Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Should we respect others' beliefs?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) August 10th, 2012

People often ask to have their beliefs respected, but should we? What if you believe those beliefs are wrong, or indeed, harmful to others? Does it matter whether you can prove the beliefs wrong or just suspect it? Does it matter if there is no evidence to support those beliefs, are they still worthy of respect?

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83 Answers

josie's avatar

If they are capricious, harmful, without merit or foundation, incorrect etc. the answer is no.

In fact it would be immoral to respect such.

We may have to tolerate them, but respect, no.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

“You have the right to believe ANYTHING you want. I have the right to believe it is fucking ridiculous” -Ricky Gervais

Shippy's avatar

It depends on the “people” are they just random people? Or people we love, or significant people? If the persons are close to you, and their actions harm themselves or others, you cannot respect that. But what action to take? Confrontation with the facts and hope for the best. If those beliefs are not harmful then still can a person expect you to respect them? No. Just as your mind accepts certain things as important so does theirs. No convincing can change it otherwise. But, the strongest and most powerful way to change people is by attraction not promotion. If that is the desired effect.

psyonicpanda's avatar

I could care less what anybodys beliefs are. But I will respect them for it and kindly tell them too eff off.

Aster's avatar

We should respect others’ beliefs unless they could harm others. Just as we expect others to respect our beliefs . They own these beliefs as a result of many things and circumstances that we cannot know about.

Qingu's avatar

I think we should tolerate beliefs. People should be allowed to believe whatever the hell they want.

But I definitely don’t think we should automatically respect beliefs. A lot of people believe really stupid things.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I think you need to take very deep look at other’s beliefs before choosing to judge them. While things may seem initially harmful, perhaps that is just your misconception. I have definitely seen people regard other’s beliefs as harmful when I would say they are not harmful.

For instance, the reason many Christians cannot tolerate those with different beliefs is because they see any religion other than Christianity leads to the person who holds that belief’s eternal damnation. So in their view, they are saving those people from harm by harassing those who act in non-Christian ways, And certain atheists feel the same exact way, and harass those who are religious because they believe they are harming themselves by refusing to see logic.

Both views are equally wrong and both views hold under the test of only disrespecting beliefs that harm people. It is very easy to see harm where there is none.

I would say you have no right to disrespect anyone’s beliefs until you have considered them to a degree that looks at all aspects of their belief. This could take days of hard thought.

Also, you need to look at the belief itself, not the way people use it. For instance, I have heard the argument against religion many times using the way religion has been historically and currently misused as an example of how religion is illogical and morally wrong. This argument is fallacious to me. One needs to look at the core beliefs as an ideal to judge a belief, and look at the actions of the people with the belief to judge that person, not the belief as a whole.

zenvelo's avatar

This is one of those questions that sounds like we should all be considerate of each other and let everyone believe what ever they believe, even if we don’t agree, and let them say it when ever without objection because of free speech.

But I am not tolerating or respecting a neo-nazi’s white supremacist beliefs. And I will actively oppose them, It is moral and just and ethical to NOT tolerate such views.

wonderingwhy's avatar

In general sure, but not to the point where when we see something as wrong or misguided we fail to challenge it out of that respect. This might be a good time to point out the idea of whether or not to respect others beliefs is a belief itself.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“One has the right to be wrong in a democracy.”
—Claude Pepper

Yes, I think we should respect others’ beliefs. Respecting someone’s beliefs, however, does not mean leaving them unquestioned/unchallenged or allowing them to be practiced without restraint. Respecting someone’s beliefs does not mean treating the beliefs themselves kindly or having any sort of warm feelings towards them, nor does it mean changing one’s own behavior to reflect the beliefs of others. Respect for the beliefs of others is simply an element of having respect for persons. While it does not require us to leave anyone’s beliefs unquestioned or unchallenged, it does require us to do our best to understand a belief before criticizing it and to avoid misrepresenting the beliefs we are criticizing.

And while respect for others’ beliefs does not require us to allow people to practice their beliefs without any restraint whatsoever, it does require us to acknowledge that others have just as much right to live autonomously as we do. Said right is absolute while it affects no one but oneself, but it is open to investigation when it begins to affect—and especially when it begins to harm—others. When such conflicts between competing beliefs do arise, however, respect for others requires us to negotiate them equitably. We should go out of our way not to force others into doing things they believe wrong, but this means not letting others force us to do things we believe are wrong as well insofar as we can.

Finally, though respect for the beliefs of others does not mean acting in accordance with them, it does requires us not to violate what others find sacred merely for the thrill of offending them. This is not a legal point, but rather a moral one. It simply is not virtuous to let malicious intent be so in control of one’s own behavior. Leaving aside the offense it may cause others, it is bad for oneself to be so lacking in self-control. In many cases, then, respect for the beliefs of others will mean simply ignoring them until they are made into an issue in some way or another. Respect, as I am using the term, neither means nor implies deference. It simply means showing an appropriate degree of decorum when engaging those with whom one disagrees.

This is, I think, what most people who speak in favor of respecting everyone’s beliefs mean when they advocate for it. One problem, however, is that the various parties to the debate do not seem to have a common vocabulary. What I am calling “respect,” others might call “toleration” or “courtesy.” These differences in wording are sometimes mistaken for differences in conclusion, and thus the illusion of a substantive debate is generated where none exists.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@zenvelo I agree, there are some things that should not be tolerated.

As for respect, I don’t think it is something that people understand much and often confuse with obligation. I agree more along the lines of courtesy than respect, if beliefs even deserve such.

Qingu's avatar

@athenasgriffin, I think you’ve taken the easy way out by playing up this false equivalence.

