Such was Sam Harris' assessment of the mass Shiite pilgrimage to a nearby holy site shortly after the liberation of Baghdad. The march included fanatical displays of religious zeal such as pilgrims flagellating themselves into bleeding near-corpses and the requisite murder of a few Sunnis along the way. Now were my country to be invaded and rid of a murdering sectarian thug, its infrastructure badly damaged, and the rule of law quite precarious I don't think my first impulse would be to whip myself into a state of near catatonia. Truly a waste of time and resources.
In this spirit I couldn't help but think that a similar verdict could be justly rendered to the Bureau of Prisons' effort to compile a list of acceptable religious texts, as reported in today's New York Times.
In their wisdom they have seen fit to convene a panel of religious "experts" (which is about the same as being an expert in the metaphysics of Bambi) and-after having once removed all books deemed inflammatory, then replaced them-given this panel of "experts" (their designation as such has incidentally upset some others who won't have their say) the task of compiling a list of appropriate material.
I don't see the value in giving books, which have been known to incite violence in the simple minded and desperate, to people who are simple minded, desperate, and known to be violent. Much more the thought has doubtlessly not crossed their minds that rather than give prisoners books claiming to be the dicta of the creator of the universe, we should maybe educate them in the ethical thinking of those people whose thoughts form the basis of civil, western democracy. After all I have never heard of someone being incited to violence when reading too much Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Montesquieu, Kant, Hume, or John Locke. Too advanced for the prisoners? Well maybe the confusion will keep them sedate. Unfortunately no. The main concern of people like Moses Silverman, quoted in the Times, is that we not "throw the baby out with the bath water." My opinion on what we should be throwing out need not be repeated.
Much less why are my tax dollars being spent to compile a list of appropriate commentary on genocidal fairy tales for criminals? I am sure that even the most extreme crimes committed by these men pale in comparison to the incitements of the god of the Old Testament and Koran. And I am sure that not even the most schizophrenic and delusional amongst them can dream such insanity as to be found in the Book of Revelation or such vitriolic babbler-on-the-street-with-sign like prose to be found in the letters of Paul. There really is no separation of church and state, and apparently men who have lost the right to decide when they leave a 5x10 cell retain their right to the scribblings of religious demagogues.