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 IAmAnAtheist » Should Atheists Disrespect Religion?

Should Atheists Disrespect Religion?


If you’re an atheist, then there’s no reason to respect other people’s religious beliefs and practices.

Q1 Analysis

This statement is a Q1 violation if you think there sometimes is reason to respect other people’s beliefs and practices.

Q2 Analysis

This is not a Q2 violation unless you would object to your beliefs and practices not being respected.


Some atheists actively disrespect religious practices, by (for example) making a show of not waiting for grace to be said before eating a meal with religious relatives. But what is the point of such disrespect?

If this is intended to demonstrate your atheism or to show that you think religion is "stupid," then you may be being less than effective. People will likely remember your rudeness or condescension and either associate it with your lack of religious beliefs or just think you’re a jerk.

If it is intended to make it difficult for people to practice their beliefs, then (by Q2) you are inviting payback in kind. In fact, no matter how you slice it, this kind of behavior is problematic under Q2. If you are an atheist who vocally disrespects religion, you will have difficulty effectively protesting those who disrespect your lack of it (by saying you’re going to hell, proselytizing, etc.)

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on January 14, 2011 at 9:55 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Jon
    on January 18, 2011 at 9:37 am
    Reply · Permalink

    With regard to respecting religious practices, I think you’re spot on. When I visit my parents I don’t grumble or become a distraction while they pray over their food. I’ll even go to church with them in order to maximize my time spent with them. We shouldn’t disrespect religious people.

    However, I don’t think we’re under any obligation to respect their beliefs. We can respect their right to have those beliefs, but we also have the right to question them and point out where they fail and where they’re harmful. In fact, I truly believe it’s important to do just that.

    If I were to believe in something harmful or ridiculous I would want someone to tell me about it and I would sincerely hope that I’d be more receptive to that criticism than religious people are to our criticism of their superstition. I don’t want to have any unfounded beliefs and I don’t wish them on anyone else either.

  2. Written by Clytia
    on January 23, 2011 at 4:45 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I think this makes sense, but only to a point. There was an interesting discussion on Daylight Atheism a while ago about the issue of religious relatives/family friends saying grace (http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/11/a-personal-dilemma.html)
    Personally I think it depends on the circumstances. As I mentioned in my comment on that piece, I think there is a huge difference between a christian saying grace in their own home and in yours (assuming you are not christian). In their home, that’s their business, so it would be polite to merely ignore it. If they tried that in my home, however, I would find their behaviour incredibly disrespectful and do my best to put a stop to it.
    I would be interested to hear your view of this (if you percveive this difference too), ideclare, and also other examples.
    I find, from experience, a lot of religious people feel like you are not respecting their beliefs if you do not follow the rules of their religion, or rather, if you (in their eyes) “flaunt” the fact that you don’t. For example, if I were to say “god” or “jesus christ” as an expression of frustration, that would be seen as great disrespect to some, whereas to me, it’s no different from saying “santa”.

    I agree with Jon in that I think we need to treat religious people respectfully (or rather, we should not disrespect them because of their religion, though as with anyone else, they need to earn respect), but we do not have to respect their beliefs or practices.
    I fully support and respect freedom of religion, however that does not mean that I have to respect nonsensical beliefs or ridiculous/harmful practices (I cannot in good conscience respect creationism or female circumcision). I believe it is possible to treat a person respectfully, but not their beliefs and practices.
    And I think there are respectful ways to opt out of saying grace, depending on the circumstances, though many religious people would still see it as a disrespectful affront to themselves and their beliefs.

    In this case we need a good definition of ‘respect’!

    (sorry about the really long comment!)

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