I disagree that an atheist who believes the Bible is factually challenged (or morally reprehensible) is “equally wrong” as a Christian who believes non-Christians are going to hell.

To me, this is like saying a Ku Klux Klansman is “equally bad” as someone who thinks the Klan is morally reprehensible. Or like saying someone who believes the moon is made of green cheese is “just as bad” as someone who thinks that belief is idiotic. It’s just intellectual laziness, something people say to sound “above the fray” without having to bother to actually evaluate the beliefs in question.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“The difference between a philosopher, as we in the West understand that word, and a sage who is giving of his wisdom, is in this: that the way to show respect for a sage is to accept his teaching, but the way to respect the philosopher is to argue.”
—Mary Geach

If I may be allowed to make a further point, I would suggest that challenging another’s beliefs often is a way of respecting them. Attempting to engage in reasoned discourse says, “I believe you are an intelligent and reasonable person, and I wish to see the best case that can be made for beliefs I do not hold.” When undertaken properly, a debate cannot be lost. This is because it becomes an exchange of information and arguments for all parties to consider after they have walked away from the event.

Many people find the questioning of their beliefs disrespectful in itself. People have gotten angry at me for fighting with them tooth and nail as if it were a sign of disrespect rather than an attempt to see how far and how well they could defend their argument. This strikes me as a very unfortunate position in which to be. Truth springs from argument among friends, and no one who believes himself to be on the side of the angels should fear an open and honest discourse with another.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

We should respect peoples rights to have different beliefs. However, we have the right to believe their belief is rediculous. We also have the obligation to help people with beliefs that will either hurt them or other people. You can believe that Hispanics are evil and are an inferior race, but I will try to show you that they are not. We should debate beliefs as @SavoirFaire says. It allows us to undestand WHY people believe what they do. Then you can understand and either help them realize that their belief is wrong or you can realize that their belief is right, or even realize that it is just different.

Pandora's avatar

We should respect others period unless they are knowingly disrespecting you and you need to say something to defend yourself. But I’ve never known two disrespectful people having an enlightening conversation, so walking away is usually best.

ragingloli's avatar

You should respect people, not beliefs.
I am not going to respect your belief that an invisible firebreathing pink dragon has buried a tonne heavy diamond in your garden.

Sunny2's avatar

No. Not all beliefs are acceptable. Getting away from the religious argument, there are people who believe that crime is an acceptable way to earn a living. There are people who think it is fine to get away with whatever you can as far as cheating people, creating and selling dangerous products that can harm people (lead in children’s toys, for example). Groups that promote violence in the name of a cause would be on my list of the intolerable. If the question refers only to religious beliefs, I would agree we need to be tolerant. It’s when such beliefs lead to harmful actions that I don’t think we should tolerate them.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

@Sunny2 So are you saying that believing in a revolution to stop a tyrannical government is intolerable?

athenasgriffin's avatar

@Qingu Disrespecting someone’s belief in the Bible is just as wrong as disrespecting someone’s choice to not believe in anything or to believe in a religious text other than the Bible. I was saying that disrespecting someone’s beliefs without fully considering them is equivalent, not questioning them after you have fully considered. Questioning something is a good thing, although some people consider it disrespectful to question faith, I am not one of those people. I was not saying Christianity is equivalent to atheism, I was saying mindless disrespect is equivalent to mindless disrespect.

I also said that you should take a good hard look at the ideals of a belief. The ideals of the KKK are harmful, and become more harmful the more you look at them. And I haven’t studied the Bible in a very long time, but I do know that many Christians don’t strictly follow it. Pointing out the logical inconsistency therein is different from saying that Christians don’t deserve respect because their religion has a logical inconsistency.

But I do see that my post was hard to follow and some word choices were definitely off. I didn’t represent my opinions correctly. Using Christianity v atheism as my example was a mistake, especially here. The point of my post was to say that you need to look deeper into beliefs before you know if there is real harm, but I diluted the point with inconsistent examples. And thank you for helping me realize that. I do like how Fluther helps me perfect my discussion style (which seems to largely consist of mindlessly splurging all of my thoughts onto a page in the order I think them.)

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @Michael_Huntington

I’ll add that if you believe in pre-chewing your kids food or think romance novels count as reading a book, well….you get the Potato head award from me. lol

DominicX's avatar

I don’t respect beliefs and opinions just on the basis of them being beliefs or opinions. But I also probably don’t have the same idea of “respect” as other people do. Some people seem to think respect means never question or criticize, but I don’t see it that way. For example, I don’t believe in certain religions, but I can respect someone’s belief in those religions as long as they don’t do any harm. I’ll probably never bug them about their beliefs even if I disagree. I won’t, however, respect the beliefs of someone who believes being gay is a choice, for example.

And you can respect a person without respecting their beliefs, although it might be difficult. Then again, if someone’s beliefs are so offensive that you don’t want to respect them, why would you want to respect the person in the first place?

Linda_Owl's avatar

People have a right to believe any number of things. However, they do not have the right to try to insist that other people should share their beliefs & they do not have the right to inflict harm on anyone. A great many religions are very severe in their practices where women are concerned (from female infants all the way thru to the women who gave birth to these infants). This is not acceptable to me & I refuse to respect anyone who believes in this manner. Far too many people persuade themselves that they are behaving religiously when what they are actually doing is being either/or/and racists & bigots.

Pandora's avatar

@athenasgriffin Well put. In any faith there are good people who don’t believe every word applies to today and then there are others who manipulate the words to use it to persecute others. Often you will find these people to be hypocrites in their daily lives. They are simply looking for a reason to hate others. In the end it is the man or woman who either deserves respect or doesn’t KKK is a good example of the fact that you don’t have to be any particular faith and it has nothing to do with religion but it is a belief system. They just hate everyone who isn’t them. In that case I can see that respect for that person is not an requirement.

