Why is faith worthy of so much respect? Would somebody show me the calculations, because I just don’t get it. People keep saying to me, “You should show a bit more respect… … You don’t have to call people mentally ill just because they disagree with you.” Well, it’s not because they disagree with me that I call them mentally ill. It’s because of what they believe about reality, and, more importantly, what they want to do with those beliefs. If that’s all it was, just a belief, then I’d have no problem giving religion all the respect it wants. In the same way that I respect a person’s dress sense, or the decor in their home, even if I found it tasteless, I would respect them enough not to say so. But religion is more than just a belief. Religion wants to impose a universal morality, which is why is has always attracted the kind of person who thinks other people’s private lives are their business. And giving respect to this mentality is exactly what has got us into the mess that we’re in. We’ve given religion ideas above its station, and we’ve persuaded it that it’s something it’s not. The truth is that faith is nothing more than the deliberate suspension of disbelief. It’s an act of will. It’s not a state of grace. It’s a state of choice, because without evidence, you’ve got no reason to believe, apart from your willingness to believe. So why is that worthy of respect, any more than your willingness to poke yourself in the eye with a pencil? And why is faith considered some kind of virtue? Is it because it implies a certain depth of contemplation and insight? I don’t think so. Faith, by definition, is unexamined. So in that sense it has to be among the shallowest of experiences. Yet, if it could, it would regulate every action, word and thought of every single person on this planet, because, let’s not forget, even an impure thought is a sin. Well, I think that belief in God is an impure thought. It pollutes our understanding of reality. It gets in the way, and it brings out the worst in the best of us, so that we’re even prepared to stoop so low as to poison the unformed minds of the people we love the most – our children. By the time they’re old enough to think for themselves, it’s too late. They’ve been well and truly hypnotised. I’m sorry, but there’s no nice way to say this. If you fill your child’s mind with images of Satan and the horrors of hellfire, you’re a sick individual, and you are mentally ill. And the only reason you don’t know this is because you’ve been indulged for far too long by people and institutions that really ought to know better. The truth is your beliefs are infantile, your scriptures are lies, and your gods are illusions. And I can say that with all due respect, because no respect is actually due. Besides, anyone who has to demand respect automatically deserves ridicule. If you deserved respect you’d already have it. You’d be rolling around in it like a televangelist in other people’s money. No, what you deserve is mockery. But I’m a reasonable person, and I want to make an effort, so I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll respect your beliefs for as long as I can keep a straight face while thinking about them, which should be about half a second. But beyond that I’m afraid I can’t promise anything. In the meantime, I don’t believe that God exists, but if it turns out that I’m wrong about that, fair enough. I don’t think much of his attitude, to be honest, and if he wants to show himself, I’d be happy to tell him that to his face, if he’s got one. But if God exists, I want him to tell me himself. I don’t want to hear it from anybody else. And, in case you’re wondering, that includes you. So please don’t quote any more scripture at me. I’m really up to here with scripture, and frankly I don’t give a damn what the Bible or the Koran have to say about anything. You might as well be telling me about your dreams, which is essentially what you are doing. I can understand why people are drawn to scripture and to religion, because it’s so easy and convenient. It’s all laid out for you. All the thinking you’ll ever need has already been done. You don’t have to lift a single braincell. That’s so convenient it’s almost modern. But what you’ve got to realise is that believing a thing, no matter how strongly, doesn’t necessarily make it real. You could be hypnotised into believing that you’re a chicken, but you can’t reasonably expect other people to share that belief, at least until they see a few eggs. And that’s the bottom line here, evidence. If you show me a few eggs, then I will believe that you are a chicken, or a Christian, or a Muslim, or whatever the hell it is that you think you are. But until then, please don’t tell me not to mock your beliefs. That’s like telling me not to laugh at your toupee. It just makes the damn thing even more ridiculous. Peace to everyone, and may you get all the respect that you deserve.