Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. When To Give It And When To Withhold It

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between respect for the individual and respect for ideas and beliefs. I have run into situations in the past where I’ve lost friends because they felt that I was attacking them personally when I was really attacking their beliefs. I’ve been called hurtful, hateful, and even a degenerate deviant.

Normally, I don’t care when people say these things about me, but in these cases these were friends, often very close friends, who said these things. Yes, I was attacking their beliefs, but I have my beliefs attacked all the time. I’m told that I’m immoral and that I’m going to hell. These kinds of people attack me personally, instead of attacking my beliefs. And therein lies the difference between them and myself.

I have no personal animosity toward people I disagree with, unless they are being purposely hurtful or hateful. I have several good, dear friends who are devout Christians or spiritually minded, and we often disagree and even rub each other the wrong way, but we still love each other. That’s because we agree to disagree. Often, we both learn something interesting and important about each other and our beliefs. We respect each other and we respect the right we each have to believe (or not believe) in a god or spirits or whatever.

We are all deserving of respect and basic human decency. This is a an unalienable right that every human being has. Ideas, and the beliefs that they engender, are not, and should not, be above question and even ridicule.

If we didn’t question and challenge ideas, the American Revolution would never have been possible. Our founding fathers knew that and enshrined this idea in first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Freedom of speech has the implicit implication that no idea is above reproach. Unfortunately, many people, on both the right and the left, feel that their ideas and beliefs are above reproach: they are wrong.

What needs to be understood is that I can ridicule your beliefs while still respecting you. You, as a person, are deserving of respect; your ideas are not.

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July 27, 2012 - Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice |

3 Comments »

  1. I’m not sure that it works to ridicule someone’s beliefs while claiming to respect them. In most instances ridiculing what people say or do is how we express disrespect for them. Once can field criticisms in a way that is respectful, but then we don’t usually characterize that as ridiculing their beliefs. Depends a bit on the particulars, i suppose, but honestly your own wording does seem to suggest that you are getting rather aggressive folks.

    Comment by danielwalldammit | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  2. Sounds to me that such folks that would attack a person for their belief are pretty petty. Most likely these folk defriend you from facebook because they disagree with you. Or in an effort to make oneself look like some champion for their cause and get brownie point with those who believe the same…none-the-less folks like this are petty and ignorant and never really advance any debate because they are like cement…thouroughly mixed up and firmly set.

    Comment by Kerry | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  3. so much for free thinking…. a misnomer if I ever saw one

    Comment by Kerry | July 27, 2012 | Reply


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