What If They Burned Atheist Books…?

I know the piece is satire, but if Pastor Terry Jones ever decided to burn copies of The God Delusion, I hope this is the way we would respond:

A spokesman for the Atheist Brotherhood in Australia was quoted as saying: ”We feel strangely unaffected and will seek revenge by raising our eyebrows and shrugging our shoulders. I’ve already sent Pastor Terry a message wishing him good luck with his ecclesiastical grandstanding, and I feel sure he can grab a TV slot on a Baptist network with a weekly conflagration of tomes he hasn’t read and doesn’t agree with.”

Salman Rushdie, from a safe-house in Greenland, has called for calm and offered Pastor Jones a truckload of his novel The Satanic Verses to burn in place of the other texts. He said this should just about satisfy all parties, and if he can’t win the Nobel Prize for literature, then he might as well get it for peace. ”My books have been smoked in both hemispheres,” Salman said, ”so I’m not as easy to upset as some of these one-off authors like Mohammed and God.”

Funny and true. There’s nothing to get worked up over. Our ideas matter far more than the paper they’re printed on and there’s no reason to get upset by the thought of some of our favorite books going up in flames.

In fact, if any Christians would like to burn books written by atheists, I’ll be happy to donate some of my own.

(Thanks to @adam_casto for the link!)

  • http://sunombreenvano.blogspot.com/ Diego, El Mapache

    I feel like an idiot for thinking this was true. In my defense I can only say that with all the latest news, that is not very far from reality. I’m happy I can think that we non-believers have more chances to keep things peaceful.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I don’t care about a few books being burned as long as the wackos don’t try to bring down the internet.

  • Roxane

    I wouldn’t care. My God Delusion and God is Not Great and, yes, I Sold My Soul on eBay are completely safe. And somebody would have had to buy the copies that they burned, so Hitch and Dawkins and Hemant would all come out ahead!

    But I have to say, I LOVE the “authors’” comments!

  • Twin-Skies

    Not to sound wrong, but I’d actually be happy.

    Them burning a pile of books means that they had to buy a shitload of said books, which equates to more money for the local bookstores.

    I’d probably visit the burning event just to congratulate them for making such a hefty purchase, which I’d celebrate with copious amounts of hotdogs, ginger beer, and maybe burgers.

    Hmm…

    Hermant, what skeptic’s community arranged a book burning for its own favorite books?

    It’d be an interesting statement of how we think that people are silly for throwing a hissy fit over somebody burning their favorite tomes, when doing the same to us would probably draw more amusement than outrage.

  • http://www.pandeia.com flawedprefect

    I’d be more in favor of recycling books so that other books could be reprinted.

  • Ron in Houston

    They’re burning “I sold my soul on Ebay?”

    Those bastards!!!

  • Luc

    This is something i would love to see one of the SSA groups do.

    “Hey look, everyone! We’ll even burn books that express ideas we agree with! Why? To make the point that they’re just books, and their authors’ ideas are infinitely more valuable and cannot be destroyed by material metaphor.”

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The "Eh"theist

    2 things:

    mmmmm ginger beer

    Twin-Skies and Luc may be on to something-demonstrate the principle without offending anyone-I think that would really mess with some folks’ minds

    mmmm ginger beer

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    I’m pretty sure the authors would be okay with it as long as they bought them first. :)

  • DeafAtheist

    While I agree with the sentiment here, historically book burning was done to rid the world of every possible copy of a book they could get their hands on. It’s probably not possible to do that today with millions of copies of the most influential books in print as well as the availability of books online in digital format and I’m sure publishers keep digital copies backed up of every book they publish in case they do reprints.

    But back before the information age burning every copy of a controversial book was much easier to do especially when done by authority that would demand that personal copies were surrendered.

    Today it’s much more of a symbolic gesture that desires censorship but also fully intent on causing controversy itself. If no one gave a shit about Pastor Jones burning copies of the Koran then he’d probably not do it. It’s the negative reaction and the publicity he’s getting for it that fuels his desire to do it. I’m quite sure that underneath all the grandstanding that the stunt is nothing more than an attempt to fill a few more pews in his church and therefore garner a larger pot in his collection plate on Sundays.

