The "polite society" debate rumbles at the Skeptic Forum.
The question is now about whether one should be deferent to or tolerant of religious beliefs and, if so, to what extent.
My own approach to this issue breaks down into four categories.
1. Freedom to hold a religious belief
On this category, I am neither deferent nor tolerant. Instead, I am neutral. To be deferent or tolerant implies to me that (a) I should react and (b) such reaction should be constructive.
In other words, that but for my deferent or tolerant reaction, my response would be different. That is not the case, I am unmoved either way.
2. Freedom to manifest a religious belief
Again, on this I am neutral, unless it falls into one of the following two categories. In principle, a person can manifest their religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs) in any appropriate way.
I may flinch when I see certain artefacts (plaster saints are my particular horror) but I neither defer to nor tolerate the religion. Similarly, I may adore Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi or Bach's St Matthew Passion without deferring to or tolerating the religion.
Again, in respect of the religion at question, I am unmoved.
3. Manifesting a religious belief which may violate the principle of equality
When the manifestation of religious belief leads to unequal treatment, the position becomes trickier.
The principle of equality means that similar situations are treated in similar ways.
Taking a narrow view of this principle, the wearing of a bracelet or a turban or a crucifix, when but for that item being a religious manifestation it could not be worn, will be contrary to the principle of equality.
That said, any general right to manifest one's religion will have effects which vary from context to context. One context is school or work uniform policy; another is motorcycle safety.
Taking a wider view of the principle of equality, one argument is that there should be certain latitude for each form of religious belief. So although in certain contexts there can be privileges, one can be at ease as long as overall no religious form has proportionately more privileges than another. Each religious form can buck the rules, but only to the same extent as another religious form in another context.
This wider view is clearly unfair to non-believers.
However, I personally cannot get too excited in general about manifestations of religious belief which offend the principle of equality. I accept they are perhaps unfair, but they usually do not affect others directly or limit their actions. I also recognise such manifestations, on an intellectual level, violate the principle of equality.
So, I suppose, I tolerate these manifestations as long as they don't affect me directly.
4. Manifesting a religious belief which may violate the principle of personal autonomy
These are more disturbing. These are manifestations which limit (or are likely to limit) the personal autonomy of another person.
Under this category I would group violent behaviour, threats, bodily harm, censorship, other restrictions on free speech, intrusion into the personal realm, and cruel punishments.
These manifestations are not acceptable. If I have to accept them, then it is not because I am tolerating them (as they are intolerable). I accept them only because I have no choice but to defer to whatever power sanctions such manifestations.
In contemporary Western society, I am glad that (in my view) the fourth category is rare. The third category is perhaps becoming more common but I am generally relaxed about it - a varied society requires some give and take. And I am completely neutral about the first two.
And I do like living in a polite society.