet erupted into overt violence, I don’t think anyone witnessing the anti-Park51 demonstrators can have any doubts about their intent. The police don’t seem to have any doubt: they’re guarding the area 24/7 now (and shut the street down this weekend.)

  30. The Gregarious Misanthrope

     /  September 12, 2010

    As to whether Hindus would do violence to Americans for bovine BBQ, one would have to ask whether Hindu doctrine or tradition would require such violence. Turning this question to Muslims and drawings of Mohammed and burning of Korans, I think the answer is quite clearly yes. True, there are great gradations of feeling among Muslims as to whether violent reaction would be required, but it is quite clear both in the Koran and other writings that these actions should be dealt with harshly, even if done by non-Muslims.

    Islam is set up so criticizing (blaspheming, or whatnot) it or even leaving it is punishable by death. How do you have freedom of speech if the practitioners of the philosophy you criticize threaten you with death? A wee bit chilling, no?

    I find book burning repugnant. However, I find threats of violence over criticism or destruction of symbols absolutely abhorrent. The purveyors of such violence must have a low opinion of their philosophy if they think it cannot stand on its own in the marketplace of ideas.

    That said, the pastor’s posturing given our current entanglements overseas was unhelpful. Should he choose to proceed with his burnings, I hope he is met by a much larger and peaceful crowd decrying his actions.

    Later we can work on defusing the hyper-reactionary strains in Islam. Either that, or start violent protests over burning girls’ schools and throwing acid in women’s faces.

  31. I agree with Pal on this one, and with Comrade Physioprof. (Wait, I thought Physioprof was a renowned asshole. Or something. I’m so confused…)

    I really do hope PZ responds to you (though I would guess that, now that you aren’t a part of Scienceblogs, it’d be easy for him to overlook you).

  32. @The Gregarious Misanthrope, re: burning girls’ schools and throwing acid in women’s faces.

    As my mother would say, “It’s happening to impoverished women, so nobody gives a shit.”

  33. sehkmet

     /  September 12, 2010

    I’ve just read through some of the posts. I usually lurk here. At the risk of being jumped on for being practical, I’m going to tell you what I actually did today.

    I went to the local Islamic Center in my area. I went because it is very conservative here. The muslims I know agree to disagree on religion. But at a time like this, with wingnuts on the loose, I went to the Center’s Unity Day to show support and see that they were OK. People who believe in freedom of religion went to this Islamic Center immediately after the bombing nine years ago and formed a ring around the building to show that harassment or violence would not be tolerated.

    I can’t stop wingnuts from doing stupid, provocative things. People have the right to stir up hatred in this country. I can try to stop the talk from escalating by being available to face down the hate mongers.

    I just don’t see the point in engaging the the vitriolic arguments here when simple action is easier and more effective.

    • Neuro-conservative

       /  September 12, 2010

      3000 people killed, and your first reaction was to run to the Muslim community center?

      So, how many of those violent Christians did you have to face down?

  34. It does diminish people’s personal freedoms. It diminishes their sense of safety and security. If I become afraid to practice my religion because of violent bigotry, I’m less free. To tell me to get over it is some seriously fucked up victim-blaming.

    I see your point. If bigots in Florida burn books considered sacred, minority Muslims may be concerned (I probably would be). Of course having people screaming at anyone thought to be Muslim in NYC or having mosques burn in Tennessee, might do that too.

    By stating that sacred texts are not to be messed with, what does that say to the atheists or agnostics in the population? Should we feel safe and secure knowing that we must not express our viewpoints? Does it not diminish our personal freedoms? Maybe only the freedoms of the religious actually count.

    Of course there are other outlets for atheists/agnostics besides burning holy books and I suppose you can nominate the person(s) who will be responsible for telling us how we can behave.

    • To follow through on your reasoning, which seems to be shared by many of the commenters, to ask you to refrain from shouting “ni—r” is a significant imposition on your freedom of speech, one that is a terrible burden.

