December 27, 2010

Faking It

If there is one central and recurrent theme pervading virtually all material on atheism you are likely to find on the Internet, it would have to be the subject of respecting faith. To what degree should atheists show respect for the religious faith of others? The question comes up again and again, and I suspect that virtually all atheists who contribute to the atheist community address it periodically. Pat Condell absolutely nails it in the video below and manages to raise an important side issue about which we do not hear nearly enough: whether we should be faking expressions of respect we do not feel.

What I mean by "faking it" in this context refers to the part of the video where Pat notes that we are often told to act as if we feel something we do not actually feel (i.e., respect). By pretending to respect faith when we do not, we are not merely being dishonest. If it was a simple matter of dishonesty, we could probably consider this another trivial "white lie" (e.g., "I love that sweater, Grandma. It is just what I wanted."). But this sort of faking it goes well beyond dishonesty and serves to enable the continuance of religious privilege. By holding our tongues when faced with idiocy or pretending to respect something despicable, we are condoning it.

In some circumstances, we have an obligation to challenge false claims. This is particularly important when the nature of the claims is such that they are harmful. In these cases, we must intervene. False expressions of respect are not the answer.

H/T to The Good Atheist
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