Things The Godly Say: Respect My Beliefs!

Things The Godly Say: Respect My Beliefs! April 9, 2018

There once was a little girl who lived in Ontario, Canada. Makayla. She was just eleven years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. As horrifying as this diagnosis sounds, doctors were quite hopeful that the girl would survive, giving her a seventy-five percent chance of beating the disease. As prescribed, the young girl underwent eleven weeks of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, her treatment stopped there.

You see, Makayla belonged to the New Credit First Nation and was brought up to believe in the power of indigenous medicine. Surrounded by those who swore by natural and spiritual remedies, she hardly had an opportunity to be skeptical. At eleven, children rarely doubt what their entire family is certain is true. While undergoing chemo, the little girl says she saw Jesus and took that as a sign. She quickly penned a letter to her doctors informing them that she would not be continuing with her chemotherapy. Instead, she would rely on the indigenous medicine her family swore by.

Makayla succumbed to treatable leukaemia just a short while later.

There aren’t many families who would choose, on purpose, a route to treating a survivable illness that will likely end in death. Makayla’s family and the girl herself, clearly believed that the indigenous medicine they chose would be the best option to save her life. She died because of these beliefs. And that is all they are; they are just beliefs. There is no evidence to back up the idea that natural remedies can be just as effective as chemotherapy when it comes to leukaemia. This was a matter of faith and faith alone.

One of the most common demands I get from religious believers when they stumble across my work as Godless Mom is that I must “respect people’s beliefs”. Though the answer is obvious, I still wonder if the folks who say this are including all beliefs. I wonder if they are insisting I respect beliefs like those held by Makayla and her family.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend. We’ll call him Carl for the sake of this post. Carl came from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Carl was super smart and always made the honour roll. He was athletic and played the guitar. He never drank or did drugs and was the first to show up when you needed help. He was a happy person who always brought brightness with him wherever he went. Unfortunately, Carl picked up a bad habit in high school. The same bad habit so many of us did back then: we became smokers. We all thought we were clever enough to hide it from our parents, but one by one, all of our parents figured it out. Sadly for Jehovah’s Witness Carl, that meant he had to leave the family home. He was kicked out of his house and excommunicated from the Witnesses’ church. He was shunned by just about everyone he loved. He still had his friends, but we couldn’t sustain him. When he’d worn out his couch-surfing privileges at everyone’s house, he moved to the street. The last time I saw him, he was strung out on heroin on Vancouver’s downtown eastside. I am unsure if he is still around.

When theists demand I respect other people’s beliefs, I wonder if they mean the beliefs of Carl’s family. I wonder if they are including the church that encouraged a loving family to toss out a good kid like garbage.

Let’s talk about the North American Man/Boy Love Association. I know, not our favourite topic, but bear with me, I have a point. To refresh your memory, this association’s position is that consensual sexual relationships between men and boys cause no harm and should not be considered child abuse. Just to be clear, when I say boy, here, I mean a child. We’re talking paedophilia, and for paedophilia to be technical paedophilia, the child must be prepubescent. NAMBLA members believe prepubescent children should have the right to choose a sexual relationship with an adult, and so long as they have chosen it, it does not constitute rape or child abuse.

These are their beliefs. These beliefs are strong enough for members to risk public disgust, estrangement from friends and family, inability to get any meaningful work. They believe these things strongly enough to ruin their own lives over it. Those are some seriously sincerely held beliefs, right there.

I wonder if the demand to respect other people’s beliefs includes the beliefs of NAMBLA members. I wonder if that’s part of what theists are talking about.

Do you remember Marshall Applewhite, who led his followers to a mass suicide in the hopes of catching a ride with the comet, Hale Bopp? These people believed they would be riding a comet so strongly that they took their own lives for these beliefs. What about Charles Manson, who believed several murders were necessary to spark Helter Skelter, a race war in America? Robert Pickton, who murdered so many women they lost count because he was sure he was doing the work of God?

Do I have to respect their beliefs, too? What about the beliefs of ISIS members? Must I dole out respect for those beliefs? Do I have to show respect towards the beliefs of white supremacists? Should I respect the beliefs of Nazis? What about the KKK?

What about my own beliefs? If I respect your beliefs, are you then to respect mine? What if my beliefs are that religion and religious belief is dangerous and that we should be as vocal as possible about the risks of living a religious life? Do you still respect my beliefs?

The answer is likely no. When you demand that atheists respect other people’s beliefs, you’re not talking about Makayla’s family’s beliefs. You’re not talking about Carl’s family’s beliefs. You’re not including NAMBLA or ISIS or the KKK. What you mean when you demand that atheists respect other people’s beliefs is that we respect your beliefs.

Here’s the thing, though. More often than not, someone demanding I respect their beliefs is including the belief that I, myself, am going to burn in Hell for eternity just for being who I am. There is no sanity in respecting this belief. In what world does it make sense that I respect this?

I reserve my respect for that which does deserve it; that which upholds the value of human life; that which values individual rights. I withhold my respect for people, for this planet, and all the creatures on it, and I will not give it to your beliefs. If your beliefs were worth respecting in the first place, you would find you don’t have to demand that respect from strangers on the internet. You would find that those beliefs elicit respect on their own.

This post has been updated from an older post on

Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • Brian Curtis

    Saying “respect my belief” is just code for “Shut up and do what you’re told.” It should never, ever be met with compliance.

  • Martin Penwald

    “Yeah, but these beliefs are stupid, and mines are rational, because Jésus.”
    It is just a display of religious privileges. Believers of all stripes have a lot of trouble with the criticism of their belief, especially because it means they aren’t absolute truth.