      • Zxc

         /  September 12, 2010

        Shouting “nig ger” (or whatever word you felt you couldn’t type out) is completely legal free speech in this country, as of course is burning your personal property (local fire ordinances notwithstanding), regardless of whether that happens to be a book someone thinks is sacred.

        However, depending on context, these actions expose you as a bigot/cretin/whatever, ripe for ridicule or better yet irrelevance. Dr Laura’s free speech wasn’t abridged when she made her racist, insensitive statements – she wasn’t bleeped. Instead most people who listened to her realized she was a stupid bigot and now she is headed towards deserved irrelevancy. If only people would realize the same about Glenn Beck et al…

        The real problem here was a media fixated on controversy and mixed sentiments about Muslims, which amplified some 2 bit dope in Florida into an international controversy. Tonight I plan to barbecue some nice fat cow steaks over slow burning copies of the Bible/Koran/Torah/Origin of Species. Your entire reaction should be, dumbass, charcoal works way better! And the media/worlds/your reaction to this clown in Florida should simply have been – eh

      • J.J.E.

         /  September 14, 2010

        Why does this illogical response always arise?

        The moment somebody criticizes an abstract collection of fables, apocryphal history, and ideology, a certain regrettably large proportion of misguided people immediately jump to the non sequitur of “you are insulting those poor religious people, just like shouting ‘ni**er’!” Bullshit. ‘Ni**er’ is a personal insult directed at people and is morally reprehensible given the history of the U.S.

        Not only is the Koran an offensive collection of ideology that is used as an authoritative text of the will of the divine creator for hundreds of millions throughout the world (with predictably evil consequences), it isn’t even a freaking person! Especially in the U.S., being Muslim is a choice just as much as being Republican is. No, burning a Koran, no matter how misguided or stupid it might be, pales in comparison to shouting ‘ni**er’. Unless of course you believe that criticism of religion deserves special censure, in which case I can see how it rises to the level of hate speech where analogs to criticism of political movements don’t.

    • I agree. According to PalMD:

      Atheists: Must be polite–even dainty–and not give offense to the blameless, holy religious people.

      Religious People: Can do whatever they like. Have no responsibilities for not offending atheists; can mess around with the education of children, demand that wars be started to fulfill their “holy” books’ prophecies, etc.

  35. (Wait, I thought Physioprof was a renowned asshole. Or something. I’m so confused…)

    I *am* a renowned asshole. I also know whatte the fucke I’m talking aboute. Why is thatte confusing?

  36. pcncr

     /  September 13, 2010

    PalMD,

    thanks. I think you’re precisely right about this.

    I don’t understand why some atheists feel it is necessary that they are able to burn sacred texts to demonstrate their freedom. The analogy to the Westboro Baptists is pretty apt. In fact you are free to do so, but you’re going to incur a great deal of censure that may make it seem prohibitive.

    Basically, to burn something that means an awful lot to a group of people, you’re going to have to be a REAL asshole. If it remains imperative to you, it’s going to piss people off and you probably deserve it.

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Sold! The Westboro Baptist Church gets the reputation it deserves, so will all of those who decide to act like a real asshole. And they deserve it.

    • *I don’t understand why some atheists feel it is necessary that they are able to burn sacred texts to demonstrate their freedom.*

      Easy: To demonstrate that I do not acknowledge the existence of any such thing as a “sacred text”.

      • pcncr

         /  September 13, 2010

        Great. Demonstrate it. It’s still a dick move and you deserve to get called on it. I don’t believe the Qu’ran to be holy either. I do believe it to be sacred, i.e. to someone else, it is sacrosanct. And I would roundly condemn anyone who set out to damage such an item without good reason.

        Simply to demonstrate one’s freedom, or to get a rise out of a group of people, those are not good reasons. They’re sociopathic.

        It is, truthfully, an imposition on your freedom of speech if you don’t feel able to go around burning sacred texts. But that’s no different to the way you’ve said you’d like to limit the freedom of the faithful.

