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Why respect for religious belief is invalid

12 December 2011, 11:11

Religious Believers Demanding Respect:
In today’s world, religious believers' demand for respect is an area of strife that is rising. Satire, criticism or mocking of Islam is forbidden in the name of “respect”. As to do Christians, demand that same “respect”. Non believers have a problem, when “respect” is unclear what it means or how it is to be gained. Believers should be clear of what they want, with regards to respect, if that is what they want.

Respect vs. Tolerance:
Tolerance is sometimes all a person asks with regards to respect. The ability to restrict, punish or make something difficult to do but choosing not to do it, is the lowest state of tolerance. For example, I choose not to do anything about a Taxi that stops to load passengers in front of my driveway, blocking my exit, even when I can have the Taxi removed. Religious believers demand for tolerance should be granted and it’s usually reasonable to do so, in the cases of consensual behaviour that is non-violent. But this is not all that is required, there are usually other demands attached to this.

Going Beyond Tolerance:
Tolerance and respect do not mean the same thing, respect is a positive action, while tolerance is minimalist attitude. You can think very negative thoughts about someone that you tolerate, but it does not make sense to think these thoughts about someone that you also respect.  So respect requires that one has positive thoughts, or emotions when it comes to religion at the very least. Not always is this a reasonable attitude.

Should Beliefs Be Respected?
Generally it is held that beliefs of a religious nature automatic deserve respect. Why is this so?  We do not respect homophobia, or racism. The reason is because some beliefs are evil and immoral, or even just plain stupid. All beliefs must earn respect, not doing this, is to give one’s moral and intellectual responsibility when giving respect to all beliefs, regardless of their content.

Should the Right to Believe be Respected?:
One has the right to believe anything, even things that are immoral or stupid. It may be that a belief is unwise, harmful, or even irrational, but the right to believe is allowed even there, otherwise the right to believe will have no meaning at all. So a person’s right to believe things and to have belief in religious ideas must be respected. However the right to a belief does not mean that one has a right not to hear criticism of that belief.  The right to believe has the same basis as the right to criticise.

Should Believers Be Respected?
While beliefs have to earn respect and can not receive respect automatically, the same is not true of people. All humans deserve a basic minimum respect, regardless of what they believe, from the beginning. The level of respect that is accorded them may increase or decrease over time based on their actions and beliefs.  A person and their beliefs are not the same and therefore respect for the person is not the same as respect for the person’s beliefs.

Respect vs. Deference:
Respect usually amounts to deference in the believer’s demands for respect for their religions. Deference to religions means giving them a privileged status, which is nice for the believers, but can not be demanded of non-believers. Would you give deference to a sport team, or political party that you do not support, so why would non-believers have to give deference to a belief system that they do not support?

How Religion Can and Should Be Respected:
The increasingly vocal demands of the religious that their belief systems need more “respect” from everyone, including non-believers means that something very serious is going on. The religious have this idea that they are being insulted and slighted in a significant way. Is this correct, or is this a case of misunderstanding?  Without being clear about what we mean, when we use these words, we will not be able to solve this problem.  This means that the religious believers must state what sort of “respect” they are asking for.

It is found that religious believers are asking for deference, positive thoughts and privileges for their beliefs and religions, which is not appropriate in many cases.  This is rarely, if ever justified. In other cases, one might find that as humans, they are not be given the basic tolerance and respect that they deserve, and they are then justified in speaking out against this.

Respecting religious believers, their beliefs and religions does not and cannot include handling them with kid gloves. If respect is needed, then believers must be treated as adults who are responsible and culpable for what they assert and claim, no matter what results. This means that their claims should be treated seriously with responses and criticism that is substantive and meaningful. If they present their position in a manner that is coherent and rational, then they deserve a coherent and rational response, which can include critical responses of the position.  If they are unwilling or unable to do this, then they should expect to be have these positions dismissed with little regard.

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