Showing respect for other people's beliefs...

(69 Posts)
curlew Sun 27-Oct-13 10:02:40

I think it's very important to be polite and considerate to other people. I'm not sure about the "respect" word, because to me it sounds a little deferential, but certainly consideration and politeness.

Which would include not challenging people about their faith unless I felt it was potentially damaging to someone else or was having a direct impact on me or someone else, or if I was in a discussion/argument about different beliefs.

But how far does this go? Do I have to be polite and considerate about people who believe in horoscopes, or Vedic flying or the Great Arclesiezure? Or can I restrict it to the world's great religions?

Treen44444 Sun 27-Oct-13 12:47:18

I think you have to respect someone's right to a belief, you don't need to respect what that belief entails.
Just because a belief is historically well engrained doesn't mean it is off limits for questioning. However, there is no need to be rude on a personal level but being rude about religion is ok with me. It's like discuss a favourite sports team or band, IMO. The perceived offence comes because one person has invested too heavily in a belief

volestair Sun 27-Oct-13 14:52:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

exexpat Sun 27-Oct-13 15:06:19

If someone is trying to impose their beliefs on you, whether knocking at your door to give you religious leaflets, insisting that their religious beliefs should be taken into consideration when making laws that will affect other people (eg same-sex marriage, abortion), or badgering you to try reiki/homeopathy/crystals for a health issue, then I think it is fair enough to disagree, robustly if necessary, without descending into personal insults. Of course if someone tells you you are going to go to hell because you are not 'saved' then you might be less restrained...

I think critical engagement with people's beliefs is possible without turning it into criticism of the person, if you see what I mean. But of course some people will take it personally even if you mention, very mildly, that you don't share their views - but that is their problem.

I don't expect anyone else to actually respect what I believe. But I think it is reasonable to hope they might respect the fact that I have thought about it and reached a conclusion, even though it's one they disagree with.

It makes it difficult on here to have a useful conversation if people come on and say "You obviously haven't thought about it" Or "You must be very stupid" or "You obviously have emotional issues that make you cling to that idea". It's just such an obvious way of saying "And I don't think its worth listening to your opinion in the slightest", which is a bit narrow-minded really.

But that's about respecting someone's right to have a belief, not respecting the belief itself.

I don't respect everyone else's actual beliefs, when they disagree with my own, so I can't expect everyone else to respect mine smile
eg I don't repect the belief that women ought not to be in positions of leadership, which is held by some people who also count themselves as Christians. I think it is wrong, based on mistaken arguments, and damaging. But if people have thought it through and made the choice for themselves, then I respect their right to believe something that I disagree with.

In conflict resolution we try and get people to move beyond I am right and you are wrong and thus I will not respect you or your opinion. The aim is to move to an understanding of the other's position which I may not agree with but I can respect. This is hard work and you don't see a lot of it in the media as newspapers sell simple stories with heroes and villains and no room for nuances.

To move beyond I'm right and they are wrong requires a level of honesty and self knowledge about one's own opinions and prejudices. It also requires work to understand the other's point of view and empathy for why they might hold it. Much easier to denigrate and laugh at another person's views.

And the women in leadership in the church applies to me directly and I do meet up with some of the male leaders of churches who don't agree with women in leadership and we are getting to know each other by working together. I respect their position although I don't agree with it. It is hard - it would be much easier to dismiss them but I don't as I value them as human beings.

curlew Mon 28-Oct-13 07:37:39

"And the women in leadership in the church applies to me directly and I do meet up with some of the male leaders of churches who don't agree with women in leadership and we are getting to know each other by working together. I respect their position although I don't agree with it. It is hard - it would be much easier to dismiss them but I don't as I value them as human beings"

But why do you have to respect their position? You can surely value them as human beings while thinking that their position on this particular issue is fundamentally wrong and misguided?

killpeppa Mon 28-Oct-13 07:58:05

I respect others in having different beloved

killpeppa Mon 28-Oct-13 08:00:10

*babies and iPhones don't mix!

I respect others for having different beliefs & would be respectful of traditions or rules at appropriate times.

I studied religion and find it all fascinating even though I'm an atheist

curlew Mon 28-Oct-13 08:05:56

Would you? Whatever those beliefs are?

acorntree Mon 28-Oct-13 11:34:46

I would agree with posters who say it is more a case of respecting the person who has those beliefs.