        And when people deny the historical undertones and menace associated with book-burning they really don’t help themselves. Some first-world atheists may be somewhat privileged, to the point they miss that connection. But it isn’t lost on the targets, to whom it symbolises a very direct threat, particularly if they already feel insecure or threatened.

  37. John Davis

     /  September 13, 2010

    I’m not sure why you felt an open letter was an appropriate response to this. I think a private e-mail would have been received better, one where you explained why you thought PZ was wrong. By deriding someone in public, you only encourage them to become entrenched in their position. I’m guessing you just felt like baiting him.

    Obviously the book burning was motivated by bigotry, and most likely intended as a threat. The threat is an empty one. Making it politically incorrect to bash Muslims will have little or no effect. One hears less anti-Jewish speech than anti-Islam, and yet anti-Jewish hate crimes outnumber anti-Islam crimes nearly 10:1 (See FBI Hate Crime Statistics).

    We should be ridiculing the pastor as a racist, ignorant buffoon; not trampling on free speech. My reaction was essentially, “What an asshole.” Then I moved on. You should too.

  38. kyuss

     /  September 13, 2010

    Do a little more hand wringing and pearl clutching.

    Anyone who thinks words or ideas are in any way “sacred” is a foolish idiot. It doesn’t matter one whit to me if anyone is offended by my legal free speech. I won’t give up my free speech rights just because some jew, muslim or christian (or any other religious fool for that matter) cries or screams or threatens violence.

    If you’re afraid to have the courage of your convictions just because I BBQed your magical book you’re a coward in addition to being a fool.

    Apologists sicken me.

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Did you read this post, or just comment by some sort of moron-reflex?
      Clearly the latter is true as the only points you mentioned were a) “sacred” books, b) giving up rights when threatened with violence. Which of these were mentioned in the OP? Yes, neither.

      Apologists sicken me too, but not as much as cretins like you wasting all our time with your reflex, off-topic belch of opinions.

  39. Lettuce

     /  September 13, 2010

    I was going to say you’re wrong, but then I read PZ Myers column and he said it massively better.

    How’s that house burning doing for you?

    • Ariella

       /  September 13, 2010

      Let me guess, he missed the point, accused someone of slandering atheists, got aggressive, rallied the troops then finished with a ‘hilarious’ kicker of an insult.

      Plus ca change.

      • Silvermute

         /  September 13, 2010

        Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and indeed wrong.

        Well done.

      • Galwayskeptic

         /  September 13, 2010

        You’re just trolling with soundbytes and unsubstantiated statements. As I’ve mentioned previously, PZ Myers has drawn many people’s attention to issues such as religious violence, clerical sexual abuse and gender equality.

        That’s a good thing. You’re just bashing the man because he offends your cultural relativist, apologist sensibilities. You’re contributing nothing to this discussion. It’s also rather ironic that you should deride his alleged habit of ‘[finishing] with a “hilarious’ kicker of an insult” when all through this page you’ve been calling people ‘cretins’, ‘morons’ and ‘douches.’

        But it’s ok for you to do it, n’est-ce pas?

  40. PalMD said

    > Offense: I’m burning a Koran just to show that I can.
    >
    > Threat: We are going to burn a pile of your sacred texts to remind you that
    > you are despised in this society and that we can do anything to you.

    I think that sums it up very well. Compare the US pastor with the Australian University staffer who has smoked (possibly faux) joints made from pages from the Quran and the Bible. The US Pastor is fairly clear in his intent to make Muslims feel unwelcome at best and threatened at worst. The laid back “it’s just a book” of the Australian may be offensive, but stands in contrast to the pastor’s bile.

    More emphasis needs to be placed on the intent rather than the act itself.

  41. Carlie

     /  September 13, 2010

    PalMD without doubt you write some of the most piss weak arguements i have ever heard

  42. DrBubbles

     /  September 13, 2010

    What’s your position on the Harry Potter burnings?