Qingu's avatar

@athenasgriffin, maybe you should define what exactly you mean when you say “disrespecting someone’s belief.”

For example, I think the Bible is absolutely wrong about most of its factual claims. And I think many of the Bible’s morals are abhorrent and have no place in any society. So is this “disrespecting” a Biblical fundamentalist’s beliefs? (Many Biblical fundamentalists would say, yes it is).

You say both atheists and Christians are guilty of “mindless disrespect,” but I don’t really see how what I just said is “mindless.” I do, however, think that “you are wrong because my magic book says so” is a form of mindless disrespect.

Qingu's avatar

@Pandora, except you don’t have to “manipulate the words” of the Bible or the Quran to persecute others.

The books explicitly say to persecute others. See, for example, Deuteronomy 13:6, a commandment that literally says to kill people who try to convert you to other religions, even if they are your own family.

Now, yes, most Christians don’t believe in that stuff. Most Christians have little knowledge of the Bible. They go to church on Christmas and Easter and parrot what they are told about Jesus or Passover without thinking or caring much about it. If confronted about a horrendous or stupid Biblical passage, they will say something about how it’s “just a metaphor.” You know what? I don’t respect these people’s beliefs either. I think their religious beliefs are poorly thought out, display little intellectual honesty or consistency, and the “metaphor” business is just ad-hoc bullshit to avoid saying “I don’t actually believe that part of the Bible is true.”

Coloma's avatar

Bottom line, keep your ego in check and live and let live, unless the living causes harm to others.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@Pandora Yes, that is what I meant. I really dislike it when I see people hating each other without even stopping to think why. If everyone would think a little bit more, I think we’d have a lot less conflict.

@Qingu I am not saying all atheists are guilty of mindless disrespect. But some are. For instance, I’ve seen an atheist point blank tell a religious person all their beliefs are wrong and then talk over the religious person as the religious person tries to defend their belief. I’ve also seen a Christian tell an atheist they were going to hell if they didn’t believe in God, and then walk away before the atheist had a chance to respond. I think both of these are mindless disrespect and are equally wrong. And I would dislike both of these people for their actions, but I wouldn’t hate atheism or Christianity because there are some people who are rude who believe both.

And that is the logical inconsistency I was talking about, Christians who don’t believe in the Bible. But I wouldn’t say that their religion deserves disrespect (as in the sort of mindless mean behavior I cited above) because it seems illogical to me or to you.

Qingu's avatar

@athenasgriffin, the behavior of atheists and Christians you mentioned has nothing, per se, to do with the question of respecting or disrespecting beliefs. It’s much more about the way you go about discourse with another human being.

And I agree, you shouldn’t tell someone they’re wrong and then just walk away or not let them respond. Because that’s being a jerk. I just think “is it okay to act like a jerk in a debate?” is a separate question from “should we automatically respect people’s beliefs?”

to put it another way, what you are talking about is being respectful to a person, not being a respectful to a person’s belief.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@Qingu How can you say that that has nothing to do with disrespecting belief? Those people disrespected the others belief so much they didn’t even believe they had the right to speak. And this sort of disrespect is rampant in any sort of discourse about religion. I’ve seen both a hundred times. It is as if these people think someone’s belief is so wrong they aren’t even human anymore, don’t even deserve the right to defend themselves.

Qingu's avatar

Well in that case I think we are in agreement. I agree with the sentiment behind “hate the sin, not the sinner.” I don’t think beliefs are inherently worth respecting, in fact I think the opposite—beliefs should be challenged and tested, not respected. But this shouldn’t cause people to disrespect the people who hold beliefs by behaving like jerks to them.

wundayatta's avatar

@athenasgriffin Are you saying that making an argument or assertion or whatever, then refusing to listen to any rebuttal is disrespect? To say something and then walk away is disrespect? Respect requires that you listen to the other person? If so, for how long?

CWOTUS's avatar

No, of course not. You don’t need to respect anyone’s “beliefs”. But if you’re going to call yourself civilized then you have to respect the right of a person to hold beliefs that are different from yours. “Tolerance”, as others have stated.

I think “respecting the person holding different beliefs” is more than simple “tolerance”, but that’s just my way of thinking about it. You don’t have to respect that if you don’t want to.

Blackberry's avatar

Some beliefs are so asinine, I have great difficulty respecting them. This does not mean I don’t respect the person holding them.

whiteliondreams's avatar

You’re all giving too much credit to an individual for being an individual. Why would you respect someone without a reason? What’s so admiring about being human besides the fact that all humans are human? That question did not come out the way I wanted it to, but my point is, you are all making respect seem like an obligation or a duty to someone without even knowing, understanding, or caring about a person. Why would anyone admire (respect) a person’s abilities, qualities, or achievements if they were not something you already had in common with them or intrinsically admired as an independent value? sigh

Pandora's avatar

Knocks. Why does it always turn to christian vs. atheists, when the truth of the matter is that people will hate with or without a book or doctrine and will insinuate their own personal views.
And that is my view of it. Call it disrespect but it really is about hating people for their own personal views. There is no such thing as a little hate. Its usually all or nothing.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@wundayatta Yes, I would say that respect dictates that when you start a discussion with someone about something like religion or politics, you don’t just state your opinion and walk away. At least long enough for them to make a statement about their beliefs.

flutherother's avatar

A belief is something that is capable of being believed by human being like ourselves. I think we should respect something so powerful.

Blackberry's avatar

@whiteliondreams You’re correct. Maybe respect is the wrong word. I wouldn’t say I respect Rick Santorum, but I accept that he’s the way he is and I can’t do anything about it. I see him as one of billions of douches.

