Monday, 13 October 2014

Respect what, exactly?

We get told that we should respect everyone's beliefs. I've written here about how respecting all beliefs is a flawed proposition. 

I've wondered though, when we're told to respect theistic beliefs, what exactly are they asking people respect? 

I know theistic beliefs vary from religion to religion and even group to group and, let's face it, person to person, but there are a few consistencies throughout most, if not all of them.

One of the most common things I'm told is that without belief in 'God' I'm going to end up in hell. Some say that's eternal punishment in a lake of fire, others say hell is simply separation from god. 

Am I really expected to respect the belief that says I'm going to burn forever? I'm not sure about you but I can't work out what it is about that particular belief that I should be respecting. Of course, as an atheist, I dismiss that belief as the pure nonsense that it is. But if I were to entertain the idea for a moment, it's not respect that comes to mind, but disdain. How dare someone suggest that I deserve to burn in hell simply because I can't force myself to believe a story I find ridiculous. 

I'm also told that everything is 'part of God's plan'. Everything? Everything is a lot of things. I see sports people, actors, and other very rich individuals thanking God for their successes. Is he really part of it? Should I really respect an idea that suggests god helps the rich get richer whilst he ignores the poor? 

There was the recent case of a man, William Pooley, being cured of Ebola. Upon his release from hospital he thanked the doctors and nurses who looked after him, then William Pooley thanked God. 

If god actually played a direct role in William's recovery then William Pooley is truly blessed and it's amazing that a god would use his power to cure William of this disease. One assumes the god William is thanking is the same god who sent the disease in the first place. And it's also the same god who stood idly buy whilst some 2,400 people died from the disease. 

If one worships the god who saved William, one is also worshipping the god that allowed 2,400 people to die horrible deaths. A god that could save thousands, but chooses to save one? What am I supposed to respect here? His discretion? 

I've not come across an argument for the existence of god that is not fallacious. Usually it's argumentum ad ignorantiam aka Argument from Ignorance or Appeal to ignorance or personal incredulity. Basically it's saying that god must exist because he hasn't been proven not to or that the claimant can't think of anything other than god as the answer, therefore the answer must be god. 

The arguments are ill-thought out, poorly presented and not ever backed up with actual evidence. No one should be demanding that I respect such muddy thinking. 

Then we've got the good old Catholic church which I was brought up in. Rife with paedophilia, cover ups, and moving priests from church to church when their crimes are found out (never handed over to the authorities though). No sane person could expect me to respect this. No sane person could respect this. 

But what if the priest is actually a good bloke? (Never a woman in the Catholic church, of course. Something else I shouldn't be asked to respect). Even if he is a decent bloke he's still giving sermons to children about how flawed they are. How they're sinful and they need to make up for it. They instil the fear of hell into these children. Children are told that God is watching their every move, every moment of every day and should they transgress, hell is an almost certain possibility. That is, unless they're saved through Jesus. They're told that without Jesus/God they're worthless. I've heard from a child words such as "If I knew there was no god, my life wouldn't be worth living." If this doesn't border on child abuse it's only because it's already crossed over into that realm.  

Then there's the homophobia and sexism so entrenched in religion. We don't respect these things outside religion. Should I respect them just because someone throws 'religious beliefs' into the mix? I think not. 

It's often said - respect is something that is earned, not given by default. I'm yet to see anything about religion, that is exclusive to religion, that has come anywhere close to earning my respect.