  43. Sean

     /  September 13, 2010

    If you want your flag, or book to burn more spectacularly, soak it in a concentrated solution of potassium nitrate, then dry it over low heat until crispy. This provides a ready source of oxygen so the prevailing atmospheric conditions during your burning become less relevant to its success. If you add some other salts, you can produce some nifty colored-flames. See here:http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/a/aa052703a.htm

    My take on this crap: the pastor is a dumb ass dick. That being said, EDMD, cartoons, and whatever other “slights to Islam” will hopefully thicken the skin of these medieval buffoons. Islam and Christianity both are getting worse as time goes on, and the religious need to know that their sky fairy beliefs are ridiculous hogwash.

  44. *If I become afraid to practice my religion because of violent bigotry, I’m less free.*

    Here’s the thing: I *want* religious people to feel that way. I want them to be a little less free to tell me I’m going to hell, that homosexuality is deadly sin, that free thinking is being “a slave to satan”. I don’t really care if they feel afraid to tell me these things. It would do me obvious good–less religious interference with my life–and them no particular harm (less-fervent adherence to their transparently ridiculous faith).

  45. Oh and hey religion-lovers: Do you all know how Thomas Jefferson created the initial manuscript for the Jefferson Bible (a.k.a. “Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
    Extracted Textually from the Gospels”)? Easy: He took not one but TWO King James New Testaments (so as to have both a usable front and back of each page), then literally *razored out* the parts he wanted to put into his book.

    The rest, presumably, he threw away.

    So yeah, Descratin’ “sacred” books: Been doing it for a while without any problems, thanks.

  46. *Religious objects are no more or less irrationally revered than family photos. People give them meaning.*

    Yeah but no. I scanned an electronically backed-up all my family photos. Now I can easily share them, make them into e-cards, etc.

    The initial prints? I threw them away. One less thing to keep track of during moving.

    • ArchaeologyKnits

       /  September 17, 2010

      I agree, I don’t think I would care if my house burned down every day wile I was at work and everything was destroyed, as long as the insurance could have everything right back where it was when I got home. The biggest problem is the pain in the ass of repairing, replacing, and remaking everything in the house (Do I really want to spend another 5 years of my life kitting and spinning all that stuff again?)

      I might miss some things tied to my family etc, but that is because those are literally one of a kind and cannot be replaced. If I could order 65 copies of the them off of amazon and have them here in two days, it would be fine.

  47. Dan L.

     /  September 13, 2010

    PZ Myers is not, as far as I can tell from reading his posts, supporting Jones in burning Korans. He’s saying that Jones has a right to do so, and that if Jones wants do so it’s not any of his (Myer’s) business or anyone else’s really. I tend to agree.

    Not everyone agrees with you in interpreting this as an explicit threat to Muslim people as opposed to an expression of opposition to the Muslim faith. Since I’m routinely offended by the beliefs and actions of Muslims (not necessarily the more liberal Muslims), I’m really having a hard time getting worked up about someone else expressing similar offense even if I don’t agree with his reasons.

    I saw a comment above getting upset about people taking my position “shouting down criticism of Jones” or something. I haven’t seen any of that either. You have every right to criticize Jones, and I (and PZ Myers) have every right to reply that I really don’t care what Jones does. Jones is pathetic and powerless. I’m more offended by what the Pope, the Ayatollah, etc. have been doing. Maybe you could write open letters to those guys. Or would that threaten the free exercise of their religion?

  48. MosesZD

     /  September 13, 2010

    Cheap, mass-produced holy books. BFD. You can buy them at any bookseller or Amazon.com. Heck, I have five different versions of the Christian Bible and a Book of Mormon. I’ve got less than $30 invested in the whole thing.

    And if they burned up… I’d just go buy more.

    Precious family photos. Sorry, those 1959 photos of my parents getting married are irreplaceable.

