As an atheist I am deeply offended by the idea of respect for people who believe in nonsense. The whole argument for and against religious symbols in public, hinges on the idea of respect for people’s views, whether sensible, imaginary, or just plain nonsense.
I was raised a Christian. The values of Christianity, as basically with any religion, are founded on respect for all individuals. However, this does not mean that the basic ideas of a religion need to be respected. We can respect people for their humanity, and their decency, but we do not have to respect them for their ideas.
I was also raised to believe in Father Christmas. As a child I would greatly anticipate what was going to happen on Christmas morning. Less the idea of the birth of a mythically born child, as with the arrival of gifts. There is after all, an enormous amount of real evidence of the existence of Santa Claus. He is present in every shopping centre, and NORAD follows his progress across the northern skies. But in comparison, there is no such evidence for the existence of a God or any God. Plenty of evidence of faith in a God, but none whatsoever for the God him, her or itself.
I agree with Saint Paul: Now that I am a man, I shall give up my childish things. Father Christmas I now know is a myth promoted by loving parents to give delights to their children. God too is a myth, invented to easily satisfy inquisitive young minds, that should be given up by an adult.
Sadly, nearly all religions are intolerant. They begin by claiming tolerance, but if you are not with us, then you must be against us, by definition a statement of intolerance. If you don’t believe in my god, then you must be wrong, and in many religions, treated as a complete pariah, subject to the extreme sanctions that man has devised.
I will be tolerant of many things, but intolerance I will not tolerate. In a secular state, it is essential that we expressly show tolerance for different ideas, but we cannot show toleration for intolerance. Thus since all religions show intolerance, their symbols, reflecting their ideas, cannot be tolerated, in situations where the state itself is acting for the good of all. Otherwise in private at least you are free to show your insanity.
As an atheist I need neither a God or a church. After all, as an atheist, I do not need to have my faith confirmed by a weekly service. My beliefs do not need to be constantly refreshed. I do not think the world is based on nonsense.