    If the message is truly what is important to him then how about he fly out to Pakistan and light up a Koran in the middle of downtown Kabul? All he’s doing by burning them at his church is getting pats on the back from fellow teabaggers in his hometown.

  • ethinethin

    “[T]here’s no reason to get upset by the thought of some of our favorite books going up in flames.”

    Save the cellulose! If you’re going to dispose of books, you should recycle them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/TomJLawson Tom J. Lawson

    Has no one seen The Amazing Atheist’s video on YouTube burning the Koran, Bible, and God Delusion??? Why isn’t anyone talking about it??? I’m starting to think I imagined the whole thing.

    But here it is.

  • Richard Wade

    I stumbled across this this afternoon, and thought it was real for the first few sentences. Then I started laughing. Gee wiz, I want to grow up to write a book that people burn too! That would be so cool! (Available through Amazon for $19.95, hardbound) Maybe the publisher could offer a more burnable edition for reduced price, sold only in lots of 100. The only part that would make me feel bad would be the effect on global warming. We’re burning enough crap as it is. Homo Sapiens should be renamed Homo Pyromaniacus.

  • Luc

    @DeafAtheist

    You’re right, and we have been ignoring the historical intent of ridding the world of a book, thusly attempting to remove an idea from it as well. When that is the goal, however, the burned books have to be those of others’ property. If anyone today were to go that far with their book-burning goals, i can’t imagine anyone in this community doing anything but condemning the act and sentiment.

    So people are left with privately-owned-book-burning as a metaphor. That’s where burning atheist literature would……alright, i just finished watching The Amazing Atheist’s video and have nothing to add that he didn’t already say.

  • Ben

    If the message is truly what is important to him then how about he fly out to Pakistan and light up a Koran in the middle of downtown Kabul? All he’s doing by burning them at his church is getting pats on the back from fellow teabaggers in his hometown.

    Well, to be honest he doesn’t do that for the same reason I don’t take my boyfriend to Pakistan and have sex with him in the street. Just because people value their head doesn’t mean they should simply shut up (or not have sex).

    The Pastor’s problem was an issue of hypocrisy — that he believed his book was somehow better than the other one — not that he didn’t want to get murdered while doing it.

  • ckitching

    In fact, if any Christians would like to burn books written by atheists, I’ll be happy to donate sell some of my own.

    I fixed that for you. ;-)

    But doesn’t this article just demonstrate how these New Atheists are exactly the same as militant fundamentalist extremists!

  • Sully

    You know, it was probably a good thing that he was burning Korans and not something that has REALLY dangerous followers – like copies of Twilight or Justin Beiber CDs. Hoo boy, even *I’D* feel bad for the guy when the inevitable came.

  • Dave B

    What I’d like to see as a response here is someone holding a burning for holy books from the world’s other major religions. I’m betting there wouldn’t be much outrage.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    Reflecting on @DeafAtheist’s points I agree 100% that historically they are correct. Bookburning was used as a tool of repression, to keep people from having access to certain ideas and to publicly repudiate those ideas.

    Likewise historically marriage was for heterosexual couples to produce children; preaching was for religious types to publicly attempt to convert others and protests were to show anger at someone else’s actions.

    These three activities have been reframed with marriage being a sign of love and commitment between people; preaching being a tool to get people to question the whole idea of religious conversion (think FSM) and protests can now be a means to demonstrate the silliness of others’ hatred and intolerance (Comic-Con and the WBC).

    So why not do the same with bookburning? Why not transform it into a symbol that while paper can be destroyed, ideas can’t?

    Why not demonstrate that our modern world can produce thousands or millions of copies of a book, or transmit it digitally and that burning one or two copies is like spitting into the ocean.

    (Writing this I get the mental image of Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and his ever growing collection of brooms)

    Why not defang the action of its past symbolism and give people something else to reconsider?

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com/ fraggle

    Now I kind-of want to write a book about being an atheist who eats babies who would be VERY UPSET INDEED if anyone were to burn my books. Very upset. Especially if they were to buy many, many copies of my books and burn them. That would make me as a baby-eating atheist very unhappy and I might even repent and be saved any second!

    I might even sell them with a little match in the inside cover.

    It wouldn’t even have to be a particularly good book.

  • Rollingforest

    If Atheists had over a billion followers who were willing to kill anyone who insulted us, then maybe people would be scared to burn our books too.