    • Right on. No one is allowed to call anything with a barcode on it “holy”

  49. Dianne

     /  September 13, 2010

    Is 157 comments a record for you?

  50. Vicki

     /  September 13, 2010

    It seems to me that the question isn’t whether Jones is an obnoxious, publicity-chasing asshole. He is, but that’s legal.

    The question is whether his specific form of obnoxiousness is intended as a threat, whether a reasonable person would see it as a threat, and if so, what if anything should be done in response.

    My answers are yes, maybe, and I’m not sure. But I don’t think I’m in a good position to respond, beyond continuing to treat my Muslim neighbors with the same goodwill as I treat my non-Muslim neighbors with.

  51. I still kinda think you’re both right.

    I don’t see an inherent contradiction between “Given the historical context, the proposed Koran-burning was an obvious attempt to intimidate an ethnic minority” and “It’s really fucked up that people get so upset over the burning of a Koran”.

  52. I’m usually with you, PalMD, but you miss something in this one. PZ isn’t burning this Quran. He is defending someone’s right to do so.

    Your analogy doesn’t apply. He doesn’t need to burn your Torah. He needs to defend your right to burn your Torah in order to be consistent.

    I suspect he’d have no problem doing so. Your book, do as you will with it.

    Granted, IMHO, the statement made by such an action is an objectionable one. But you have a right to say it, as does this jerk in Florida, or anyone else.

  53. Epinephrine

     /  September 13, 2010

    Seriously, enough with the “privilege” arguments. It’s essentially an ad hominem, “PZ’s arguments are wrong because he’s incapable of viewing things the RIGHT way because of his PRIVILEGE!” Believe it or not, being white, male, and atheist doesn’t make one blind, stupid, or unaware of the nuances of the situation.

    Yes, some people are upset because he’s burning a book. Meh. Yes, book burnings have some historical associations, but I’ve put books in the fireplace because they are a source of chemical energy.

    Some are upset because he’s burning a special book. Again, meh. Just because something is special to some doesn’t mean that others must treat it as special.

    Some are upset because this may endanger US troops, or because it invites further terror attacks against the USA. This is cowardly and stupid. Treating a book specially because of fear of reprisal? That’s ludicrous, and a poor argument (thanks, Gen. Petraeus).

    Some are upset because there is a sense of threat to Muslims living in areas where this type of demonstration happens. That is the only reason I have read that makes any sense to me – if the demonstration involves the inciting of violence against Muslims there is a very real reason to take action against it. Still, provided he only says that he hates Islam and doesn’t condone violence, any violent acts are the responsibility of those committing them.

    Is he an asshole? Yes, but he’s an asshole because he’s a bigot, not because he wants to burn a book.

  54. The book burning is a good idea because it will give us information about the kind of reaction to expect when this type of thing happens for real. Pal MD, Fail.

  55. J.J.E.

     /  September 13, 2010

    I agree with James Sweet.

    Moreover, the context and intention is important. “Burning Korans” is not intimidation without some context. Any Muslim deconvert could presumably burn a Koran without raising accusations of implicit threats, I trust?

    So, while in this particular case there almost certainly IS an implicit threat intended (and those few arguments above that you make that are actually coherent might flow in that limited context) your general argument about burning “sacred” items is wrong. Sometimes “desecrating” sacred items is not a threat, but is instead a protest.

    One needs to tread carefully (as you sorta point out in your own way), because context is important, but it is absurd to claim that:

    But collecting and burning religious texts is not simple criticism, it is an attack on the people who hold these texts dear, no matter how irrational they are.

    Burning the Little Red Book in China (when it was still revered of course) is no different than burning the Bible in Texas (where it is still revered) or the Koran in Turkey (where it is revered). Or the U.S. flag where it is still revered. Any of these acts is potentially dangerous or even deadly to the perpetrator, and it doesn’t a priori constitute an implicit threat to people who hold those objects dear. Assenting to such an interpretation hands an automatic veto to anyone who is willing to complain bitterly enough about criticism of their values. That is unacceptable.

