An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
DOES RESPECTING PEOPLE mean we also have to respect their religious beliefs?
That important question has been raised in a discussion on local social media in the wake of the slaughter of 50 Muslims by a white supremacist in New Zealand.
Bill Ligertwood, a member of the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought — a group that espouses atheism — suggests that while we must respect Muslims as human beings, and that everyone has a right to worship without fear, we don’t have to respect anyone’s religion because, in his view, faith in a supreme being is misplaced.
According to Ligertwood, “Those who practice (religion) are worthy of our respect but the beliefs are not.”
That provoked a lively discussion. I’m on the side of respecting both individuals and their religions, with the exception that religions can sometimes be manipulated for violent purposes.
The opposite of respect is disrespect. If we disrespect someone’s religion, how can we say we respect the person?
One definition of respect is simply “due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”
I respect the opinions of Ligertwood and his atheist colleagues but I certainly disagree with the idea that anyone has all the answers, which members of the Centre for Rational Thought are convinced they do.
It’s true that religion has been the cause of many of the world’s problems, including, in some cases, being an excuse for white supremacism. It’s also true that if we can see our way clear to respecting each other’s religions instead of scorning them — ‘scorn’ is one synonym for disrespect, by the way — we could resolve those problems.
Right now, as the world mourns the tragedy in New Zealand, is not the time to be disputing each other’s religions. Now is the time for finding common ground.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.