View Poll Results: How should atheists deal with religion?
With the tolerance and respect due all human beings 106 65.03%
With the scorn and derision all superstitions deserve 57 34.97%
Voters: 163. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:03 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Poll for atheists: how to treat religion

Prompted by a story on NPR's Morning Edition the other day, which chronicled the debate among atheists as to how to deal with religion and the religious. The Center for Inquiry advocates tolerance and respect; Christopher Hitchens came down on the side of scorn and derision.

Personally (and as a theist, I don't get a vote) it seems to me that the reasonable approach is to deal with people's actions, not their thought processes. Applaud any acts of peace, brotherhood and charity, regardless of the motivation. Denounce any acts of bigotry, violence and ignorance, regardless of the motivation.

Last edited by jsc1953; 10-21-2009 at 12:05 PM.
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  #2  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:09 PM
garygnu garygnu is online now
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Somewhere in the middle?
  #3  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:10 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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When I was younger I was pro-scorn and derision ( quietly, I've never been a confrontational sort ). By the time I hit my early thirties I had come over to the tolerance and respect side and there I remain.

Quote:
it seems to me that the reasonable approach is to deal with people's actions, not their thought processes. Applaud any acts of peace, brotherhood and charity, regardless of the motivation. Denounce any acts of bigotry, violence and ignorance, regardless of the motivation.
Pretty much.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 10-21-2009 at 12:11 PM.
  #4  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:15 PM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Tough choice. Man, these polls are hard to set up.

Religion is (generally) stupid, and reflects poorly on nearly all who choose it. But I chose tolerance and respect, in that I tolerate and respect each individual's right to make really stupid choices - so long as they do not materially affect me.

The only time it gets touchy is when I determine that that individual's choice affects me in some manner. At that point I reserve the right to act in a manner other than respectful and tolerant.
  #5  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:21 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Originally Posted by garygnu View Post
Somewhere in the middle?
I'll see if I can add a wishy-washy 3rd option.
  #6  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:26 PM
rivulus rivulus is offline
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
The only time it gets touchy is when I determine that that individual's choice affects me in some manner. At that point I reserve the right to act in a manner other than respectful and tolerant.
Well, for me, the phrase "with the tolerance and respect due all human beings" encompasses quite a lot. What I think is due any person is respect and tolerance right up to the point where that person's fist hits my nose (or the nose of my child, loved ones, or some other defenseless person) literally or figuratively speaking. Then I reserve the right to make a strong defense and fight back in whatever way is appropriate. Scorn and derision feel good when venting, but I don't find them terribly useful in defending my stance or for problem solving.
  #7  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:40 PM
filling_pages filling_pages is offline
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I''ll respect someone's belief, even if I don't respect what they believe in, as long as that belief doesn't cause harm. If you believe that Christ died for your sins, and that makes you want to be giving and loving, more power to ya. If that makes you want to beat up Jewish kids, your actions get no respect from me (obviously).
  #8  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:40 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Religions aren't human beings, so they don't deserve the respect you'd grant any random human being, regardless of their (lack of) religious beliefs.
  #9  
Old 10-21-2009, 12:51 PM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
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Hitchens is a drunken jackass and I find it a useful rule of thumb to consider the opposite of his viewpoint the correct one. jsc1953 has pretty much nailed how I feel about the subject.
  #10  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:04 PM
Lightnin' Lightnin' is offline
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I didn't answer, because I don't like either of the choices. I prefer C) Ignore them, unless they affect my life in some way.
  #11  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:07 PM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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This whole question of respect for beliefs is a bit misguided if you ask me.

I respect a person's right to hold whatever beliefs he'd like to, but I will never respect those actual beliefs if I find them to be completely nonsensical. I'll never tell a person he doesn't have the right to pray to whomever or whatever he wants to, but I'm not going to respect that belief as being valid in way, shape or form. And for me, the same holds for any other religious beliefs. Pray to Christ, pray to Baal, pray to your ancestors, pray to Aleister Crowley, pray to a rotting rutabega ... they all hold the same amount of weight with me, as far as respecting those beliefs. I.e., they are all equally ridiculous.

So, the answer is somewhere in the middle. I don't go around with a sandwich board announcing that all theists are fools, but if I'm confonted by someone attempting to convince me of something ridiculous, then, yes, they'll get a little scorn out of me.

