Why must we respect people's religious beliefs when such respect is not reciprocated? I have been wondering this ever since I realized I was convinced atheist.
We respect their right to believe so long and so far as it does no harm to others.
They however as part of their doctrine as obliged to believe that our lack of faith means we have either given or ourselves, or been taken by the Devil and are therefore a danger to their immortal souls, as we shall be be forced to try and drag them down to the pit with us.
As has been said before, having an imaginary friend is childish, however having an imaginary enemy is just fecking stupid.
I tend to think that my behaviour doesnt have to depend on someone elses. I do what i feel is right, for the most part at least, and what other folks do, how they respond is not on my head.I am flat out finding my own way and can't be jumping on everyone who sees things differently. It would be great if we all worked tegether for the common good, no matter what we believed, but i think that day is a long time coming.
Best to treat them as you would treat a small child telling you an imaginary tale; just nod and murmur "Um..hum," while looking vaguely distracted, then mumble something about meeting someone and wander off.
It quickly trains people not to talk religion to you.
If someone still follows you to rant, continue the bored behavior; let your attention seem to wander, then politely excuse yourself, and leave the room.
I may respect the person, but I don't have to respect their religion. Its the same with with any idjit who believes the earth is flat or that grizzly bears enjoy having their butts grabbed by drunken potential winners of a Darwin award. Your idea is up for ridicule.
While I agree with the other commenters that we do not want to lower ourselves to their level, there is another aspect of this that's important. No one's views (believers or otherwise) are automatically entitled to respect and deference. There is of course some initial benefit of the doubt offered by default, but you don't get to claim to be truthful, right, consistent, moral or accurate unless you can demonstrate that your claims are all of those things. Theists have a marked tendency to claim to speak for their deity, who is by their definition infallible and mightily displeased with doubt, questions or unbelief. To not honor their truth claims is to call god a liar and thus incur his wrath.
This gambit worked while the taboos held, and fear was the rule of the day. But in the past few generations people have had the temerity to ask why god-believers get special consideration in this regard -- why they should be believed when they cannot substantiate the basic tenets of their belief system. And when, in fact, those tenets are non-falsifiable and therefore cannot BE substantiated, even if you tried.
I don't hate believers, or disrespect them as individuals overall. I cannot respect and certainly cannot believe their truth claims, and I have a luxury that virtually no atheist had a few generations ago: I can openly say so without fearing severe social consequences and maybe even for my life. Just like you can (at least for now) disagree with the government without fearing harm, at least so long as you have white skin.
When believers demand respect and deference and an assumption of wisdom that they have not earned, they are in effect demanding my silence and acquiescence and complicity.