I think that every atheist blogger, and YouTuber has discussed the topic of respecting belief before. I’m certain I have, some years ago, but like everything, time sometimes allows for the evolution of thinking on the subject. It’s not that I’ve actually changed my mind but there are more subtleties to the answer than I think I took into account when I first wrote about it.
Most of us would say that we respect the person, but not the belief. I have wondered why that has to be so. I know I’ve made that statement multiple times if not in writing, then in person to those I know that are believers. Why do I need to respect the person though? Especially when it’s clear to me, as an atheist, they don’t respect me at all.
Friendship is something special, at least it is for me. I don’t use that word vicariously. A friend to me is someone I’ve come to know over time that will be there for me and vice-versa. It’s a commitment to another person that I value highly. My circle of friends became very narrow after I became an atheist. It was really curious to me, although not unexpected, that there would be those people I’d know for years, some, decades, that would abandon me simply based on my non-belief.
Those were not truly friends, were they? As I discovered without much investigation, those friendships were based on our shared belief, which, when I rejected that belief system, suddenly those same people would have nothing to do with me. Should I still respect those same people?
I don’t think I should, and of course, don’t because if my friendship with someone was only based on a shared belief, then it really wasn’t a friendship, was it? So I think it’s okay to not only not show respect for belief, but for the believer as well.
Am I only a good person because I’m a believer? Do I suddenly become the Evil Spawn of Satan simply because I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no gods? I think that many reading here may attest to just that. Those friends we once thought we had simply disappear from our lives.
I was taught at an early age that if I showed respect, I would receive in kind. Of course that’s not entirely true in all cases, but it’s a good rule of thumb – except when someone leaves religion and then those same people, that Pastor, those in the congregation that were once close friends, suddenly will have nothing to do with you.
Should I still show respect for those people even though I don’t repect their belief? I think not.