Atheist Alex Stewart of Brisbane, Australia, smokes a page from the Gospel of John in a video he posted on YouTube as he tested which burns better, the Bible or the Quran.

A college lawyer is under heavy fire for making light, literally, of burning holy books such as the Quran and the Bible as he rolled up pages from both sacred texts and smoked them as if they were marijuana cigarettes for a worldwide Internet audience.

Tearing a page from the New Testament that contains John 3:15 which states, “That whosoever believeth in him (Jesus) should not perish, but have eternal life,” Alex Stewart declared on video as he prepared to smoke, “This is Bible test No. 1. I learned this at university, so this is academically approved.”

Stewart, 29, an atheist, is a research attorney at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, which is reportedly incensed over his actions.

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Stewart originally posted his 12-minute video on YouTube for the 9/11 anniversary weekend, but it has since been deleted from the site. However, New Zealand’s 3News television is continuing to broadcast it here. (Warning: Some graphic language)

“It’s just a f—ing book,” Stewart said about people offended by burning the Bible or Quran. “Who cares? It’s your beliefs that matter. Quite frankly, if you are going to get upset about a book, you’re taking life way too seriously.”

“You can burn a flag and no one cares. People get over it,” he added. “It’s not as though they’re burning you’re copy. It’s someone else’s.”

Some broadcasters Down Under have been debating the video for days, including Neil Mitchell and Tom Elliott of 3AW Radio.

“The Mona Lisa’s just a painting, but you don’t tear up and smoke it,” said Mitchell.

“You can’t print another Mona Lisa, but those Bibles are just copies, they’re just printed versions,” responded Elliott. “Sticks and stones will break by bones, names will never hurt me.”

As he licked the Bible page to roll up his joint from the Gospel of John, the atheist Stewart quipped, “I think I just tongued Jesus.”

He claims the video was a joke, and that he was smoking grass clippings, and not any illegal substance.

After taking a drag on the Bible verse, he said, “Not the best in the world. A little bit papery. I don’t like paper too much.” He rated it a seven on a scale of 10. “I love science. Science is so good.”

As he prepared to smoke the Quran, Stewart noted, “It sounds like someone wrote this while they were smashed or stoned of whatever.”

“I wonder what Muhammad would have thought about this. Is this profanity? Is it blasphemy? Does it really matter?”

After inhaling from both holy books, Stewart said the Bible was better than the Quran, which he awarded a five out of 10.

“It beat the Quran. Burning the Quran [is] no good. I still feel sick, and I think it was the paper it was on. I don’t think it was so much the words involved.”

Stewart wrapped up his video by saying, “I probably won’t appear on webcam again after the police come and arrest me.”

Though he hasn’t been fired by the QUT, Stewart has gone on leave for an unspecified period of time as the university investigates the matter.

In a now-deleted blog posting on his Brisbane Atheists website, Stewart reportedly wrote, “I’m screwed. I think I will lose my job over this. Damn it.”

Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of QUT, issued a statement about the video clip: “QUT does not condone the destruction of any religious artifacts. This was a personal view and action expressed in the person’s own time.”

He later told the Brisbane Courier-Mail: “The university is obviously extremely, extremely unhappy and disappointed that this sort of incident should occur.

“It may have occurred in the individual’s private time or on a weekend. It doesn’t matter. There is always in the community collateral damage to these sorts of things.”

Robert Tobin, another atheist in Brisbane, expressed support for Stewart, saying, “I have a video on YouTube of me tearing up a Bible. It has been there for 12 months. I have has no backlash. I have had praise. There are a lot of videos of people burning Bibles on YouTube.”

John-Paul Langbroek, an Australian politician, got on the tolerance soapbox, telling the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “This is not how I teach my children. This is not how we want people to regard tolerance.”

He also suggested possible censoring of Internet content, explaining, “It’s something that I think we need to look at in terms of what you can put on the Net and how you can get away with doing these sorts of things.”

The video has ignited huge heated reaction online, including:

  • “Atheists are constantly offended by religious nutters. We live with it, so should you!”

  • “I wonder if people would be kicking up such a stink if he was smoking the pages from ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Twilight’?”

  • “I severely disagree with what he did but I will fight to the death for the right for him to do it.”

  • “Freedom of speech does not entitle you with the right to be disrespectful and behave like a moron. … This guy may not believe in a god (whatever the description) but this stunt is no different than a radical religious figure forcing their views on the world. Grow up.”

  • “The best way to act, is not react. There are so many people in this world that lack wisdom. I can’t wait till we get right down to it and just blow the planet up and be done with it. That will be the only thing that solves this centuries-old issue of religion.”

  • “Oh man, there are probably 500 fatwas against this guy now!”

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