Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Must we respect people's religious beliefs?
We often hear theists complain that atheists don't properly respect their beliefs, that we don't give them the proper deference. Because the theist holds deep beliefs, about serious, religious stuff dealing with the nature of the supernatural, these beliefs are to be held sacrosanct, by all. One is not allowed to question those beliefs, or else one is intolerant. One must simply accept those beliefs as valid and rational and act as if those beliefs are very important and worthy ones to have. (The theist, of course, is under no obligation to reciprocate or treat theists of other religions with the same deference.)
Well, sorry but "Homey don't play that." People should be respected. Rights should be respected. People have the right to believe as they do and I respect that (just don't try to foist it on me or complain if I also speak out). Beliefs themselves, however, are not automatically worthy of respect. Beliefs must be rational and defensible before they are worthy of respect. A belief in magic crystals is not worthy of respect when (because) there is no accompanying evidence for it. Same goes for a belief that one is physically eating the flesh of her god when taking communion. If a theist wants their beliefs to be respected, then that theist should present respectable beliefs. I am, however, under no obligation, morally or in terms of rights, to treat all beliefs as if they are worthy of respect.
In fact, I would go further than that. I am under an obligation to speak out when one presents beliefs that are irrational, unsupported, and are detrimental to society. This is why I speak out against religion.