Quran Target Practice
Posted: 18 May 2008 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have an opinion on the use of the Quran as a target for weapons practice by US personnel in Baghdad.

I was wondering what you other skeptics and/or atheists think.

My opinion is that I view the Quaran as “just another influential book”.  Why should I feel any differently about somebody shooting at it as opposed to, say, a Betty Crocker Cookbook?  The difference as I see it, is that I highly doubt somebody just picked a random book - which happened to be the Quran - to shoot.

I suspect, that just like burning a flag is very often a political and philosophical statement, rather than a matter of practical expediency (i.e. keeping warm) or random happenstance, so is any non-random shooting or burning the Quran.  I firmly support the right of free speech, even to the point where a citizen is entitled to burn a flag, fly a flag of choice, burn or shoot any book he may choose.  On the other hand, I propose that when an official representative (e.g. a soldier, or other government agent) makes a political statement, it is sometimes difficult to separate the person from the role and thus may be easily misconstrued as an official statement.  I cannot help but think it was intentionally inflamatory.

It also occurs to me that some may be inclined to shoot a Quran, a Bible, a KitĪ±b-i-Aqdas, a Mencius etc. as a general statement of antipathy toward religion in general.  But in selecting to assault only one holy book, one’s intention could be easily (mis?)construed as making a specific statement against a particular religion, and implicitly in support of some other religion.  Due to this easy interpretation, it is logical for an observer to infer the protester supports some kind of deep antipathy toward a particular religion commensurate perhaps even with the disposition toward religious war.

Finally, I hold that the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan, for that matter) is a secular war against the secular impacts of an autocratic and malicious regime and ideology, which regime may (or may not) be motivated by religious philosophy.  It is in keeping with the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, including religious liberty, for the actions and policies of our occupation forces to completely ignore religious issues until and unless they create deleterious secular or practical impacts, and then to selectively address those issues.  To cast the struggle as being generally against a particular religion is antithetical to the best ideals of respect, tolerance and liberty humanity has ever conceived.

[ Edited: 18 May 2008 10:55 AM by tscott ]
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Posted: 18 May 2008 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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tscott - 18 May 2008 10:52 AM

I was wondering what you other skeptics and/or atheists think.

.

I think the last thing that the US Army needs is for anyone to view this war as Christine Vs. Islam.

In the same note, how would atheists around the world feel if a powerful nation started training there troops by shooting copy’s of “God is Not great” By Christopher Hitchens,  or photo’s of Paul Kurtz??

[ Edited: 18 May 2008 01:12 PM by Amos ]
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Posted: 18 May 2008 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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tscott -

I think it’s pretty obvious that using a Koran for target practice is not a nuanced critique of world religion.  It is an act of a bigot.

The war in Iraq, like any war, cannot be characterized so simply as this or that, and you can’t so simply remove an aspect like religion out of political or theoretical expediency.

Amos -

If only the religious extremists around the world confined their violence to books.

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Posted: 20 May 2008 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Bush Promises Prosecution of Soldier for Shooting Koran

What the hell are they going to prosecute him for?! Being an idiot isn’t against the law, obviously, since we have one running the country. And last time I checked, shooting a book wasn’t a criminal offense under U.S. law. I understand the need to make nice with the religious extremists on our side (and anyone who wants criminal prosecution for defacing a book is an extremist, make no mistake), but serving up this guy as a sacrifice to appease the Iraqis is hardly an example of the kind of democracy and freedom of expression we claim we’re in favor of over there. Arrrgggg!

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Posted: 20 May 2008 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t know. They’ll find something in the UCMJ to use.

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Posted: 20 May 2008 02:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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anyone who wants criminal prosecution for defacing a book is an extremist, make no mistake

It isn’t a book, and it was not defaced.  It is a sacred object, to moderates as much as extremists, and it was not defaced but destroyed.  It was an act of abject racism to use it for target practice, entirely contrary to the U.S. military’s objectives in Iraq, and I’m pretty sure that there is a standing order to treat the Koran with respect.  It is not a case of free expression, it is a case of expressing racism, hatred, and monumental ignorance.  I’m really surprised you can’t see that.

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Posted: 20 May 2008 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I have no doubt that the individual who shot the book was an idiot and a religious bigot (probably because he’s a commited Christian). It was clearly intended as an insult, and that is contrary to the practices we should encourage in our soldiers in Iraq, as long as we have the poor judgement to send them there. That said, I also have no doubt that criminal prosecution for insulting someone else’s worship of a BOOK is stupid and the path to totalitarianism. The defining of objects as sacred and more important than people is one of the more ridiculous things about religion, and regardless of the guy’s motives, the fact is that I have no sympathy for people who let themselves be mortally offended by how someone treats pieces of paper. I consider viewing an object in that way to be extreme, regardless of the fact that it is commonly accepted. And I consider the president’s and media’s level of concern and remorse regarding it an example of the widespread pandering to religious sensibilities. It is allowable to insult virtually anything except someone’s supernatural beliefs, as long as their beliefs lots of other people share.