And when I'm prodded on a message board too, I suppose.
  #12  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:09 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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I have very religious people in my family who I was very close to growing up, and I still feel close to in some ways. I can't treat them with scorn.
  #13  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:15 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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I don't like the choices. I think it depends on how you define "religion." Religious people (who are most people) obviously deserve consideration and respect as long as they return it. And their right to believe should be honored.

The beliefs themselves do not automatically merit any respect, though, and many specific beliefs do indeed deserve scorn.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 10-21-2009 at 01:15 PM.
  #14  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:22 PM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is offline
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There's a general trend amongst skeptics to treat religion as a special case, in my observation. They'll happily debunk bigfoot or crystal healing but when it comes to considering religion they either steer clear or give it some token respect as if it were more valid than any other nonsense. I assume this is practical - most people are religious even if some are otherwise skeptical towards things like ghosts or astrology. And practically you don't want to alienate people who have one sacred cow belief but who are otherwise rational.

I'm personally leery of this view. I don't want religions to get a special status in terms of ridiculous beliefs just because they're common and have a history behind them. I try to apply my mind equally critically to everything I encounter. So I chose the second option.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to go around to every reasonable religious person and openly mock them. It does mean, however, that if we somehow get into a debate of the relative merits of any set of religious superstitious beliefs vs other superstitious beliefs, I'm not going to give the religion special consideration.
  #15  
Old 10-21-2009, 01:52 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
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My answer is "it depends". If someone is quiety religious and doesn't try to push their religion on me, I treat them with respect for the choice they have made. I don't respect their choice necessarilly, but I respect them as a free thinking human being. If I happen to see someone pushing their belief on someone, especially a small child, that bothers me. Does it result in my scorn? It depends. As long as the child/person has the ability to walk away from such preaching I am generally okay with it. I think it's sometimes a fine line.
  #16  
Old 10-21-2009, 02:10 PM
Bernard Marx Bernard Marx is offline
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I generally think "leave them alone and they'll leave you alone". I've never had to deal with any confrontational religious types. I think in Australia most religious people are much less likely to be evangelical about it - religion is much more of a private affair (in my experience anyway) - so the question of how to treat religious people is much less likely to come up.
  #17  
Old 10-21-2009, 02:27 PM
rhubarbarin rhubarbarin is offline
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I chose the first option because I usually treat it, outwardly, with respect, since it is deeply important to many people. But not with reverence. I feel free to poke fun, in the right company, and have been known to be derisive. It all depends on the people involved.

In the privacy of my own thoughts.. Religion isn't logical, so it lowers my regard for people who have blind faith in it. It brings many people pain, guilt, suffering and death. But it also brings comfort, and enriches the lives, of many believers. A minority, I think, but it's not inconsequential.

In general I am content to live and let live. Religion has uses. It's just not for me. I think I was born missing something integral to religious belief.. I was raised super-Christian, but it never took, even as a young child.
  #18  
Old 10-21-2009, 02:50 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogenes the Cynic View Post
I don't like the choices. I think it depends on how you define "religion." Religious people (who are most people) obviously deserve consideration and respect as long as they return it. And their right to believe should be honored.

The beliefs themselves do not automatically merit any respect, though, and many specific beliefs do indeed deserve scorn.
I am beginning to wish I'd included more choices, but alas, we do not have the option of editing polls. Apparently we're getting all statistically integrity-fied around here.

But if it helps, I'll clarify the 2 options, which I purposely worded to force a dichotomy. The poll doesn't care about your opinion on religion per se (I think it can be assumed that an atheist's opinion on religion is negative) -- it's about your treatment of someone who has somehow made public a religious viewpoint; and let's assume that that was done in a non-belligerent way. For instance, a co-worker says they need to leave work to go get ashes on Ash Wednesday.
  #19  
Old 10-21-2009, 03:03 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Originally Posted by Superfluous Parentheses View Post
Religions aren't human beings, so they don't deserve the respect you'd grant any random human being, regardless of their (lack of) religious beliefs.
I'm not responding because of exactly this. Let's substitute astrology for religion, and see how people answer. People believing in nonsense doesn't make them bad people, but the nonsense is still nonsense.
  #20  
Old 10-21-2009, 03:43 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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The choices are lame.
  #21  
Old 10-21-2009, 04:53 PM
B. Serum B. Serum is offline
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I've been discussing this with my girlfriend a lot lately. We're both in the hard agnostic / soft atheist realm, and thought we find a lot of merit with Dawkins and even Bill Maher's Religulous, we both consider them to be the worst kind of ambassadors and are doing as much harm as good.