I think by respect, we possibly mean that we would feign comraderie if with them in person, lol.

Nullo's avatar

I don’t think that it’s even possible to respect others’ beliefs. Not all of them, anyway, and not equally. Those most like our own are easy enough, but cannibalism, or human sacrifice? Not so much. And hey presto, you’re the oppressor! Nice job.
The only way to win this game is to not play, either by not caring about effective discrimination or by not becoming invested in any kind of belief, religion, philosophy, moral code, justice system, etc. etc. etc. in which case we could expect more participation out of a cabbage.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@whiteliondreams Try looking at it from the other direction, though. Acting with respect for others might not be so much about what others deserve as it is about how we become virtuous. There are many possible meanings of the word “respect.” We agree that respect for the beliefs of others in the sense of admiration for those beliefs is not something that we should feel obligated to have. The courtesy sense, however, is another matter entirely. By acting respectfully in that sense, we improve ourselves regardless of whether the other deserves to be treated respectfully (in any sense).

@Nullo It seems to me that there are many ways out of your putative dilemma. One of them is simply what I mentioned in my first response: since respect does not entail non-interference or a lack of criticism, but rather a mode of engagement, one can remain steadfast in one’s beliefs and act against such practices as cannibalism and human sacrifice without being discriminatory in the objectionable sense of the word. It simply requires us to be more nuanced than many are willing to be.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Yes, unless the general consensus says they’re really fucking stupid.

ucme's avatar

This is of course subjective, as has already been stated.
Everyone has a right to believe in what the hell they want, but if some odious, born to lose, sick fuck believes in running around a kiddies playground, wearing nothing but an erection & a pair of spongebob flip-flops, then i’m going to believe in instant castration utilising a big knife!

OpryLeigh's avatar

I believe that, providing they aren’t being obnoxious about their beliefs and causing grief for other people (like those Westboro Baptist freaks), then we should respect the person enough not to belittle them for their beliefs. I don’t think we should have to respect beliefs but we should respect the people that have those beliefs if they aren’t harming anyone.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@SavoirFaire Recognize that ‘Respect’ is not a virtue. Respect is not a behavior expressing deep admiration, it’s a feeling of deep admiration. Cowardice is not a virtue, either. Patience is because it is an expressed (although not obvious) period and state of tolerance.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire. I whole heartedly agree.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@whiteliondreams As I noted in my first answer to this question, the word “respect” can mean many things. “A feeling of admiration” is only one possible meaning, and it is explicitly not the one I am using. Nor, as far as I can tell, is it what most people mean when they speak of respecting others’ beliefs.

I am speaking of acting respectfully, which may be what others mean when they speak of “toleration” or “courtesy.” This, I think, is a virtue. It reveals something favorable about ourselves regardless of what anyone else deserves from us.

whiteliondreams's avatar

I think too many words are losing their original meanings and this is why there is so much debate and miscommunication. People want to change the meanings of words because it suits the bill. How appropriate is that?

jerv's avatar

Well, if we didn’t respect beliefs that harmed society, we wouldn’t have had any Republicans in office for years. So, unless you want a monolithic, monotheistic, xenophobic culture, respect for the beliefs of others is mandatory.

mattbrowne's avatar

In my opinion, people can believe whatever they want, whether it’s horoscopes or karma or prophets or animal spirits, as long as those beliefs do not contain instructions to harm other human beings.

A good example of a belief system that we should not respect (and actually fight against) is orthodox Islam. It’s basically a totalitarian ideology, not unlike fascism. The beliefs inflict harm on women (can be beaten when disobedient), people who have pre-maritial sex (get 100 whip lashes), adulterers (have to be stoned to death), people who insult the Prophet or Islam (fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading depending on severeness), Muslim apostates (have to be killed), Jews and Christians (have to pay tribute tax or they have to be killed), Hindus (have to convert to Islam or be killed), Buddhists (have to convert to Islam or be killed), polytheists (have to convert to Islam or be killed), agnostics (have to convert to Islam or be killed), atheists (have to convert to Islam or be killed).

Christian fundamentalists also express beliefs that harm other people, for example they hurt the feelings of homosexuals by telling them that they are sinners and that they suffer from a disease that can be cured. And there’s a lot of harm in the history of the Catholic Church, but far less today.

Dangerous cults like Scientology is another good example. Lots of harm.

I’m against superstition and horoscopes, but I can respect people who read them and belief in them. Why? Because they are harmless and can even inspire people even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the stars and planets and when people are born. Here’s mine from today:

“You can make a difference in someone else’s life today, and you don’t even have to do anything special—just be yourself. Open your heart to as many people as you can today, and it is guaranteed that you will change the perspective of at least one of them. Skip talking about the weather. Instead, touch on more significant topics. If you can make an emotional connection, you can encourage a positive change in someone you might never even meet again.”

Mr_Paradox's avatar

@mattbrowne Orthodox Islam is a peacful religion. You’re refering to Radical Islam, the Islam of terrorists.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne Listen to @Mr_Paradox! It is misconceptions like your’s that cause so many problems!

mattbrowne's avatar

@Mr_Paradox and @jerv – You are totally wrong and uninformed.

The definition for the term orthodox is this: ‘Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion’. And the term heterodox means: ‘Not in agreement with all accepted beliefs, especially in religious doctrine or dogma’.

An orthodox Muslim is someone who strictly follows the teachings in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Hadith and Sira), and who tries, as a good Muslim is supposed to do according to the doctrines, to follow the prophet Muhammad’s example. A militant Muslim is an orthodox Muslim who is actually willing and capable of inflicting the full range of violence prescribed by the Islamic doctrines. A Jihadist is a militant Muslim engaged in the actual fight. Most heterodox Muslims are in fact peaceful. The others are not.

