Let’s burn some books — not

I’m not sure why some Americans feel that burning books would accomplish anything. I’m not sure what motivates one to burn books. Looking back throughout history, I am hard pressed to find righteous individuals burning books.

I remember back when DJs decided it was a good idea to burn CDs of the Dixie Chicks. These women had the nerve to stand up and say that invading Iraq was wrong. Now, the majority of the American people agree with the Dixie Chicks. So, what was accomplished?

From TPM:

As Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center gets ready to burn copies of the Koran at his Gainesville, Florida church this Saturday (September 11), many national voices are calling for him to change his plans. House Minority Leader John Boehner, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and RGA Chairman Haley Barbour have all criticized the planned Koran burning. And Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander of the Afghanistan War, has gone as far as to say that the plan could put American troops in danger.

But as Jones forges full-speed ahead with his incendiary event, some of the nation’s most prominent Islamophobic voices have expressed their opposition (though usually with caveats), to Jones’ idea…. (more…)

25 Responses

  1. One thing that was accomplished is that I went out and bought my first Dixie Chicks cd at that time, having no idea what they sounded like, just to support them. Then I fell in love with Dixie Chicks music! ha

  2. You know I blame the media for covering this to such extreme. He has gotten just what he wanted and probably has people donating money to his lingering church. If they had ignored him realizing it would do such damage then it would have gone away. I wonder whom else is going to be wanting this much attention and do stupid stuff too?

  3. The media buzz and public response to this is surreal. There is some serious cognitive dissonance going on. The attitude of the Koran-burner is what's been labeled 'islamophobia', but the only fear on display in this situation is the media, government, and the general public. The minister is contemptuous, not particularly afraid–and very, very misguided. But this should be a non-event. Apparantly, the gov, media, and public really do, deep-down, consider a significant portion of the religion of Islam to be a threat. Which is more insulting to Islam–burning some Korans or the assumption that to do so will unleash a widespread murderous rampage of Muslims killing Christians? If that's a plausible outcome, we should be afraid of them. That kind of intolerance would dwarf whatever intolerance is present in Christianity and it's handful of dip-s**t Koran-burners. Even though it's beyond foolish for this pastor to deliberatelty provoke Islam, our constitution has always protected our right to make foolish statements….unless doing so represents a legitimate threat. So… Are we mostly agreeing that the intolerance of Islam is a legitimate threat? Or are we just trying to exaggerate the threat posed by Christian intolerance?

  4. ECT: I’m not sure what motivates one to burn books.

    Probably the same motivation behind someone who burns the flag. I think in this case, the pastor’s motivation is clear. He has been able to put his 30 member church on the map.

    I’m more concerned about what motivates someone to …..

    Riot and kill innocent people if a book is burned.

    Riot and kill people after a mistaken news reports about a copy of their holy book being flushed.

    Kill the producer of a film which they consider blasphemous.

    Riot and kill people when angered by cartoons.

  5. Are you arguing for some kind of moral equivalency?

    Is Jones a legitamate concern? I don't think so. I think guys like Jones are best ignored. On the other side, can murder ever be ignored?

  6. TCB –

    You make such a great point. I don't want my response to step on it. So I just let it hang there. You couldn't leave it alone though.

    You are 100% correct. There is a problem when the burning of a Koran sets off riots in the streets. The response is so out of proportion to the actual deed. And, as you correctly pointed out, many of the riots and in violence. Where is the calming effect of the imams? Aren't they supposed to be the cooler heads? Are there the ones they're supposed to be more fluent than the word of God and point out that we are all God's creatures and prone to mistakes?

    No, I'm not arguing for moral equivalency. I think that would be foolish. Instead, what I'm saying is we have one crazy, stupid, brainless act that somehow leads to an extreme, massive protest that is way out of proportion to the original “offense” which often leads to death.

    None of it makes sense. None of it is justified.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. I think religion makes people act stupid. I include as “religion” any dogmatic belief system. People have been instructed throughout history by religious leaders how to think, instead of finding the truth that we instinctively have within ourselves. They have been taught to ignore innate instincts that ensure the survival of our species and instead to believe holy books and leaders to act against their best sensible instincts.
    “I think that on the balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”–Steven Weinberg

  8. I meant to say taught NOT to think, but I was typing really fast while being hustled out the door…

  9. Both you and Mr Weinberg seem to have quite a dogmatic belief system of your own.

    “Finding the truth within ourselves” is an apt description of the pseudo-intellectualism of the left which is just another way of being dogmatic while pretending not to be.

