Drew Tatusko has a very good post , linking to a university altercation that had escaped my notice, addressing whether or not atheists should respect religion.I have come across this quite often, particularly in a debate with Jonathan Culler at Cornell (I will post about that some day, it happened years ago now), where the atheist will insist that they do not need to "respect" ignorance. Here, I will let Drew explain and be sure to read it all , it is quite a long post, but well worth it.
One common answer to the question of respect to religious belief that I have encountered in many an argument is an unqualified No. It is a simple argument with little persuasive rhetoric. Religion should not be respected or even much tolerated due to its track record of human harm and its basis in that which has, in the common parlance of the argument, not one shred of evidence . This seems to be the foundation for the entire whirlwind of extremism regarding the theft of a consecrated Eucharist wafer and the less than hospitable reaction from one PZ Myers. Ken Brown tracks much of the debates here and here .
In previous debates with agnostics, atheists, anti-theists, apatheists, etc. I have heard one refrain that is puzzling: “I do not and should not have to respect your belief in God.” The root of this lack of respect comes from the proposition that any kind of belief in that which has no empirically substantiated evidence that essentially meets the rigor of external verification and validity deserves no real respect at all.