    “Why else try to save your house from burning down? You have insurance, don’t you?”

    This is a failed argument by analogy. Not that the analogy would necessarily fail were it constructed competently, but the attempt at drawing an analogy was a complete failure. You are comparing burning of possibly irreplaceable personal items owned by people to destruction of easily replaceable property that someone doesn’t own.

    “Religious objects are no more or less irrationally revered than family photos. People give them meaning.”

    Family photos are also personal often irreplaceable, and burning them may be viewed as a direct and personal threat. The same may not be generally said of religious texts unless it is in a context that implies a threat. Context is important! In general, these are very different issues, and your conflation of unique personal property with sentimental value to property of other people fails to create a useful analogy. In fact, I think burning COPIES of personal photos may possibly be analogous to burning an effigy of a political leader, but I don’t see you complaining about burning effigies. And both of these are far more personal than burning an ancient book of fairy tales.

    • J. J. Ramsey

       /  September 14, 2010

      J.J.E.: “You are comparing burning of possibly irreplaceable personal items owned by people to destruction of easily replaceable property that someone doesn’t own.”

      He is comparing items to which people have emotional attachment to, well, other items to which people have emotional attachment. That copies of said items can be made is irrelevant. And given that PalMD wrote, “Whether or not you think it appropriate, people imbue objects with meaning,” as a lead-up to his analogy, it’s fairly obvious that that was his point of comparison in making the analogy. (D.C. Sessions picked up on that as well, earlier in the comment thread.)

      • J.J.E.

         /  September 14, 2010

        “Whether or not you think it appropriate, people imbue objects with meaning,”

        But simply stating that doesn’t make the analogy any more appropriate. Sure, he recognized a major flaw in his reasoning and applied a bandaid with that statement. I take your point. Acknowledged. But my point is that it doesn’t matter that people imbue objects with value. People imbue the U.S. flag with value in just as generic a sense as people imbue the Koran with value. Same for any national flag. I doubt seriously if you (though I’m not so sure about PalMD) would call burning any national flag anywhere an implicit threat. The same logic should be applied to the Koran.

        For the record, I think such “speech” is kinda dumb, whether it be burning flags or books. And the pastor is a hypocritical bigot. But that doesn’t mean that, in general, burning books (even the book of an increasingly unpopular ideological minority) is a threat. If it were indeed treated as a real threat to personal safety, it is entirely possible that Watts v. United States (1969) could be applied to abridge that category of speech. Unacceptable.

        We need to encourage people to drop the threat language.

        • J.J.E.

           /  September 14, 2010

          Basically, Watts required that a true threat needs to be implied by speech to lose 1st Amendment protection. In the actual case, the guy that threatened to shoot L.B.J. was found to be exercising free speech.

          http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=394&invol=705

          But if we are to take PalMD seriously, then we take the threat seriously. I think there is no “true threat” and if there were, we’d have to abridge Koran burning.

        • J. J. Ramsey

           /  September 14, 2010

          “I doubt seriously if you (though I’m not so sure about PalMD) would call burning any national flag anywhere an implicit threat.”

          If Tea Partiers were to burn the Mexican flag as a protest against brown people, I mean, illegal immigration, yes, I would consider it an implied threat.

  56. Meee

     /  September 13, 2010

    This letter would make a lot more sense if the general response to the planned burning was “this is more than burning a book, it is sending a clear message of intimidation and fear”.

    Let’s face it, burning a book is more than simply the burning of a book; it’s sending a message to the person who wrote it, the people who read it and the people who follow/believe it. And *that* is a fair aspect of the “I’m going to burn some korans” plan to criticise.

    But *was* the general response “by burning this book you’re attempting to intimidate a minority”? Was it “you are attempting to instil fear into a people who are already under social pressure in this country”?

