Thursday, October 26, 2006


The ‘respect’ word seems to be ubiquitous these days concerning religious sensibilities. I suggest that there is a strong whiff of equivocation present in these exhortations, for there are two types of respect that are being conflated.

Firstly, there is respect in a minimal sense. I respect the rights of all people to think and say what they want to, unless such utterances constitute a direct incitement to violence (but not to do whatever they wish, as I do not condone murder). Then there is the second type of respect, which impels me to not say and think whatever I wish, in case it upsets the sensibilities of the religious. There is a further implied connotation that I should esteem the worldview of these people who claim respect from me.

Well, I, for one, have no more ‘respect’ for the Christian worldview than I would have for any other worldview that I consider to be fundamentally flawed and misguided (N.B. I could easily substitute the other major monotheistic religions here). However, in my opinion the Christian worldview is far more insidious than this. I am happy to accord people the right to hold the Christian or any other worldview, so long as they accord me the minimal respect required to allow me to disagree with them, and do not try to impose their beliefs upon me. However, by nature the Christian religion (and many others too) is fundamentally intolerant of any opposing worldview. This is not just a case of human nature perverting an intrinsically tolerant worldview either (although human nature has inevitably made things much worse). Rather, it is the case that intolerance is fundamentally enshrined at the very core of the religion. I could quote chapter and verse all day long to back up this assertion, but I need look no further than the Ten Commandments –

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

These commandments alone have been responsible for untold death and misery. Of course, human intolerance wasn’t invented by the Abrahamic religions. Human beings are naturally intolerant of different opinions and beliefs. However, as a human invention, these religions have intolerance at their very core.

Of course, one can use the Bible in order to justify both good and bad acts, and no doubt the Bible has also been responsible for many acts of moral goodness. However, one would imagine that the product of a supposedly morally perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient god should have been written in such a way that it could not be interpreted in any way that would justify death, misery and suffering.

So, to summarise, I grant the religious the minimal level of respect that I grant all humans, but I refuse to grant them the type of exaggerated respect that they crave from me. In this latter sense, I am no different from the religious themselves, as all too often they fail to grant such respect to me as an unbeliever, or to those of other religions – as, to them, we are all blasphemers by definition.

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