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Paradox25's avatar

Where is the line drawn between disrespecting vs disagreeing with one's religious beliefs?

Asked by Paradox25 (9994 points ) December 14th, 2012

It is very common, even on fluther, to hear Christians say that their beliefs/views are disrespected by nonbelievers. Many secular people claim that many Christians don’t respect their views either. Where is the line drawn between disrespect vs disagreeing.

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50 Answers

JenniferP's avatar

As long as people don’t use names or cut others down, it is okay to debate a little.

DominicX's avatar

For some, there is no line. For some, disagreeing is disrespect. And there’s not much you can do about that.

For me, at least, disrespect is when insults and negativity are used. You can disagree without insulting the other person, without calling them out on their intelligence or insulting their beliefs, etc. But just stating your beliefs that disagree, such as “God doesn’t exist” is not disrespectful. But there are those who view it that way…

Qingu's avatar

The Bible says I (an unbeliever) am a fool, that I should not be trusted, that I deserve to be stoned to death, and that I deserve to suffer forever for eternity.

So I think it’s cute when Christians who believe in the Bible bitch about how mean atheists are. They’re either massive hypocrites or they’re feigning offense so as to avoid dealing with legitimate criticism.

mazingerz88's avatar

The line is drawn between, “I beg your pardon but I am most sincerely in support of the supposition that God may not quite, in reality…exist.” and “F@*#k there really is no God, see?”

Patton's avatar

Disagreement: “your beliefs are stupid.”
Disrespect: “you’re stupid for believing that.”

mazingerz88's avatar

@Patton That kinda feels the same. Lol.

Patton's avatar

They’re importantly different. One is about the beliefs, the other is about the person. Lots of people have stupid beliefs. Really smart people can have stupid beliefs. Freud had trouble believing that aristocrats were ever incestuous despite the fact that aristocrats have been open about their incestuousness for centuries.

I think we disrespect people, not beliefs. It’s hard for me to understand what disrespecting a belief could mean other than disrespecting a person who holds that belief. But if you keep all of your criticisms off the personal level and keep them being about what’s wrong or stupid about the belief itself, then there’s no disrespect.

ragingloli's avatar

For a lot of believers, there is no difference.
Watch them moan about the “war on christmas”.
See them cry “persecution” when they are not allowed to bully and drive gay kids to suicide.
Listen them proclaiming there is an anti christian holocaust (hyperbole by me) when people want to maintain the separation of church and state.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Disrespecting religious peoples beliefs : Saying anything other than what they believe.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t know… saying a belief is stupid, delusional or something along those lines seems pretty disrespectful, to me. While it isn’t technically disrespecting the person, we all know how hearing (reading) things like that about your beliefs can make people feel. Knowing that, and doing it anyway, is disrespectful in my opinion. Knowingly hurting someone’s feelings isn’t cool. There are less hurtful ways to make a point.

rooeytoo's avatar

There is a big difference, I think religions are silly but i don’t think religious people are silly (maybe a bit dillusional but not silly!) I generally don’t go up to people I know who belong to an organized religion and tell them I think their beliefs are silly but if we should get into a discussion about our respective views I will give my opinion. Then it is up to the individual how they want to react. Hopefully they think to each their own and let it be. I would hope the same would be true of atheists.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I really don’t think about it a whole lot. The problem, for me, is that I don’t really see any real reason to respect those beliefs. I don’t respectfully disagree with racism, and in the same sense I don’t respectfully disagree with religion. I think there is great potential (and often more than just potential) for harm, and I don’t respect those views. I’m not going to pretend that I do. I don’t even really understand why I’m supposed to. Why should I tiptoe around it? If someone got into a debate with you and insisted that they believed that a mystical pink unicorn came out of their closet every night and sprinkled them with magic dust that kept them alive, you probably wouldn’t get very far into a discussion before your interest in being respectful all but dissipated. I’m not saying religion is akin to a magical unicorn, but in the perspective of believer vs non-believer, the “well that’s just ridiculous” reaction is probably similar. When that person starts suggesting that the magical pink unicorn wants significant airtime in science classrooms and lobbies against reproductive health accessibility and whatnot, then I’m guessing that patience will wear even thinner.

