The interesting thing is that many religious believers and atheists seem to share this viewpoint that religious beliefs should be respected. In other words, many non-Christians would agree that it is okay for me not to share your Christian beliefs as long as I still respect them. And similarly, many non-Muslims agree that I do not have to share your Muslim beliefs as long as I respect them. Whether this perspective comes from politeness, a desire to avoid conflict, a fear of retribution, or some other source, it remains a powerful factor maintaining religious belief. It erects something akin to a force field around religion, preventing meaningful criticism from entering.
One question that needs to be asked is whether your religious beliefs deserve respect. That they are your beliefs or that they are religious in nature is irrelevant here. I happen to be convinced that your belief in a personal god who hear your prayers, intervenes in the world, etc. is both irrational and harmful to the world we share. It is irrational because it is maintained in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence and harmful because it promotes irrationality and conflict. In other words, your religious beliefs do not warrant respect. Telling me that I should respect your religious beliefs is comparable to claiming that I should respect the racist beliefs of a white supremacist.
When you protest the release date of a movie I'd like to see because you think it is too close to Christmas, I have to laugh at your expectation that Christmas means anything to me. If you want to celebrate, please do so. In fact, I wish you the best and hope that your celebration is wonderful. Seriously. But don't make the mistake of assuming that I will be celebrating with you. You claim, "It's not enough to ignore and omit Christmas, but now it has to be offended, insulted and desecrated. Our most sacred holiday, actually a holy day, is being assaulted." But you must remember that your "sacred" day does not mean anything to me at all. I see no reason to pretend that it does.
Your expression of outrage over efforts by atheists to lower the volume of your church bells which have been playing religious music over a public downtown area seems a little silly. This particular church uses a sound system that was purchased with tax dollars. Not everyone wants to hear your music. Can you imagine me purchasing a sound system with your tax dollars and then playing Satanic heavy metal throughout your downtown? Just think about how absurd it would be for me to then claim that you were not respecting my Satanic beliefs. The thing is, you don't usually seem to bother with putting yourself in anyone else's shoes. Your bible tells you that you are better than everyone who does not share your beliefs, and you accept this. This leads you to interpret this request as an undeserved attack on your precious Christian beliefs. Again, you assume that atheists should respect these beliefs.
When you protest a CBS television show in which Charlie Sheen sings about his sexual escapades to the tune of "Joy to the World," you assume that your beliefs are somehow off limits to criticism.
Such actions send a signal from CBS and Hollywood: "It’s ok to bash Christians, their religion and their God."Yes. When you put absurd beliefs into the public form, they will be criticized. It is okay to "bash" your religious beliefs. These beliefs are not sacred to me, so do not expect me to pretend that they are. As I continue to speak out against them, please recognize that I am not attacking you. I can still respect you without respecting your religious beliefs. I have no interest in condemning you. Rather, I hope that you will eventually come to recognize the many fatal flaws in these beliefs and adopt a more reality-based belief system.
This post was written in 2006. It was condensed and edited to correct typos in 2018.