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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Should atheists or people of one particular religion show deference to prominent religious figures like the Pope or the Dalai Lama if they don't believe in the religious movements?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38828 points ) January 1st, 2010

Personally, I don’t think so because respecting someone purely for being a big player in a religion I don’t believe in makes no sense…what does it matter if a million people follow their words? Does that mean anything? What do you think? And if you are a believer, do you show the same deference to a religious figure that does not belong to your religion? Say you’re Muslim and the Pope’s coming over (because that happens) – would you be showing any more respect to him than you would any random person.

I equate these figure-heads with celebrities…people revered by others for a multitude of reasons but the extent to which these beings are elevated in society can be quite extreme…on the other hand, I would probably be showing more deference to President Obama if he came over…but I like him…meaning, I wouldn’t at all be showing any deference to Bush…so am I just like everyone else? Are my reasons for respecting Obama more than the next person the same as the reasons people (you) hold for respecting (more than others) those who are the higher ups in the hierarchy of religion?

Say you’re dealing with a nun or a priest, is the way you speak to them different because they’re a ‘person of god’?

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38 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

In diplomacy one follows protocol for reasons other than belief.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@pdworkin well that’s a simple enough statement – why do you feel the need to be diplomatic with religious higher ups?

cookieman's avatar

I respect such people for their actions and the positive impact they have had on the world – if any. Their supposed position means nothing to me.

Doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to be rude to nun though.

I like penguins.

Austinlad's avatar

It never hurts to be respectful to anyone, regardless of his or her belief.

trailsillustrated's avatar

it’s called respect…you don’t have to believe it

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Austinlad
yes I completely agree – but would you show more respect to them than to any other person

AstroChuck's avatar

I most cases, no. But the pope is also the head of a recognized sovereign state so he should be treated accordingly.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@trailsillustrated right, I know that…that is why I was careful to point out that this deference I speak of is more that usual respect you provide everyone.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@AstroChuck do you feel all heads of countries should be shown deference to? what if you don’t agree with their policies?

dpworkin's avatar

Well, the OP offers me a perfect example. I admire the Dalai Lama and I despise this particular Pope. As an ordinary citizen, I owe Pope Nazi XXVI nothing, nor do I owe the Dalai Lama anything, but I would offer the Dalai Lama my respect out of admiration, and the Pope my respect because of the office. What good would it do me to traduce tradition by misbehaving?

AstroChuck's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir- I simply meant it in diplomatic terms. I personally don’t give a shit what he has to say.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir alright then, let us reduce it to manners. simple table manners—eh—and no, not more deference..

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@pdworkin you don’t have to misbehave – you can still respect…i was just wondering if you’d respect them more than others or at least make it look like you do in front of others

dpworkin's avatar

I am inclined to behave myself in society and express myself honestly in private.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@pdworkin which dimension is fluther?

Facade's avatar

I don’t think so. The Pope and the rest are only human beings like the rest of us. I would not give anyone more respect simply because of their religious title.

dpworkin's avatar

Well, I have misbehaved on Fluther probably because of the illusion of anonymity, but I am trying to be on much better behavior, because the other thing wasn’t working out so well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@pdworkin thanks, you’re cool by me ;)

Grisaille's avatar

Agreed with @pdworkin fully.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Yes. I would show deference to the Pope, the Patriarch, the Dalai Lama or the Ayatollah. These are men (exclusively) who have devoted their lives to the study and understanding of really big questions. Whether I agree with them or not, I have to respect that.

Similarly, I hate walmart. But if the CEO was at the next table over at a restaurant, I would be in awe of the man.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Mamradpivo fair enough. what really big questions did the CEO of Walmar ponder, though?

jangles's avatar

@Mamradpivo
what about the prophet of the LDS church?
or perhaps Warren Jeffs?

Polly_Math's avatar

I would observe the proper etiquette, but that may not mean I necessarily respect them or share their views.

stemnyjones's avatar

I agree with @Polly_Math… I may not agree with the Pope, but that doesn’t mean I’ll trip him when he walks past me.

Harold's avatar

Respect, yes, but deference, definitely not. Every human (well, most, anyway!) is worthy of respect, but not special treatment. We are all equal.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Well, I’m a big proponent of allowing people to follow their own path…
...provided their path doesn’t impose upon mine.

Then there’s this thing about what people should or should not do. The saying goes:

Be wary of believing you know what’s “right” for Someone Else…
…Someone Else may begin to believe they know what’s “right” for you.

Rarebear's avatar

I’ll show deference to them if they show deference to me.

HasntBeen's avatar

Deference? No, I don’t think so. I don’t know about the pope, but I doubt the Dalai Lama cares if anybody shows him deference. But if you’re going give someone additional respect, naturally it should be because of who they are and what they stand for… if someone is making heroic efforts to achieve peace, it’s not all that relevant that they are a religious leader. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian minister, but that’s not what he’s respected for primarily. It was his courage and vision that earned him his place in history.

tyrantxseries's avatar

In my eyes everyone is equal, no matter who they are, what they do, what they own, or how famous they are…
everyone I meet in real life gets treated the same way they treat me, if they show me respect they receive respect, if they don’t then they don’t deserve it.

HumourMe's avatar

Everyone deserves a basic level of respect as human beings, but I don’t put religious figures up on a pedestal or give them more respect than other individuals. I don’t think anyone should just because they are associated with a religion.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t have that automatic respect for authority figures (of any kind) that so many are raised with. I respect individuals, on an individual basis. I wouldn’t be rude, certainly, but would I kiss the pope’s ring? No.

ratboy's avatar

I don’t think I could prevent myself from giggling if the pope passed by wearing his conehead hat.

Symbeline's avatar

Lack of respect is probbaly a major problem in modern issues of religion…I don’t see why we shouldn’t, as long as they’re not trying to behead me.

jangles's avatar

@Symbeline
so would you show your respect and reverence for someone like
jeff warrens?
or L. Ron Hubbard?
or perhaps Anton Szandor LaVey?

mattbrowne's avatar

Tolerant atheists should show appreciation to tolerant religious figures and vice versa.

I’m a little doubtful about the current pope. He doesn’t seem to be very tolerant and is actually quite arrogant towards Protestants. Sadly, he belongs to the people who claim a monopoly of truth.

I really admire the Dalai Lama. I think he’s one of the most wise and tolerant persons on Earth.

Aster's avatar

“Say you’re Muslim and the Pope’s coming over (because that happens) – would you be showing any more respect to him than you would any random person.” Not more respect, exactly, but I would probably go out of my way to be more hospitable than usual. Hard to say why, really, but I remember when my minister came to our table in some dump where we were having lunch. My ex was an Atheist and he barely acknowledged the man’s existence. I recall feeling very uncomfortable about this and wish he had stood up to shake hands. But my ex had a policy that demonstrated , “if you think I’m going to be respectful of you or even friendly just because you teach Biblical principles and/or do missionary work you’re nuts. Far as I’m concerned, you’re no better or worse than the guy who changes my oil.”
I think a lot of how we would react is based on how we were raised to “respect” authority figures. I don’t have to think about how I’ll act; it just happens.

laureth's avatar

If it were the guy who changes my oil, though, I’d still smile and say hi, because both the minister and the mechanic are human beings.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aster Yeah, but he has no authority to me, the Pope.

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