Atheists have an enormous image problem. We're aware that we are generally the most despised and mistrusted minority. It stands to reason that if an individual is despised and mistrusted, any arguments to further our own belief system (or lack therof) will not only fall on deaf ears, but be perceived as an attack. Nobody likes to be made to be wrong, but the religious have a lot more skin in the game if they are wrong.

For the faithful, religion isn't just a component of their lives, it is often the foundation of their lives, and attempts to chip away at that foundation can understandably frightens them and endangers everything they've built on that foundation. Their "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in, their defenses go up and the more we batter away at their walls, the more they strive to reinforce them.

I think that one of the reasons Christianity was a "hit" is because some of it's core tenets "Sermon on the Mount"-type stuff is what people wanted to hear. It went down easy. It wasn't threatening. On the other hand, atheists' message there is no loving God, there is no heaven, there is no ultimate punishment for the wicked is downright terrifying to the religious. And if we do hope a religious person makes a terrifying journey, with someone outwardly compassionate (which a Humanist should be anyway) or someone hostile?

In my fields graphic design, advertising & marketing I learned about the "Buy-In Bench," as a way to sell unconventional ideas to resistant minds. The underlying premise is that depending on how different a new idea is, it can be unrealistic for a person to warm up to that idea in one setting. So you seek to only take them the distance that is realistic and leave the rest for later. Once they're comfortable with a new position, you can move them further down the bench.

Or maybe more succinctly, if you want a person to dine on your dinner, give them bite-size pieces rather than choking them with all four courses at once.

Personally, I find the arguments against God so compelling that my preferred tact is to in a mock-naive manner ask those questions that planted doubt in my mind (I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school and was even an alter boy) and let those same questions roll around in their heads.

I understand the anger and resentment that breeds militancy that we non-believers continue to endure in the face of the religious world. But we are poor ambassadors of our group at our own peril. The whole situation reminds me of an old Onion article "Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years" We have a quite a hole from which to emerge, but I do have hope.
  #22  
Old 10-21-2009, 05:02 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc1953 View Post
But if it helps, I'll clarify the 2 options, which I purposely worded to force a dichotomy. The poll doesn't care about your opinion on religion per se (I think it can be assumed that an atheist's opinion on religion is negative) -- it's about your treatment of someone who has somehow made public a religious viewpoint; and let's assume that that was done in a non-belligerent way. For instance, a co-worker says they need to leave work to go get ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Yeah, well, I can't edit my vote now, even if I wanted to, but if your question was about who us atheists should treat religious people you've screwed up the poll completely. The way I chose to interpret it, given the leading* way it was stated, was:

How to treat religion:

With the tolerance and respect due to all religious ideas.
With the scorn and derision all superstitions deserve.

* I took your stating of the answers as deliberate: option a is the one to choose if you respect people, while option b is the one to choose if you're a cold-hearted rationalist.

Last edited by Superfluous Parentheses; 10-21-2009 at 05:05 PM.
  #23  
Old 10-21-2009, 05:08 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Originally Posted by Superfluous Parentheses View Post
Yeah, well, I can't edit my vote now, even if I wanted to, but if your question was about who us atheists should treat religious people you've screwed up the poll completely. The way I chose to interpret it, given the leading* way it was stated, was:

How to treat religion:

With the tolerance and respect due to all religious ideas.
With the scorn and derision all superstitions deserve.

* I took your stating of the answers as deliberate: option a is the one to choose if you respect people, while option b is the one to choose if you're a cold-hearted rationalist.
If it helps, just read the transcript in the OP. The debate reported upon is only presented with 2 sides, which I tried to represent with 2 choices of buttons.
  #24  
Old 10-21-2009, 05:14 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Originally Posted by B. Serum View Post
Atheists have an enormous image problem. We're aware that we are generally the most despised and mistrusted minority.
Keep in mind that Dawkins and Hitchens (originally) are British. In the UK, as in many countries in Europe, being an atheist is nothing remarkable, and outspoken fundamentalist Christianity is pretty uncommon. I think partly because of that, neither is very concerned with offending what they probably view as the lunatic fringe, and both are quite willing to debate people with opposing view points.
  #25  
Old 10-21-2009, 05:36 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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If it helps, just read the transcript in the OP. The debate reported upon is only presented with 2 sides, which I tried to represent with 2 choices of buttons.
I'd read it already before I saw this poll. I think it's a made-up-to-look-new controversy. It's not particularly interesting.

