Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smoking the bible and Koran - Alex Stewart

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News is circulating about Australian Alex Stuart, a professor at the University of Queensland, and a self-professed atheist. In the spirit of dissension, in probably inspired by the Florida pastor who proposed to burn copies of the Koran as a protest against the building of a mosque near the World Trade Centre; Alex recorded a YouTube video showing himself smoking a page from the Bible, as well as a page from the Koran. He argued that the Bible tasted better and the Koran made him sick. He also said that those who are upset by his video are taking life way too seriously. Alex has been placed on leave, and may face the loss of his job for his efforts.
Alex's account has been closed, whether by him or YouTube, however clips can be viewed elsewhere. EXCUSE the idiot who posted this. Myself excluded.
We might ask - what exactly has the guy done wrong. A number of points are made:
1. He is not anti-Christianity or anti-Islam, he is against both forms of mysticism
2. He is exercising his right of self-expression. If it is ok for a person to believe in God, then it has to be ok to believe in atheism. He is therefore against all forms of persecution. Despite this, the University of Queensland is at a loss as to what to do about the situation. Just as they want to declare they are tolerant of religions, they need to be tolerant of those who profess none, and rejoice in their lack of a religion.
3. He is actually highlighting a 'possible' institutionalised discrimination of atheism. For this reason, I believe Alex willretain his job. After all he is dealing with an academic institution right? Who values reasoned arguments right? We can only hope.

But what of the practical consequences of these actions. Is a single, or even a group of Australians smoking the bible and Koran going to cause soldiers in the Middle East to be attacked. Well that is an interesting point. I would suggest it is. And here is why.....THEY ARE DIFFERENT. The Middle East is packed full of collectivists. They are not lovers of freedom, so don't expect them to embrace freedoms. You think you can remove persecution in countries where it is so embedded. This fails to appreciate the extent to which collectivism is embedded in the culture. Its not just political, its deeper, so its pointless dealing with it on this level. For this reason, there is a need for Australia and other Western countries to either remove themselves from the Middle East, or hold them accountable for their values.
Do we really need to placate fundamentalists? Do we really think fundamentalists are only people who blow up their children? Christianity has their nutters as well....do you see the correlation?
In the NZ Herald, the president of the Islamic Association of Australia said "Mr Stewart's motives were deeply hurtful to Muslims but his future was for the university to decide". Well, actually if his philosophy was meaningful he ought to praise him for his honesty. He made no judgement about religion. In fact, in essence, he is opposing extremism in the most non-judgemental way. He is saying people need to relax. Did he intend the issue to be divisive? Probably. But maybe he just wanted people to reflect on the fact that 'they are just books'. Even good whiskey is more valuable than any particular bible. He is opposed to symbolism, which he sees as mindless.
Sheik Muhammad Wahid said:
"We condemn it and our feelings have been hurt by this man. ...There is no need for this kind of thing, just to create disunity and disharmony among people living in Australia".
The reality is that he has not created disunity....there was never any unity. He has exposed what was always there, but for the sake of political correctness and fear, few people are willing to deal with. The reality is that this is a test for Muslims and Christians alike. Who will resort to retaliatory acts? Catholics? Protestants? Muslims? Of course some fundamentalists are destined to fail, and because of psychological repression and political correctness around the world, the disdain for Alex's actions will overlook an important issue....Alex has allowed us to see that its ok for people to have different views. He is a role model for peace in Jerusalem. After all his views are not exactly embraced by the majority of Australians. Atheists number (10%) about as many as Muslims (5%) in Australia, and Muslims are closer to Christianity than atheism.
"With respect to books like the Bible and the Koran, whatever, just get over it," he says. "That said, I don't think it's completely appropriate unless it's done for a good purpose, which I've done today".
Alex is not entirely consistent. He says 'get over it'. Get over what? This sounds like repression to me. Anyway, its a side issue. Why does he favour the bible? He suggests its probably the paper. Of course the Islamic clerics are not interested in the contents of the video, merely in its capacity to be used as a matter for scandal. Why are Islamic clerics [and Christians] making more of this than it is ...because they are fundamentalists with a desire to appease their followers, or to incite hatred, so they will have a following. Nothing wrong with that, except they are not using facts.
In my next blog I will talk more about the response by Christian fundamentalists.
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Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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Attention all atheists!!
In fact anyone who has had an interesting encounter with a Christian which involved manipulation, deception or blatant rationalisation. This is research or material for a forthcoming book. I am not suggesting that all Christians are criminals, dangerous or threats to society, but I am suggesting that Christianity is a basis for moral inefficacy. There is a reason why Christian nations are always at war. There is a reason why former Christians (or children of Christians) have a tendency to drift into cults and extreme religious groups. Thank you for any life experiences you can recall. ----------------------------------------------- Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com