My point is that the level of attention that this received, and the fact that it was taken so seriously in the media and the government, is not just a reflection of an appropriate response to one soldier’s deliberate efforts to mock Iraqis. I’m sure there is a great deal of low-level insulting and taunting on both sides. Houng men with guns, particularly when they never know who’s going to try to kill them, aren’t always the most civil. But in this case, an example is being made of this guy all out of proportion to what anyone could rationally view as his offense. He didn’t hurt anyone, didn’t mistreat anyone, didn’t even directly and pointedly insult an individual person. He shot holes in a bloody book, and regardless of his intent I don’t consider the reaction to that rational. I consider it an example of the dangerous irrationality that religious belief enourages. People being willing to kill each other over pieces of paper is stupid and dangerous, and I think that is far more of a problem than this yahoo’s little macho display of his own religious bigotry.

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Posted: 20 May 2008 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, simply put, the irrational responses the tacit approval of his act would likely incur would tend to put life at greater risk, both American and Iraqi.  His act undermines US policy, and undermines the US military’s position in Iraq, and so it cannot be accepted.

If you grant that there exist people who will be provoked into violence by this, then the question is not whether the views that result in the provocation and violence are rational, but what to do to prevent it.  If it were a real case of freedom of expression I would be more indignant, but it is not a case where a soldier is trying to uphold a principle.  He’s just an obnoxious jerk, and one who has put his comrades (and the people who might be impelled attack them, and bystanders who get caught in crossfire) at greater risk, however indirectly.  He has provided the enemies of reason with emotional ammunition.  The best policy is thus to try to reduce the impact of that ammunition, rather than pour fuel on the fire by tacitly condoning it.

You aren’t going to make much headway promoting rationality by condoning irrational, hateful acts.  If the Klan burns down a church, do we say “good for you - you have struck a blow for reason”?  It’s only a building, after all.

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Posted: 20 May 2008 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Brennon, I think they removed the article. I followed your link and it’s not there anymore.  :(

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Posted: 21 May 2008 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Rsonin,

I understand the practical reasons for making an example of the guy. I just find it an example of the stupidity that religion engenders. The president publically defends waterboarding, and remains silent about all kinds of abuses individual soldiers commit that do real harm to real people, but then makes a public condemnation of an idiotic symbolic act. I’m not condoning the act, I’m just pointing out that its impact and significance comes strictly from the irrationality of the believers who are offended, and the sympathy believers on “our” side have with them. I’d like to live in a world where burning the flag and shooting the koran and other such acts of disrespect to a mere symbol don’t make most people willing to kill and where acts that cause real suffering for individuals generate as much or more outrage. By focusing on the pragmatic policy issue,s which I do appreciate, I think you’re just missing my point. The fact that even here, among skeptics and atheists, it is so difficult to get a simple acknowledgement that outrage over the desecration of an inanimate object that has been declared sacred is irrational and itself the root of the problem makes me despair of ever seeing the diminution of such irrationality. :-(


And I have to say that such pragmatic arguments can easily be made any time someone commits an offensive act, so I think they’re a slippery slope. I bet Bush would argue that the provocation of burning a flag or Bible here is a threat to social order and public safety because of the legitimate outrage it would engender, and I’m sure he would support making such acts illegal. I doubt you’d go that far, but the argument lends itself to such extensions against freedom of expression. I think the root issue, that people decalre objects as sacred and are then willing to kill anyone who desecrates them, is a real one that shouldn’t just be ignored despite the obvious realpolitik arguments for making an example of this guy.

As for the Klan burning churches, that’s a strawman and totally irrelevant. Why? Well, it is destruction of a specific group’s substantial property, which is rather different from the destruction of a book, and not one taken from anyone else as far as I understand. Church burning is also a blatant threat of violence from one civilian group against another in an ostensibly peacetime setting. You can hardly argue that an army sniper in Iraq is commiting the same kind of act of intimidation in a war zone, especially since shooting people is what he’s there to do and everyone knows it. Chruch burning is a deliberately public act, and I’m sure the guy in Iraq would have been much happier if nobody but his buddies had known what he was doing. And on and on.

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Posted: 21 May 2008 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I agree with Brennen, the guy is hopeless retard as there probably are many of them hiding in the US Military. Not long ago, I borrowed a documentary from the library titled “Ghosts of Abou-Gharib”. And in there, there is this all american beautiful girl, of course with the approval of her direct superior, taking pictures of male iraqi prisoners after they’ve been stripped of their clothes and ordered to get on top of each other in a pyramid formation facing their naked ugly looking derrieres to the cam!!!!! the doc showed a pic with her face inches away from their naked behinds, proudly posing & smiling at the cam. It was An-absolutely-gross-sight to say the least. Along with that one, they showed   many other pics. It turned out that taking pictures is what got the abou-gharib Fiasco out at the first place. She got 6 months. They interviewed her in the doc and the ignorance she displayed in her justifying taking those pics was as hopeless as the pics she took. I think the guy (along with her) should be handed a dishonorable discharge and thrown out for showing the dumb side of the US to the outside world nothing more. Those are dumb hearheads that lower the US military reasoning standards.

[ Edited: 21 May 2008 12:33 PM by Daisy ]
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