Although I voted sometime ago, I have abstained from posting due to fear of causing controversy.
As a young teen I closely identified with LaVeyan Satanism. Over the years and due to events that I will not discuss here I have switched to a more theistic belief and practice system.
I have no issue with any religious belief or lack there of. I actually enjoy religious conversation with both believers and non believers. I try to be as open minded as possible when it comes to encountering belief systems that are different than my own deeply held ones. I never ridicule or think any less (or more for that matter)of others or their religious convictions(or lack there of).
One does not have to accept beliefs that are different than their own, but one can respect their choice of faith. Too often people jump to conclusions, judge or out right hate another because of religion. We allow ourselves to be offended or whip ourselves into a frenzy of fear because we either don't understand, or fear that our particular religion is being attacked. Rational thought leaves us as that fear breeds anger and hatred. And no other topic is as sensitive as religion.
Far too often I have heard from Christians that they are being persecuted and misunderstood. Yet they don't seem to see that the road of persecution is two-ways. I am sure many who are not Christian can identify with what I am saying. Have you ever had a person physically get in your face and tell you that your beliefs are wrong? Have you ever been physically assaulted because of your beliefs? Have you ever been refused service, asked to leave a public place, or treated rudely because of your religion? Have you ever had to tuck a symbol of your faith inside your shirt because school officials/ a boss etc stated that it offended the class/co-workers to see it? Have you ever had a person rip said necklace off your neck(or any other symbol of religion for that matter) while screaming at you? Have you ever had a person try to force their religious belief upon you against your will examples being: Trying to get you to pray with them, force you to church service, harass you with religious literature, spread rumors that could have real consequences for you life or family?
Persecution exists on many levels. I hear too often that we need to a be a more Christian Nation, that laws should be passed in regards to religion. I would greatly fear a country that passes laws that favors one religion over another for fear of persecution coming from the legal system. When religion and politics co-mingle closely people have had their freedom and even their lives taken. Laws based upon basic morality and up holding human rights are fine but not ones that legislate a particular religion over another are bad.
Like I said it is about respect. Respect each other and our differences. I think the world would be a better place if we could just all do that.