All due respect

In a post for Big Think, I argued why religious organisations demanding respect miss what that actually looks like.

The case involves a local artist satirising a recent, unrelated news story about sport (called cricket or something). The artist, the legendary Zapiro, chose to depict the god Ganesh due to his popularity in the related country of India. Hindu organisations here in SA are upset and are demanding apologies, respect, etc. etc.My point is that respect can’t be – or shouldn’t be – something that is demanded: like love, it should be earned. Second, we show respect by treating ideas with “equal” measure of satire, mockery and so on, because we assume those who hold such beliefs are “adult” enough to handle such responses (whether those responses are warranted or themselves adult is another question, of course).

Yet, again and again, many (not all) religious organisations offer evidence they can‘t respond maturely. This does a disservice both to progressive debates and to those on whose behalf they claim to speak.

(It was also fun recently to continuously tell people on Twitter that I’m not Muslim when asked, as I usually am, whether I’d take such a stance on Islam – you know, “my” religion. At least it’s a good lesson to not assume “Arabic name equals Muslim belief”. I don’t get upset anymore, since I’ve noticed kind corrections go far.)

The cartoon that has upset Hindu organisations in South Africa


  1. Daniel Schealler says

    There’s at least two common usages of respect.

    The first is the positive social recognition of something that is considered laudable.

    The second is a form of maintaining peaceable hierarchical relationships within society.

    The demand for respect is always part of the second usage, and it is always put forward by someone who feels that they have been treated as being lower on the hierarchical ladder than they are comfortable with.

    The demand for respect has nothing to do with inherent qualities. It has to do with maintaining one’s position in a social hierarchy.

    Which isn’t always a bad thing. Even when I disagree with my boss I still treat him with respect, because the social relationship between us is important to the functioning of both our roles in our company.

    But in the context of religion in society? I opposed to religion. I’m not going to show it respect for no reason, and it’s laughable to me how many religious people are shocked – shocked! – when it turns out that other people who disagree with their beliefs don’t take them as seriously as those that do.