  • MystiqueLady

    A person has the right to believe whatever they wish, as long as it does not impact anyone else. (Kind of like your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose.) Also, I think that all medical and legal decisions for children need to have an outside representative speaking for the welfare of the child (anyone under 18), and, yes, this includes marriage.

  • Well said!

  • Thank you, Mark!

  • I think when it comes to medical decisions, doctors should make them when the situation is life-threatening and the patient is a minor. Thanks for reading!

  • Privilege is a great way to describe it.

  • Agreed.

  • There is so much that could be added. The way in which these disreputable beliefs condemn others, condemn apostates and condemn the innocent all to fulfill a twisted philosophy that has never been much more than a convenience

    … and damn it you’ve got me started on a new blog post!!!

  • Priya Lynn

    Oooooo, that was so good!

  • Oooh, send me the link when you’re done!

  • Thank you!

  • Cozmo the Magician

    The irony is that the xtians are the ones that go on and on and on about ‘slippery slopes’. “If you allow gay marriage, people are going to marry horses!” “Allow for extended background checks and the gobmint gonna lock me up for being in the NRA!” “Let those dreamers stay in the US and millions of illegals will steal your vote/house/daughter/school” etc etc. But I’ll bet very damn few will even dare to think about the brilliant point you made here.

  • Will do

  • When Christians say, “You need to respect my beliefs” what they mean is, “I am right and you are wrong because my god says so but I do not currently have the power to force you to comply with all my religion’s rules”.

  • Wow, thank you. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • I also think some people say it out of habit and haven’t really thought about what it means to respect “beliefs”.

  • Michael Neville

    Greta Christina calls this the “shut up, that’s why” argument. It’s not meant to answer any objections to beliefs, it’s supposed to end the discussion.


    Up to a point, I will respect the rights of people to believe as they choose as long as their beliefs do not include an imagined right to do others harm, or force their beliefs on others. I will NEVER respect their supernatural beliefs themselves.

  • Harry Kays

    “Carl” either never did drugs or he did . He started “smoking” which usually refers to cigarettes . Nicotine is an addictive drug. Very few people just start taking heroin . Who you associate with often leads to drug use .Much of this association begins in high school. My brother started on Meth, cigarettes , marijuana in High school . He’s 47 now and still doing all that with definite brain damage from the meth use. Second hand smoke is very dangerous to other humans so anyone including his close relatives would not want to associate with someone like that . Jehovah’s witnesses or not. He still had his “friends” ? Many homeless people that refuse help like “Carl” lose touch with their family because they are a danger to their family. Many end up in prison. Very few of them are Jehovah’s witnesses.
    Everyone is an individual and is responsible for their own actions as an individual. My brother was a concert pianist and gave that prosperous career up because of the association he chose . He chose to destroy his life . My parents paid for his rehab . He rejected it.
    He spent the better part of a decade loading up on school debt . He lost his physicians assistant license in CA when police stopped him.
    He had meth in his pocket. He lost his PA license in a San Diego Court in 2017. He did not show for the hearing. He owes my dead father and 86 year old mother with dementia over $110,000 . Hes never paid back a dime.
    No Excuses.

  • He was fifteen and drug-free when he was kicked out of his home. Sure, he probably could have made it on his own, but kicking a fifteen-year-old child out of his stable home isn’t the best way to get success out of him. If you think it’s reasonable to kick a child out for smoking cigarettes, I very much hope you don’t have kids.

  • Exactly.

  • Harry Kays

    Yes. Everyone is an individual . 15 year olds commit murder nowadays . No excuses

  • How is that relevant to this situation? He didn’t kill anyone.

  • BlueBlazeSpear

    Whenever I raise these objections when discussing belief with religious people, they often bring up a pretty good counter-point. Okay, it’s a bad point, but good in the sense that this sort of argument doesn’t sufficiently address it. Anyhow, the objection goes something like this: “You’re only addressing the bad things that people do with their beliefs, but I’m a liberal Christian who uses my beliefs to feed the hungry, clothe the cold, and shelter the poor. I believe in equality for gender and race. My beliefs make me a good person, yet you’re suggesting I’m just as bad as ISIS.”

    Of course, any atheist worth her/his salt would ask, “What sort of monster are you suggesting that you’d be without these beliefs keeping you in check?” The argument we’re making here focuses mostly on “effect” and very little on “cause.” Does that make sense? It’s easy to say “I don’t respect beliefs that have bad results,” but a lot of times, those same beliefs result in good results. So I think it’s important to stress that we don’t respect untrue beliefs no matter how people are acting upon them.

    I feel the need to stress to them that I can only respect beliefs that accord with reality. I can only respect beliefs that can be changed with better evidence. Atheists are often accused of being morally unmoored by the lack in the belief of a god, but I find the exact opposite to be true. If even the most liberal Christian on the planet that holds the beliefs that there is a god and that this god is the only arbiter of morality, then – morally speaking – they’ve opened up their belief system to the metaphorical Wild West. What good is any belief system that isn’t bound to reality but to the whims of an unfalsifiable caricature?

    Once you’ve said “This is what I believe and nothing can change my mind.” I find that to be a dishonest, morally bankrupt belief system unworthy of my respect. That system will allow you to believe that feeding the hungry is a good thing, but just as easily conclude that throwing gay people off the roofs of tall buildings is also a good thing. So when liberal Christians say to me “You’re saying I’m just like ISIS when there’s clearly a qualitative difference in how I behave and how they behave.” To them – many of whom are dear to me – I say, “There’s a stark difference between your actions and the actions of ISIS, but you’re both working from within the same flawed moral framework. By association, your mild beliefs lend credibility to their harsh ones. I can’t let you off the hook just because you happened to draw good conclusions from a bad belief structure and they drew bad conclusions from the same structure.”

