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All Beliefs are NOT Created Equal

Updated on January 13, 2012
Poor, ignorant, Bill.
Poor, ignorant, Bill. | Source

I have to roll my eyes every time I hear someone suggest that all beliefs deserve respect. This is a concept that has obviously not been thought out properly by the individual suggesting it. Now, in the smaller scope of things, I know that this individual is referring to religious beliefs. That is really the only issue that would bring about such a ridiculous comment. And at an even smaller scale, I am pretty sure the individual means only any beliefs pertaining to the Christian religion, because even though it sounds nice that here in America, a "free country," the thought of equal respect for all beliefs can be entertained, there is really only tolerance for those who think like the majority. But let's talk about all beliefs, shall we?

Respect For All

If one is to make the assertion that all beliefs deserve respect, one is implying that any belief, no matter how absurd or ridiculous, deserves respect merely on the basis that someone believes it. Beliefs are such personal things, anyway, so disrespecting someone because of their beliefs is not very PC (politically correct), right? That is also to suggest that any means by which that personal belief has come by is also to be respected. So basically, anything goes.

Well, I have to pick on my buddy Bill O'Reilly (he's really not my buddy, I am totally being a cynic) because I need an example, and he is just right for this. Let's take a statement that he made on his show, The O'Reilly Factor, about the tides. Better yet, let's watch.

Sorry, Bill. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Sorry, Bill. Ignorance is not an excuse. | Source

Guess What, Bill, We CAN Explain the Tides

So, according to Bill, no one can know why the tides come in and go out, and that is his belief and he feels it should be respected. Hmm...since when is ignorance respected? Can anyone actually look at this ignorant man with a straight face and offer him respect? Well, I assume if you are equally ignorant and don't understand the way the tides work, he may seem like a very respectable man. The problem is, willful ignorance is not an excuse. We know how the tides work. It can be explained. His belief that it is not an explainable event is founded on ignorance. And to drive that point home, here is the video of a very intelligent, and therefore, a very respectable man, Neil de Grasse Tyson, explaining the fallacy of Bill's argument.

Does this guy get respect?
Does this guy get respect? | Source

Okay, Respect for Some

Wow! How stupid does Bill feel now? And how much respect do you think he deserves? Even if you agreed with him before because you did not understand how the tides work, clearly, there are those who understand them and can explain them, and with a little time and effort, you, too, can understand how they function. Once you know something, it hardly seems plausible to offer respect to someone else who remains willfully ignorant of the facts.

Now, there is a difference between respect and understanding. While I might not respect your ignorance, I can be sympathetic and understand why you might not have had a chance to learn the facts. However, if you are an old coot like Bill, and have had opportunities and access to the facts, but just choose to remain ignorant, or choose to cling to some ridiculous belief because it confirms some other beliefs you may have--I can offer you no respect. There is no respect for myself if I pretend that this position is in any way respectable.

So, no, not all beliefs deserve respect. And this is only one of example of many. I haven't even touched upon beliefs like those held by racists, rapists, misogynists, murderers, radical or fundamental Christians or Islamists, or any other religion for that matter, and any radical or fundamental beliefs that are hate and ignorance based. No, you do not get respect. You do not deserve respect. The burden of proof is on you to prove why such beliefs deserve respect. You cannot simply make a claim and get respect because you think you should, and you certainly shouldn't suggest that everyone is deserving of such an honor. It is an honor, by the way, and it has to be earned. Now, of course you are entitled to believe whatever you want, but when you demand respect for your beliefs, you had better be prepared to undergo the scrutiny of those beliefs to see how they hold up against proven thoughts, ideas and theories. And yes, thoughts, ideas and theories are always changing but reason, logic and rational thought has been pretty consistent for thousands of years. Like Tyson said, it's not so much the belief that bothers me, it's the satisfaction with such a belief that there is no longer any doubt to compel inquiry. That does not get respect in my book.

Books by Neil deGrasse Tyson

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    • emmaspeaks profile image

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thanks Paladin! I agree about Tyson, and everything else you said. I'll give a person mutual respect, but yeah, ideas are another thing completely.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Excellent hub, emma! For what it's worth, here is my philosophy:

      With regard to people, respect should be the default position. We should begin by respecting them, and that respect is theirs to lose, depending upon what they do and say.

      With regard to ideas, we should take the opposite approach. We should begin by NOT respecting them, and that respect must be EARNED, based upon the demonstrated integrity of the proposition (in other words, a skeptical approach).

      Incidentally, I like your inclusion of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I truly believe he is the inheritor of the mantle of Carl Sagan -- a genuine scientist for the masses. I think that video is the only time I've ever seen him without a vest! ;-)

    • EK Lippenmeyer profile image

      EK Lippenmeyer 5 years ago from Perth, Western Australia

      Hello emmaspeaks. That wasn't Bill O'Reilly's finest moment, was it!

      Yes, all beliefs are subjective, and we need give consideration to the beliefs of others to make a value judgment upon them, to ascertain whether we would place a high value upon them also.

      Adding some depth, sometimes the belief alone is not enough, rather the consequences of the belief can be the acid test of value: Someone might believe "I can do anything!" – which clearly he or she can't – but live a far more fruitful life as a result.

    • emmaspeaks profile image

      emmaspeaks 6 years ago from Kansas City

      Absolutely. Especially if that belief is based on nonsense, as in this case. I only picked on Bill because I hate the guy, but there are a plethora of examples and religion is definitely one of them.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

      I make someone angry every time I say this, but the only "respect" I will give to any religious belief is to respect and defend someone's right to have that belief. That's all I can do. I can't respect the belief itself.

    • Rah128 profile image

      Rah128 6 years ago from Southampton

      Ace seen Bill O'reilly get ripped so many times its always amusing and this time he admitted his an idiot.

      :) cool hub

    • emmaspeaks profile image

      emmaspeaks 6 years ago from Kansas City

      Yes, but putting thought into an argument, if it is based on unfounded facts, is still a non-respectable position. That's why I have used Bill o'Reilly as an example because he is such an arrogant bastard and thinks he is so smart. Clearly, he is not. Thanks for your comment, though.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is an interesting take. There are always two sides though. There are people who are so full of their own beliefs that they look down upon you for having a different belief. Take Atheism for example. Atheist have an extremely legitimate argument for a belief and put a lot of thought into it. The flip side is that many people who believe christianity have put a lot of thought into their belief, but not all of it.