  • Drew M.

    @Sully

    You know, it was probably a good thing that he was burning Korans and not something that has REALLY dangerous followers – like copies of Twilight or Justin Beiber CDs. Hoo boy, even *I’D* feel bad for the guy when the inevitable came

    You made me laugh and also reminded me of this: Troll Slayer

  • Bob

    There’s a short story in a science-fiction anthology (I’d have to look up the exact title and its author) in which a man shares his secret with a stranger:

    By burning a book, he destroys all instances of the book.

    The power at first amazed him, and then began to frighten him. Ultimately, he came to realize it was up to him to protect all the ideas and concepts offered up in various books, for as long as he protected them, they would never vanish.

    But he admits to the stranger that he is getting on in years, and he needs to pass his power and its responsibility on to someone else. So he searched, and eventually came upon the stranger, inviting him here for this purpose.

    He bequeaths the stranger his power.

    The next morning, the stranger has a little bonfire going, and he’s gone through his host’s library, weeding out the stuff he finds ‘unacceptable’ and ‘wrong’ by his standards, crowing that he’s going to cure all the world’s evils by burning a few books. He thanks his host for making it possible.

    His host has one last surprise. He admits that he knew he could never be entirely sure about his choice, so he held back a small portion of his power, for this very reason.

    “You can’t stop me! It’s too late! Once these books are gone, they’re gone!” the stranger says.

    His host shakes his head sadly, and produces two items: a lighter and the stranger’s driver’s license …

  • JoeBuddha

    Actually, I think a book burning of your FAVORITE books is an awesome idea. Kinda like turning the symbol on its head. Heck, I’d do it.

  • Valhar2000

    Ethinethin wrote:

    Save the cellulose! If you’re going to dispose of books, you should recycle them.

    Somebody should do a Bible or Koran recycling protest!

  • http://undeniably-atheist.blogspot.com/ shreddakj

    While I find the concept of books to be something quite ‘holy’ if I am allowed to use that word.. I don’t care about book burnings. The only thing it demonstrates to me, is the ignorance of the people doing it.

    Actually, on second thought, gratuitous book burnings may have some effect on global warming, so I am offended by it in that respect.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @fraggle,

    If you were to write such a book that included a match, I would buy it… but only if was scented with incense.

  • muggle

    You know, I’ve really got to get around to reading “Satanic Verses” as there must be something to this book if so many people want to kill it. I wonder if it’s on Kindle.

    (Muggle picks up her Kindle on the end table next to her and checks. No, why not, Amazon? Checks the books and reads the first six pages from the look inside. Er, never mind, that’s tedious as hell so I don’t care to torture myself with the rest anyway.)

    Ben, the difference between you and Pastor Jones (well, beyond your not being afraid to use your brain) is that he should feel his god would protect him. It’s most interesting that he doesn’t.

    However, Deaf Atheist, the past is dead and gone. It’s no longer the case and doesn’t mean the same, except symbollically but even then everyone knows they’re incapable of doing it. Other than ecology, no reason not to.

    Loved the Amazing Atheist’s video. Now that’s the way to do it.

  • Anonymous

    That article is excellent.

    Strangely, this story got rather less attention, and this one is not a spoof.

    Orthodox Jewish youths burn New Testaments in Or Yehuda

    City’s deputy mayor initiated bonfire of missionary-distributed material, held next to a synagogue in town.”
    http://www.haaretz.com/news/orthodox-jewish-youths-burn-new-testaments-in-or-yehuda-1.246153

  • schnauzermom

    I’m with Otto. If they want to put more money in Dawkins’, Hitch’s, and other atheist authors’ bank accounts with their symbolic tantrum, have a go.

  • Matt
  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    I’m a bibliophile so the concept of book burning always gets to me. But it’s still free speech so if somebody wanted to buy copies of atheist books and burn them that would be their right. They’re just bound printed paper, after all, and more can be printed.

  • http://www.ourcheapbooks.com Jack

    Great post!
    I’m happy I can think that we non-believers have more chances to keep things peaceful

  • 5-up mushroom

    Perhaps an atheist book burning organized by atheists is in order. Have one of the more loud mouthed atheists to spew some anti-reason rhetoric and aim for Darwin’s birthday to add some historical significance to it.

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