Aretha Franklin sings about respect and the word is frequently used in all languages.
The definition of the word can be : respect, esteem, regard -- (an attitude of admiration or esteem, held in esteem). Many people seem to think that respect automatically follows a position or office, like for instance a President, a Bishop, a Prime Minister or similar lofty titles. Others hold that respect has to be earned and shouldn't be automatic and points to the often obvious fact that some people holding high offices often show themselves to be utter bastards and corrupt crooks that deserves no respect. Those on the automatic respect side then usually falls back to the argument that you have to respect the "office" even if it is currently occupied by a scoundrel.
It seems like the word respect means different things to different people and many don't seem to have any conscious idea of what it means but throws it around because they have heard others using it.
I would like to look at the use of this word in relation to religion. The recent Tsunami disaster in Asia did as usual in cases of tragedies of such magnitude cause the inevitable "God" question to the forefront. The more intelligent representatives of various religions was very quiet and didn't say much but mostly limited themselves to comforting people in a more general and noncommittal way. The people leaning towards more fundamentalist ideology made their usual endearing ideas of divine punishment for some kind of particularly sinful behavior on the part of the victims or even hinted that they had the wrong kind of faith. As usual they all had in common, the view that God is fantastic and what a marvelous thing faith is and how much comfort God gives all in their "hour of need." As usual it seems like God is only interested in helping and comforting people AFTER such a disaster, before it happened he appears to have been sleeping or had his attention elsewhere, perhaps monitoring peoples various use of their genitals, which judging from many religious leaders constant rants, seem to be his major interest.
Another and perhaps less known example of the complete lack of interest from this wonderful God is taking place in Ethiopia. In the paper New York times issue of May 16, 2003 there appeared an article with the title: "Alone and Ashamed". I quote:
"Dr. Catherine Hamlin, 79, is an Australian gynecologist who has spent the last 44 years in Addis Ababa, quietly toiling in impossible conditions to achieve the unimaginable. She has helped 24,000 women overcome obstetric fistulas, a condition almost unknown in the West but indescribably hideous for millions of sufferers in the poorest countries in the world.
It typically occurs when a teenage girl cannot deliver a baby because it is too big for her pelvis. After several days of labor without access to a doctor, the baby dies and the girl is left with a hole between her bladder, vagina and sometimes rectum. The result is that urine and sometimes feces drip constantly down her legs. In some cases, she is also left lame from nerve damage.
Women with fistulas stink and leave a trail of urine behind them. They are often abandoned by their husbands and driven out by other villagers."
I happened to see and interview with Dr Hamlin on some show on US television, where she was doing some fundraising to this extremely worthy cause. It all went well until someone started to bring God into the equation and as usual how people should pray for these unfortunate children and how God would help them. No one did of course ever breached the obvious subject that maybe God would best help these poor children if he could do something about the attitude of the deeply religious bastards that impregnates them. Maybe do something about the despicable religion that holds females to be mere property and regards children as legitimate sexual objects, a religion that is little more then institutionalized pedophilia. Speaking of pedophilia, in Iran, a female is considered a woman from the age of 9, as is the case in many Moslem countries. I think we can all imagine what might happen under such circumstances."
One thing is for certain though, God doesn't seem to be much concerned about such matters as they have been going on for thousands of years, but according to his devoted followers, he's quite fantastic with the victims, but alas only after the fact. Prevention of such incredibly evil and inhuman behavior seems to totally lacking in priority from Gods agenda.
Now of course most religions have some good sides, otherwise they would hopefully not exist, but are those good sides enough to balance out such horrible atrocities? I think not.
Do such religions deserve any respect? I think not. So what am I saying, shouldn't we respect peoples religion? No, we shouldn't. We should never respect any religion in any way. Do we respect the ideology of a Nazi? Well, most of us don't. That's because we have been educated to a large degree about the evils of that particular ideology. Religion seems to have been able to escape from such scrutiny and actually demand that all people should "respect" it just because it falls under the category of religion. So it has become a kind of mindless mantra that "we must respect" his, hers, their religion. No we must not, indeed we should not!
If we get to know a good and kind person, which earns our respect as a human being, s/he invariable is so in spite of his/hers religion, it is never ever because of it. We can only relate to each other in any meaningful way on a personal level and only on that level can we give each other respect. We can never truly respect a person's religious superstition, fantasies and more or less insane ideas about some imaginary invisible realm.