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I support the right of every Muslim, every Christian, every Mormon, Hindu, Jew, or adherent of any and every other religion to cross out or cut out or tear out any and every verse of their scripture (Quran or Bible or whatever other) which may be used (or has been used) to advocate violence or oppression, and for the adherent to thereafter worship with the thusly improved book.

This is, in fact, a no-brainer in terms of fundamental human rights. After all, every person has the right to choose their religion, or to change their religion from one to another. And though the most regressive societies punish "apostasy," the wise have always noted this to be a weakness of faiths which need such threats to maintain their membership.

Now, as to the selection of religion, any person could wake up on any morning, walk down to their bookstore, pick any book from its shelves -- a cookbook, a romance novel, a Darwin reader -- and declare that God or some comparable force has deemed this, and this alone, to be his holy book. And any person who does so, does so with authority legally equal to that of any more popular scripture. As a matter of fundamental human rights and widely accepted principles of religious freedom, the person who announces Betty Crocker as his savior is no less in the right to do so than the person who announces Jesus as his savior, Muhammad as his prophet, Buddha as his teacher, or Thor as his champion for entry into Valhalla.

But can this apply to the excision of lines thought cancerous from existing books? Firstly, there is a right of individuals to buy and own and do as they wish with their own books. Any person can go to the religion section of their bookstore and buy up one copy of each available scripture for possibly dozens of religions. That bookbuyer now owns the physical object he has bought and can use them as he pleases, short of hurling them at another person as weapons. The bookbuyer-now-bookowner can read and revere them all; or set them on a shelf for display and never crack them open; or use them to level odd-legged tables; or throw them on the fire. Or, critically, to open them up and pick the parts they like and take a marker or a blade to those they believe to be wrong. There's no principled limitation which could prevent such application. Famously, we may recall, the Deist Thomas Jefferson cut out all of the passages of the Bible which to his sensibilities defied reason -- all accounts of miracles and the supernatural -- leaving the more compact moral instruction of the Jefferson Bible. If a Muslim or a Christian or any other believer believes their God has instructed them to remove cancerous errors from the book, who is any nonbeliever as to that believer's experience to question belief, to essentially question God's own instruction to the believer?

And, as an aside, what greater signal can there be, to the prospective scripture editor, that any power-that-be wants those passages gone than the observation of violence done in the name of those passages? A believer in a loving deity need hear no more than another's exhortation to oppression while quoting a verse to know that this verse contradicts their deity itself, and must go. And so I have not the least hesitation in concluding that unwavering support must be bestowed, by all of us, upon the right of believers to rewrite their scriptures as needed to accommodate the belief conveyed to them of a highly spiritual opposition to any reasonably discerned possibility hateful and oppressive interpretations.

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