  • Harry Kays

    You are responsible for choices you make . Anyone who associates with a murderer or a heroin addict or a rapist etc puts themselves in danger . Even second hand smoke.Making the choice to not associate with anyone who participates in those activities is a choice that can’t be ridiculed by any sane individual.

  • I respect the right we have in the U.S. to believe in whatever invisible being we choose to believe in, but that means I respect freedom. If you believe in invisible beings, I think you are either indoctrinated or nutty. Respecting someone’s stupid belief is not part of our constitution. 🙂

  • prinefan

    “You have to respect my beliefs”, really burns my azz and “Deeply, sincerely held beliefs” do too.

  • Ruth Lafler

    As Penn Gillette says: “I do rape and murder as much as I want. The amount I want is zero.” If you need some external rulebook to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong, you have no morality of your own. As is demonstrated by the amorality of the rich and powerful, who get to a place where they think the rules don’t apply to them.

  • Gotta Scramma

    So when a toddler picks up dad’s gun and puts a bullet in his big sister’s head because she won’t give up the remote control then that toddler is responsible, is subject to the law and should be found guilty of premeditated murder. Right??

  • Ruth Lafler

    Yes, I think about this every time a conservative crows that liberals who claim to be tolerant are being intolerant of their “beliefs.” Yes, I’m tolerant of your political views. Up until the point where you try to enforce them on other people. You believe gay marriage is a sin. Okay, you’re allowed to believe that. You want to make it illegal for gay people to marry. No, you’re not allowed to DO that. Being tolerant of your beliefs is not the same as being tolerant of your actions!

  • Syzygy

    There’s no reason to respect bullshit just because someone believes it.

  • ralphmeyer

    Yes, but when the beliefs are damaging to others or the world, they should NEVER be respected, no matter what insignificant imagined god supposedly required them.

  • ralphmeyer

    Yeah…one can be so sincerely wrong…just look at Hitler, Mussolini, or our own dimtwit, Trump, the sex assaulting polluting liar.

  • What are you on about? Who said murder? Who said rape?

  • Yes, me as well.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “I must “respect people’s beliefs””

    They can claim that all the want, but no one is obligated to accede to the claim.

    I always ask them if they respect the beliefs of Wiccans.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart. ~H.L. Mencken

  • Bob Pattinson

    I respect people’s right to believe whatever tosh they want to, but I don’t have to respect the tosh. Quite the opposite in fact.

  • Yes, yes and yes!

  • Eva M

    Parents kicked out their minor child for smoking. Let’s get a grip here. Smoking cigarettes does not rise to the level of rape or murder. Geez, if they were so concerned about exposure to second-hand smoke, they could have forbidden him from smoking in the house. The only thing that will ever separate me from my children is the grave – I’ll need to be in it.

  • Terry Penrose

    I find it quite telling that even when I am considerate and respectful in my speech when trying to participate in a conversation with many theists, they go into a rage that anyone would dare question their religion and express their atheist point of view even in the course of conversation that is not attacking them. In other words, many theists demand respect when talking about their faith or beliefs while even the most respectful atheist is treated like the most vile, repugnant anti Christ who should not be permitted to speak, live, or even remain in America according to many,. It’s a one way street.

    My take is I don’t have to respect their beliefs, but personally I take the high road in discussions because I will not lower myself to their level of hate & disrespect for me or my atheism. I try to be sure if someone is going to look like a cluless jerk it’s not going to be me. That’s not the kind of impact and impression of atheism I want to be remembered by the theists I come into contact with. To do otherwise hurts us, not helps us.

  • Amen – I will love my children no matter what.

  • I feel very similarly. I won’t lower myself to their level. I find that some believers think that just being an atheist is disrespectful to them.

  • Kahn_Tango

    “If you’re going to believe something, you want to be right. So take the short cut and “choose” to believe in something nobody can ever take away from you: believe in something which is beyond human fallibility, experience, evidence, and understanding. Believe in God. Apparently you get to borrow infallibility from whatever it is you believe in. If you’re wrong, that means God is wrong.”

  • Harry Kays

    Nope. Toddler “a young child who is just beginning to walk” Google. You have quite an imagination.
    12 to 36 month old human

  • Terry Penrose

    And then they say they will pray for you! That always tickles me!

  • Nana Togonmesi Adedufir

    I am a theist, an African Traditionalist in fact and my specific beliefs are held in the West as the synonymous with superstitious nonsense. The call for respect is not always the shut up argument. Often, it is a push back against perceived or actual marginalization. That said, I never ask that a non believer (atheist, agnostic or other religion/spirituality) respect my faith. It’s virtually impossible to do so and sincerely believe in the primacy of their own paradigm. No, instead I insist on respecting my right to my own beliefs and to practice them as I see fit as long as it doesn’t infringe on the freedom of anyone that doesn’t subscribe to my beliefs. Case in fact, I am accustomed to hostility from non believers, Yewevodou is offensive to everyone’s sensibilities apparently. That is okay. What isn’t okay is any attempt to legislate my practices so that as to effectively make it illegal. Your lack of a spiritual life doesn’t necessitate me killing off mine to appease your sensibilities. I just need to not pull you into mine. Explicitly or implicitly.
    I agree with your general point though. There are some beliefs and practices that are intolerable, but legislating them are tricky. Better I think to preserve the right to not participate in a faith or practice than to outlaw them. What do you think?

