It is a tiny church of fifty members in Gainesville Florida, but the D___ W____ O_______ C_____ found a way to put itself on the map: threaten to burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11th in protest of the “evil of Islam”. But this story isn’t about the evil of this wackadoodle group, and it certainly isn’t about the “evil” of Islam.
Nor is it about the “evil of religion” generally. The frustration is that I can already hear the skeptics I know chalking this up as another example of the dangerous nature of religious belief. But if fifty humanists got together to form a swingers club or a vigilante militia I wouldn’t conclude that humanism leads to social chaos. Most humanists don’t share their spouses and would never shoot a mailman. By the same token, how many Christians do you know who are idiotic enough to burn somebody else’s sacred text? Not many. (I can think of one marginal case. Back in the 80s my friend’s Pentecostal mom made him throw out his Black Sabbath albums. And for my poor friend those were close to sacred texts, albeit in vinyl.)
So the evil of this story isn’t about a fringe group of Florida misanthropes, Islam or religion. The real evil here is found in the media which would popularize a fringe group because the headline “Evangelicals threaten to burn Koran” is just too salacious to pass up. Who cares that right now in Afghanistan people are protesting in the streets over “American Christians who burn Qur’an!”. This is simply the latest permutation of the old 6 o’clock news maxim – if it bleeds, it leads. But how many of these pseudo-news services ever stop to ask: if it leads, who bleeds?