Religion has an elevated status in society, and it seems many people, whether they are religious or not, have attached a great deal of worth to religion, as if dogmatic belief in the unprovable is a desirable quality. Moreover, it seems many people are more interested in protecting religions, just because they are religions, than they are interested in critically examining their validity and political ramifications. Thus, they demand respect for beliefs and texts for the simple fact that they exist and have many subscribers. This is especially true, or perhaps only true, if the texts are very old.
Jeffrey Guterman, @JeffreyGuterman on Twitter, was asked if he has seriously studied the Bible, to which he answered that he prefers non-fiction. Naturally, someone took offense to this, because one can disbelieve in the Bible, but not claim it is fictitious, apparently, all logic aside. The person, Captain Byron (@jgilbert1701 on Twitter), tweeted that it is a "disrespectful statement" to say the Bible is fictitious, and wondered why Jeffrey would "disrespect" a book.
Jeffrey simply told him that "it's homophobic, misogynistic, subservient, and homicidal, just to name a few reasons." To this, the brilliant guy who claims Jeffrey is "disrespectful" retorts: "however, it's also the basis for a religion and should be treated in a respectful manner, even if you don't agree with it." So... it's okay that the Bible is, indeed, homophobic, misogynistic, and just fucking terrible, but it's not okay to criticize it because there are people who believe in it? And apparently Jeffrey was "blatantly disrespecting an entire majority" because he doesn't "like its beliefs." However, he was "disrespecting" the beliefs he doesn't like, not the "majority" itself, a distinction that is entirely lost on those brainwashed to believe that religion must be protected and respected.
Religions and cultures do not deserve respect just for existing, or having a large number of subscribers, or being very old; they only deserve respect if they make a valid and convincing argument and do not promote genocide and inequality. The right to believe must be respected, but the beliefs themselves must not.
Not all religions can be true; most likely no religion is true. So is it better to let people be blissfully ignorant, while also voting based on this blissful ignorance, rather than to try and convince them they are wrong? Should beliefs -- most of which must be untrue only for the fact that not all of them can be true at the same time -- really be "respected" because people hold them dearly? Should religions be "respected" because they have claimed a vast portion of the worldwide population through war, indoctrination, and the suppression of contradictory evidence and arguments (for example by pushing the idea that they must be respected)? Of course not.
In a multicultural society, there will be different opinions and beliefs. These opinions and beliefs will conflict with one another. If Person A believes in Belief A, he also believes Person B's Belief B is incorrect. As an atheist, I believe that all god-believers are incorrect (and yes, my side is more rational). Likewise, theists believe I am incorrect. If it is bigoted to believe differently, and voice said belief, every religious person in the world is bigoted toward me. And that logic just does not hold water.
No belief should be treated as important only for the fact that it exists or is popular; all beliefs should be viewed with a critical eye and be reevaluated based on new evidence. Certainly, the Bible does not do well under scrutiny, and it is morally reprehensible, just like many religions, even though not all religionists display all bad traits that can be found in their religions' doctrines. The critical evaluation of beliefs is what has progressed humanity; it is the driving force of equality and progress.
In the end, Richard Dawkins explained it perfectly: "If your belief has any value, you should be able to defend it with something better than 'Your argument against it hurts me.' Grow up."
Update: see "The value of worldviews" for an elaboration of the point this blog post makes.