During this couple of days, there have been news about a pastor planning to burn copies of the Qur'an during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which coincides with this year's Eid ul-Fitr (the celebration of the end of Ramadan). I rarely comment on recent news, but this story is very interesting because it puts the spotlight on the line between two sensitive issues: religious correctness and freedom of speech.
I, as a free man living in free country (theoretically), can do whatever I want as long as I don't hurt or endanger a third party. I am free to run naked around my house, bathe myself in milk, and frolic under my rug afterwards. I am not hurting anybody in the process.
However, also as a free man, I can conduct any type of religious beliefs and rituals. I am free to belief the sun is really a glowing disc put there by a giant rabbit, called Sarah, and that, with the moon, both glowing balls are her scrotum dangling in the sky. I am free to worship Sarah as written down in the traditions of Sarahcism.
The problem lies when one of these freedoms intersects with the other: if Sarahcism forbids me to bathe myself in milk, because Sarah is a mammal and thus milk is sacred, and condemns anybody that does so to eternity in Pumpkin Land (rabbits don't like pumpkins; and you don't want to live there, trust me), paradoxically I'm effectively being limited by a freedom.
This is were religion irks me. It's an illusion of having "no choice" of doing or not doing something, that you yourself have decided to believe (yes, it's a choice, nobody is born believing in Jesus). Burning the Qur'an, the Bible, or the Torah being condemned as blasphemy is illogical, as these books themselves are an embodiment of blasphemy. A man, a mortal, a creation of God, thought he heard voices, wrote them down, and claimed them as being The Words of God. How dare he put himself up as the messenger of an all-knowing all-capable God? Pretty blasphemous if you ask me. If God wanted these words to be known throughout mankind, they would have been imprinted in us since birth; words such as love, compassion, and empathy (sound familiar?). These words mean something and resonate in all of us; the Qur'an, the Bible, or the Torah are just books that some people agree with and others don't.
However, it is still your freedom to believe in limiting yourself, but I have no obligation in believing in that same limitation. In fact, I am free to limit myself in a whole different manner than you. I can burn your book, I can shit on it, wipe myself with it, and eat it (in that order if I want to). You can call Sarah an exhibitionist furry whore, with an addiction to milk, that will probably die of a bladder infection. We are free to do that, as our limitations are not the same, and even though you may hurt my feelings doing so, I am not free of being insulted.
"... as long as I don't hurt or endanger a third party", nowhere does it include feelings; and faith is just that: a feeling. Muslim can burn Bibles, Jews can eat in front of a Muslim during Ramadan, and Christians can blow off the Hanukkah lights. Anyone doing any of these things is not committing a crime, he's just being a douche. It's just one personal limitation not being the same as another. And permitting these limitations is not "following the law", it's just being considerate and thoughtful; and there's no legal obligation to be any of them.
Now, if somebody commits an actual crime in the name of God, the only thing you can point is that they have committed a crime, period. Their freedom impeded somebody else's, and that's the fault. The religious reasoning (whatever that is) behind the crime is irrelevant in the process of deciding if the person did a crime or not. It only points out the twisted limitation he has imposed in himself. Any generalization that persons with similar limitations are bound to do the same crime is an extremely stupid extrapolation, as such limitations are personal, always; no two Christians interpret the Bible in exactly the same way.
So, what do I think of the Qur'an-burning pastor? He's free to do whatever he wants, and burning a book has rarely hurt anyone. And it's not like he's going to burn the last copies of the Qur'an; there are plenty to go around. If he'd use the fire to begin burning neighboring houses, that's another story. He has a big yard, though, I wouldn't worry.
However, by burning copies of the Qur'an he has definitely, irrevocably, undeniably achieved the title of Complete and Utter Douche. Congratulations, scumbag.