Respecting Belief and Believers


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.



6 thoughts on “Respecting Belief and Believers

  1. I like this topic. And you are right that I have written about it. Start with the definition: respect is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” I do not, and I cannot, respect any religion (a belief). I can tolerate it: (“allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of [something that one does not necessarily like or agree with] without interference.”) But in my treatment of others, I can and do try to follow ‘the golden rule.’ I do ask that they keep their religion, its accoutrements and trappings, away from me. I’ve written about that too. When I meet new people with whom I may bond, I make sure they know about me before it goes too far. When they say, “You’re one of the good ones,” I feel insulted, but at times I feel the same about them.


  2. As a general rule, people are to be respected. I might respect some religious people, but I cannot respect religion because it is a scam. Maybe it wasn’t their fault, but somewhere down the line someone got scammed on the belief that they were special, so special in fact that they will go to heaven after they die.
    I might feel sorry that they have fallen for the scam, but feel a need to oppose this delusion. It has been the curse of the world and will continue to be until the finality of death is accepted as fact. GROG


  3. Friends come in all flavors, but a person should be able to count on the fingers of one hand those truest, who respect you, the individual, as you respect them as individuals and not as a member of a group to which they belong.

    My dearest friend, outside my family, is a Pentecostal, Evangelical Christian with all that entails and is of an age and stage of enlightenment that is more suitable to the 1950s and 60s, but ours is a backwards rural area.

    We often discuss our belief and lack of belief, but mostly we discuss current events, family problems, our health, our memories, our children, men in general and what we are having for dinner.

    Of course, I often challenge her delusion, but I don’t call it that. I find myself more often reminding her to consider the way others may be operating based upon their situation and encouraging her to act with more “Christian” compassion.

    What we say stays mostly between the two of us, with some spilling over to our daughters, whom we mutually admire.

    When I told her of my atheism it was years after we became friends and I thought I would lose her, but I didn’t. So maybe she isn’t so backwards after all.

    You are right, Jim, if we lose “friends” to this difference, were they really friends to begin with?

    But, too, how many true friends does it take to make a person feel loved and respected? Find that handful and take heart in that and try not to worry about the rest of them.

    We all live in our delusions, but there is little reason for flinging a person’s delusion into their face. I believe deity belief is a delusion, but since most of my Christian online friends are much older than I, there is little to be gained by trying to destroy that delusion, even when they lovingly explain to me their concerns for my afterlife.

    Maybe I have become too mellow in my post middle-aged years and I know it is most frustrating for atheists to endure the continuing nonsense of the world’s religions. I think, however, that the battle will become less intense as the Christian population ages in this country. As Europe falls to Islam eventually, I would rather that our Christians stand against that particular deity belief with others of the West.

    Which delusion is preferable? At least, most Christians tend to be Conservatives, while Islamists tend to cut off heads of the infidels. And, at the same time, younger Christians are falling away from organized religion, which is a good first step.

    I think I am wandering a bit too much. Sorry…need to call this long one a day and hit the hay.


    • I lost a good friend, I linked the post in this one, after almost 50 years of being very close friends. When his first child was born, I was living in California, way before voice mail or even answering machines. He woke me up at 4 am to tell me – before he had even called his own parents.
      But the same happens in life in general. I’ve found since I left a job a few years ago, that some of those I thought could be friends, were actually not. It was just that we had a shared workplace. That’s okay with me, my feelings weren’t hurt in that case. I’m saying simply that what people call “friends” are not necessisarily so. Move on from belief, or even a job that has nothing to do with the former, and notice how quickly these same disappear from your life.


  4. Ha! Not to mention the great divide between friends upon becoming a parent and them not having children. Or, long time friends from public school/neighborhood, who simply stop being that, if you happen to move away from the local area.

    Life happens.

    Atheists are to be feared for what they may impart to those with belief. I think it is as simple as that. Your former friends felt they had to protect themselves and their children and their deity belief, supported as it is with their religion and church community, and so chose instead to believe what scripture and religious leaders tell them about atheists, rather than remember why they once called you friend.



  5. If someone has demonstrated by their behavior that they do not respect you or that they should not be respected for other reasons, then I don’t think many people would argue that you should still try to respect them. You might still try to treat them civilly, but I’m not sure why you’d need to try to respect them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s