The piece of information missing from most peoples’ understanding is that the radicalized Muslims are not really radical. They are orthodox. They are simply doing what it says in their scriptures they are supposed to do. They are not hijacking their religion or misinterpreting it.

Heterodox Muslims are not a problem. Even militant Muslims are not our main problem as long as they don’t have access to weapons of mass destruction. Our main problem is the stubborn determination of several hundred million non-militant, devout Muslims, who want to replace human rights and democracy with a barbaric totalitarian seventh-century ideology called orthodox Islam.

I don’t respect their beliefs. Period.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@mattbrowne you are absolutely right, as there are orthodox Catholics and orthodox Jews. They follow it religiously, and that is meant in the most relatively defined and literal depiction of the meaning.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne I take it that you are unaware that certain words no longer mean what the dictionary says they do. Or maybe you are merely using a different sense of the word “Orthodox”, or possibly “traditional”. Of course, that little bit of semantics is also the cause of much sectarian violence. Either way, now that I know what you actually meant, I withdraw my objection to your original post.n

Also, I take it that (in order to avoid hypocrisy) you have the same opinion of many of our Republicans who are seeking to institute their own Church-state here?

whiteliondreams's avatar

I cannot disagree much with Matt, I am against anything that can harm an individual based on their belief system. There was a movie I saw once, but I don’t recall the name, and it had a group of people stuck in a store or something and this woman had a religious view of things and manipulated the majority into throwing the only rational person to the creatures waiting outside. That is how I feel about it. I feel like a minority amongst religious people, no matter how peaceful they are; with the exception of Buddhists and Shaolin monks.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

@mattbrowne Have you read the Qu’ran? Until you do don’t label Muslims as “orthodox” or “radical”. In collage my religion teacher assigned us to read the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran gives women equal rights as men ( the Bible and the Torah don’t), all but forbids violence except in the cause of jihad ( two types: offensive and defensive, offensive can only be ordered by a Sultan, defensive is what we are dealing with), and preaches gental conversion of other faiths, not murduring them.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@Mr_Paradox Please explain “Fight those in the way of God who fight you. . . . Fight those wheresoever you find them, and expel them from the place they had turned you out from. . . . Fight until sedition comes to an end and the law of God [prevails]” (Qur’an 4:74–76)

Also, the conception of the Caliphate (don’t explain what it is, I know what it is); and explain the propagation of Islam into Africa, India, Eurasia, and eastern Europe from 850–1500.

Needless to say, they were no better than Christians.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

That is jihad. “fight those in the way of God that fight you…....” is defensive jihad, defending your religion from those who would destroy it. “fight those wheresoever you find them, and expel them from the place they had turned you from…...” that is seeking justice for wrongs done to you. If I remember correctly that is from a passage where Mohammed speeks to the entire Muslim population, so that means to retake what was stolen from you. “fight until sedition comes to an end and the law of God [prevails]” Is just saying to fight those who fought you until they will fight no more, then enlighten them to the way of God. That “propogation was them spreading thier religion throughout the world. They were often better rulers than their Christian counterparts. For example, look at the Christian part of Spain and the Moorish part of Spain. The Moorish part is far more buetiful and was more prosperous than the Christian part.

whiteliondreams's avatar

How many lives did this take? One life is too many, by the way. Regardless, if it were Christians or Mongols, to propagate the word of Muhammad and spread effectively, terror and death had to be conducted in order to convert and get back what was “lost”. We are a pragmatic species.

“We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” –Omar N. Bradley

jerv's avatar

@whiteliondreams Comparing the Quran and the Bible, well, there is a reason I am an Agnostic. Both list many justifications for heinous acts that I find abhorrent.

Paradox25's avatar

This is a very tough question to answer. Some beliefs just by themselves are automatically offensive to some people, and to the way that they live. A religion that tells someone that their way is the only way obviously would be offensive to other religionists. Also, if someone tells me my ‘belief’ in evolution is a religion itself, than I should have the right to call that person out on that. All I can say is that of you’re willing to dish it out, than you better be ready to take it as well. The line is crossed to me when a belief a person has starts to directly affect others, or if that person starts to attack other’s beliefs.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@whiteliondreams I’m not convinced that “admiration” is the original meaning of “respect.” Regardless, this is why I qualified my first response. There is a phrase that is often used, and I tried to interpret it according to the intent with which I believe it is typically uttered. When people say “we should respect others’ beliefs,” I take it that they mean we should be courteous about them and understand that people have a right to non-interference so long as they are not hurting others. It is natural to talk of respecting people’s rights, and I do not think anyone would interpret that phrase as meaning admiring people’s rights. Thus another sense is in play, and I think that is the same sense that is in play when we speak of respecting people’s beliefs.

This is not to say that your semantic worries are unjustified. One reason that I thought it important to list out what is not entailed by respecting others beliefs is the way in which some people would equivocate on the courtesy sense of the word and the admiration sense of the word in order to extract more than they deserve from those who were willing to agree that we should respect the beliefs of others. When someone uses “respect for beliefs” as a shield in this way, it is both important and appropriate to respond “that is not what respect means in this context.” What seems inappropriate to me, however, is to then act disrespectfully. By acting respectfully, we demonstrate that it is possible to respectfully disagree—a practice that has sadly fallen out of favor in many quarters.

Note that these last few sentences use the words “respectfully” and “disrespectfully” in entirely normal ways. I hope this helps reinforce the point that it is not out of the ordinary to speak in this way. We simply need to be clear about how we mean the words when we use them so as to prevent equivocation. I am not opposed to substituting “courteously” and “discourteously” in the above statements; but again, my purpose was twofold: two explain what I thought the common usage was meant to convey, and to show how that meaning was reasonable.

