I absolutely hate it when people tell me that I should be respectful of other people’s beliefs.
Let me get one thing straight: I respect people, on a case-by-case basis, after getting to know them — and there’s no guarantee that I’ll respect everybody. I refuse to respect beliefs because of the harm they have been known to cause.
Whenever I am told to respect beliefs, I bring up cases like the Westboro Baptist Church, who recently had announced they were going to protest at 9-year-old Christina Green’s funeral. The response from believers is always the same: “Well, they’re different. They’re not true Christians. They aren’t representative of what most believers are like!”
My response, too, is the same: Belief without evidence, or despite evidence to the contrary, is harmful no matter what. If you are willing to accept a claim without testing it, or without researching it to determine its truthfulness, then you are able to accept other claims.
Many people believe that prayer works, and may cite a case or two where somebody got better after being prayed to. Of course, they ignore those who either (1) never got better after being prayed to, or (2) got better without any prayer. What about them?
What does prayer have to do with respecting beliefs? It’s when belief in the “power” of prayer gets in the way of one’s health and well-being that I start to have a serious problem with unfounded beliefs.
What about 10-year-old Candace Newmaker of Lincolnton, North Carolina, who was suffocated during an Attachment Therapy session that was intended to simulate childbirth? I’m sure her parents had a strong belief in the nonsense given to us by proponents of Attachment Therapy, which is unsupported by science.
What about 1-year-old Caleb Tribble of Northland Valley, New Zealand, who died from an untreated kidney infection because his parents chose to pray rather than take him to the doctor?
What about 13-month-old Isabella Denley from Victoria, Australia, who was diagnosed with epilepsy and given prescribed medication for it, only to die after the parents consulted woo crackpots like psychics and osteopaths and treated their daughter with solely homeopathic remedies?
Am I supposed to respect those beliefs, too? If not, then how am I to determine which beliefs I’m supposed to respect? On what criteria should I judge each and every belief to determine its worth and respectability?
I’ve got a better idea: I refuse to accept any belief that does not have a rational basis in reality. If you belief in evolution, great: you may not understand it fully, but you realize that there are scientists who know more than you do, with a proven track record of being correct most of the time, who are nearly unanimously in agreement that evolution is fact.
But if you believe that global warming is a myth, despite all the data at our disposal; if you believe in Creationism despite all that science has told us about our planet and the universe in the past few hundred years; if you believe in crap like Astrology, even after it’s been proven time and time again to be complete and utter nonsense — then I refuse to give your belief the dignity you think it deserves.
Because you’re an outright and utter fool with childish beliefs who doesn’t understand the first thing about evidence and supporting data when it comes to claims and hypotheses.