  • Magpie Davis

    Great topic! I see “respect my belief” as one of those phrases that believers throw out to convince themselves that their belief is special – a form of confirmation bias. They are naïve to respect, trust or have faith in an idea and think that others have made the same association. Probably a good teachable moment, though I think at that point they are already frustrated.

  • Magpie Davis

    Exactly. Not much of a belief if they need others to respect it.

  • Allan Harrison

    It is the right to hold beliefs that must be respected, not the specific beliefs themselves. This means I cannot legislate or otherwise impose specific beliefs, but I do not have to respect specific beliefs that are irrational, damaging, morally reprehensible or personally repugnant. I can defend the right to have beliefs, even if I think you, specifically, are a fucktard for holding the beliefs that you do.

  • Terry Penrose

    I truly believe that many are too terrified to allow themselves to sincerely think about much that might question their religious beliefs. Being respectful to an atheist may be interpreted as the same as entertaining the atheiest’s point of view, which some would see as a sin, as dangerous or a lack of faith. They may feel like they are questioning god or not trusting him. It scares some theists to let their mind go there.

    I also think some have too much vested in their families, friends, children & community to risk on so many levels – not to mention their fear of being wrong and going to hell if they did have doubts and non theist thoughts. A Pascal’s wager problem I suppose. I’ve had a few conversations with theists who have admitted their lives would become too complicated & controversial, and they & their kids would be outcasts ostracized from family and friends to ever question or leave their religion. I suspect it’s just a safer place to be for some people even if they have lost their faith.

  • I think we need more believers like you. See, it never bothers me when someone believes in god. It only bothers me when they seek to push that belief into my life, either through legislation or proselytizing. I deeply respect your stance on this, I respect your right to believe in what you believe in, I just may not respect the belief itself – I need to find truth in it before I can find the ability to respect it. Thank you for your point of view.

  • Yes, thank you for putting it so well. I respect the right to believe, but not necessarily the beliefs themselves.

  • ReshH

    When one rationally deconstructs religion when engaging a theist, it is very difficult to avoid insulting them. I’d imagine that it would be potentially painful to have a life-long belief system that one can’t defend. Especially if in a group of strangers.

  • Andrea Fitzgerald

    Great post!

  • ReshH

    Your enlarged amygdala is showing.

  • Illithid

    I’ll admit that the murdering I’ve wanted to do is more than zero. Laws are good things to have.

  • cgosling

    Respect must be earned. There are many religious and political philosophies that do not deserve my respect. In fact, there are many that deserve ridicule and contempt. If we remain silent in the face of injustice and stupidity we are not doing ourselves and humanity any favors. We must speak up for reason and justice.

  • Lauren Lagergren

    You have the right to your beliefs. You don’t have the right to require others to respect your beliefs.

  • Dan Dupree

    I must respectfully disagree. When under the guise of religious beliefs medical care is withheld from children, as I cases like those mentioned in this article, I believe it is correct and a duty to oppose any right to practice that belief.
    As the xtian right fights to maintain their control of our legal systems that provide for the separation of church and state, I don’t have to respect their right act on those beliefs.

  • EllyR

    One can be sincerely wrong, very true, no need to prove it with such a poisonous post. Comparing your president elect to animals like Hitler and Mussolini is wrong, very wrong. For you dimwit is a compliment…

  • Terry Penrose


  • Larry Dawson

    I respect their right to believe, but the beliefs themselves remain crap in my view.

  • Allan Harrison

    Precisely! Actions based on beliefs are subject to both law and social sanction, and are a separate matter from the right to hold beliefs. If your beliefs motivate you to violate human rights or other laws, you will suffer the consequences of your inappropriate or irrational or outdated beliefs. But it is your actions, not your right to hold your beliefs, that violates law and social norms.

  • Allan Harrison

    I have no problem insulting them, their worldview is based on willful ignorance and childish delusion. It is a symptom of mental illness, and they are in need of professional mental health intervention.

  • Jon Pierson

    That’s TWO of your posts I’ve read from beginning to end! I haven’t got the time, will you please stop being so interesting? 😉

  • Mythblaster
  • ReshH

    Are the mentally ill to be held accountable for their illness? Are you professionally qualified to determine who is mentally ill and who isn’t? I thought not. Take your hate elsewhere, please.

  • Dan Dupree

    Let’s take this further. The KKK has the rightht to exist and express their views.
    I have the right to attack those views and those that hold them with utter disrespect and use all legal means of interfering with them excersizing that right .
    Paraphrasing an earlier poster a have a right and a duty to attack and oppose fucktards and their ability to express beliefs that insite violence.
    They have the right to free speach. Does that count when that speach calls for violence?

  • Wile F. Coyote

    US legal code and court decision precedence deal with your question:

    “The Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”
    Brandenburg v. Ohio – Wikipedia

  • Allan Harrison

    Yes, people are to be held accountable for their actions, particularly when these actions are harmful to others. Either criminally, or by confinement to a treatment facility. And religiosity is a clinically significant factor to consider in diagnosis according to the DSM-V and DSM-IV. Yes, I am a trained clinician, and I do refer people for mental health treatment when required.