@mattbrowne Leaving aside the fact that appealing to dictionary definitions in philosophical discussions is fallacious, you are simply mistaken about Muslim orthodoxy. I am not a Muslim, I have no greater feeling for Islam than I do for Christianity or Judaism, and I take the entire Abrahamic tradition to be terribly flawed. Each of these religions has inflicted severe psychological damage upon humanity for ages. Moreover, I suspect whatever good they can be shown to have done in the past could have been accomplished through other means in their absence. It will not do, however, for you to paint a false picture of your religious and intellectual opponents simply out of laziness or bigotry.

The Quran is no more—or less—violent than the Torah or the Bible. Muslims who “adhere to the accepted or traditional and established faith” would remember that they are forbidden from violence against Jews and Christians except in self-defense—those groups being among the “people of the Book,” and thus not to be persecuted (Quran 29:46). Muslims who “adhere to the accepted or traditional and established faith” would know that there is no reference to veiling women in the Quran. Muslims who “adhere to the accepted or traditional and established faith” would know that the section of the Quran addressing how to deal with non-believers and atheists says “to you your religion, and to me mine” (Quran 109:6).

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

@SavoirFaire I am happy to see someone that agrees with me.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Mr_Paradox All credit goes to my wife, who has done extensive research on this and related topics. She has long been my primary source of information on these matters.

mattbrowne's avatar

I said this in the Ramadan thread and it is relevant here too.

Estimates are that about 400 – 600 million Muslims out of the 1.5 billion support the orthodox doctrines and a large number of this group also thinks that the 9/11 attacks were justified. But we should not forget that 900 – 1100 million Muslims are either Muslims in name only or they are heterodox, liberal and moderate. They disagree with the total debasement of women and the other vile laws of orthodox Islam.

In Germany there are many orthodox Muslim men who tell their daughters not to befriend any unclean German girls. Orthodox Muslims despise the West.

There are things that our societies cannot tolerate and expect to survive. Justice must take its rightful place above tolerance. Of course, tolerance is a good thing, but not when we allow it to be used cynically against us by those who have no use for it once they obtain power. We need to rediscover critical thinking. The truth is that Islam with its full set of doctrines is not a religion of peace and it is not like other religions. Orthodox Islam does not reciprocate tolerance. Sometimes the truth isn’t comfortable. Sometimes the truth offends. But it is far better that we offend others than lose our own freedom.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Mr_Paradox – First of all, you should realize that orthodox Islam is not only based on the Qur’an, but also the Sunnah, which is the way of Muhammad. There are thousands of Sahih (authentic) Hadiths that greatly matter too. You also need to understand the principle of abrogation in the Qur’an. A verse that was revealed to Muhammad at a later time can undo an earlier revelation.

It is complete nonsense to think that orthodox Islam gives women equal rights as men.

The Prophet said, “After me I have not left any affliction more harmful to men than women.” Sahih Bukhari 7:62:33.

Muhammad’s dislike for women caused him to declare that the majority of the inhabitants of hell are women. When asked why he said it, this was because they are deficient in intelligence and religion and because they are ungrateful to their husbands. Although Muslim apologists and female Muslims use a lot of creative arguments to explain away the Prophet’s declarations about women, they don’t stand up to scrutiny. The reality today is gender apartheid in numerous Islamic countries.

Wife-beating in the Muslim world comes from the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith. It has been an accepted part of Islam since its inception. The sacred texts advise men to take a green branch and beat their wives, because a green branch is more flexible and inflicts greater pain. Women are warned that they will go to hell, if they are disobedient to their husbands. Muhammad himself declared: “A man will not be asked as to why he beats his wife.” And his favorite wife Aisha is quoted to have said: “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!” Domestic violence has been used as a tool to maintain control and dominance over Muslim women. This has created an intensely patriarchal society where men rule women and women must submit to men. The Qur’an is very clear on this: “And those wives whose refractoriness you fear, exhort them, and avoid them in beds, and beat them (or evict them from the house); but if they obey you, seek not a way against them; verily Allah is ever Lofty and Grand.” [Qur’an 4:34].

mattbrowne's avatar

@SavoirFaire – It’s great that your wife is a scholar of Islam. Maybe you should show her the following excerpt from the book ‘The Crisis of Islam’ by Bernard Lewis. He is one of the top scholars of Islam in the US:

“From the lifetime of its founder Muhammad, and therefore in its sacred scriptures, Islam is associated in the minds and memories of Muslims with the exercise of political and military power. In the Muslim perception, the Jews and later the Christians had gone astray and had followed false doctrines. Both religions were therefore superseded, and replaced by Islam, the final and perfect revelation in God’s sequence. Islam has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught men of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It has inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievements, enriched the whole world. But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that we have to confront part of the Muslim world while it is going through such a period, and when most, though by no means all, of that hatred is directed against us. There are still significant numbers, in some regions perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations.

