I make it no secret that I am secular to the extreme.
I was raised Christian, went to Christian school for eight years, and went to church regularly until age seventeen. As I aged, I slowly began to swing toward the other side of the theistic spectrum, going from agnostic to tentative atheist to full-blown atheist. I’ve read extensive religious philosophy from a number of different viewpoints, with a particular focus upon Christianity (as it is my background).
Last year, during a discussion in myBeowulf seminar, someone brought up the religion of Odenism, which is, apparently, a belief in the god Oden, although I’m unsure of their tenets and beliefs beyond that. I scoffed when it came up, and the professor–whom I admire immensely–said, “Well, we have to have respect for all religions.”
While I recognize the need for tolerance and understand the desire to make everyone feel welcome in an academic environment, I can’t say that I agree with the necessity of respect for all religious beliefs.
I am glad to live in a place where I can speak (and write) freely about my lack of belief, and I know that some people who believe in gods have died to grant me that freedom, but I’m positive some atheists were in foxholes also. In fact, some of our famous forefathers were admitted atheists. However, we should not feel obligated to respect all religious beliefs just because we live in a country that grants religious freedom.
Some of the ridiculous stories, ideas, and precepts that go into some religions would be dismissed outright if they were expressed in a non-religious context. You’re telling me, with no sense of satire or irony, that all of the species on earth fit on a boat? And you don’t believe in evolution (despite the millions of pieces of evidence to the contrary)?
I’m not speaking from an unschooled standpoint here. I went to school and church with many people who blatantly rejected scientific principles because their scriptures said something contrary. Hell, I was one of them! But none of these people was an expert in the scientific field. I’m not either, but I’ve read enough in my spare time to know that evolution is a fact.
These same people who reject scientific principles would use science in a split second if it supported their viewpoints. But instead of proof they have faith: a poor substitute.
The issue I have here–especially as an educator of young people–is that the world is a better place when people are logical, rational, and open-minded. Anything that encourages people to act otherwise should be viewed with suspicion and even disdain.
Yet even some atheists feel the need to “respect” other people’s beliefs. The bottom line is that I respect people; I respect their inherent rights to pursue happiness in whatever form they so choose as long as it does no harm to others.
But I will not–I cannot–respect illogical, fanciful, outdated belief systems.