Saturday, May 24, 2008
Shoot the Quran. Shoot the Bible. Shoot the Torah.
Here's the link to the article which inspired my commentary this time: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24792627/
Well, it seems that once again, our leaders have to bow and plead and beg forgiveness for what should normally be a non-issue. So what? So the guy shot at a Quran? So what? It's a book. Paper, ink, glue. The man's job is to shoot people. But he wasn't doing that. He was practicing by shooting at a sheaf of paper. For this he gets sent home? While I think that there are better uses for books than shooting, a book ultimately is no more special than any other object. The only difference is the meaning that believers assign to it. And is that belief rational? Let's see, in Afghanistan they rioted and KILLED people because someone shot a book.....a BOOK!
Now, while his act MAY have been in bad taste, perhaps it wasn't culturally sensitive. But, after all, he was not a diplomat. He was a soldier. And a soldier's job is to kill. Killing is not a particularly nice job. And who is it that our soldiers are fighting? They're fighting Islamic fanatics. It doesn't take a lot to see why he may have some hostility towards the holy book that goads those fanatics on to ever more shocking displays of barbarism. So, let's be fair. Let's be egalitarian. Let's be honest. There's nothing that makes this soldier's act condemnable aside from our irrational concession to religion in general that it deserves to be treated with respect by default.
There is absolutely nothing respectable about religion. Religion has offered nothing to the advancement of mankind. Science has. Science can exist without religion. Religion is unnecessary. We should be more offended when our politicians cater to the spiritual vagaries of bigoted idealogues then when trained soldiers practice on inanimate objects. We should be more outraged when people riot and KILL in the name of their outrage, then when a man whose job is to kill quietly protests by shooting something which has no consciousness, no precious life to be snuffed out.
So, in the interest of fairness, I propose that we should line up the Bible alongside the Torah, the Quran, the Bhagavad Ghita, The Book of Mormon, and Dianetics. I say take a shot at all of them. They all have the same net value for human advancement....ZERO. If every copy of those books disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, the net impact on our knowledge of our existence, our universe, and the moral fabric of our society would not be shifted one iota.
If Newton's laws were forgotten, or Einstein's relativity ignored, or the Declaration of Independence lost to time, then we would notice the difference and severely. If the germ theory of medicine was condemned as heresy and forbidden, to be lost in the swamp of cloudy spiritualism, then we would notice the difference. There would be no condemnatory thunders of flame. The result would be no less subtle though for lack of theistic pyrotechnics. We would simply notice things stop working. We would notice people start dying in larger and larger numbers. They would die of diseases we could no longer fight. They would die of hunger because of food we could no longer grow or transport as effectively. They would die of cold and heat and exposure to an environment we had surrendered our only means of optimizing for human survival.
It's easy to talk about respecting ancient myths and fanatical ideologies when you're sitting in an air-conditioned room, with electric lighting, world-wide internet access and a TV chirping consolingly in the background. But try imagining the world ruled by those 'pleasant' myths. You would quickly lose all of those things. The engine that drives those creations, which keeps them working, and which ensures that you don't have to worry about where they come from is the human mind. Thousands of human minds working in freedom, with reason as their guide.
Betray those minds to a misguided respect of religious insanity, and they will leave you. Perhaps not immediately. The living minds are generally more tolerant than is best for them. They are forgiving. They will let us march towards darkness for quite a while. But once the line is crossed, those minds will be cut off. They will retreat, surrender. And where will all this faith leave us then?