  10. Joe, maybe I didn't word that well. I meant to be talking about instincts having to do with survival of the species, not about the new age finding the truth within ourselves kind of crap. Religion, new age spirituality, belief in Santa Claus, belief in Glenn Beck, is all the same in my mind. Fundamentalists are a big problem, if not the main problem, in the world, whether they are Moslem, Christian, Communist, etc. By “within myself” I meant to say that I don't need a religious book or doctrine to tell me that it's wrong to commit murder. Because that same doctrine will tell me when it's right to commit murder, i.e., jihad, stonings, the inquisition, the execution of gays, etc, etc.
    Dogma: A doctrine or a body of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a church. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true. Nope, not my scene.
    I do not try to force my way of living and thinking on anyone. People are free to hold any beliefs they wish, no matter how crazy I may think they are. They do not have the right to force those beliefs on the rest of the world.

  11. “I include as “religion” any dogmatic belief system”

    You’re definition is so broad that it is meaningless. Everyone has some belief system and any belief system has some dogma.

    I know that this sort of broad definition is peddled by some of the New Atheist like Hitchens and Harris when people pointed out that their indictment of theism paled in comparison to the blood bath from 20h century atheistic regimes.

    Anyway modern mass murders like Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao don't easily fit your theory. They weren’t motivated or restrained by any particular dogmas. Their record of betrayal and murder reflect a thirst for power and glory more than anything else.

  12. Allison wrote:

    “Joe, maybe I didn't word that well.”

    You stated it very well. Perhaps you didnt understand it's ramifications.

    You have a dogmatic belief system, expressed as “I think religion makes people act stupid……..(I believe in) finding the truth that we instinctively have within ourselves”

    You believe that you are correct and others are incorrect. That is dogmatism, my friend.

  13. Well I like that. A man who has read a few sentences I wrote now knows everything about what I think. How presumptious.

    I make it a point to remember that people are complex creatures and that they can't be pigeonholed into a rigid little set of thoughts and beliefs if they happen to identify as religious/nonreligious, or democrat/republican, or consevative/liberal.

    Maybe I should rethink that..

  14. You should remember that words mean things.

    If you had said “I am looking for the truth that may be inside of me. I really don't know if it is or not. I think it could be there, but my inward search might very well be pointless and lead to nothing. Truth could be objective and not subjective as I think it is.” then that's not dogmatic.

    But when you state that the truth is instinctively within each person and that religion makes people do stupid things (i.e. apparently they act and believe in a way different from that which you have chosen to act and believe) then you've chosen a dogmatic position, whether you realize it or not.

    Allison wrote:

    “I meant to say that I don't need a religious book or doctrine to tell me that it's wrong to commit murder. “

    Then tell me exactly why is it wrong to commit murder? Because your opinion, or the collective opinion of society says so?

    The collective opinion of society used to say that slavery was ok. Why was it not, if society had approved it? What made it wrong when (nearly) everybody said it was right?

    Right and wrong aren't matters of opinion. Not yours, not mine, and not any group of people.

    You've got no explanation of why something is right, or why it is wrong.

    “looking within” for truth only reveals your own opinion, and that's not the way right and wrong are determined.

  15. If right and wrong were pre-programmed into the biological man (via evolution) then one would expect to see a great deal of conformity in one species on matters of right and wrong across the board.

    This is the opposite of what we see.

    Even within an individual, his idea of what is right and wrong can shift back and forth during his lifetime many times (or even over the course of an afternoon!). This is hardly consistent with the idea that right and wrong are chemically determined (i.e. determined by the DNA).

    Of course his deterministic conclusion: “Dr. Hauser writes, … “that the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine.” is precisely the opposite of what you previously argued, i.e. that religion was the cause of bad behavior.

    Hauser's theory of morality also fails at the same point as yours, namely what happens when one's idea of right and wrong doesn't fit with that of the majority?

    In your case, you give lip service to allowing everyone to 'find their own truth' while in the next breath condemning their behavior as 'the main problem in the world'.

    If you truly believed that each individual should pursue his own path, then who are you to tell ANYone that the are wrong about ANYthing at ANYtime?

  16. Joe, if you don't stop shaking that finger at me, it is going to fall off….I am free to judge anyone's behavior as are you. What I am not free to do is tell them how to behave, as long as they are not harming anyone.

    I do condemn the behavior of anyone who murders another, whether it is in the name of Christianity, or Islam. I condemn parents who disown their own children because they are gay. I condemn politicians who legislate “family values” while they are visiting prostitutes or cheating on their wives.

    Gosh, if your idea of what is right and wrong changes back and forth over the course of an afternoon maybe we should go ahead and lock you up before you hurt someone.

  17. Allison wrote:

    “.I am free to judge anyone's behavior as are you.”

    Of course you are.

    It shows that you believe in an absolute standard of morality, in spite of your protestations to the contrary.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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