Where do you stand on God? The limit of respect for religious beliefs

“My friends, I must ask you an important question today: where do you stand on God?” This is how Gary Wolf begins his lead article at www.wired.com called “The Church of the Nonbelievers”. His basic position is that the “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Bennett, are making it almost impossible these days to be a sit-on-the-fence, tolerant, don’t-rock-the-boat, and above all polite agnostic.

It is a highly entertaining read, and one of the most thoughtful pieces on religion that I’ve read by a nonbeliever for some time.

One thing he brought to my attention is that, were Richard Dawkins to come to Melbourne and sprout his stuff here, there is every possibility that he could be prosecuted under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance laws–not just by Christians, but by every religion in the State. In fact, I think of good case could be mounted for the fact that there are many passages in “The God Delusion” that are pure vilification and incitement to hatred. He would probably get off, however, on the grounds that he is writing “In good faith” and for an academic purpose.

Here is one quote that Wolf pulls out of “the God Delusion” that really got me thinking. Dawkins writes: “As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected, simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden, and the suicide bombers.”

Well, try this argument on for size.

Respect for religious beliefs and religious freedom belongs to respect for others in general and to the golden rule of not doing harm to others. This respect is itself based upon the recognition of the dignity of every individual human being. A person’s beliefs form a part of their identity, and therefore should be, under normal circumstances, respected. Some of these beliefs will almost certainly be religious. Therefore, we respect religious beliefs, because we respect others, and do not wish to harm them.

Now some religious beliefs do, as Dawkins delights to point out, inspire some people to do harm to other people. The question is, do such harmful beliefs require respect, simply because they are religious beliefs? The answer is “no” and for this reason:

Respect for religious beliefs is based upon respect for human dignity. To respect religious beliefs that are harmful or destructive of others therefore undermines the very basis of this respect. Such beliefs cannot therefore be respected.

Therefore, to conclude, respect for religious faith cannot extend to respect for the destructive beliefs of Osama Bin Laden (and his ilk).

For that matter, one wonders how much respect one should give Richard Dawkins’ religious beliefs (his “atheism” has, as many reviewers have pointed out, many qualities in common with fundamentalistic faith), since they are, quite obviously aimed at removing the right of individuals to hold any religious belief at all. This would be a serious harm to individual identity and to human dignity and freedom.

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4 Responses to Where do you stand on God? The limit of respect for religious beliefs

  1. Seven Star Hand says:

    Hello Schütz and all,

    Here’s my two bits on this intractable debate. Hope you and others can appreciate my efforts to provide a key to a true solution for humanity’s seemingly never-ending cycle of struggle and despair.

    Analyzing the Creator Debate

    Did you ever consider that atheism arose because certain people saw that religious characterizations about the nature of an omnipotent “God” were seriously flawed and then concluded that religion and the Creator were the same things? This is the exact same conclusion at the base of religious beliefs; namely that the Creator and religion are inseparable. Consequently, both atheists and religious followers are arguing over a flawed assumption without considering that other possibilities negate the common core conclusion of both groups. These arguments are actually over religion and whether it represents a reliable model of reality. The answer to this question is of course not. Religion is not only flawed, it is purposely deceptive! Though atheists are certainly sincere in their conclusions, the fact remains that they and religious followers are locked in a debate that cannot be won by either side because both base their positions upon whether the same flawed premise is the truth. In order for this debate to conclude with a truthful answer, a greater level of discernment is required.

    One apt clarifying question is, if someone tells lies about you, does that negate you or make you a liar or a lie? Certainly, the image cast about you would be a false one, but that is their image, not the real you. Consequently, faulty religious assertions about the Creator of this universe do not negate the existence of a Creator. Considering the possibility that this universe is not by chance leaves the door open to how it arose, which leads us to seek what could have created and maintained it. Since neither religion nor science has yet adequately answered this question, it is safe to conclude that those who argue about the Creator based on either are most certainly wrong about one or more aspects. Therefore, another point of view and additional knowledge are required.

    Read More…


  2. Schütz says:

    I don’t follow you, my friend, and I frankly have no intention of following you down the road of madness that you suggest!

    Naturally, I do not believe that I have been “purposely deceived” by my religion. The fact that I believe it’s doctrines implies that I accept its truth.

    Secondly, if neither “religion” (by which I guess you mean theology) nor science can lead to knowledge of the Creator, what can?

    I note you do not mention philosophy. But I find little in your ideas that can lay claim to any relationship with rational philosophy.

  3. Seven Star Hand says:

    Secondly, if neither “religion” (by which I guess you mean theology) nor science can lead to knowledge of the Creator, what can?

    True Wisdom, which requires discernment of the truth…

    I didn’t say that neither can lead to an understanding of the Creator, but that an additional viewpoint is required to actually succeed. That means in addition to what has been presented, not instead of. A true understanding of science, religion, and msyticism are required and that means that faith/belief in previous assertions must be set aside to successfully discern the truth.

    By the way, I am not your enemy, and you have been deceived into believing a lie. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11 and contepmplate why this message is directed at Christians, the only people likely to ever read it?

    You have been deceived about me and about the true nature and expectations of the Creator. That is unless you prefer to stick with mistaken conclusions, regardless of what the Messiah and Creator reveal to you. What is most important to you, the truth or your religion?


  4. Schütz says:

    2 Thess 2:11 “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe what is false”. The “delusion” comes upon “those who are perishing” (v. 10), ie. “those who have refused to love the truth and so be saved”. The “delusion” is that which is spoken of in v.9, and which is “the working of Satan”: “power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception”. God “sends” these, in the sense of “permits” (similarly to the way in which he hardened Pharoah’s heart in Exodus, permitting Pharoah to remain in his stubborn refusal to hear Moses and Aaron), upon those who refuse to love the truth.

    So, in Pilate’s famous words, “What is truth?”. The answer is: the Lord Jesus Christ who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” and who also said to his apostles “He who hears you hears me” and to Peter “Upon this Rock I will build my Church”, and who called St Paul to be his apostles.

    For this reason, the Truth (and no delusion) is to be found in the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, the one, holy, and catholic Church of which the Creed speaks.

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