There has been much discussion lately of purported offences against religion, and of the anger and violence these alleged offenses have provoked. Overlooked in the whole brouhaha though is the shameful fact that erstwhile civilized liberal democracies are talking seriously about the need for ‘respect for religion’—that is to say, censorship and other curtailments of liberty in the name of not offending religion. These retreats from modern liberal principles are couched in the language of multiculturalism—as though religions were esteemed cultural institutions deserving of special deference. Of course, the opposite is true. Religions have received too much respect, and for too long.
In what other area of life do people demand respect without earning it? Imagine an employee who demands a promotion despite being a poor worker who doesn’t get along with his colleagues. He can yell “value my work!” and pound his fists all he wants; but if he does a substandard job and doesn’t get along with others, he will not earn the respect of his coworkers, and he certainly won’t get a raise. It’s always the unintelligent, immoral, and intellectually inconsistent people who feel compelled to resort to shouting and violence to defend their weak-mindedness.
Respect must be earned, not coerced under threat of violence. Not all ideas deserve respect, and the time has come to put religions (and other harmful ideas) in their proper place. If you want respect for your ideas, perhaps it’s time to cultivate ideas worthy of respect.