As much as I can reject any form of organized religion, I can't say the same about some often deeply religious people. Though, I believe they are misguided and surely haven't used much their critical faculties, judgement or are lacking in education, to have gotten where they are, for some of them, not only can't I hold it against them I kind of admire them...
I would believe that some religious people have found in religion some kind of excuse almost as a motivating factor, maybe a justification, to do what they were inclined to do in the first place.
Here, I'm thinking of some people who value, for example, so much generosity and that they will make great gifts of their time or money or labour for its sake, even to the extent of going without, if it means giving away for a cause they deem worthy of such extreme measures... I, well, admire them and find myself pretty self-centered compared to them, or to some people of this nature, whether god or what it is they believe in, validates it or not...
Another example is that I admire the flame, the intense passion that motivates some people to do great deeds, and again supposedly under god's will. I strongly suspect this is part of their nature or character. This flame, this dedication to do amazing selfless great works or selfless small works, to me, cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Some religious beliefs that I disregard or perhaps dismiss too lightly and however misguided, can, again in my opinion, make a person quite endearing or moving and those are beliefs and actions that are not ostentious.
But, I think, atheists with high morals can be very admirable in their works whether toward the community or the advancement of knowledge, for example, even if the spur of religion is not there... ! (which is great..).
I really wonder about black and white and different shades of grey ?
Harkening back to when I was paying attention to God, praying to God or whatever was only a help to push me in a direction I wanted to go anyway.
I respect some religious people as well, even if I don't respect the belief. But I tend to respect all people, as long as they are good people or reasonably good people. Sometimes people are religious because they fear death, or because they want to believe they will see their dear departed again. I do not criticize them, but i do not admire them either. I empathize with them, it's a very human feeling. We all find comfort as best as we can when confronted with tragedy or sadness.
I also respect religious people who have not had the opportunities or the environment I had, to learn about the world. Nobody chooses their lot in life, even though some of us are lucky or strong enough to be able to influence it. I never respect the willfully ignorant, though. If their path doesn't cross mine, I'm happier, because the willfully ignorant almost always try to impose their ideas on others, and unfortunately, sometimes in a mean or violent way.
I think many generous people who do so in the context of religiosity were generous to begin with, I agree with you, Marianne. It is easy to tell a genuinely generous person from someone who gives to charity because their religious told them to. These are usually stingier, and there is no joy in their giving. We are incredibly good at distinguishing phony feelings, us humans.
The people I admire the most are those with an internal motivation to do good. When atheists do good, I think their motivations is more often than not internal. We do it for goodness's sake. We do it because we feel happy when we do it. We do it because we are human and we empathize with the plight of other human beings, or other sentient beings.
I sometimes wonder how much is taught and how much is inborn. I've seen little kids, even babies, who were always generous, and are now generous adults, and vice versa.
"I sometimes wonder how much is taught and how much is inborn."
Me, too. But, I haven't been searching for white papers on this subject.
I will confess that I don't really want to know. Maybe it is mostly inborn---but I won't have as much as I think I should have!
The feeling of conflict if we totally dismiss as absurd and useless a religious person who, despite his or her belief in magic, does good works, and does not purposely disrespect our non-theist or non-religious point of view: Oh, yes, this is a dilemma that I have experienced.
I often work with religious persons including priests and rabbis, and I admire their passion or flame as Marianne called it. I feel that I can trust these people to behave well, and to be reliable in their commitments, which is much more than I feel for average people.
I can accept to work with and even admire these religious people in projects that have nothing to do with religion or the promotion of belief in god. For example: feed homeless persons, distribute clothes to those who need them, counsel alcoholics and substance abusers about rehabilitation and treatment.
I am drawn to all people who seek a spiritual connection to others, I have many common goals and beliefs with them. But belief in a ghost in the sky who can make it rain or snow is not one of these things.
I've stated before that it's the institution I despise, not the people.
I just would like to play down something I have stated and it's in relation with different shades of grey..
Not all religious people are worthy of my acceptance in my opinion. Some are very ignorant and I think they should use their grey matter a bit more; others, often belonging to the clercgy but maybe not, can do awful things in the name of religion to other people..
I just thought that I made that other side of the coin known as well.