The Manhattan "Ground Zero Mosque" was also in the news:
When the Terry Jones story first came out, I wrote the following article. I was reluctant to publish, because I don't want WASH in the same category as Terry Jones. However, I'll post it here, and readers should feel free to comment:
Humanists respect knowledge, so it is difficult to advocate for any kind of book burning. However, Terry Jones and his tiny Florida Christian church got an absurd amount of coverage from the nationwide media for planning to burn Qurans. The sheer amount of attention makes it very tempting to do something similar just for the publicity. Not only that, everyone seems to have agreed that it was a bad idea to burn Qurans, from the major media to the Secretary of Defense. Muslims would find it insulting, of course.
But in the U.S., the conclusion was because some people thought that it would make some Muslims become violent, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This sounds like bowing to blackmail from only the possibility of violence. Does this willingness to accommodate religious oversensitivity and violence mean that the terrorists have won?
I disagree that it is bad to burn religious books, either Qurans and Bibles. I would give the following reasons.
The religious books are the most widely published books in the world. The Bible was the first book printed by Gutenberg after the printing press was invented. Both books are readily available in electronic form, so they can be copied almost limitlessly with the touch of a button. As a result, we don't expect that burning a few paper copies will affect anyone's access to reading or possessing the books.
The books are burned only for symbolic reasons, of which there are two very good ones.
The first reason has to do with freedom of expression for the religious and the non-religious. Religious freedom in the U.S. is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and it is one of our most valued freedoms from government interference. Muslims want to build a mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, and they are free to do it. But if non-Muslims choose to burn a few copies of the Islamic foundational text, they are also free to do it.
An important aspect of the freedom is to accept that the freedoms also apply equally to other people, even without agreeing with them. So if Muslims accept the freedom to build a mosque, they must also accept our freedom to burn a Quran. We should remind them, and ourselves, that we have the freedom, and we must exercise and defend the freedom. A freedom that no one uses because they are afraid of violence, bullying, or coercion is not a freedom at all. We refuse to let threats of violence destroy our freedom.
The second reason to burn a few copies of Qurans and Bibles is to remind ourselves about what is really important about them. The importance is not the physical paper and ink. Some superstitious people may think that these books are sacred, and they will be protected by God so disaster will strike anyone who mistreats a book. But these books are discarded and burned all the time, as are many other books. Individual copies don't matter. The books are only good to the extent that people read them, understand them, and use them to make their lives better.
But sometimes, people read these books and decide that they don't make their lives better at all. Some read the books and use them as an excuse to make war or be violent, or to make lives worse.
To these people, I say that these books are not worth keeping. Many people have become atheists or Secular Humanists because they reject the obsolete, outmoded teachings of these books. To people who reject the worldview of these books, we should say, throw them in the fire. We don't need them. We can live good lives without them. We don't live in fear that there is any god that can or will strike us down for doing it.
In the words of Robert Ingersoll,
"All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the Bible is simply and purely of human invention--of barbarian invention--is to read it. Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the coiled form of superstition--then read the Holy Bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity."
If you don't like what the book says, and you don't need it to have a good life, then throw it out.