On Burning the Koran: On Blasphemy

So, September 11th passed without any large-scale idiocy… either from the provocateurs attempting to gain some press coverage by burning Korans, or from reactionary, violent protectors of the Supreme Being’s hurt feelings.  Ah, but the day was not a total waste.  A professor in Australia rolled a couple of joints (grass clippings… no actual drugs) in pages of the Bible and the Koran, to see which smoked better.

You can read the whole story here, but this is my takeaway: 

1.  An interviewee in the story, one Bishop Putney, says “[Mr Stewart] has caused pain in people and may incite anger in people and I don’t think that’s ever acceptable…

Re-read that assertion, for herein lies the root of the problem.  Putney asserts it is never acceptable to cause anger or pain in people.  I disagree.  Being offended by others, sometimes to the point of anger, is the price of living in a civilized world where we allow people to express their thoughts and opinions.  Further, if the standard of what is acceptable is left to be defined by the listener, there is no end to the absurd claims of attack, abuse, persecution, bigotry, etc. that in actuality are only “someone spoke words, or did acts, that I disagree with.”

If you accept the premise that the listener gets to define offense AND that “causing offense” is a punishable action, welcome back to theocracy, blasphemy laws, dictatorship, Inquisition and forced conversions.

2.  Putney also says he thinks Stewarts actions will likely give atheism a bad name.   Only if you willfully misinterpret his stated intent.  The entire point is clearly stated, and it is this:  no one has the right to define my response to their holy objects, texts or ideas.  Obviously, I do not mean I have a right to destroy other people’s property or vandalize temples.  That is vandalism, and can/should be punished.  You’ll note that vandalism is distinct from hurting someone’s feelings, however. 

In the end, escaping this ever escalating war of religious persecution complexes requires more and more people to stand up and say, “No, you do not have a right to attack or kill someone just because you assert that his/her actions do not live up to your moral code.”  Allowing this line of excuse for violence is akin to accepting the argument “Of course she deserved to be raped.  Look at the clothes she wore that provoked me.”

No, No, 1000 times NO!

My campaign?  Blasphemy is a victimless crime.  Our moral outrage should be directed toward those who believe violent protection of  icons, symbols, or holy texts is an appropriate response to criticism of them.   I don’t really care how much you believe your holy text or prophet is THE ONE TRUTH.  I don’t have to believe it. I can say I don’t believe it. If you attack me over it you should be prosecuted for assault or murder.

PZ Meyers writes a very clear, coherent opinion along the same lines… so if you don’t get what I’m saying, try reading his take on this issue.

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