    *No.*

    The response was “how dare you burn this book that I like”, “this book is sacred and you’re not allowed to” and “we’ll kill people who burn this book”.

    *That* is the attitude that PZ mocks and despises, the attitude that he has always mocked and despised. The fact that not only do these people regard these books, crackers and objects with some kind of holy awe (which, although laughable to me and many others, is their right), they *demand that everyone else does too*. THAT is where PZ, and people like him, get annoyed, and that is what he mocks.

    It’s all about the framing of the response. These various groups could have gone with the social intimidation aspect, and complained about that. But they haven’t; they’ve gone with “you have to respect my beliefs” (why?) and fear/intimidation themselves (even Obama’s main point was “this is going to get more americans killed”), and many people (PZ included) refuse to back down in the face of that.

  57. JHM

     /  September 14, 2010

    PalMD – Your blog post is poorly reasoned. Hey, no one’s perfect. But the responses you’ve given to people’s comments – the dismissiveness, the name-calling – that’s just pathetic. What a waste of time.

    • Neuro-conservative

       /  September 14, 2010

      I have discovered over the years that PalMD is constitutionally incapable of disagreeing with civility or even a modicum of reason. He just stomps his feet and holds his breath until he turns blue.

      It is so embarrassing, that I can never quite believe that he is going to do it again, so I repeatedly make the foolish mistake of trying to engage him.

  58. Katherine

     /  September 15, 2010

    If someone were to quietly obtain some Korans, or other equivalent holy books, and burn them in the privacy of their own home, noone would be kicking up a fuss. The difference here is that the burners are making a huge fuss, generating a lot of publicity for their particular brand of bigotry. If PZ Meyers burned some holy books, making a huge fuss over the fact that he is an athiest and doesn’t care for other people’s holy books, that would not be as threatening as the public burning that was actually to have taken place. Or do Catholics genuinely fear for their lives/families’ lives/having their houses burned down when PZ desecrates their wafers?

  59. Katharine

     /  September 15, 2010

    I think a lot of commenters are missing the point.

    I’m what you’d call a ‘New Atheist’, and I think there’s a lot of context that’s being glossed over.

    Burning a koran right now would be interpreted differently than burning a bible.

    Yes, I have no problem pissing off fundamentalists of any stripe, whether they’re here or in the Middle East. I think islam is as equally stupid as christianity or judaism or any other religion there is.

    At the same time, considering the way Middle Easterners are being treated right now in the United States, especially the very violent rhetoric some extremists are using, burning one I think is a serious case of bad judgment. I would not be terribly surprised if this escalates to the fever pitch that anti-Semitism has reached in the past, and the idea horrifies me.

    You’ve got the right to do it, but right now it’ll just make you look like a fundamentalist christian kook. Do you want to be associated with them?

  60. The Gregarious Misanthrope

     /  September 16, 2010

    Add this one to the list:

    http://www.king5.com/news/local/ttle-cartoonist-Molly-Norris-going-into-hiding–102995989.html

    The cartoonist behind “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” has changed her name and gone into hiding due to credible threats from an American-born imam. This behavior is a malignancy Islam must excise from itself.

  61. Douglas Watts

     /  September 17, 2010

    I might have a First Amendment Right to loudly proclaim to every female on my street, including little girls, that they are inferior ‘baby machines’ and should all be imprisoned and forcibly impregnated, but that doesn’t spare me from others’ right to ostracize and scorn me for being a degenerate loser.

  62. Becky

     /  January 8, 2011

    “Are not Muslims and atheists in the same position in this country being despised minorities?”

    Interesting. Transsexuals and atheists are in the same position in the USA – and all the other countries that entity controls and occupies – yet this very, self-same PZ Myers character saw fit to label me, a transwoman, a bloke called Donald. So, is ‘Professor PZ Myers’ just another agent provacateur wheeled out by the establishment to defuse a potential revolution?

    Ergo…PZ Myers is just another charlatan.

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