It is clearly not reasonable to ask people to respect all beliefs regardless of what those beliefs are, but if I challenge someone else’s belief, it should be by explaining and defending my own beliefs – which may include explaining why I believe that their beliefs are wrong – not by attacking the person who holds the belief by suggesting they are stupid or living under an illusion ( even if they clearly are ). We need to pay them the honour of listening to their opinion, otherwise how can we expect them to listen to ours.

killpeppa Mon 28-Oct-13 11:37:27

well obviously not extreme-ism
but I mean Jewish,catholic,Protestant ,Muslim ect

Why not respect extremism though. If other people's beliefs are automatically entitled to respect then how can we say "well except for those"?

Surely that's not really respecting their beliefs at all if we only have to respect the ones that are reasonably close to ours.

Gingerdodger Mon 28-Oct-13 19:50:16

I would always try and respect someone's right to hold a particular belief. I have friends who hold many varieties of beliefs some would be considered more 'unusual' or 'unconventional' than others. Some friends have no religious beliefs at all. Some friends consider what I believe to be totally untrue, even strange, yet we all rub along together because we respect each other's rights to hold those beliefs and actually see how that underpins that person's values and approach to life.

However I think there does become a point at which it is difficult to separate our view of other people's beliefs from our own perspective and I think if I am truly honest then a person's beliefs would inevitably affect my perception of that person. For me this is likely to be less about core religious beliefs but might be more political beliefs eg if someone expressed racist views.

I would also argue that there comes a point at which we need to be able to speak out if we see that one individual person's beliefs are to the detriment of another. This, of course, again goes much wider than religious beliefs.

This is highly complex and there are certainly views expressed in the name of religion that I cannot reconcile with my own religious viewpoint.

Do I respect the person's right to hold that belief? Well probably?

Does it affect my view of that person? Almost certainly.

Do I respect their right to see that view to fruition if it causes harm to another? No, but it isn't always that simple as it might be about weighing up competing harms or applying a view which is generally harmless to the individual who holds it to people in other scenarios where it might cause harm.

I think what I am trying to say is that whole thing is much more complex than it appears on first thought!

killpeppa Mon 28-Oct-13 20:06:50

backonlybriefly- thats a bit of a silly question
'why not support extremism though?'

because i don't condone the unlawful and uncalled for killing of innocent lives for honor/glory or any other religious gratification.

Everyone should have the right to be respected on their religious choice whether its pagan or kabbalah. We shouldnt hate upon what we dont fully understand or feel that its 'strange' in some way as its not 'our normal'

I expect others to respect my decision as an atheist and wouldnt like anyone to try and change my view point, just as i wouldnt do it to others.

killpeppa "why not support extremism though" might be a silly question so it's fortunate that I didn't ask that. It was 'Why not respect extremism' which is something quite different and it was in response to your post that said:

well obviously not extreme-ism but I mean Jewish,catholic,Protestant ,Muslim etc

I get why you said that of course, but I wanted to bring it up because I have heard this from religious people.

I'm an atheist and often find religious people telling me that I MUST respect their belief. When I ask if they respect other religions they frequently say "Yes! all the sensible/decent ones".

So they reserve the right to not respect a religion if it's not up to their standard, but demand that I accept theirs.

Typically they will reject the violent ones and the ones that are not powerful politically. So you will get kind words about Islam from a Christian, but then it's "Paganism? bunch of nonsense that should be banned"

killpeppa Mon 28-Oct-13 21:37:24

sorry to mis-quote you there backonlybriefly

In terms of respect for extremism- I guess because it is 'morally wrong' IMO.

I dont think anyone should demand respect from you, I think that the way the conduct themselves in regards to their own religious beliefs would, I guess show you if they deserve your respect.

Someone has a religion as they believe in it & understand it it someway, so I dont think anyone is to say what the 'sensible/decent ones' are.

I guess when you are religious you obviously take yours to be the truth & dismiss all others to be 'wrong', but I dont agree with that. People should just agree to disagree IMO.

GoshAnneGorilla Mon 28-Oct-13 21:50:44

I am Muslim, visibly so (I wear hijab).

I am very happy with my religious life. I generally don't mention it, unless in passing (getting dd such and such for Eid and that sort of thing) and I do not mind polite questions about Ramadan, hijab and everyday things like that.

I very much mind someone doing Debates with Muslims 101 with me. I have no interest in debating any aspect of my faith (that's what the internet is for), nor do I ever wish to debate anyone's religious beliefs, or the lack thereof with them. I have no interest in anyone's opinion on my faith, nor would I ever offer any judgment on theirs.