In the classical Islamic view, to which many Muslims are beginning to return, the world and all mankind are divided into two: the House of Islam, where the Muslim law and faith prevail, and the rest, known as the House of Unbelief or the House of War, which it is the duty of Muslims ultimately to bring to Islam. It should by now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations. Islam as such is not an enemy of the West, and there are growing numbers of Muslims who desire nothing better than a closer and friendlier relationship with the West and the development of democratic institutions in their own countries. But a significant number of Muslims are hostile and dangerous, not because we need an enemy but because they do. In recent years, there have been some changes of perception and, consequently, of tactics among Muslims. Some of them still see in the West in general and its present leader, the United States, in particular, the ancient and irreconcilable enemy of Islam, the one serious obstacle to the restoration of God’s faith and law at home and their ultimate universal triumph. For these there is no alternative to a war to the death, in fulfillment of what they see as the commandments of their faith. There is a second category of Muslims, who, while remaining committed Muslims and while being well aware of the flaws of Western society, nevertheless also see its merits such as its inquiring spirit, which produced modern science and technology, and its concern with freedom, which created modern democratic government and free speech. Those belonging to this category, while retaining their own beliefs and their own culture, seek to join the West in reaching toward a freer and better world. Then there is a third category who, while seeing the West as their ultimate enemy and as the source of all evil, are nevertheless aware of its power, and seek some temporary accommodation and bide their time in order better to prepare for the final struggle. They pose as moderate Muslims and are often able to fool people in the West.

The rules for war against apostates are somewhat different and rather stricter than those for war against unbelievers. The apostate or renegade, in Muslim eyes, is far worse than the unbeliever. The unbeliever has not seen the light, and there is always hope that he may eventually see it. In the meantime, provided he meets the necessary conditions, he may be accorded the tolerance of the Muslim state and allowed to continue in the practice of his own religion, even the enforcement of his own religious laws. The renegade is one who has known the true faith, however briefly, and abandoned it. For this offense there is no human forgiveness, and according to the overwhelming majority of jurists, the renegade must be put to death. Militant leaders have proclaimed a double jihad against both foreign infidels and domestic apostates. Most Muslim rulers whom we in the West are pleased to regard as our friends and allies are regarded as traitors and, much worse than that, as apostates by many if not most of their own people. A good example was Anwar El Sadat, the third President of Egypt, serving from 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers in 1981. A key figure in the development that led to the assassination was Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian who became a leading ideologue of Muslim fundamentalism and an active member of the fundamentalist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Born in a village in Upper Egypt in 1906, he studied in Cairo and for some years worked as a teacher and then as an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Education. In that capacity he was sent on a special study mission to the United States, where he stayed from November 1948 to August 1950. His fundamentalist activism and writing began very soon after his return from America to Egypt. He wrote about his shocked response to the American way of life based on sinfulness and its addiction to what he saw as sexual promiscuity (Qutb outlined the contrast between Eastern spirituality and Western materialism and is considered to have been a major influence to Osama bin Laden). So the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life, and the threat that it offers to Islam. This threat, classically formulated by Sayyid Qutb, became a regular part of the vocabulary and ideology of Islamic fundamentalists, and most notably, in the language of the Iranian Revolution. This is what is meant by the term the Great Satan, applied to the United States by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Satan as depicted in the Qur’an is neither an imperialist nor an exploiter. He is a seducer and the insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men.

Al-Qaeda has held the United States explicitly responsible for the military takeover in Algeria. Here as elsewhere America, as the dominant power in the world of the infidels, was naturally blamed for all that went wrong, and more specifically for the suppression of Islamist movements, the slaughter of their followers, and the establishment of what were seen as anti-Islamist dictatorships with American support. Here too they were blamed by many for not protesting this violation of democratic liberties, by some for actively encouraging and supporting the military regime. Similar problems arise in Egypt, in Pakistan, and in some other Muslim countries where it seems likely that a genuinely free and fair election result would result in an Islamist victory (in Egypt the prediction came true in 2012). In this, the democrats are of course at a disadvantage. Their ideology requires them, even when in power, to give freedom and rights to the Islamist opposition. The Islamists, when in power, are under no such obligation. On the contrary, their principles require them to suppress what they see as impious and subversive activities. For Islamists, democracy, expressing the will of the people, is the road to power, but it is a one-way road, on which there is no return, no rejection of the sovereignty of God, as exercised through his chosen representatives. Their electoral policy has been summarized as ‘one man, one vote, once’. The outward flow of oil and the corresponding inward flow of money brought immense changes to the Saudi kingdom, its internal structure and way of life, and its external role and influence, both in the oil-consuming countries and, more powerfully, in the world of Islam. The most significant change was in the impact of Wahhabism and the role of its protagonists. Wahhabism is the official, state-enforced doctrine of one of the most influential governments in the Islamic world. The country is the custodian of the two holiest places of Islam, the host of the annual pilgrimage, which brings millions of Muslims from every part of the world to share in its rites and rituals. At the same time, the teachers and preachers of Wahhabism have at their disposal immense financial resources, which they use to promote and spread their version of Islam. Even in Western countries in Europe and America, Wahhabi indoctrination centers may be the only form of Islamic education available to new converts and to Muslim parents who wish to give their children some grounding in their own inherited religious and cultural tradition. The indoctrination is provided in private schools, religious seminars, mosque schools, holiday camps and, increasingly, prisons. Because of the reluctance of the state to involve itself in religious matters, the teaching of Islam in schools and elsewhere has in general been totally unsupervised by authority. This situation clearly favors those with the fewest scruples, the strongest convictions and the most money. Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan or some similar group obtains total control of the state of Texas, of its oil and therefore its oil revenues, and having done so, uses this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom, peddling their own peculiar brand of Christianity.

The exploitation of oil brought vast new wealth and with it new and increasingly bitter social tensions. In the old society inequalities of wealth had been limited, and their effects were restrained, on the one hand, by the traditional social bonds and obligations that linked rich and poor, and, on the other hand, by the privacy of Muslim home life. Modernization has all too often widened the gap, destroyed those social bonds, and through the universality of the modern media, made the resulting inequalities painfully visible. All this has created new and receptive audiences for Wahhabi and like-minded groups. It has now become normal to describe these movements as fundamentalist. The term is unfortunate for a number of reasons. It was originally an American Protestant term, used to designate certain Protestant churches that differed in some respects from the mainstream churches. The two main differences were liberal theology and biblical criticism, both seen as objectionable. Liberal theology has been an issue among Muslims in the past and may be again in the future. It is not at the present time. The literal divinity and inerrancy of the Qur’an is a basic dogma of Islam, and although some may doubt it, none challenge it.

