Reginald Selkirk clears matters up

November 16, 2010

“Opening post: Atheists like to say: You should respect the person, but you don’t have to respect their beliefs.
David McNerney: Respecting someone includes respecting their right to hold ridiculous beliefs.

No one has phrased it precisely the way I would.

First off, you have no obligation to respect someone else’s beliefs. Your obligation is to respect their right to form and hold their own beliefs.

Second, the word “respect” has multiple meanings. The “respect” I owe to someone’s right to their own beliefs is abidance or toleration. This is entirely different from the definition of “respect” which is “to hold in esteem or honor.”

If someone holds very silly beliefs, then I clearly have no obligation to esteem their beliefs, and since they have given themselves over to such silly beliefs, I will probably not have much respect for the person either. But I still tolerate and abide their right to hold silly beliefs.

Just as with “faith” and “spirituality,” and so many other topics which are of interest in discussions of religion, this is a case of ambiguous vocabulary, not a serious disagreement over substance. If you want to get your point across clearly, use clear language.”

So so much confusion is caused by exactly this kind of lack of clarity and it invariably aids the woolly-minded.


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