Posts Tagged ‘free speech


What is your opinion of “Burn the Koran” day?

For those who are not aware, Terry Jones, a Florida pastor and author of the book “Islam is of the Devil,” has declared September 11th to be International Burn a Koran day, and claims to have been inspired by another recently created “awareness holiday,” Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. (WARNING: Linked page contains images of the prophet Mohammed!)

Someone asked for my take on this recently, and I thought it would be an appropriate topic of discussion for this blog.

First, I’m always skeptical of any kind of bold public statement made by someone who has a book out. It almost always seems like shameless self-promotion to me. I don’t want to leave out the possibility that this is all just an effort to move a product, and nothing more.

That said, there are two different issues that I feel need to be discussed here – burning the Koran (or any book) and drawing Mohammed (or anything else).

First, burning books: I’m against it. I don’t care if it’s the Koran, the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, Going Rogue, or The Origin of Species; burning books is one of the greatest acts of fearful ignorance that I can imagine. It is a throwback from a more primitive time, when anything that made the villagers nervous had to be destroyed with fire – and that occasionally included other villagers.

We are smarter than that now. We really shouldn’t be burning books anymore, and those who still have those urges should be embarrassed over them, not displaying them proudly. It makes us look stupid when we do it, and I really wish people wouldn’t participate in it.

But, it is free speech. And because it is, I support anyone’s right to do it.

Now for the second bit – the one about drawing Mohammed, and how such activity could inspire something like Burn a Koran Day. Since I am an artist, you can probably guess where I’m going to go with this one.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day was inspired by the reaction to depictions of Mohammed on an episode of South Park and in political comics in newspapers and magazines. Devout Muslims have issued death threats against artists for drawing their prophet – an act forbidden by certain Islamic texts (but not the Koran).

As I have said in previous posts here, I support anyone’s freedom to believe as they wish, and follow any rules that those beliefs may include, as long as those rules do not involve harming others.

But you don’t get to try to force me to follow those rules, too. I can make all of the graven images I like (and I do, daily) because your religious rules do not apply to me.

It is an act of independence, not of ignorance.  An act of creation, not destruction. That’s the difference.

So, to recap: Burning books is stupid and shameful, but in the end, I support it as free speech. Drawing Mohammed is an act of independence from rules that should not be enforced against nonbelievers, and is nothing at all like burning books.

(Now that I’ve written all of this out, I have been thinking that this September 11th, the greatest act of independence from both Dove Ministries and Islamic fundamentalism that I could do would be to read some of the Koran along with some skeptical analysis of it, at the Skeptic’s Annotated Quran.)


I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.