September 09, 2010

Korans and Crackers, Identity and Authority

I generally agree with PZ Myers on the topic of Crackergate, but he has a post up today that makes me wonder a little whether he's forgotten exactly what he did. He's defending, by analogy to his own actions, the burning of the Koran that is scheduled to take place in Florida this weekend. I understand that he's reacting to some statements that protest the proposed burning on ridiculous grounds. However, I don't think that's any excuse for underestimating the thought that he put into throwing a communion wafer (or whatever the exact appropriate terminology is) in the trash.

PZ didn't just throw away a cracker and a rusty nail. He also included pages from the Koran and Dawkin's The God Delusion. Those were critical to conveying his message that the authority claimed by the church was the problem, as is any authority, religious or secular, that can't provide external justification for its actions. Admittedly, many people weren't and still aren't capable of understanding that, but that doesn't change the fact that those pages were important to what he did.

Nor did he just post a picture of his trash can. The "offending" picture was accompanied by a history and explanation of blood libel--one cost of the authority of the church to those over whom it claimed that authority. Beyond that, the whole brouhaha occured in the context of the church exercising its authority over someone without consent.

That was the message I supported and still support.

That is not the message coming out of Florida. Jones will not undermine his own authority in order to call the authority of the Koran dangerous. In fact, he is claiming the authority for his actions comes from his god, and burning the authority of another is only intended to raise him further. This authority allows him to call Islam the "devil's religion," making believers not misguided equals or the blindly privileged, but a dangerous minority who are a threat not for what they do, but for who they are. And we know how that works, or we should.

That isn't a sloppy version of what PZ said much better. It's an entirely different animal, whether or not believers can't see the difference. I would hope that the rest of us can.


Silver Fox said...

Fahrenheit 451 is never a good thing, IMO.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Well, it can be a very useful social marker. As in, I know who to watch in the future.

Dr. A said...

excellent post!

Silver Fox said...

"They" were already worth watching, but this does make it entirely clear. Like a marker bed.

Rich said...

I think there are occasions in which it is appropriate to intentionally offend someone, but if you're going to do it, you should put as much thought and care into it as PZ did.

Kind of like 'civil disobedience' doesn't mean "hey, free TVs!"

I think you should have an end goal which is greater than just pissing people off. The only goal I see coming out of FL right now (even after the event has been called off) is "Hey, look at me!!!"

D. C. said...

Good and thoughtful discussion of this going on at Ed Brayton's

Unknown said...

Hello dear friend…
I send you a message, to think about this for a minute…
Thank you !!!!
Liberal democracy is the utmost of aim of species that the U.S claims to have and claims that it has a wholly liberal democratic government. Does the end of the world and history conclude in the U.S? Is everything entirely for the U.S and what kind of Liberal democracy is this that doesn’t even allow anyone to reopen and research about the Holocaust case?! And according to this case and religious lie, every year hundreds of Muslims are sentenced to death. But this so-called liberal government allows any kind of insult to the holy book of Quran. And under the names of liberalism and freedom of speech, and with the aid of its police, offends more than one billion Muslims around the world.
The insult to the holy book of Quran and violating the law of respecting other’s beliefs and rights which was carried out by the same people who claim to have created this law, brought a great grief and sorrow to the liberals of the world. Isn’t this the same government that argues for omanism and all its moral and cultural theories are base on the human being?! So with this claim what happens to the freedom of right of more than one billion Muslims around the world and respecting their beliefs and religion?! Don’t these Muslims have the right to live?!
This is the Book(the Quran), about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah -

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