There is a move towards religious fundamentalism in the world, particularly among the Abrahamic religions and it is disconcerting to me as an Atheist. Why then are some Atheists and Agnostics apologetic about their position on religion? Does a belief system as delusional and dangerous as religion deserve respect, especially when it does not return respect to those who refuse to believe in its delusions?
All people deserve respect, but not their beliefs or their religions. I try to keep all of my arguments under my own skin. For example, I might say I strongly disagree, you are mistaken, or I cannot respect that attitude, rather than flatly stating WRONG or you are an idiot.
One key driving force behind the rise in fundamentalism is the economic decline for large segments of society. When economies grow and the well-being of everyone is improving, the trends are toward liberalization, greater understanding and acceptance of others.
It's because of the increased influence of religion on public policy that I've become
I used to be one who had no issue with anyone's beliefs, as long they didn't try to
force it on me, or anyone else who wasn't interested.
Unfortunately, that position is no longer possible to maintain.
I have no respect for any religion, none. I also do not respect anyone's religious beliefs.
I only tolerate them, by law. I resent the fact that believers feel so emboldened to force their beliefs into the lives of others.
Not all atheists view religion as top priority to challenge. Many atheists are concerned about other issues such as health care, abortion, education, foreign affairs, military, etc. which will lead them to associate with anyone who supports their stances on those issues, even if the person is religious. This is why some atheist groups have participated in events that include religious groups - they share similar values.
I am also frustrated and concerned about this huge push to fundamentalism. I think it brings authoritarianism on the same dark cloud. I wish I could believe the move to fundamentalism is simply economic, but I think its a lot more complicated.
Some other factors probably include major shifts in society:
advancement of science - more pesky facts that don't fit the narrative
All of that leads to fear for someone that believes, people will do some wacky stuff when they get scared. Especially if they actually believe that they must do something or be tortured eternally.
People deserve respect, no reason to go out of your way to disparage their belief. If they want to push their religious opinions though nothing wrong in pointing out why you disagree.
I had Mormon missionaries at my door a decade ago sent by a third party that actually knew us, my ex invited them in and fed them. I was a bit pushy about why I did not believe. They did not have good answers to my inquiries about why their views were correct or why I should abandon my views. I think I had absolutely no effect on them whatsoever in the end.
There is no requirement that every thought must be communicated. I think a wise person considers a number of factors before deciding whether to criticize, correct, or pass judgement on another person's beliefs: Is it helpful? Will it cause harm? Is this the right time and place? Is it the truth? Are you sure? Really sure?
For me, I'm happy to engage in friendly debate or discussion, but when words get heated, I prefer think hard about whether it's worth continuing. There was a meme going around a while ago, something like: "your Facebook post about politics has really changed my mind, said no one EVER!"
Fear. But, Atheists and Agnostics are now less apologetic about their position on religion than I have ever known them to be. They didn't simply used to be apologetic, they were in denial and for good reasons.
You can still, and I would argue should, respect other people without necessarily respecting their beliefs. Think of them as victims of their belief systems...which they are.
I have NEVER apologized for my stance and in fact have (regretfully) had to let go of most of my family members since they do not seem to share my ability to live and let live. I actually had an aunt who encircled me with a few friends, while I was holding my two-year-old, to pray over me and invite Jesus into my heart. I moved out-of-state shortly thereafter.
...because these crazy motherfuckers will, at the least, make it hard for us to live if we don't show some level of faux-respect for their madness or, at the worst, risk some of them trying to kill us. I grew up around these cultist; tread carefully.
I think that a lot of people are apologetic because of the social pressures involved. Despite a clear lack of basic human or social decency on the part of many people of faith, they nevertheless make up a substantial majority of the human population. By being apologetic, people signal to others that "hey, I'm an atheist/agnostic, but perhaps we can still manage to be friends anyway, because I'm not out to get you". It also alows them to fit in better without denouncing their beliefs.