So with regards to respecting my beliefs, I am happy enough for people to accept that I have them, they may well differ from theirs and to otherwise mind their own business. I don't need anymore respect then that.

crescentmoon Mon 28-Oct-13 23:32:59

''Had God willed, they would not have taken others besides Him in worship. And We have not made you a watcher over them nor are you set over them to dispose of their affairs.
''And do not insult those they worship other than God, in case they then insult God in enmity without knowledge...''

From those two verses in the Quran I find its important not just to respect the person with the belief - theyve exercised their autonomy to believe as they will - but also respect to what they hold sacred. As a basic courtesy: do not insult their Gods so that they do not insult your God.

That is not just the basic reserve towards the other abrahamic faiths which the etiquette for debate is set out in other parts of the quran. chapter 6:107-108 is specifically to non monotheistic religions. Verse 108 says '...those they worship' those: plural, if one wants to debate/discuss/ question, one can but without reviling the other person's gods etc which because they would be hurt by could cause them to curse God. I see the courtesy as 'do unto to others' - as serious as I wish to be about my faith others will be about theirs.

It puts me off joining in debate threads when I see that stage of deriding/ ridicule settle in, which seems to happen very very quickly here on MN. To me, no matter how different a belief/faith sounds I keep in mind the minimum ''...And We have not made you a watcher over them nor are you set over them to dispose of their affairs''. Which is something over zealous people - of faith as well as atheism - fall into thinking they're responsible for 'saving' people from.

Curlew said 'But why do you have to respect their position? You can surely value them as human beings while thinking that their position on this particular issue is fundamentally wrong and misguided?'

I respect their position as they are fellow human beings. I've taken the time and energy to understand their worldview and where it comes from. I don't agree with it but I can see how they got there. Someone has to make the first move in dialogue between seemingly entrenched positions and learning the language and thought world is the start of it.

Shouting at each other so that we are heard makes no sense. Neither does assuming that you know what the other person's viewpoint is until you have taken the time to listen and hear and check you have understood.

When I was trying to get my head around Islam I went to a number of mosques and it took time, but eventually I came across a wonderful group of women who could explain their faith in words I could understand and I'm very grateful to them for bearing with me.

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts that sounds nice, but presumably you mean "respect the position of the ones you approve of". That was my point before that if you respect all positions then you respect the bombers and abusers.

GoshAnneGorilla Tue 29-Oct-13 12:17:56

Back - bombing and abuse are against the law. Fasting and holy Communion aren't.

I just don't think it's possible to repect every belief that anyone has or might have. The Aztecs performed human sacrifices, presumably in the sincere belief that their gods wanted it. OK, that's extreme and nobody is asking us to 'respect' those beliefs nowadays, but any idea that the sincerity of the person makes their belief worthy of respect must go out of the window when you look at the extreme cases.

And as soon as you say "I respect all beliefs (apart from the really obviously extreme ones)" then you have to actually say "I make a judgement on whether the belief itself is worthy of anyone's respect".

Some people might be very 'light' in what they judge, and only 'fail to respect' beliefs when they lead directly to murder or other atrocities.

Others are harsher and don't see any reason to respect all kinds of other things.

But it's a sliding scale, even for the most tolerant, not an absolute.

At the same time you might not choose to express your lack of respect, while you're trying to engage with someone, so as to try to understand them and maybe get them to modify their thinking. Like Louis Theroux in some of his documentaries, where he tries to give people room to explain themselves and doesn't point out what most viewers will be shouting at the screen. But that doesn't always mean you actually respect the belief.

GoshAnneGorilla Just to pick one example FGM isn't against the law in the places it is openly practiced, but if I accepted that I must "respect all beliefs' then I'd have to respect the belief that holding down screaming children to cut their flesh away is a good thing.

I accept that they have the right to make laws in their own countries, but I will never respect their belief.

There are lots more. How about stoning women for being raped. Some believe this is god's will. Do you respect their belief?

curlew Tue 29-Oct-13 13:01:29

"I respect their position as they are fellow human beings"
Ah. Now this is where I have a problem. People believe lots of things that I find morally and/or intellectually bankrupt. I would think much less of myself if I accepted unchallenged, for example, somebody's belief that their child should die rather than have a blood transfusion. Or that women have fewer rights than men. Or that women should not be bishops. Or that using condoms is wrong. Or that homeopathy can protect you from polio.

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