  • masteradrian

    When people with faith ask, no demand from me to respect their faith, or beliefs, I ask one single question: all faiths and beliefs?
    Asked what i mean, I tell them that when I would do what they demand, respect their faith, their beliefs, I also must respect the faiths, the beliefs of for instance ISIS, as that is a faith, a belief also! For the people who have a belief of orthodox Islam their faith is sacred, and I, when forced to be respecting one faith, I must respect all faiths and beliefs!
    I don’t!
    I never will respect a faith or belief that excludes people from their faith, for whatever reason!
    I also will never respect any faith that, or individual with that faith who does not respect me as an individual, as an human being!
    I can and will never respect any faith or belief that blesses weapons, wars and or armed conflicts!
    Neither can nor will I respect any faith or belief that defends and practices oppression and suppression of human rights!

    Respect needs to be earned, is earned, and can never be demanded!
    A demand for respect is dictatorial, and is disrespecting the freedom of other people, to be themselves as human being, as respectable individuals, and to have another faith, belief, or no faith or belief at all!

    I feel that an individual chooses to have a faith, a belief, or not, and that such a choice is personal, and that a person with a faith, or without a faith, can not ever be demanding another individual to respect his or her faith or belief!

    My opinion

  • Sinonymous

    The more I believe, the less I must think. The less I think, the less responsibility I must bear.

  • ReshH

    I can see that comprehension isn’t your forte, so I’ll just leave this here and move on. Oh, before I go, you might want to familiarize yourself with the various logical fallacies. I suggest you start with the Red Herring Fallacy.

  • Allan Harrison

    Ad hominem appears to be yours.

  • RichardSRussell

    People who don’t want their beliefs laffed at shouldn’t believe such funny things.

  • rtgmath

    You have the right to be stupid, to believe what you wish without evidence, and to suffer the consequences of your beliefs and behaviors. That is the extent to which I have to “respect” your beliefs. It doesn’t mean I have to accept your beliefs as having any credibility or reliability whatsoever.

    Oh, and if I have to respect your beliefs, then you also have to respect mine. In equal measure.

  • Cage KY

    Hmmm…, well for a topic I had thought well worn down to the bone, you caught me reading and rereading your well thought out, properly sequenced, excellently presented, encompassing, yet succinct write up with a tight, pithy and accurate summation that made your introduction worth reading again.

    Grade: A+

    [Note: I personally attempt to respect the right for any human being to hold religious beliefs and express such beliefs privately anywhere and in any manner they chose as long as doing so does not infringe upon the rights of others, break laws or cause harm.

    On the other hand, I was taught critical thinking and the scientific method back in 1969 in my 7th grade Physical Science class. There I learned, then understood, how no idea is to ever be considered sacred, above question or even deserving of respect.

    Ideas, until proven to be true, are but beliefs, even wishes. An idea, without empirical evidence and verifiable tested proof is nothing more than faith.

    Faith is never a road to truth because faith offers no answers. By definition, Faith merely stops questions…and that’s a really bad idea.

    Thus, religion has to inherently be one of mankind’s worst ideas and deserving of no credence or respect at all.]

  • Dyslexic, agnostic insomniac

    Of course we must respect the right of people to believe whatever they like – after all, thought control is unacceptable. There is no way, however, that we always have to respect what they’re believing, or even them for believing wacky things without evidence.

  • David Cromie

    I honestly cannot think of one good reason to respect the beliefs of deluded ‘believers’, who try to impose their superstitious, inane, beliefs and bigotry on those that disagree with them. This is especially the case when these people are such a danger to the everyday workings of a sane, healthy, peaceful, and compassionate, society.

  • David Cromie

    …or the law to enforce it!

  • Thank you, Andrea!

  • Well said!

  • Exactly.

  • Yep!

  • Haha, thank you, Jon!

  • Thank you 😀

  • Yes. I very much agree with all of this.

  • Hard-hitting and true.

  • Thank you so much! That’s a heck of a compliment!

    I agree about respecting their right to believe. And yes, religion is one of mankind’s worst ideas, indeed.

  • Gary Fowler

    Yes, I’m skeptical of spiritual healing, too. What I am surprised by is that the girl died from leukemia (I’m American and that’s how we spell it). The world is full of plant life that can naturally cure most any disease without the aid of any hospitals. Cannabis made into hash oil has been shown to get rid of a stubborn brain cancer. I’m just surprised Makayla’s tribe didn’t know about this. Native American tribes have been using natural plants and herbs in their meals and rituals to keep disease away for thousands of years, and a lot of them live past 100.

  • Gary Fowler

    I think believing in an invisible “sky fairy” is so ridiculous, that some other people began to think that you might as well believe in the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, which I believe is how that particular church came about.

  • Anat

    That plant-derived compounds can cure some illnesses does not mean there is some plant somewhere that can cure any specific illness. There is evidence that the treatment offered to the girl could cure her specific type of leukemia in 75% of cases. You don’t even know which plant might possibly cure that, but you somehow believe there must be one and that specific tribe would have the knowledge of it. You are not making sense.

  • Anat

    A parent has no right to kick out their minor child. The parents can enforce the home as a smoke-free zone (thus avoiding the second-hand smoke problem). But beyond the legal duty, the parents’ choices suck morally too. Young people have a low chance of surviving on their own (and in today’s economy that means well into their 20s). If they had let him stay he had a chance of working his life out.

  • Scenario

    Where does culture end and beliefs begin? A relative of mine is very involved in her native american heritage. She goes to pow-wows where they do the native american dances and other rituals. Some of them really believe in the religious part of the ceremony, to others is purely cultural and to many its something in between.

    Sometimes outsiders come and make fun of them. They yell insulting remarks and use racist terms to describe what the people are doing. I believe that that it is wrong to disrespect people honoring their ancient religion and culture.