Broadly speaking, Muslim fundamentalists are those who feel that the troubles of the Muslim world at the present time are the result not of insufficient modernization but of excessive modernization. From their point of view, the primary struggle is not against the Western enemy as such but against the Westernizing enemies at home, who have imported and imposed infidel ways on Muslim peoples. The task of the Muslims is to depose and remove these infidel rulers, sometimes by defeating or expelling their foreign patrons and protectors, and to abrogate and destroy the laws, institutions, and social customs that they have introduced, so as to return to a purely Islamic way of life, in accordance with the principles of Islam and the rules of the Holy Law.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@mattbrowne My wife has read that book. She has also read the excellent criticisms of it by Edward Said (e.g., in the book Orientalism). Lewis, as it turns out, is an extremely biased scholar and his writings are not to be given the unthinking deference you demonstrate.

jerv's avatar

…unless one likes confirmation of their previous beliefs.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv Are you suggesting that Christians—even liberal Christians like @mattbrowne—approach Islam with ideological blinders on? Blasphemy!

whiteliondreams's avatar

Matt Browne is Christian? Let alone a liberal?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@whiteliondreams While he can speak for himself, the version of Christianity @mattbrowne has professed on various threads seems to qualify as some form of liberal Christianity.

CWOTUS's avatar

All of this recent discussion calls to mind the fact that Islam as a religion is about 700 years “younger” than Christianity. And if anyone cares to recall how the Christian world-view of 700 years ago influenced the world of its time, then they might also realize that Islam is going through its own growing pains (and exporting those pains to the rest of the world). It will most likely come through its own Englightenment at some point. Until then, I suppose, much of the rest of the world will have to be on guard (and on painkillers) for those growing pains. Christianity wasn’t then the peaceful religion that it has become.

jerv's avatar

@CWOTUS Especially not 700 years ago. However, given how recently it was that Christianity went from a belligerent expansionist superpower to a relatively benign organization, I fear that we may still have a few more centuries to go.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv Speaking as an American, when did that happen? ~

I’m really torn about that tilde.

jerv's avatar

@SavoirFaire Admit it, as bad as the Religious Right is, they don’t compare to The Spanish Inquisition. Fewer beheadings and such. Still not great, but relatively benign.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv Yes, you are quite correct. I just couldn’t help myself for a moment there. Though in the case of those who subscribe to Dominion Theology, it may be only a matter of time.

josie's avatar

For those of you who like to debate and disagree with @mattbrowne on this topic, I would suggest you go to the ME and observe first hand the cultural condition he occasionally and eloquently discusses in his posts. My only criticism of his discussions is that it is worse than he describes. The only reason you are not in imminent danger of having your heads cut off, being stoned to death, or being burned alive at this moment is that the current generation of disciples of Sayid Qutb cannot get their hands on you. However, they believe that one way or the other, they eventually will get to you. They think you are too morally confused, corrupt and stupid to stop them, much less know it is in your interest to try. Is it possible they are correct.

jerv's avatar

@josie Been there, done that, sweat my ass off, and my experience was far different. Then again, I suppose a member of the KKK would have a different experience in Kenya than I did as well. Granted, there are places where that happens, but there are also places in the US where the wrong skin color can get you dragged behind a truck until your skull falls off your spine.

As for your second to last sentence, are you describing Muslims, or Republicans? It seems both have their elements that feel we are ”... too morally confused, corrupt and stupid to stop them, much less know it is in your interest to try”.

flutherother's avatar

There is nothing like the imminent danger of having your head cut off or being burned to death for promoting clear rational thought. The disciples of Sayid Qutb can’t get their hands on us but we can get our hands on them so let’s cut their heads off first. Sorry, I am thinking so clearly I can’t even find the tilde sign.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@josie How presumptuous of you to assume none of us have been there. Perhaps we know the situation more intimately than a person who does armchair analysis on the basis of inherited European prejudices? In any case, no one has denied that there are dangerous radical Muslim groups. What has been denied, at least by me, is that straightforward orthodox Islam is any more or less violent than orthodox Christianity. That’s a rather different claim, and one that can be easily defended by comparing the relevant scriptures.

As such, the situation on the ground is quite irrelevant to the argument about orthodoxy—though that is also more complicated than many analyses would let on. Iran, for instance, is a nation run by fanatics but harboring a cosmopolitan majority that would like nothing more than to join the rest of the world. It just doesn’t want help from the US or England in doing so. This is quite understandable given that the last time the Iranians tried instilling a democracy the US and England teamed up to impose the shah upon them instead.

Furthermore, it is ironic of @mattbrowne to come charging in here with all his bluster when he himself posted a question similar to this one in 2009. There he made points very similar to those I have defended above, even using “respect” as a synonym for “toleration” or “courtesy” the way I have here (that, rather than “admiration,” being its natural interpretation in the phrase “respect other’s beliefs”). The difference is only that there he was focused on debates between Christianity and atheism. That @mattbrowne wants to play be different rules now is an instance of the special pleading fallacy.

If I may quote the eminent satirist Matt Stone: “He wants a different standard for religions other than his own; and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begins.”

flo's avatar

Where does video “The Innocence of Islam” fall in this conversation? Is it frivolous insult or something that would help reduce/eliminate injustice?

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