To me, it is similar to black people who code-switch. They do it for a number of different reasons, but the most basic is that it makes it simpler for them to interact with white assholes when it is necessary for them to do so. By the same token, atheists and agnostics who speak or behave apologetically toward people of faith are essentially greasing the skids in order to smooth out the interactions.
As to the question of whether or not we should show respect to people who are disrespectful themself, I would say it depends entirely on the situation. There are always power imabalances to take into consideration. But as a general rule, no, they aren't particularly worhty of respect. People are worthy of respect, courtesy, consideration, and dignity by the simple virtue of being human... unless they prove themselves unworthy of such consideration by being disrespectful to others or perpetrating injustice against others. Many people of faith are perfectly respectful, although the more extremist their own sub-culture, the less likely that becomes, but to be sure there are many that have stripped themselves of their worthiness for respect.
Additionally, there is a distinction, and an important one IMO, between respecting a person (or at least treating them with respect) vs. respecting their belief systems. For most people of faith, their delusion and belief is not particularly harmful, and most are not particularly disrespectful of non-believers (they may speak or act out of ignorance and illogic, but they generally are not malicious).
I think the real question you are asking is: "aren't we at least justified in taking the low road instead of the high road?". And to that I would have to ask, does it matter? Taking the low road often feels good and certainly can be cathartic, but in most cases it results in worse circumstances rather than improved ones. So why not exemplify better than them exactly the sort of attitudes and behaviors that they are supposed to exemplify? Is it better to berate someone for their beliefs? Or is it better to show them that a person can be a paragon of humanity without those beliefs?
Beyond that, it would serve to polarize the disparity between believers vs. non-believers. You would convince them of nothing, they would convince you of nothing, and you would mutually escalate animosity. That sort of vicious circle tends not to end well for anyone.
...and that's exactly why I am fine living in apathy. I don't like confrontation in any direction. The ones who believe and follow any religion, fine with me..The ones who don't believe, fine with me too. But, when the time comes to take side then that's when I have to use the "I don't care" card
It seems to me that people are moving away from religion! I have a hard time understanding how people can still believe in the holy books when all the stories are so far fetched! How could a person live in a whale, or how did they get animals from the far away place for their boat cruise, or where did the wives comefrom for Adam and Eves boys? That is just some of the silliness in the holy books.
Things seem to be progressing toward tribalism quickly. We can work with people who think differently than we if we have a larger common issue to fight. If a religious person is accepting of me I can be accepting of him although we might find fault with each others beliefs . Neither has to be apologetic about their core beliefs. Argue those things later. Niemoller was talking ideologies and it is true that religions are ideologies but not all the religious are part of the problem. We can't really fight the larger problems by ourselves.
As an agnostic, I've seen good and evil in both theists and atheist.
Why then would I want to disrespect one but not the other?
In fact, I choose to respect both since beliefs don't kill people, people kill people.
It's not the belief that is dangerous or delusional, but what a person does with those beliefs.
And thus it's not apologetic to treat both the theists and atheists as people, not as stereotypes.
After all, you are calling them delusional and dangerous the same as they call you delusional and dangerous and condemning them for not accepting your beliefs the same as they condemn you for not accepting theirs;
Do you see how you are the same person, but with just different beliefs; how a theist is the mirror reflection of an atheist, same behaiviour, just flipped around each claiming they are the real person and you are the fake image?
I love that quote. It's chillingly relevant too.
Regarding religion... I can't forgive religion for the way it's demonised gay people and women (and anyone else its targeted).
Gay people have suffered terribly. There have been wasted lives lived in fear, all because of homophobic religion. This toxic homophobia driven by religion is not going away either.
So I don't feel they deserve respect and civility. But atheism has to be respectful and civil otherwise it will be used as proof that atheism is aggressive and the enemy.
Religions used to have a lot more power than they do now, and they are starting to lose power as we learn more and larger swathes of the population become more questioning and educated. I think what we're seeing is the tired old crypt keeper of religion terrified about having its claws slowly removed from the levers of power.