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Saturday, July 30, 2011


As an atheist, I have been told that I need to show respect for other people's religious beliefs. So, let's take the word respect and look at it by its definitions.
  1. Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements
    • - she was respected by everyone she worked with
    • - a respected academic
  2. Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of
    • - I respected his views
  3. Avoid harming or interfering with
    • - it is incumbent upon all boaters to respect the environment
  4. Agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement)
    • - he urged all foreign nationals to respect the laws of their country of residence
What definition of 'respect' best fits with the phrase, "You need to respect my religion"?
Is it #1? Do I admire your beliefs? Absolutely not. Not if they guide you down a path where you believe that your fellow human beings are less human (less deserving than the same rights you enjoy) than you are if they differ from you in regards of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  Likewise, I cannot admire your belief if you believe that this entire universe is less than 10,000 years old. Not when science and history clearly and factually states otherwise.  Do I admire the beliefs that force parents to drill it into their children that unbelievers are going to hell? Again, the answer is no. I was that child. And during my de-conversion I went through a long period of cognitive dissonance where I did not believe in God, but I was sure convinced that that belief would send me straight to hell.

#2 then? This one is trickier. What does having "due regard" mean? If it means tolerating and accepting that these beliefs exist and that people have the right to believe what they want, no matter if it's wrong or right, then yes, I can respect your beliefs using this definition, but if they mean "have high opinion of", then no, sorry, I cannot do that, for reason outlined above.

#3? Same as #2. I will avoid interfering with your beliefs IF you keep them to yourself and you don't use those beliefs to make or break laws as you see fit.

#4? Not even applicable since we're in the US and I we're not a theocracy... That is, until Michelle Bachmann gets elected. *shudder*

After analyzing these definitions, am I respecting religion? I believe I am, in that I am respecting that each one of us are allowed to believe what we want. That is all that I am required to do. But, if those of you out there want me to hold your religious beliefs to the same esteem that you do, then you are in for a huge disappointment.

I will end with this:  Freedom of Speech does not mean that you get to say what you want without it being open for criticism. And - respect should be earned. You can't demand it for something because you decide that it deserves it. If you explain to me why you think it deserves respect I will be much more apt to listen to you. Demanding it from me will get you nothing but scorn. You will win me over with logic, reasoning and evidence. If you take offense, that is your problem, not mine. I do not intend to offend anyone with what I have to say - only to make what I have on my mind out in the open for all to see.

I can take criticism and open debate, in fact, I welcome it. I don't demand your respect, but I do hope to earn it by being open, honest and real. I hope you can do the same.