Catchy title, eh? But it's the truth. I do not respect the beliefs of others WRT religion/spirituality. It is a conscious and willful choice not to. It is deliberate. It is my choice, just as it was my choice to dump religion and to clear my mind and my life from the superimposed guilt, fear, more guilt, self-loathing, bigotry, and the silly forced eating of seafood on Fridays.
But why do I refuse to respect the beliefs of others WRT religion? Follow me below the fleur de Kos for the explanation. Expliciation? Exorcism? (Oh, and if you don't, you lose the right to make legitimate gripes in the comments section....)
Just a bit about me -- I was a cradle Catholic -- born into it, forced baptized as an infant, coerced into First Communion, talked into Confirmation, and all the while shamed for being gay and not marrying. I'm not sure about First Confession, though. I was sick with chicken pox in the time leading up to the training/indoctrination for that stupid ritual, so I didn't know what to do. On the day of 1st Confession, I went with the class after school to the main voodoo chamber chamber of the cult house (replete with icky wood carvings of torture and a 25 foot tall hanging statue of a bleeding and brutalized person nailed to two planks of wood) and waited my turn. Then I was escorted into a dark closet, where I stood in a corner. I heard a disembodied voice say, "Well, say something. I don't have all day." I was 7. I cried and said, "I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do!" I ran out of the dark closet and didn't stop until I got home, where I locked myself in the bathroom and threw up. After that, I was grounded for a month for "misbehaving." And I never set foot in a confessional ever again.
Now, that's all fascinating, I'm sure, but the point is -- that event helped shaped my notion of organized religion and spirituality, for better or for worse. And that is how I view organized religion -- a darkened closet into which people are thrown and forced/coerced into "confessing" how shitty of a person one is and begging for forgiveness for being shitty person.
Well, hey -- good for me. I had a thought. Someone -- alert the media.
Be that as it may, it took years to even begin my recovery from the BS. And along my journey, I made a conscious, willful decision to dump religion/spirituality. Again, good for me. And along that journey, I discovered something. It's a little thing called.....
basic human consideration.
Basic human consideration is not respect. Basic human consideration amounts to the ethic of reciprocity -- the idea that humans should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Stated conversely, basic human consideration is the idea that humans should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
A fine idea. Nothing new, nothing original, but a GINORMOUS revelation for this then-newbie atheist. Basic human consideration, WRT religion, entails two things for me --
1. I have no beliefs WRT religion to subject anyone to; please do not subject me to yours.
2. Questioning/ridiculing/mocking/discussing/sniping about/condescending to/scoffing at/jeering/razzing/commenting on/taunting my lack of belief is, indeed, FREE LICENSE for me to question/ridicule/mock/discuss/snipe about/condescend to/scoff at/jeer/razz/comment on/taunt yours.
That, in a nutshell, is how basic human consideration works.
And as an added bonus -- no one is being personally insulted or attacked. But for some reason, this seems to be insufficient for some theists, who imagine that a belief system (which is, in its base form, a compilation of ideas) is somehow exempt for scrutiny or examination. For some reason, for some believers, the belief system is semiotically and disingenuously equated as THE PERSON. Therefore, atheists who criticize belief systems are evil/bad/pernicious/disrespectful and should STFU to show the proper respect.
Not gonna happen.
For me, as an atheist, to respect a belief system... well, let's look at what respect is, first, shall we?
Respect as a noun is defined as "high or special regard." As a verb, it means "to consider worthy of high regard."
So, why would I, who have worked my intellectual ass off to get away from the constraints, confinement, and constrictions of religion, even want to consider any of it with high regard? And yet, that is what some theists demand -- respect for their beliefs.
Not gonna happen.
Now, let's imagine for a second that I could willingly and willfully respect a theistic belief system without vomiting. Of course, I would need to be lobotomized first and then would be able to hold that belief system in high regard. But why would I want to? I've worked hard on myself to escape all of that voodoo, including the ecclesiastical coercion and spiritual/emotional blackmail. And now I'm supposed to respect that? That's an insane idea, and it's not gonna happen.
But, what I can offer is this -- basic human consideration. That entails an expectation that I can (or should be able to) walk into a room (or come onto dKos) and not be told (explicitly or implicitly) that certain ideas, such as belief systems or religion in politics, are off limits for discussion to me because I am an atheist. In exchange, those who identify as theists can (or should be able to expect) that they will not be called and/or will not be personally attacked. (Whoa! Bethca didn't see that one coming, eh?)
Basic human consideration.
For me, it also works conversely, too. Those who identify as theists can (or should be able to) walk into the room and announce they are a theist. Good for them! And in excahnge, I can (or should be able to) announce that I'm an atheist and that we all need more drinkies or snacks. Woohoo for everyone.
Ok, so that all sound real neat-o and egalitarian and all, but what was with all the negativity a few paragraphs back, regarding "voodoo" and "ecclesiastical coercion" and "spiritual blackmail"? Those are all ideas, aren't they? And as such, they can be scrutinized, examined, and yes -- even denigrated and denounced as strongly as possible. Ideas do not get a free pass on criticism or even condemnation. People, however, do (or at least should) get that free pass. And I insulted no one. Period.
That's all part of basic human consideration.
Beyond that -- I will not respect those beliefs. I will not hold them in high or special regard. I will not consider them as worthy of my high regard. I will subjugate neither myself nor my opinions to a religious belief system.
I will NOT respect your beliefs.
8:48 AM PT: [Update] -- Holy Fluffy the Wondercat! Honest to Thor, I did not expect this to make the Rec List™. I also didn't think anyone would read it, but hey -- it was read. Many thanks to everyone who has perused my musings and/or left a comment.