On your right to believe what you want to believe.

The gang over at the Two Percent Company have a great entry up titled Believe What You Want To Believe that touches on something that’s been brought up in the comments at SEB many times before, but bears repeating. It answers a common question from their readers on if the authors don’t think that people are free to believe whatever they want to believe:

It is important to understand that we fully support your right to believe whatever you want to believe, regardless of the supporting facts, or lack thereof. We firmly support your right to your own personal beliefs, and we would gladly argue for you to maintain that right. That said, it is equally important to understand that we maintain the right to not believe what you believe, and to think that what you believe is silly. Just because you believe something passionately, don’t expect us to respect that belief. We will respect your right to hold that belief, but not necessarily the belief itself.

The main issue here is that we should all have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, as long as that belief doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.

The rant goes on to provide examples of how some beliefs do infringe on the rights of others. It’s the sort of entry I wish I’d written. Still, the opening explanation quoted above is perfect for the fabled SEB FAQ I’m still trying to pull together.

16 thoughts on “On your right to believe what you want to believe.

  1. Amen, brother.

    I’d add that respect for the other person (even at that minimal level that we call “courtesy”) may sometimes require that one not point out one’s opinion that a particular belief is silly, but the right to be heard certainly doesn’t imply the right not to be laughed at.

    And I say that as someone with arguably laughable beliefs.

  2. ***Dave said:

    I’d add that respect for the other person (even at that minimal level that we call “courtesy”) may sometimes require that one not point out one’s opinion that a particular belief is silly, but the right to be heard certainly doesn’t imply the right not to be laughed at.

    Agreed. There are absolutely instances where the silliness (or the fallibility) that I might see in someone else’s beliefs should not be pointed out publicly. For me, it is largely the intent and presentation of the “silly” beliefs by the believer that determine the appropriate reaction.

    Les: By all means, please feel free to use that excerpt in the SEB FAQ (if or when it is pulled together).

  3. Les, completely off topic here, but are you planning on having a reading/resource list in the SEB faq?  I share many of your interests and I value your opinions but I don’t have much time right now to be searching through vast fields, like religion, to find the good reads.

  4. Not having your belief pointed out as silly depends very much on context.  Today in a coffee shop I heard someone loudly expounding *complete BS* to the person she was with.  But I was not part of their conversation – overhearing it was an accident and they did not ask for my opinion so I made no response other than a bemused smile.

    Forums are different, though.  A thick skin is helpful if you take part in forums of any kind.  Otherwise issues get forgotten amid a whiny chorus of “Hey!  You’re not being nice to me!”  oh oh

  5. DWangerin, I could put something like that into the FAQ, but I already kinda have something similar in the form of my SEB Reviews sub-blog. Naturally, I’m behind in updating it much like I’m behind in getting the FAQ finished, but I’m working on it.

    I used to have a currently reviewing section in the sidebar, but I took it out to see if it would speed up the page generation times. It hasn’t helped much so I’ll probably put it back in soon.

  6. This just echos what I teach my daughters: “People have rights, ideas and beliefs, don’t.

  7. DOF, just as you say.  If someone comes somewhere to assert or discuss their beliefs, that makes them (within much broader bounds) fair game—though, tactically, one should consider whether pointing out the silliness of someone’s beliefs is going to actually produce anything other than a frisson of joy and an apoplectic reaction, both of which are only fleeting pleasures.

  8. Sometimes, pointing out silliness may be done for the benefit of third parties as opposed to the believer.

    If someone is spouting off false claims of scientific evidence supporting, say, homeopathic remedies, then it could be reasonable to say that the others present would benefit from hearing the facts. In that case, the effect on the believer is, to me, secondary to the effect on the audience.

  9. tactically, one should consider whether pointing out the silliness of someone’s beliefs is going to actually produce anything other than a frisson of joy and an apoplectic reaction
    – ***Dave

    Exactly why schools need to get over the idea that no offensive ideas can ever be expressed.  Kids graduate high school with no ability to look past offense to content.  (A much more important ability, IMHO, than spouting the capital of North Dakota on a test)

    Explorers need to wear boots; citizens need a thick skin in debate.

  10. I have to admit that my response in regards to whether or not I point out how silly a particular belief may be is often based on the approach of the person who’s presenting said belief as well as how open said person appears to be to considering opposing ideas thoughtfully.

    The ongoing needling of Thrival in another thread serves as a good example. He shows up, starts proclaiming how wrong we all are, how we’re incapable of realizing how stupid we are, and how it’s not his job to educate us anyway, so there. That’s just an open invitation for me to let rip. I’m not likely to change his mind, but as Tom points out, perhaps I can show the absurdity well enough to get third parties to think a bit more about his claims.

    In contrast, we occasionally get people who hold similar beliefs who show up and present said views in a less abrasive manner and with what appears to be a genuine curiosity about why the rest of us think differently. Those are the folks I’m more likely to avoid the shortcut of simply pointing out how silly their beliefs are. If the person seems like they may be open to an honest discussion that might at least give them some understanding of the opposition, if not convince them to change their views, then this approach is often the most conducive.

  11. Just had to share this slight rewording:

    tactically, one should consida whetha cruisin’ out tha silliness of someone’s beliefs is going ta actually produce anyth’n playa than a frisson of joy n an apoplectic reaction- ***Dave

    Source:  http://www.gizoogle.com

  12. Well… it isn’t exactly state secret that average IQ of human won’t differ much from ameba. (I know… this is offence against amebas)

    It’s just some (way too many) people aren’t capable to understanding/don’t want to understand facts even if they would get overrun by it.
    It has been proved many times that there are people who will gladly jump to “front of the train” if some self-proclaimed religious prophet tells them to do it.

    “Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they shall think.”
    -Arthur Shopenhauer

    “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
    -Douglas Adam

    “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
    -Albert Einstein

  13. A very good article. Why is it that I enjoy pretty much every article that Rushdie writes, but can’t stand his books?

    Weird.

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