If you criticise religion, every so often someone will say to you quite disapprovingly “You may not have faith in God, but you could show a bit more respect for those people who do.” And you might find yourself thinking: Actually, maybe they’re right. It wouldn’t hurt to show a bit more respect. After all, nobody likes to be told point blank that their religion is a crock of delusional garbage and a force for evil in the world, that what they call faith is merely fear dressed up as virtue, and that their puerile beliefs are a straitjacket on the whole of humanity. That’s bound to put anybody’s nose out of joint. So yes, maybe I could show a bit more respect. The only fly in the ointment is I don’t actually feel any respect. I have tried, I really have, and I feel just terrible about it, but it just isn’t there. I suppose I could lie to myself and pretend for the sake of people’s feelings, we all know how delicate and tender they can be these days, but the bald truth is I don’t actually care about their feelings at all, not even slightly. And of course I realise that should weigh heavily on my conscience, but luckily my conscience knows when it’s being bullied and manipulated so it doesn’t care either. My conscience knows that there’s no earthly reason for anybody on this planet to respect religion in any way. Indeed, purely on the evidence religion itself provides in such regular abundance, there’s every reason to actively disrespect it to the point of outright abuse. And quite frankly, the fact that religion gets so little abuse compared to what it really deserves, I can only attribute to the unbelievable tolerance, restraint, and plain good manners of atheists and secularists everywhere. So, if you are a religious person, and if you’re thinking of demanding more respect for your beliefs, please try to bear in mind that you and your religion are already getting way more respect than you have ever deserved. Your faith is a joke. Your god is a joke. He’s so absurd he’s an embarrassment even to people who don’t believe in him. And he, and you, still have it all to prove. So far, no proof has been forthcoming, nor is it likely to be, as we all well know, so respect, I’m afraid, is out of the question. The best you can hope for is amused incredulity, and that would be on a good day. People say you can only truly understand faith when you have faith, which I take to mean when you’ve suspended your critical faculties and hypnotised yourself into believing a load of fascist nonsense about your eternal soul then you’ll understand faith. Well, I can certainly believe that. Faith-peddlers like to put themselves beyond question by claiming that their faith transcends reason, the very thing that calls it to account. How convenient. Yes, faith transcends reason the way a criminal transcends the law. The word “transcendent” is very popular with religious hustlers because they never have to explain precisely what they mean by it, other than some vague superior state of understanding more profound than mere reason, which is crude and simplistic next to the subtleties and profundities of belief without evidence. If you hear a senior clergyman (and you will) using the word “transcendent” to explain the nonsense he claims to believe, then you know two things: One: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and two: he doesn’t want you to know what he’s talking about either. Faith doesn’t transcend reason at all. Faith sidesteps reason. It runs away from reason because reason threatens its cosy bubble of delusion, so faith disqualifies reason the way a Dutch criminal court disqualifies truth and witnesses, and for much the same reason. If you’re a believer, your faith allows you to adopt a set of beliefs that make absolutely no sense, knowing that you won’t be measured by whether they make sense, but by the level of piety you exhibit in believing them. In other words, your willingness to deny reality becomes a measure of your virtue. No wonder religion is so popular. But what a price you pay for this virtue. You’ve been persuaded that believing in the impossible is your only hope. How did that happen? And that your purpose is to worship something beyond your understanding, defined by, and only accessible through, self-appointed intermediaries. Your thoughts, your words and your identity are no longer solely yours to decide, but are subject to the approval of those who have assumed authority over you through your faith, the people who have told you that you were born with something wrong with you (come on!) in a state of sin, no less, a condition that can only be cured by complete submission and obedience to them (surprise surprise) from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. And if all this doesn’t exactly flatter you ego (and why should it?) don’t worry; we can give it a special name to make you feel better and persuade you that you’ve still got some dignity. Let’s call it faith, and let’s deem it to be the highest and most noble and profound of all virtues, and let’s pretend that it comes from within, when we all know that nothing about your religion is allowed to come from within because that would give you strength and freedom, the two things your religion wants as far away from you as possible. Faith is the grip that clergy have over you. It’s the invisible rope around your neck that pulls you along the road they want you to travel, for their benefit, not yours. It’s a dead end word. It’s a word of bondage. It’s a word that lets you believe what you’ve been told to believe without feeling that you’ve been told what to believe, but you have, and you can stop pretending any time you like. It’s not a virtue; that’s the last thing it is. It’s an abdication from reality. It’s a dumb act of self-hypnosis. It’s a cowardly cop out. It’s gullibility with a halo. And hiding behind it is like pretending to be an invalid. So I don’t really understand exactly what it is that I’m supposed to respect. It seems to me I’d need to be some kind of moral contortionist to respect something that noxious, something that depends for its existence on a closed mind, and that is clearly dragging humanity in the wrong direction, and giving us false ideas about ourselves and about the nature of reality. I feel if I respected that I’d be needlessly contributing to the stupidity and ignorance of the human race, and that is one thing I don’t want on my conscience. No offence. Peace.