Monday, September 13, 2010

Got a light?

More on the pastime that seems to becoming very popular among religious people at the moment, book burning; Not wanting to be left out, an Atheist in Queensland Australia has burnt pages from both the Koran and the Bible on a youtube video he made; Brisbane lawyer Alex Stewart claims he was conducting an experiment to see which particular holy book burned best, in a pragmatic Australian tone he added, "It's just a book, who cares," According to the story in the Brisbane Times the answer to his question is that his employers care! Mr Steward has been placed on "extended leave".

Now, wanting to burn any book seems like a fairly pointless ambition to me, but why would Mr Stewart's employers (Queensland University of Technology) regard this act so seriously as to question his employment with them? No law has been broken so presumably they are concerned about something else?

Perhaps the problem is one of "offence"? But simply believing in Evolution notionally offends 1.1 billion Muslims, supporting a pro-abortion policy offends 1.3 billion Catholics and eating cows offends a billion Hindus, supporting state funded healthcare offends millions of Republicans, supporting Manchester United offends everyone else! It simply is not possible not to offend anyone with any deliberate, premeditated action or opinion, so why is this different? Could it possibly be that like the religious believers who object to this peculiar act of arson that the University of Queensland believe that these books are magic books?

In free societies, religious people are able to treat any inanimate object they like with whatever reverence and ritual they like, no one is preventing them from doing so, but should they also have the right to insist that everyone else believe those same objects are magic too? To an atheist these (physical) books are "just paper". I don't respect one physical piece of paper any more than another and therefore I don't respect copies of the Koran or the Bible (as distinct from the people that hold those views) any more than any other book; if my house was burning down and I only had time to grab one thing from the bookshelf it wouldn't be a Bible or On the Origin of species, more likely it would be a family photograph (would that be offensive?)

Should anyone have the right to prioritise my treatment of my own possessions?


gerrardus said...

No, that wouldn't be offensive. You can always buy another Bible. And On the Origin is out of date...

Steve Borthwick said...

G, it's still a great read though, I got a special edition for my birthday, the Victorian language and the detail is exquisite; interesting to compare to Dawkin's latest work on evolution though; we've certainly learnt much since Darwin's day.