Thursday, December 15, 2005

Respect Beliefs or Believers?

I was pondering things while drifting off to sleep and the question occurred to me:

Ought we to show respect for beliefs or for the people who hold them?

Having thought this through only a bit, I expect some will see great gaps in the following logic. If so, feel free to point them out.

I tend to see respect as something you give to something or someone you esteem. I esteem people, regardless of who they are or what they think. I do this simply because of the fundamental equality of people. All are created by God in His image. Christ died to assume the sin of all people without exception.

Ideas though are not all fundamentally equal. Some are good. Some are excellent. Some are just dumb. You cannot give respect to all ideas equally. The same I think can be said for beliefs. While I can therefore see fit to respect all persons, I cannot respect all beliefs.

I think the rest of the world can understand and agree with this; there is by and large no problem with dismissing the belief that the Holocaust never happened, for example. That however is because the general consensus (in the global context) holds that such a belief is irrational and unfounded. Were I to use as an example something with no such consensus though, what might happen?

If I were to argue say that Christianity is the only ultimately true religion, I would be well received in my faith community, because that proposition is part of my faith community's consensus. I would be affirmed.

In the rest of the world though, which does not share my faith community's consensus, I would be told I am disrespectful of believers in other religions. I might be called archaic, a bigot or have my intellectual capacity dismissed, and by the same people who would be hailing me for comments I might make against the notion that the Holocaust is a myth.

This leads me to think that in some ways respect really means to fall into line with the governing consensus on an issue.

But if I voice my dissent in a way that speaks unequivocally to my belief while nevertheless affirming the worth of the person holding the opposing belief, am I really being disrespectful? I don't think so.

Perhaps then we should look at respect for what it is: code for "agree" or at least "don't disagree".

One wonders what kind of respect that shows for people...

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