I think it's fair to say that religions generally request, often demand, respect from us all as if they believe we should believe their views are in some way the equal of those that accept science as the focus of discovery and explanation.
So let's put that to the test shall we ... how about Christianity? This, based on 12 years of Catholic Church & schooling, seems a fair summation of the basic Christian belief system:
- There is an "invisible man" (by which I mean inherently indetectable by any currently known objective method) in the sky or some other heretofore unknown "Heavenly" dimension, otherwise known as "God". "God" is eternal & all-powerful, has created the universe (in the widest sense of the word) and every living and non-living thing within it.
- There exists a similarly "invisible" place called "Heaven" which is a place of light, happiness, joy & pleasure and the place where "God" resides.
- There is another "invisible man" under the ground or in some other heretofore unknown hell dimension, otherwise known as "Satan". "Satan", despite not being as powerful as "God" still exists and works his "evil" upon the world and will continue to do so until stopped. "Satan" was once "God's" most powerful angel (his "right-hand man" so to speak) known as "Lucifer" and was cast out from "Heaven" after apparently rebelling against "God".
- There exists another similarly "invisible" place called "Hell" which is the complete antithesis of "Heaven" i.e. a place of darkness, fire, pain, misery & anguish and is the place where "Satan" resides.
- "God" and "Satan" constantly struggle against one another and have done for time immemorial and that conflict will only end in the last battle, the final conflict known as "Armageddon".
- "God" loves all of his creations especially humans (his "special creation") who were created "in his image".
- All humans have "souls" that are a human's essential essence, "invisible", cannot die and leave their human "hosts" when the physical component of a human permanently ceases to function. It is "souls" that separate us from the beasts and raise us above them.
- "God" has published his will in a book known as "The Bible" which is a retelling of various events concerning his actions & the actions of other characters acting for or against him and contains his primary commandments (typically referred to as "The Ten Commandments"). None of the essential happenings within this book can be verified as being factual outside of some historical background events (some of which appear to be, at best, deeply flawed).
- Not keeping "God's commandments" (obeying them) is referred to as a "sin" and those who do not do so are referred to as "sinners".
- The souls of those who have "kept" "God's" "commandments" ultimately find their way to "Heaven" and live in joy & harmony with him for all eternity.
- The souls of those who have not "kept" "God's commandments" (a.k.a "sinners" will find their way to "Hell" and will live there in excruciating pain & misery for all eternity.
- There may or may not be a kind of "halfway-house" known as "Purgatory" where those who are either mild sinners or who have not heard "God's word" (the Bible) go.
- It is unclear whether there may or may not be future opportunities for those who exist in either "Hell" or "Purgatory" to transfer to Heaven because despite the apparently huge number (well apparently all) of "souls" that have gone to one of the three places none have returned (well except for the somewhat dubious claim of a batty Catholic nun a long time ago).
- At the very beginning of creation (or shortly thereafter), there was a wonderful place ("The Garden Of Eden") where the two original humans "Adam" & "Eve" lived. God gave Adam & Eve free will and (near enough) simultaneously created "The Tree Of Knowledge" that he said they couldn't touch ... with inevitable results!
- Because of Adam & Eve's tasting of the fruit of "The Tree Of Knowledge" we (the descendants of Adam & Eve) are now tainted with their sin known as "The Original Sin".
- About 2000 years ago the "Son Of God" was sent down to earth in the form of a human (considered to be "the logos" or "the word made flesh") in order to absolve us from "The Original Sin" and "save" our souls.
- This "Son Of God" ("The Messiah" or "Jesus Christ") was born of a virgin, subsequently dies on a cross & then resurrects again in order to take upon himself the "sins" of the world and thus provide us with the opportunity to go to "Heaven" which, tainted with "the original sin" (which none of us had actually committed anyway), we were denied.
- Though now "invisible" he (the "Jesus Christ, the Son Of God") is here today and we only need to follow his lead (believe in him) to be saved and get our eternal reward in "Heaven" (a.k.a. "Salvation").
- To qualify for "Salvation" one must accept "The Messiah" and the process usually involves a ritual with heads being wet by "blessed" water and formulaic scriptural speeches.
- Christians are generally expected to go to church at least once a week to pray, with others, to their "God" and "Saviour".
- Some Christians claim to have a personal relationship with their "God" and can talk to him as & when needed.
- There is also "The Holy Spirit" who, along with "God" & his son "Jesus Christ", is actually really "God".
"the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." (Richard Dawkins: "The God Delusion")
And that, in a nutshell, is it.
Now I respect the right of people to believe as they wish, why shouldn't I? I'm also an ex-Christian and, at least in a simplified version of the above, I could once look at the above and more or less accept it ... it really didn't seem that big a deal. Granted I was somewhat less than 13 at the time.
But here's the thing ... if I apply (if anyone applies) a bit of logic, a bit of reason and reviews it, it is (and let's be brutally honest here) absolutely, prime time, 100% insane. I mean it's not just an innocent little fairy tale that it is cute or sweet to believe in (a la Father Christmas for kids), it's wrong, it's childish, it's totally whacko ... it's the kind of thing that gets people locked up! And that's before you even get into the fact (by which I mean clearly, based on biblical scripture) that the Christian God is (arguably)...
When it comes down to it the Christian claim for respect, not of their right to hold such an infantile belief but to spread it and act upon it; to defend their "right" to be homophobic, to force their views down the throats of others, to refuse to grant all others the same rights as they have irrespective of their sex, sexuality, culture, creed or philosophy I can only assume them to be deluded, hypocritical or just plain pranksters. I doubt they'd admit to the last two so, considering themselves to be correct (yet out of step with modern enlightened society), I can only conclude delusion. Such a claim, therefore, deserves no more real respect than the claim that there is a man in the moon, that there are faeries at the bottom of the garden, that Father Christmas is real (for adults), that leprechauns are short & green or that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Indeed, given that their belief also enshrines a god whose ideas of justice vary from immoral through to pure evil, any rational person should not only be denying the Christian claim to respect but actually unwelcome in today's more enlightened social climes.
As previously stated I respect anyone's right to hold whatever belief they wish, it makes no difference to me or to our supposedly enlightened society but when that belief is brought into the public domain (any place where it can be objectively assessed by others or impacts on those who our society has a duty to protect) it deserves to be treated critically ... to be properly assessed as to whether it is (as claimed) as good as Christians say or, as secularists like me believe, something far worse. We as a society are quite used to cynical comment on the claims of politicians, of actors, of the media and more besides; we will almost sneer at the primitive beliefs such as those of the Romans, Egyptians, Africans, Aztecs, American Indians, Eskimos, Vikings, UFO nuts, astrologists and many more beliefs besides and that is considered (possibly harsh but) entirely fair. Yet we are expected to respect the essentially similar beliefs of Christians based on the technologically (and arguably morally) primitive beliefs of cultures of up to 2000 years old.
Whilst I know there are those who believe without a great deal of thought or scriptural awareness I think I can conclude that Christianity is a belief system that is simultaneously both infantile and vindictive ... yet they (Christians) want us to treat their cherished belief with respect.
All I can really ask is why?