I probably won’t say anything which wasn’t said better already in the posts at Mixing Memory and Crooked Timber on the topic of respect for religious and non-religious people. But hopefully will translate what they said into more personal perspective, because so it happens that I’m theist, and that I agree a lot with what they said.
It is really tiresome to read disrespectful comments about theists all over the web. I was an atheist when I was a teenager, but changed to theist in my early twenties. Who knows, maybe I will change in my believes again if my understanding of the world changes. But, as it is the situation now, it seems to me more plausible that there is such thing as God rather than not. Is it the God of the Christianity? I don’t know, it might be, I believe it is, but I’m less sure about that.
Anyway, why does it bothers me when those my beliefs are disrespected?
First, *I know* how I came to those beliefs. I know I wasn’t indoctrinated with them, but got to those by myself. This country was “socialistic country” so dialectical materialism, and ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’ is what we were indoctrinated with, and not religion. So, I was an atheist from the early childhood and through my high school. I wasn’t also bothered with absurdity of life, it didn’t bothered me that the life could be absurd. So, what? If it is absurd, it is absurd, who cares?
Also, I know that I came to those believes through sincere thinking trying to make sense, to understand the world. See, even when I started believing that there was God, my prayers were for him to help me understand the world. Because that is the thing I most wanted. When I was getting to sleep, that is what I was thinking about. Since then, I feel that I really understand a lot more things about the world. But it seems that my belief that there could be God only went stronger. Of course, maybe I’m not understanding it, maybe I’m misunderstanding it, I can’t be sure, but I try to be sincere the best I can. I try to seek the inconsistencies within my view, to keep them on mind in order to address them further and so on…
So, now, if a person is disrespectful to this belief, what does that mean? Are they saying that I’m insincere, that I lack critical thought, and that that is why I came to this belief? How is this supposed to make me feel, given that I highly respect being sincere and critical thought, given that my thought is guided by those things? Are they saying that I’m stupid, so that even with best intentions, I was destined to get to this wrong belief? But *I know* I’m not stupid. (How? I don’t want to brag here :).) Also, I’m sure I’m not the most knowledgeable guy, but I’m sure I’m not ignorant either.
So, given that I was not indoctrinated, given that I was sincere in my thinking, given that I’m not stupid nor ignorant, could I still be wrong? Of course. But if I’m none of those things, and if I spend a big time of my life thinking about those things, it can’t be that my belief is so bad, that it should be disrespected by others. What can I then think about disrespectful comments about my beliefs, and people that make them? I will just say, that probably I end up thinking of them, some of those things that would be implied about me.
Now, lot of people have beliefs which are not inline with mine. Like, some of them are atheists. But I would be really silly to to judge most of those people as a)stupid, b)insincere, c)ignorant, or d)indoctrinated just because they disagree with me. On contrary I think that most of the atheists that are neither of those. So, I *have no right* to disrespect atheism.
As I see it, those who are disrespectful to others are either overestimating themselves, or underestimating the complexity of the world.