Now, as mentioned above, that can sound like I am judging people or being disrespectful to people, but my intent is never to hurt people. My intent is to be honest about my opinion, just so happens to be a relatively unpopular opinion. I wouldn’t walk into a political discussion and start calling people idiots, and I wouldn’t do that in a religious discussion, either. But, if I think the actual belief is absurd… I will say so, and at this point in my life I don’t really care if you find that offensive. I find it offensive that there isn’t an uprising to weed out the fundamentalists in religious groups that are causing the most harm, but I don’t see anyone rushing to pamper my feelings.

Shippy's avatar

From what I am reading I do believe it is the other way around.

dxs's avatar

Here on Fluther, there is no line

starsofeight's avatar

Good thing you folk don’t debate with Muslims. You would cause riots in the streets, and the clerics would call for all-out Jihad. (Just to let you know that among yourselves, only words fly.)

SuperMouse's avatar

I start to get offended when people describe me and/or my beliefs as ignorant or delusional. It is just as astounding to me that people can not believe in something greater than themselves as it is to atheists that people can. I tend to be respectful of the beliefs of others and behave in a respectful manner until they start attacking me for what I believe. I have been exposed to many who don’t believe there is any reason to respect what I believe, call my beliefs ignorant, and compare them to racism. When that is the starting point for a discussion, I tend not to bring much respect to the table.

I also get seriously offended when people judge me and my beliefs based on what they believe religion to be.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, when this crazy Christian puts that on her status, I kind of lose respect for her and her beliefs. So I don’t just disagree, I do not respect her.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I have seen similar opinions elsewhere in light of yesterday’s events and I feel compelled to go on record as saying those statements are ludicrous.

SuperMouse's avatar

People like this genius are not helping to fight the stereotype. Facepalm.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SuperMouse Exactly. Or this. You can’t respect someone as an equal if they have zero reasoning skills. Unless they’re your infant, which you’re bound to love, for the most part. And they aren’t ugly like that old prick.

Paradox25's avatar

@DominicX I live in the middle of a conservative Christian stronghold where you’re constantly bombarded with rhetoric and signs which post statements like JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN!!! The Christian culture is so prevaliant in many areas like mine in America that it does seem disagreement is automatically considered disrespect. I can’t even write about evolution in my own newspaper without being called all sorts of names, even when religion wasn’t the topic.

@SuperMouse I know there are many reasonable Christians, but how can you debate the disrespectful Christians without automatically offending the reasonable ones?
I understand your frustration, and I’m sure that many New Age folks and pagans do too. As soon as you bring these types of issues up it is called religion bashing. I don’t think that any religion which doesn’t allow room for change according to what science discovers will last beyond the next century.

@Shippy Maybe on fluther, but not overall in America.

ninjacolin's avatar

Lol @Patton. So good.

@Paradox25, I have a disagreement to with your question actually. So I’ll do it in both disrespectful and respectful forms:

Disrespectful
False dichotomy. Disrespect and Disagreement are not opposites. Good question but clean it up.

Respectful
I believe you can both disagree and disrespect someone at the same time. Also, I believe you can agree while disrespecting someone. For example: I think this is a great question even though I may not think it’s perfectly worded.

Notes:
The way I see it, disrespectful communication is a matter of dictating unsubstantiated conclusions like I did above. Respectful communication, on the other hand, is a matter of sharing the reasons why you have arrived at a certain conclusion without dictating your conclusion as Truth.

A statement like: “God is love” has the same sort of disrespectful connotation to it because it is unsubstantiated. Whereas a statement like: “The bible says God is love, and I believe what the bible says.” comes across much softer.

Similarly, a statement like: “Evolution is a fact” comes across pretty harsh to someone who isn’t already convinced. But something like: “Based on what I’ve learned about Natural Selection and the mechanisms our bodies are equipped with, the theory of evolution seems exceedingly more likely to me than special creation.” really tells people that you’re not just dictating evolution’s likeliness as a fact but rather that your conclusions are merely the progeny of your research.