There's always been discussion amongst people (not all of which are atheists at all - the religious themselves tend to butt in) about how much respect non-religious people should give religions. As far as I'm concerned, not much. Certainly not more than I would give a political party that I don't care for, and there are a few despicable parties in my country. That doesn't mean that I can't respect or even understand people who may have very different political ideals. But not always, there are limits. In any case, I agree completely with Dawkins that religions are awarded a completely undeserved amount of leeway and respect, not just in the US, but also in my country. I also know atheists and agnostics that don't agree. I can live with that.

None of this has anything to do with how religious people should be treated, as long as their believes don't negatively affect others. But it also doesn't mean that religious believes cannot be challenged. I get challenged on my political, views, and I challenge my friends and acquaintances on theirs, if I don't agree with them, when it's opportune. Why should religion be off-bounds?

Last edited by Superfluous Parentheses; 10-21-2009 at 05:38 PM.
  #26  
Old 10-21-2009, 07:41 PM
B. Serum B. Serum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfluous Parentheses View Post
Keep in mind that Dawkins and Hitchens (originally) are British. In the UK, as in many countries in Europe, being an atheist is nothing remarkable, and outspoken fundamentalist Christianity is pretty uncommon. I think partly because of that, neither is very concerned with offending what they probably view as the lunatic fringe, and both are quite willing to debate people with opposing view points.
I agree with your assessment of the religious makeup of Europe vs. America, but neither Dawkins or Hitchens is ignorant (1) that their audience extends into America, and (2) the percentage of America's population that self-identify as religious. Also, one needn't be on the lunatic fringe for religion to play a central role in their life. For instance, my girlfriend's father is a very liberal pastor, but holds his faith as crucially important to his life.

But I also agree with your assertion that neither of them are particularly concerned with offending believers, and that's simply where I take umbrage with their approach.
  #27  
Old 10-21-2009, 08:33 PM
rhubarbarin rhubarbarin is offline
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I think Hitchens is a douche in general, but love Dawkins, and one of the things I like most about him is that he's honest about what he thinks and does not fear offending people.

Just because your religion is sacred to you, does not mean it have to be sacred to everyone else. We feel pretty free to make fun of Scientologists, LDS and other relatively uncommon religions - just because Christians are such a politically important majority here in the States should not give them a special status, or infringe on people's right to free speech, active disbelief and anti-Christian/religious feelings.
  #28  
Old 10-21-2009, 10:54 PM
B. Serum B. Serum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhubarbarin View Post
Just because your religion is sacred to you, does not mean it have to be sacred to everyone else. We feel pretty free to make fun of Scientologists, LDS and other relatively uncommon religions - just because Christians are such a politically important majority here in the States should not give them a special status, or infringe on people's right to free speech, active disbelief and anti-Christian/religious feelings.
I agree that the majority doesn't merit special privileges, but you have to ask yourself what is your ultimate goal? To merely mock and agitate the ignorant? Or earn respect in the eyes of this country for your fellow atheists? Because the pyrrhic gratification granted by the former will retard the capacity of doing the latter.
  #29  
Old 10-21-2009, 11:15 PM
SurrenderDorothy SurrenderDorothy is online now
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I treat any kind of belief with the same respect.

That is- if you want to believe Jesus saved you from alcoholism, then that's great. If you want to believe that fairies helped you to get pregnant, also great.

The one thing I will point out (and am seriously baffled at the number of people who hear this and then look at me like it's something they've never considered before and I've rocked their world) is that science and God are not mutually exclusive and that it makes perfect sense that a truly powerful and wise God could orchestrate something as elegant as evolution. But I only really get into it if someone asks me first.

For the most part, though- if you can be respectful, I can be. When it starts hurting someone else, I stop being so respectful. If you want to tell me you'll pray for me or do a spell for me or call on the creatures of the world to help me out, then I'll smile and say thank you (except when it's in a nasty "I'll pray for the salvation of your soul" way). If you want to tell me about how happy you are that you've found Jesus, I'll be happy for you. I'll even pray for you if you ask me to. I don't respect anyone's right to be awful and nasty and I don't respect anyone's right to try to remove other people's rights or make political decisions based on their religions.
  #30  
Old 10-22-2009, 12:06 AM
MacTech MacTech is offline
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Religion itself, the belief system, gets treated with the maximum amount of scorn and derision I can muster, I do not suffer illogical "belief systems" lightly