    On the other hand, the religions/cultures that the article talked about are toxic and hurtful. There is no reason to respect them.

  • Erik1986

    I’ve loved horses since I was a little girl, and have always owned at least one since I was 24 (I’m 73). I’d marry the present one if that would allow me to deduct his expenses on my taxes!!!! ROFLOL

  • Erik1986

    A very good friend is a believer, but she’s very much flowers and puppies and Jesus. I doubt she’s ever actually read the bible besides the Sermon on the Mount the 23rd Psalm. Knowing that I’m an atheist, jshe ust says “I’ll pray for you.” Yeah, riiiight. It’s patronizing, but she’s a nice lady; I’m not going to argue with her. But I’ve never had to deal with a non-friend about my atheism – generally it’s just not a topic that comes up.

  • Scenario

    What do they mean by respect? If I go over someone’s house and they say grace, I usually bow my head and remain quiet until it is over. I don’t start an argument over what other people do in their own home. On the other hand, if the same people say something that indicates that all people should be forced to say grace because my religion is right, I do not respect that and I do not remain silent.

    I respect what people want to do in their own homes as long as they are not hurting anyone else. I do not respect force.

  • Scenario

    A parent has a right to kick out a minor child when that child is a danger to the other children and the authorities won’t do anything to help. A child who has repeatedly put their siblings in the hospital with their violent behavior has no right in the house. Ideally, the child should get the help they need but in America today, that is sometimes near impossible.

  • Sinonymous
  • Terry Penrose

    The atheist-theist forums can be brutal. I don’t discuss religion with my personal friends. We respect one another for who we are and for our friendship. They know I am an atheist and don’t care, they do not use their relgious beliefs to make demands or hurt anyone. I would never associate with someone like that. I was taught & I believe religion is personal, but unfortunately, many religious people don’t see it that way and use it to try to control others. I take great issue with that behavior and mindset. That’s when I speak up.

  • Terry Penrose

    Just read “Difficult Questions that Undermine Faith” and liked it very much! I will be back for more.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    You should run for office in Maine, you would be a shoe-in. Although it may not rain enough there for you.


    Your article got linked to Good job Mom!


    As in “Because I SAY so, THAT’S WHY!”

  • David Cromie

    Beliefs (world view) have a symbiotic relationship with culture. Some people are deliberately indoctrinated with the tribe’s belief system, usually from an early age, while others absorb beliefs from their friends and acquaintances, TV/films, for example, or at school, or as a member of some informal ‘club’ or other. On the other hand, some people seem to be mostly immune to the common cultural norms of their surroundings, for good or ill.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “One of the most common demands I get from religious believers when they stumble across my work as Godless Mom is that I must “respect people’s beliefs”.

    They can demand all they want, that does not make it so.

    In fact, you don’t even have to respect them; respect is earned.

    I am quite able to respect a person as an individual without having to respect their beliefs; I have friends who I respect but they read their horoscopes because they think there is something to them.

    When a theist demands that their beliefs must be respected, I always ask them if the respect the beliefs of Hindus or Wiccans. At that point, I generally learn that they mean I must respect the beliefs of people who believe the Bible, not those other “made up” religions.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    No, friends I respectfully disagree. I have my beliefs and you have your beliefs.
    I would never tell anyone that their belief was “wrong,” and neither would any who was compassionate, thinking or kind.
    I may not believe as you do, but that belief is the right one for you at this time in your life. Just as mine is right for me at this time in my life. Why must there be dissention? This nation has separation of church and state and everyone has a right to what they believe as long as that belief is not harmful to others.

  • Rachel Marshall

    I think there’s a difference between respecting and appropriating and respecting vs. disrespecting. You don’t even have to acknowledge someone’s beliefs let alone worry about respecting them. And if you don’t care enough to respect them you shouldn’t care enough to disrespect them either. So they cancel each other out.

  • Peter Borgwardt

    I really like this H.L. Mencken quotation. I think we need to take ourselves and our beliefs less seriously. I think I’ve believed many contradictory things over my lifetime. I like to use Jungian psychology to notice and be surprised at what parts of me do and don’t believe. Of course, we do have to stand and vote against those who want to impose harmful beliefs on others.

  • LeekSoup

    “You have to respect my beliefs” is just a whiny way of admitting you have lost all the arguments. You’ve got nothing left except to whine “Please like me.”

  • Ivlia Vespasia

    I may, or may not, agree with your beliefs just as you may or may not agree with mine but so long as your beliefs are not illegal and will cause no harm to anyone then I will defend your right to hold them. Where I have a problem is when someone holds a specific belief and insists on forcing their thoughts and ideals on other people. My beliefs are just that, mine, and while I have no problem in talking about them with those who share similar beliefs I have no interest in sharing them with those who beliefs I don’t know or who loudly share their thoughts with everyone in the vicinity while trying to convince others that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Eg: I have no problem in my best friend being Mormon, or that her children are Muslim, none of them force their beliefs on anyone else. Nor do I have a problem with those Mormon missionaries who, after being told that you are not interested in being converted, are still willing to come and visit just to see how you’re and whether you need any help with anything. I do however have a problem with those who refuse to accept that I have no interest in converting and continue to try and convince me. Jehovah’s Witnesses are the worst as they are so sure they are right that they continually pester for years after you first unknowingly opened your door to them

  • John Purssey

    But doctors may also impose their belief systems with their treatment or lack of treatment. Many dosctors will not participate in abortions.

  • John Purssey

    The new atheists do atheism a dis-service.

  • John Purssey

    A rather jaundiced view, And total crap.

