Thursday, September 9, 2010

Florida pastor cancels Koran burning after call from Pentagon

News from Florida that a Christian pastor had canceled a planned Koran-burning spectacle on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that had attracted worldwide attention should give everyone pause. Sure, it's great that this obviously outrageously provocative and disrespectful act did not go forward, even if it took a call from the Pentagon to stop it, according to the Reuters international news service. The very justification for the creation of the United States was and is religious tolerance -- and that is how we became a worldwide symbol of freedom and why we became rich and powerful. Why change our basic understandings because there are people who don't like us? And it's not as simple as that Muslims don't like us, since there are millions of Muslims who live in the United States and other countries who don't bear us any ill will or, if they do, are able to put those feelings into proper context. The simple truth is that all religions think they're correct and, by logical extension, think other religions are not. Why would anybody follow sometimes inexplicable traditions and practices if they thought they were wrong? Maybe the problem is that people like Terry Jones, the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, have grown accustomed to looking only at the surface of things and have forgotten that everything really has meaning. On the surface, yes, a group of Muslim radicals destroyed the World Trade Center in New York. But the real problem is much, much deeper. The al-Qaeda operatives were men -- does that mean all men destroyed the World Trade Center and killed thousands of people? Of course not. They were religious zealots -- does that mean all religious zealots destroyed the buildings? Of course not. Let's not be stupid about this. The United States has proven that human beings can form democratic societies based not on ethnicity or religion or even proximity, but on shared desires and values. We exist as a country because we wanted to, and continue to want to. But let's not sacrifice the very things that made us great out of some misguided and poorly considered lurch toward self-preservation. We're a lot better than that, and have always been.

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