I do see a valid case in the Freedom of Speech arguments for religion, and in some of the demands that we respect religious beliefs. ;} (yes, I’m being intentionally inflammatory towards atheists… and I are one… because I want you to Think for a moment… bear with me a nonce)
The real answer to such demands for respect of belief systems is “It depends.”
As a practical matter I’ve no choice but to allow you to believe as you will, and respect that, just as you have no choice in my beliefs. All we can do is show each other the fruits of who we are.
In my life I’ve met hundreds of theists. Some are folks I deeply respect and some are folks I won’t trust with a dollar bill laying on my kitchen table.
In the former, I’ve met and talked at length about the pros and cons of religion with one “old” Mennonite gent (I was 7 he was 45 or so) who showed me that where the particular beliefs came from didn’t really matter so long as those beliefs made you a better, kinder, person.
In the latter I’ve dealt with nucking futts revival Southern Baptist folks who beat children (5 year old me being one of those) for asking legitimate questions because they “Were Doubting Tha Holy Word Of Gawd!”
So… whats the difference here?
The Mennonite gent was simply acting and living his beliefs with Respect for others. He kept his judgment to himself and allowed others to find their own way, while trying to offer a measure of peace to anyone who asked. His way worked for him, and that’s all the more he appeared to need.
The revival Southern Baptists, in contrast, demanded that every one around them held the same beliefs (no matter how blatantly silly they were) under threat of punishment. They desperately needed the belief of others to bolster and support their beliefs.
See… anger comes out of F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real). If you’re not angry (scared) it’s nearly impossible to harm another. Worse, to harm children for simply asking Questions shows clearly a level of fear I’ve never known.
So… back to the original Question of whether we “should” show respect for religion and religious beliefs…
It Depends upon the actions of the believer. As in “Ye shall Know them by their fruits.” Do their actions bring more kindness and respect into the world, or less?
Here’s the test for me:
If they, as that Mennonite gent was, are kind and living their life and beliefs without needing to mandate that everyone agree with them; the answer is a clear “Hell Yes, their beliefs deserve Respect because of the fruits actions) of those beliefs.” This guy brought more kindness and respect into this world. No matter why, that he, and the beliefs he lived by, did that deserves respect.
If they, as those revival Southern Baptists were, are abusing children (or others) to gain compliance; then the answer is a clear “Hell No, their beliefs are owed no respect at all, based upon the fruits of their beliefs.”
In fact Jesus directly called out such folk in his “Know them by their fruits” parable and made some very specific recommendations about how to deal with them. Whether he actually lived, was the son of god, or did any of the things attributed to him, matters not. The admonition to look to the fruits of a person’s Actions to find the Truth about them is ageless wisdom. Again thy particulars don’t really matter. The actions of these folks brought baseless fear into the life of a child, and therefore deserve zero respect… “by Their fruits ye shall know them!”
Where you draw that line for yourself, I’ll respectfully leave to you. For me it’s crystal clear.