Are Atheists Intolerant By Not Respecting Religion?

Religious Theists Demand More Respect and Tolerance, But What Does that Mean?

Disrespect?. George Marks/Retrofile/Getty

For religious theists, their religion, religious beliefs, and theism are naturally quite important to them. They hold their belief in and religious institutions in high regard, so it's hardly a surprise if they become defensive when irreligious atheists are sharply critical of religion and religious beliefs - even if the critiques are only very general. When theists demand that atheists show more respect and tolerance, though, we need to ask whether the demand is entirely justified.

What are they really asking for? What are they referring to when they complain about "atheist intolerance," and is it really a problem?


What is Respect? What Does it Mean to Respect Religion or Theism?

It's common for believers to insist that their religion should be respected, but what exactly do they mean by that? What does it mean to "respect" someone or something? If they simply mean that they wish to be left in peace and not harassed for their beliefs, then their request is reasonable. If they want their right to believe something be protected, then that's reasonable as well. Unfortunately, many seem to want quite a bit more that isn't reasonable or justified. Respecting Religion and Theism...


What is Intolerance? What Does it Mean to be Intolerant?

It has become common to see complaints that irreligious atheists are "intolerant" of religion and religious believers, usually in situations where atheists are criticizing or even mocking religion.

Because of the importance of tolerance of others in liberal democracies, complaints about atheist intolerance tend to be received sympathetically, but there is a problem in how many believers implicitly define what they are demanding when they ask for more "tolerance."  Intolerance of Religion and Theism...


Militant Atheists are Atheist Fundamentalists?

More and more responses to atheist critiques of religion focus on labeling critics as "fundamentalist" atheists, usually as part of an effort to paint critics of religion as being much the same as "fundamentalist" religious believers, groups known for being narrow-minded, intolerant, and advocates of a more illiberal, authoritarian society. The problem is, there are no "fundamental" beliefs for an atheist to be "fundamentalist" about. The label is thus revealed as being not an attempt at accurate description, but a fallacy at best and slander at worst.  


Should Atheists Respect Religion and Theism?

Many religious believers seem to think that any religion, or at least their religion, should be automatically respected by everyone else. Such believers will often attack atheists for failing to show the "appropriate" respect to because they have the temerity to criticize religion and theism. Apparently, atheists shouldn't even challenge religious and theistic claims! That, however, is utter nonsense.


Atheists are Intolerant for Criticizing Religion, Theism?

Too many religious believers - usually Christians - respond to atheistic critiques of their religion by insisting that vocal atheists are somehow akin to religious terrorists in their attacks and that pointed criticism of religion is a form of atheist intolerance.

Their goal seems to be to live in a society where they aren't faced with any sort of criticism or challenge. Atheists are not Intolerant for Criticizing Religion, Theism...


Disagreement is Not Intolerance

What exactly are all those nasty atheists doing that causes religious believers to complain about atheist intolerance? Are atheists calling for religion to be banned? For believers to be jailed? No, for the most part atheists are simply pointing out where they think religion is wrong, that they don't believe religion should be privileged, that they think religion can be harmful, and arguing for change. Disagreement is Not Intolerance...


How "Moderate" and "Respectful" Should Atheists Really Be?

If atheists are supposed to "moderate" their critiques of religion, religious beliefs, and theism, what is that supposed to mean?

If atheists are supposed to be more "respectful," then how respectful should they be… and why? If you look closely at what sort of "moderation" and "respect" is being asked for, it becomes easier to see that the demands being made are unjustified. Moderate and Respectful Atheism...


Atheists Should Respect Religious Differences and the Right to Disagree

Since religion and theism won't disappear any time soon - if ever - it behooves godless atheists to respect and tolerate religious differences. At the same time, though, accepting the existence of religion does not require one to tolerate any of the discrimination, bigotry, violence, or hatred that can be motivated by religious beliefs. The point is to understand a sincere but mistaken belief is not the same as a personal attack or bigotry. Atheists Respecting Religious Differences...


Attacking Sins Can Lead to Attacking People

Many Christians will argue that they "hate the sin but love the sinner," for example when defending faith-based attacks on homosexuality, abortion, and any other behavior they object to. The problem is, hating the sin can easily lead to hating the sinner as well, an activity which many Christians appear to indulge in when it comes to gays, for example. This is a problem which atheist critics of religion should take care not to succumb to as well. Hating the Sin, Loving the Sinner...