  • John Purssey

    You are generalising from a small sub-set. No reasoanble medical authority would agree that anyone with a religious belief has a mental health problem. You won’t find that in DSM-V. It is just the case that some people with mental health problems exhibit them in a religious style.

  • John Purssey

    And include confirmation bias.

  • John Purssey

    But don’t forget that there is the complementary “Yeah, but these beliefs are stupid, and mines are rational, because Science.”

  • Martin Penwald

    Bravo! You win the award for the stupidiest statement of the day.

  • “I am quite able to respect a person as an individual without having to respect their beliefs”

    Exactly. Well said.

  • “I would never tell anyone that their belief was “wrong,” and neither would any who was compassionate, thinking or kind.”

    This is absolutely not true. Some beliefs are harmful and determine your actions. For instance, if someone truly believed all Canadians should die – of course I would tell them this is wrong. This is part of being compassionate: bringing up difficult conversations.

  • Hadn’t considered that. Excellent point.

  • Allan Harrison

    The original article (if you bothered to read it) and my comments on it do not refer to “anyone with a religious belief”. They specifically refer to those people who act in ways which are harmful to themselves or others, based on their religious beliefs. This is why I used the term that is also used in the DSM: religiosity, rather than religious belief.

  • John Purssey

    So as you are not able to discuss you retreat to abuse.

  • Martin Penwald

    Your comment implies that science is a religion, which is a stupid claim. One can’t discuss with narrow-minded people.

  • John Purssey

    Then broaden your mind to belief systems in general. Everybody has a belief system, though many cannot recognise it in themselves like the proverbial fish that is not aware of the water it is swimming in. The Buddhists are not theists but have a well developed belief system. I can respect that, but not how it is expressed in Myanmar/Burma. China has a belief that everyone should be subservient to the state so they oppress the Falung Gong, churches, and Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t respect that. There used to be claims that Marxism was scientific and had prophecies of a worker paradise spreading over the world, but Stalinist Russia put paid to that mythology.

    What we could with is an article that actually examines approaches for deciding when beliefs should be respected and when not. This article has at least been useful for me in providing a starting point for dong that thinking

  • DogGone

    I certainly will defend anybody else’s right to personal beliefs. Where I have trouble, especially with certain large Christian groups, is with their insistence on their “right” because of those beliefs to take away my rights as a hyman being, American citizen, and a woman. I don’t want to take away their rights, but they do want to take away mine, and I must fight that.

  • DogGone

    If they believe standing up for my rights as a woman to participate fully in the workplace and society, to hold positions of leadership, and to make decisions about my own body and life is “disrespecting” their beliefs–and that, btw, is just what they believe, then in that regard, yes, I must, in their eyes (not mine) be “disrespectful.”

  • DogGone

    Nailed it.

  • DogGone

    People have the right to speak. They do not have the right to expect others not to contradict them. In fact, others have the duty to contradict them when human rights violations are involved.

  • DogGone

    Yep. Certainly, we must (and do) respect their right to hold whatever beliefs they choose. However, we are in no way obligated to respect the beliefs themselves. Were they content to keep those precious beliefs within their own circle, we would neither know nor care what they were. Unfortunately, they push them upon all of us, seeking to limit the rights of others and wresting control of as much of the government as we will allow. The latter is extreme disrespect on their part and must be resisted.

  • DogGone

    He’s not the “president elect.” That term refers to a person who has been elected, but has not yet assumed office. Unfortunately, the gentleman in question is, sighs, the President of the United States. The title, for his holding of it, will never again have its former dignity. (I only hope we will live through this November when our legislature may be restored to its power to check an executive branch which has, obviously, become far too powerful for the good of our Republic.)

  • DogGone

    I think a number of them have the “belief” that they have the right to impose their religious rules, which they call “morals” upon everyone else and are peaved that the rest of us are resisting. That “belief” I cannot respect because it disrespects the rights and beliefs of everyone outside of their groups.

  • Allan Harrison

    Ironic that you would cast stones of logical fallacy, since they are the backbone of religious belief. Appeal to authority, confirmation bias, begging the question, divine fallacy; you can’t have a theistic religion without them.

  • ReshH

    I think you are absolutely correct here. I don’t know what was in my previous posts that you might think otherwise. My comment, vis-a-vis Red Herrings, had to with your response of “Yes, people are to be held accountable for their actions” which did not address my point that the mentally ill can hardly be held responsible for their actions any more than you can be held responsible for sneezing while suffering from allergies.

  • Wile F. Coyote

    I agree with you that the right to speak one’s mind freely does not include prior restraint on those who would respond negatively to what is spoken.

    But there is no absolute inherent obligation I can think of for any person(s) to act to contradict speech or actions which violate the human rights of others.

    I think it is in the best interest of humanity for people to stand up against such abuse. And certainly not doing so not only enables an instance of injustice against a person or group, but also potentially fosters societal tolerance of injustice not only by individuals, which in turn may inspire such individuas to form groups and act equally repugnantly, and attract members who eventually become governing bodies. It is happening with right wing movements in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and a number of other countries at the present time.

    But, while one might desire that individuals have a duty to speak or act against human rights violations any time one encounters them, there is no legal standard or requirement. There are many instances I can think of where to do so might not help whomever is being victimized, while exposing the 3rd party observer (and his/her dependents, perhaps) to harm also.

    I think it comes down to one’s personal ethics, and that situational ethics applies, also. I am glad that strong counter-demonstrations have occurred in response to American white nationalist/nativist/KKK/USnazi demonstrations (I’m not in support of antifa violence tactics when not utilized in self-defence, though, and even then I believe that non-violence should always be the primary protest tactic), but I would never expect or think it should be required for one single person to be duty-bound to confront injustice in each and every encounter with same.

