"Respect" Religion?

Do you demand respect without giving it?

Literally, what does it mean to "respect" religion? Sadly, the word respect has multiple meanings: to admire or, to show consideration or, to avoid harming. Now, certainly no atheist "admires" religion, just as Jews don’t "admire" the Hindu faith. But when it comes to religion, it seems fair to define “respect” as showing consideration or avoiding hurting others. Isn't that exactly what atheists themselves want and expect from religious people?

As an atheist, what do you want? Let’s assume, for starters, that you want others to respect your beliefs. You want to practice your humanism or atheism in peace. You want to voice your religious opinions without fear of retribution. You want your beliefs to have zero impact on your job, your friendships or your life generally. Agreed, yes? Okay, then why not extend that exact same respect to the religious people around you? Shouldn’t respect a two-way street?

But wait. Argumentative atheists say they must fight religion at every opportunity, but let's get practical. Clearly, religious superstition has thrived since the dawn of human existence. Worldwide, for every one nonbeliever today there are nine religious believers. And that’s despite thousands of years of rational thought, hundreds of years of scientific achievement, and endless logical refutation. So let's cut the crap: for centuries, our best efforts have had almost no impact on religious superstition. If you think all your angry argument and defiance have any meaningful impact, you are pissing into the wind.

Now, consider what we gain by being out-and-proud atheists who avoid hurting and who are respectful of other people’s beliefs. Our respect sets a positive example for atheists still in the closet, and for outsiders who will judge our movement by our actions. Our respect gets us a seat at the table of public opinion. (And public opinion is everything when it comes to getting God out of the courthouse and getting the Bible out of schools.)

Most importantly, our respect earns us the right to demand respect from others. That’s a short-term goal you can personally achieve that will have a positive impact on your life.

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