The Folly of Respecting Other’s Beliefs

A common salvo shot across the bow of atheists is that we fall short of respecting the beliefs of others. That old chestnut. Well, forthwith my thoughts on this absurd assertion.

Let me start by saying that I can and do respect the beliefs of others. If, let’s say, that individual believes the sky is blue and water is wet. I respect that. But if they tell me they believe the earth is flat, I do not. I think we’re all on the same page on that one, eh?

What of religious beliefs? Well, there are some religious beliefs I do respect. I respect Buddhism  for example. Why? Because no where in the Tripitaka does it command Buddhists to kill non-Buddhists. In short, I respect any religious belief subject to the following provisions:

1. Its doctrine does not call for my destruction

2. Its doctrine does not call for the mistreatment of any group of human beings or animals

Effectively, the above provisions rule out any possibility of me respecting the religious beliefs of Christians, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims. (NOTE: This doesn’t prevent me from respecting the people themselves.) Unfortunately, I am unable to look past the Hebrew god’s explicit command to his followers to kill me:

“If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let’s go out and worship other gods’, do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death and then the hands of the people. Stone him to death because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 13:6-11)

We should be morally outraged that people worship any entity that commands its followers to do such a thing to non-believers. Equally, we should be outraged that the Hadith and Koran claim that the prophet Mohammed will return to earth only at such time that the entire human race is either converted, subjugated or annihilated. 

Similarly, I don’t respect the beliefs of Nazi skinheads, the KKK, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Westboro Baptist Church, or Ann Coulter. I wonder how many rationalists were told during the 1930′s, “Yeah the Germans seem to have gone a little extreme, but we should respect their Nazi beliefs”? It truly is absurd notion to tell someone to silence protest because an individual with dangerous beliefs may find offense.

Ultimately, no idea or assertion should be out-of-bounds for criticism. Nothing should be regarded sacred. Isolating an idea from criticism serves as a serious barrier to human understanding and well-being. Ignorance is not worthy of respect. Beliefs are not facts. Beliefs are what we use to sandpaper over the gaps in our knowledge, the filler we put in between the cracks of things we actually know.


~ by kriskodisko on August 1, 2013.

6 Responses to “The Folly of Respecting Other’s Beliefs”

  1. You totally had me until “Beliefs are what we use to sandpaper over the gaps in our knowledge, the filler we put in between the cracks of things we actually know.”

    I don’t necessarily agree with that. Non-Abrahamic theists don’t use our beliefs as a filler or a substitute for knowledge. Our beliefs aren’t at all threatened by science, learning or research. I have yet to meet a single person in the Pagan community (or Buddhist, Hindu, or Satanist) that feels that knowledge invalidates our spiritual beliefs. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but we tend to be not only accepting of science and learning, but see life on the whole as a learning experience. The process never stops and it enhances our connection to the divine, it doesn’t drive a stake through it.

    Everything else, though, you were completely right about.

  2. Well written and I see it the same way. I am not sure, though, how well the quote fits in. In there is says you should kill a person who tries to convert you to belief in a different god. That is definitely nothing I could stand behind, but it is different than saying “kill people who have a different or no belief”. Oh and I totally think that we should introduce intelligent geography next to geography in school!!! 🙂

  3. 1. You said “eh” HAHAHA.
    2. I know I’ve explained to you before about how the old testament and new testament works, so either you don’t believe me or you just don’t think it’s true. But suffice it to say that I wouldn’t participate in a religion that calls for the destruction of other people, either.
    3. I also don’t agree that beliefs are a filler for facts. I don’t think it’s that black and white.

    everything else I agree with. Intelligent geography…ha. I haven’t figured out for myself just yet what I think ‘respecting others’ beliefs’ really means, it’s kind of a vague statement that can mean anything.

    • You probably have explained the Greek vs Hebrew bible thing to me before. The problem is, I’ve gotten as many explanations for the discrepancies betwixt the two as I have had explain it to me. I frankly can’t accept one as the true way to think it any more than I can point to one denomination and say that’s the correct way a Christian should view the world. Until I feel I have a grasp how most people see it, I’m going to look at the two as I learned it getting my religious studies minor, which is historical rather than faith based.

      • That’s fair. Deuteronomy in particular is a book about laws for a particular people at a particular point in time in history. If anything, I would say that it’s a picture of how bad things were before we were redeemed. I don’t think that Christianity calls for the destruction or harm of people or people groups. I can certainly see how somebody might come by that perception, but I just don’t think it’s true.

  4. Is it even possible to respect all beliefs? What about the belief that some beliefs should not be respected?

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