  • EllyR

    You have had worse and survived, that is democracy… Democrats forgot this…

  • David Cromie

    Check out the difference between ‘president elect’ and ‘elected president’.

  • Martin Penwald

    So, a variation on the theme : “non-believers have a Jésus shaped hole in the heart”. Ridiculous.

  • John Purssey

    Amazing how the narrow minded project their own misinterpretations. But characteristic of the cynicism of the new atheists.

  • Martin Penwald

    Indeed. The fact that you use “new atheists” tells it all.

  • EllyR

    I did, that is not the issue, so let’s forget my little mistake. What matters is that Trump IS the President of the USA and all those that do not like it, can burst with envy and anger…

  • John Purssey

    Yes. They lack integrity.

    It is possible for religious, non-religious and atheist people to have a sensible dialogue. But just as it is impossible to dialogue with a religious fundamentalists it is impossible to dialogue with atheist fundamentalists. For one thing, they both revert to the use of pejoratives, and so that indicates that there is no point in trying to proceed.

  • DogGone

    Okay, yes, I agree with you about a lack of obligation (and certainly there is no legal requirement). I just meant that people who voice beliefs have no right to expect others to agree with those beliefs, be convinced to adopt those beliefs, or even to accept such voicing in silent courtesy. Freedom of speech goes all ways. They can believe and speak, but we have the same right to believe otherwise and to say so. They need to understand they are risking exposure as ignorant fools, depending on the assembled company, when they advance, for example, Creationism.

  • DogGone

    We have had bad Presidents before, but they did not have as much power as he does. We need to check the Executive Branch. Our government has three branches for a reason. We do not have a king.

  • Wile F. Coyote

    I think we agree pretty much 100%.

  • tusk321

    On this, what you’ve stated, I can completely relate to. And many comments above, posted several of these on my FB page, as I’m constantly posting articles regarding and exposing, religious ignorance, intolerance and control. And once these ignorant christian evangelicals started desperately clinging to trump (their new “savior”) like sucker fish to a great white. I knew I was on a mission to expose their poisoness attack on America, something they assumed was a “Christian” nation, until it was obvious that most Americans were not amused by the current Jackal in the White House, winning the job of potus, with help from another Jackal in Russia. I’m disgusted, to say the least, about this current administration, from HELL. xo

  • David Cromie

    I find it odd that there are subjects that you cannot discuss with real ‘friends’. Does this mean that you cannot just agree to disagree?.

  • Terry Penrose

    I never said I “cannot” discuss certain things with my personal friends. You wrote that and changed what I said into something I did not say.

    We all know what religion we each are, and as I said, they know I am an atheist. Once I formed a relationship with each person there was never any reason to address our personal beliefs any further. Of course we agreed to disagree like adults once we got to know each other well enough to have the religion discussions… and that was enough. Our friendships just have nothing to do with our personal beliefs. If someone brings something up, we’ll talk about it, but it’s just not relevant or important to our friendships.

  • Terry Penrose

    What’s a “new” atheist?

  • John Purssey

    Google (or any search engine) is your friend.

  • Terry Penrose

    I have watched many “new atheist” discussions, fights and arguments via many forums in the past year or so. There are many versions ranging from its a made up politicised term created by theists, it’s the Sam Harris movement, it’s angry and/or militant atheists to it’s atheists who find common ground and less contention with moderate theists. Perhaps I should have asked which you were referring to so I wouldn’t have received a snarky response.

  • The entire basis on which christianity rests is that if you believe in Jesus you can do anything (except blasphemy of the holy spirit) and be forgiven. But if you don’t accept jesus then no matter how exemplary a life you live you are condemned to burn in Hell forever. This means that Nazi death camp commanders with the blood of 6 million innocent Jews on his hands can go to Heaven. But his 6 million victims cannot. Those other examples of sick beliefs listed above are pretty tame compared to this sh*t!

  • I go a step further. I deny them the right to believe what they believe. And I explain it to them very simply.

    The entire basis on which christianity rests is that if you believe in Jesus you can do anything (except blasphemy of the holy spirit) and be forgiven. But if you don’t accept jesus then no matter how exemplary a life you live you are condemned to burn in Hell forever. This means that Nazi death camp commanders with the blood of 6 million innocent Jews on his hands can go to Heaven. But his 6 million victims cannot.

    Then they look at me with blank expressions on their faces and ask what’s wrong with that. And they wonder why they disgust me.

  • I don’t care what vile ignorant people think of me. I go to the extreme. I let them know how sick their beliefs really are*. That way the next time they come across someone like you, Terry, your views seem mild in comparison.

    *The entire basis on which christianity rests is that if you believe in Jesus you can do anything (except blasphemy of the holy spirit) and be forgiven. But if you don’t accept jesus then no matter how exemplary a life you live you are condemned to burn in Hell forever. This means that Nazi death camp commanders with the blood of 6 million innocent Jews on his hands can go to Heaven. But his 6 million victims cannot.

    Then they look at me with blank expressions on their faces and ask what’s wrong with that. And they wonder why they disgust me.

  • Then you aren’t moving the ball one inch towards the goal line.

  • Agreed.

  • wolfypuppy

    I’m looking for your post you did responding to a letter from a Christian who corresponded with you about something like this, but I can’t remember the name or date or website. I want to share it with someone of AFW.

  • wolfypuppy

    Yes! Thanks!

  • No problem 🙂