Respect and religion, remember? Grayling on respect and religion, Blackburn on respect and religion, and now Dawkins on respect and religion. He got a good reception at McGill.

I am under no illusions that I deserve these enthusiastic receptions personally, or that they reflect the quality of my own performance as a speaker. On the contrary, I am convinced that they represent an overflowing of bottled-up frustration, from masses of decent people pushed to breaking point and heartily sick of the sycophantic ‘respect’ that our society, even secular society, routinely and thoughtlessly accords religious faith. Time after time, people in the signing queues thank me for doing no more than say in public what they have, in private, long wanted to say, and probably could say more eloquently than I can. I think people are fed up to the gills with the near universal expectation that religious faith must be respected.

Exactly. And that’s what I keep saying when people rebuke or reproach or make fun of me for being rude about religion – there’s such an avalanche, such a torrent, of the other thing, and such a shortage of the blunt apology-free ‘why should I believe a word of it?’, that people feel cowed and intimidated and silenced – not of course by fear of the stocks or a whipping or decades in the slammer, but by this universal expectation of respect. Believers get to hear lots and lots and lots and lots of sycophantic respect; most non-believers fall all over themselves apologizing and stipulating before they’ll venture to admit that they’re actually not quite entirely altogether believers themselves though of course they do consider themselves spiritual – believers get to hear what they want to hear pretty much all the time, and there’s a famine of the other thing. When I be rude about religion I’m performing a service. Everyone should give me sycophantic respect for it.

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