I've often heard it said that we should all respect the beliefs of others, but I don't agree. Why should we respect a belief for which there is no credible evidence? Surely, all we can reasonably be expected to do is acknowledge that people do have a right to believe whatever they choose? After all, we can't MAKE anyone believe anything, can we?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that we should be rude or unkind to people of faith, but respect them and their religion? I don't think so. Respect is something that a person has to earn and merely repeating stories and phrases learnt by rote in Sunday school or church, without ever having given them a second, independent, thought is not IMHO deserving of respect.

I suspect that most people confuse respect with courtesy, which IS something I think everyone deserves, and which costs the giver nothing. So I think it's perfectly acceptable to politely treat religious people's faith with the contempt it deserves.

What does everyone else think?

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Ian – yes I would still defend their right to hold that belief even if they believed that I should die. If people have the right to freedom of speech they must also have the freedom to hold their beliefs whether I like them or not. I will support and defend that right even if I disagree with what they profess. I worked in the London Business School beside the mosque in 1990 when the first Gulf War started. I had to pass through crowds of Jihadists to get in to work. Fortunately it was all peaceful and I still respected their right to protest. However if any threats to kill are made then the law is broken. The police should arrest anyone who incites hatred in a public forum and the government should insist on that happening. I support the Phelps family’s right to protest (Westboro Baptist Church) even though they are seriously fucked up people. They are not deserving of any respect nor are their beliefs.

Unseen - Yes I had considered other options to the question. If Satanists believe that my lack of faith makes me inferior to them then I will not respect them either. But at least they don’t knock on my front door to tell me I am wrong for not praising Lord Lucifer (in caps :-)).

Religion has taken it for granted for so long that it is almost a cultural meme that it entitled to respect as a default position and that having Faith is superior to not having it. I cannot see anything about it that deserves it.

One does not need to respect a belief to be courteous, no, however, there is the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, press, etc secured for us in the first amendment (if you live in the U.S) and that has to be respected. If someone, using their first amendment rights, says you will burn in hell for eternity for not believing as they do, I wholeheartedly believe you have the right to call said a person a dumbass. 

Going to go to two extremes here.  First Schopenhauer:

Demopheles – Between ourselves, my dear friend, I don’t much like the way you have of displaying your talent for philosophy by making sarcastic remarks about religion or even openly ridiculing it. Every man’s faith is sacred to him, therefore it ought to be sacred to you too.

Philalethes – Nego consequentiam! I can’t see why, because other people are simple-mined, I should respect a pack of lies. What I respect is truth, therefore I can’t respect what opposes truth.

Now, Patton Oswalt (respect part starts at about 1:50, but I like the whole):


If I know someone is particularly sensitive to criticism of their religion, I try and keep the discussion of religion from coming up. Although, I'm more open and honest about how I feel about religion on the internet, especially when said people come to Atheist groups to babble about how they'll "pray for me".

I guess what I'm trying to say is, unless I'm provoked, I don't go out of my way to pester religious folk.

That's probably a good idea.  The individual in question is respecting your right to hold your opinion; there's no reason to get in his/her face until they do so to you.

It is an interesting question.


I would say it is certainly not an absolute given that we should respect the person but not the beliefs.


A non religious example, I refuse to respect a racist.  A religious example, I refuse to respect a believer in violent jihad.


So no, religious beliefs (or any beliefs) do not have an automatic right to tolerance and therefore courtesy to the believer.  All beliefs fall on a scale of how they affect people other than the believer.  If your belief has no effect on me or anyone else, I will tolerate it, no matter what I think of it.  If your belief has consequences for others, you damn well need to justify why it should be tolerated, let alone respected.



I think that religion should be mocked and ridiculed at every opportunity. Unfortunately, religious believers often cannot separate themselves from their beliefs, and they take it personally.


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