the Religious, as long as they're not actively trying to shove their superstitious codswallop down my throad, are simply ignored, they don't even register on my radar, unless you're in my face about it, I'm a "live and let live" kinda' guy, believe whateverthefrell you want, just don't force your superstitious nonsense on me, leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone, sound good?
  #31  
Old 10-22-2009, 01:04 AM
Mr. Kobayashi Mr. Kobayashi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTech View Post
Religion itself, the belief system, gets treated with the maximum amount of scorn and derision I can muster, I do not suffer illogical "belief systems" lightly

the Religious, as long as they're not actively trying to shove their superstitious codswallop down my throad, are simply ignored, they don't even register on my radar, unless you're in my face about it, I'm a "live and let live" kinda' guy, believe whateverthefrell you want, just don't force your superstitious nonsense on me, leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone, sound good?
This, pretty much. Keep it to yourself and I couldn't care less. Try and convert and prepare to defend.
  #32  
Old 10-22-2009, 04:06 AM
footballisplayedwithyourfeet footballisplayedwithyourfeet is offline
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I find the options rather useless - but voted scorn - as I will never start talking about religion, I could know someone for years without knowing whether they are religious or not. For example I just found out a couple of years ago (I'm 27) that all three of my remaining grandparents essentialy believe in god...before I just didn't know and maybe assumed they were atheist because my parents are.

To cut to the chase, if religion becomes an issue for discussion it is because of a religious person bringing it up. When this happens, scorn is what they'll get
  #33  
Old 10-22-2009, 02:44 PM
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I'm happy with the options and can easily pick "With the scorn and derision all superstitions deserve". But, folks, read it - you get to scorn and deride the belief, you don't have to treat the people who hold it with scorn and derision.

If somebody vigorously tries to convince me that astrology or tarot or protestantism or water witching really work, a heated debate including a dismantling of the supporting arguments would be fine. But if, as usually happens, the subject never even comes up, or if it might be deduced (because I see somebody coming out of a church or a fortune telling shop) but the person doesn't pursue the matter, it is appropriate to be polite and enjoy whatever interactions do come up.
  #34  
Old 10-22-2009, 02:57 PM
shiftless shiftless is online now
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Religion should be treated with the same kind of tolerance and respect we use for any other group of people who become angry and vindictive when they don't get their way. If believers in astrology had a strong history of violently punishing any who disagreed with them I would be more inclined to show them respect and tolerance.
  #35  
Old 10-24-2009, 08:08 AM
Napier Napier is offline
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Originally Posted by shiftless View Post
Religion should be treated with the same kind of tolerance and respect we use for any other group of people who become angry and vindictive when they don't get their way. If believers in astrology had a strong history of violently punishing any who disagreed with them I would be more inclined to show them respect and tolerance.
Ooooo..... better...... if I weren't spineless, I'd have said this.
  #36  
Old 10-24-2009, 08:25 AM
Gustav Gustav is offline
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What, no "round them up and have them all shot" option?
  #37  
Old 10-25-2009, 06:23 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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My favorite quote about this subject:

Quote:
Originally Posted by H.L. Mencken
We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
  #38  
Old 10-26-2009, 01:06 PM
Troy McClure SF Troy McClure SF is offline
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Quote:
With the tolerance and respect due all human beings
I'll treat religious friends with respect, even if I think their religion (the term in the thread title) deserves scorn.
  #39  
Old 10-27-2009, 06:43 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc1953 View Post
But if it helps, I'll clarify the 2 options, which I purposely worded to force a dichotomy. The poll doesn't care about your opinion on religion per se (I think it can be assumed that an atheist's opinion on religion is negative) -- it's about your treatment of someone who has somehow made public a religious viewpoint; and let's assume that that was done in a non-belligerent way. For instance, a co-worker says they need to leave work to go get ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Then my vote needs to be changed from a 2) to a 1)
  #40  
Old 10-27-2009, 07:05 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Quote:
With the tolerance and respect due all human beings

With the scorn and derision all superstitions deserve
I chose #2 naturally. But for me, the two are essentially identical. People and beliefs do not all deserve equal respect; and I'm not going to show any towards beliefs I consider both stupid and destructive.

As for tolerance; tolerance means that I don't try to burn churches down, shoot believers, or have their beliefs censored or outlawed. It means I don't do things like fire them just for being believers. It doesn't mean I need to pretend to respect their beliefs, or to pretend that I regard them as anything other than foolish.
  #41  
Old 10-27-2009, 07:16 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Not voting: false dichotomy.

I think it's total bunk but feel it needs to be tolerated, as it is a function of the majority of human society - I just don't want it intruding into the legislation of the jurisdiction in which I reside.
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