Monday, July 4, 2016

Koran-burning pastor is having his 15 minutes of fame

Book-burning in Nazi Germany
U. S. National Archive

It’s no wonder so many people despise religion. The idiot preacher in Florida who is planning to make a Koran bonfire this weekend is a prime example. People who know religion only from the sidelines hear about someone like that and assume anyone who calls themselves a Christian must be a nut.

In case you missed the story, here are the bones of it: “Pastor” Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida, in an obvious bid for attention (the church is reportedly for sale for $2.9 million), has announced he will burn a bunch of Korans on September 11, 2010. His actions have been denounced by General David Petraeus as likely to incite violence in Afghanistan that could cost the lives of American service men, but he’s going ahead with it anyway.

Even the Pope has weighed in, his office issuing a statementthat called the planned conflagration an “outrageous and grave gesture,” and stating that ‘every religion has the right to expect that its religious books and traditions will be respected.’

That’s rich. Book-burnings down through the centuries have frequently been led by the Catholic Church. After the counsel of Nicaea in the year 325 the Church burned the writings of a church leader named Arius, for his having the audacity to assert that the Bible was correct when it said that Jesus is God’s son.

Some other book-burning examples:

• In 364 Catholic Emperor Jovian ordered the burning of the entire library at Antioch, Syria, because it was full of books collected by his (non-Catholic) predecessor.

• In 1193, Muslims burned a Buddhist library in India.

• In 1209, Catholic monk Arnold Amalric not only burned books belonging to the cathari – a group branded as ‘heretics’ because of their opposition to Catholic beliefs – he slaughtered over 20,000 men, women and children in one day in Beziers, France. When asked by his troops how they could distinguish between Cathari and Catholic, he is reported to have replied, “Slay them all; God will recognize His own.”

• In 1409, Catholic Archbishop Zbynik Zajíc of Prague burned the books of Bible translator John Wycliffe. Thousands if not millions of Bibles have been burned since then.
During the 20th century, millions of books were burned in Nazi Germany and Communist countries, and books advocating communism were burned by American libraries. In 1984, and again in 2008, Jews burned Bibles in Jerusalem. From 1988 on, Muslims in many parts of the world burned the books of Salmon Rushdie and put a price on his head. As recently as 2001 the Egyptian government burned some 6000 books by 8th century poet Abu-Nuwas.

What has resulted from all this book-burning? Mostly, air pollution. Hitler’s glorious Third Reich died as ignominious a death as the man himself. Communism failed to control men’s minds by burning what they considered ‘imperialist propaganda.’ And while Communism eventually fell, its fall was not hastened one minute by American book-burning.

True, some rare manuscripts have been lost. But the Bible survived. The Koran has survived so far. And the Koran will no doubt survive this little stunt by the good ‘pastor.’ (In case you’re wondering why I keep putting pastor in quotation marks… “pastor” means shepherd, and it’s related to the word ‘peaceful.’ Jones’ little stunt is a lousy way of shepherding his flock, and is anything but peaceful.)

The concept of freedom of the press has been impinged upon of late – note that the photograph that I shot myself of a marijuana plant for my previous article about medical marijuana was redacted – but still stands in most countries. ‘Pastor’ Jones won’t even be arrested for his weenie-roast, whereas in many countries of the middle-east he would be tried, found guilty, and executed for far less offensive behavior.

And, hard as it is to fathom in 2010, petty officials in Russia, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, and other places that claim to be enlightened, still attempt to control what people are allowed to read.

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