Religions don’t deserve special treatment

A.C. Grayling writes under this title at Guardian Unlimited:

It is time to reverse the prevailing notion that religious commitment is intrinsically deserving of respect, and that it should be handled with kid gloves and protected by custom and in some cases law against criticism and ridicule.

It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason, as between them Kierkegaard and the tale of Doubting Thomas are at pains to show; their example should lay to rest the endeavours of some (from the Pope to the Southern Baptists) who try to argue that faith is other than at least non-rational, given that for Kierkegaard its virtue precisely lies in its irrationality.

On the contrary: to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason – to believe something by faith – is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so.

Read the rest here.

I’ll just note that his overall point applies equally well to atheism–that one’s religious identity doesn’t intrinsically demand respect from those who believe otherwise, and should not be given privileged treatment. Grayling would no doubt agree, since he uses atheists in one of his examples, observing that “there are nice and nasty Christians, nice and nasty Muslims, nice and nasty atheists.”