Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You HAVE to, because I said so.

Dear Internet Diary,

From around the Web:

I am not religious in any way but respect people who are. Nothing should be done at all in a way that may upset people who have those views.

People can believe what they want; even that [a] faith healer can bring back the dead, [...] Utter rubbish, but then you have to respect people's right to believe in whatever they choose to.

Yes, you have to respect people's beliefs, but sometimes honoring them distorts the truth. What about alien abductees? Creationists? Holocaust deniers? There might be a pro-slavery side, but does it deserve to be sought out for the sake of balance?"

They say I "have" to respect other people's beliefs, but who are "they," and who told them that? The other question is, what is respect, really?

The assumption here suggests the idea that we all have the right to practice our religions. This is mostly true, but a problem for the initial idea of respect, since holding a religion as true very likely holds that another is untrue. Hence, the disrespect of another religion.

How is my disrespect of religion and beliefs goign to prevent free exercise? The only way I can see is when the tenets of a religion violate my rights. In that case, I will vigorously try to prevent the exercise of that religion. But even so, how could I possibly hinder a religious belief?

I imagine that it might be possible to forcibly remove a belief with drugs or electro shock. Maybe that's what people mean when they say I should respect beleifs? "Don't give people lobotomies." That's the trouble I'm having with this whole "you have to respect" notion. The term respect is completely eroded. The way I understand it, to respect something or someone is to give esteem. At its root, respect means simply to look back at and regard. To give attention to. If that's so, I obviously give a hell of a lot of respect to religion. But when people spout off the old "you have to," etc, canard, it sounds more like "don't beat people up." It disregards the definitions of both "belief" and respect," thereby disrespecting both.

Another assumption is that one should put one's own values on hold when it comes to others' behaviors and opinions. That would be foolish. When an atheist upholds the repsect notion, I have to wonder: is he under the influence of a belief system that orders him to withold personal judgement? It would be amusing if it weren't so annoying. It's in the interest of a belief-based organization to tell its members that they are not capable of judging its claims and teachings, therefore they should "just beleive." That's obviously because when it comes under scrutiny, when it is subject to judgement, it proves to be untrue or morally corrupt. It offends me to see a person who claims to be morally autonomous preach the opposite. The truth is, not only should we judge, we must judge. We can't get through our day without judging.

My judgement? Holding something to be true with no evidence--or even with evidence against it--is unethical. That would be faith, that word that makes most people feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guess "you have to respect" my judgement. Let me ask you: if I think a belief is unreasonable, unintelligent, and immoral, should I respect it ? What other unreasonable, unintelligent and immoral things am I required to respect?

Thanks for listening, diary.


breakerslion said...

Can I get an "amen" here? :-)
Brilliantly argued! The notion of "respecting" other people's beliefs implies that they will not, in turn, respect yours. This also tends to pervade what should be secular society. If I go to India and use both hands to eat, it's because I wash both of my hands. Those who are disturbed by this behavior are not respecting my belief that it is perfectly fine to do so.

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

If I may, I think a lot of things tolerate what we find abhorrent because we expect others to do the same for us, in a pluralistic society.

Too often, I see preachers and other religious or government leaders talking about their quest "against immorality." Well, I happen to like the parts of my life that are immorality in his/her eyes, and so I ask them as a fellow citizen to tolerate even what he or she finds intolerable.

In return I offer them the same respect-- I find it horrific to tell children to be ashamed of their bodies, and that invisible demonic creatures are out there waiting to get them if they disobey The Plan. That is completely immoral to me, but I must respect it if I am to ask them to respect my ability to teach my child science instead of mythology.

kalanchoe542 said...

The part that sticks the most for me is indeed the term "respect". Tolerate, indulge, even forbear can work under the appropriate circumstances, but respect is something which is earned, not entitled, and there are many, many "religious leaders" out there who believe that all they have to do is charm a bunch of lost souls into following them and they will automatically be granted the respect they deserve. Look at David Koresh and Jim Jones. Did they deserve our respect? I think the eyes and brains of the world observed this blatant misuse of power and denied them the respect they thought they deserved. Somewhere along the line someone will probably deify both of these monsters, along with Adolph Hitler and a myriad of other fanatics who were just looking for a little "respect". Perhaps if there were more self-respect in the world, all of this would become moot. But then, I suppose I'm preaching to the choir, no?

Hellbound Alleee said...

"but I must respect it if I am to ask them to respect my ability to teach my child science instead of mythology."

No, you can't expect them to respect your actions. They may respect you for all sorts of reasons, but you can't expect them to respect those things if they are against their values. What you can expect them to do is to not beat you up for doing those things. That is not the same thing as respect.