Respectful disagreement is the refusal to dictate truth but rather share the conclusions you’ve come to as they are supported by the evidence you have come across to date. Respectful Disagreement invites and/or challenges the other person to help you see their point of view; it gives your opponent a road map to help redirect your conclusions if possible. Disrespectful disagreement shuts down a conversation and assumes there is nothing more to discuss.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

To say anything other than belief is offensive to Christians or followers of God is just plain ignorant. People disagree with what the gospel say all the time. If they try to equate it to some delusion or mental incompetence then it is disrespectful. If they are going to try to frame God outside of who He is (which they don’t know because they never bothered to learn His word) I find that ignorant and disrespectful. You can debate why you do not believe or your position without attacking mine or my mentality or using derogatory and degrading references to God. People say they feel they should not have to be respectful in dealing with God or Christians because they don’t believe. If I were the type that means I could be disrespectful of any secular behavior or people because I feel they are outside the Body of Christ? What if I just use a generic derogatory comment or words to describe non-believers or their actions? Would they see it as not implying they are grafted into that generic blanket statement? Many here, even by the responses, feel more that if they don’t believe they should not treat it as important to those who do because it is not real. If there is a line here in Fluther one would need a powerful microscope to find it.

Paradox25's avatar

@ninjacolin I’ve asked quite a few questions to encourage debate about my own beliefs, since we all have beliefs. Unfortunately for some merely disagreeing is disrespect to them. What you’ve written above, while I agree with most of it, is not what is happening. Many people clearly do not want to have their beliefs challenged at all, and it’s just not some religious people alone who are guilty of this, but I wanted to focus on religion with this question. I have seen many quality and respectful debates between religionists and atheists, but they are the exception.

I also think that calling someone’s beliefs ‘stupid’ is disrespectful itself. Criticism works both ways, and I’m sure there are many here on fluther who would not appreciate having their opinions based on their research (I mean beliefs) called stupid either. The entire point of the question was to find a way to encourage respectful debate, without the name calling and insults. I have tried a couple your techniques with many people, and many times when I’ve tried those the issue being debated comes to an abrupt end, and the insults take over.

Paradox25's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Read my post, and I agree. I obviously don’t share your religious beliefs but I have ‘mystical’ views (according to sceptics) that are hardly popular not just on here, but where I live as well, though my closest friends agree with me to a far extent. Many hardcore ‘sceptics’ tend to do many of the things they accuse many religionists of doing. I’m not saying all, but many sceptics have a tendency to get very nasty during debates as well when I was besting them with information obtained from research ;-)

I’ve had quality debates over the years with some religionists and sceptics nevertheless, and some of these people I became friends with. I even debate people within my own circle, like I did on Scepcop, which is a site full of paranormal enthusiasts and a few sceptics, because even we don’t agree with each other on everything. Those debates were always civil, but my experience was much different on forums dominated by conservative Christians. Some of the people on forums populated by hardcore sceptics got nasty as well.

JenniferP's avatar

I don’t like it when I bring up my religion and people start cutting it down. What gives them a right to judge, esp when what they say isn’t fact-based. Usually they are repeating what others have told them. The same stories get passed around and others take them as gospel. the most popular (and extremely inaccurate) one is: “Your religion has its own Bible and it isn’t accurate.” How do they know it isn’t accurate. Have they compared it to the Greek and Hebrew? I have. Usually they repeat what their clergy tell them. Well their clergy is biased.

rooeytoo's avatar

It seems to me as if the only religion one is allowed to defend in Fluther is Islam. Anytime anything less than loving is said, one is bomarded with the “most are moderate, kind, generous people. Most disagree with the idea of jihad and are appalled by 9/11.” Christians however are always fair game, so if you claim you are one, you better be prepared to duck!

ninjacolin's avatar

@Paradox25 I think calling someone’s belief “stupid” is in itself an unsubstantiated claim, which is why it comes across as disrespectful.

@Paradox25 said: “when I’ve tried those [idea] the issue being debated comes to an abrupt end, and the insults take over.”

This is interesting, yes. When I was writing my last reply I thought of this phenomenon but I left it out because it made the post too long. lol.

When someone runs out of ways to articulate their view using substantiated conclusions, they are left with only 3 options, I believe:

A) They can offer either an unsubstantiated conclusion, which will be rude like: “Well, that’s just stupid.” or “You can believe whatever you want.” (which accuses you of not really caring about the topic or having a substantial thought) or else..

B) They can use a substantiated conclusion that doesn’t progress their point of view like: “I see where you’re coming from.” or “I can’t articulate why I still disagree with you.” or “Well that seems to make sense, I can see why you feel that way.” or “Good point!” or else..

C) they can just stop arguing and avoid conceding your point.

SuperMouse's avatar

@rooeytoo I tend to agree with you. I would probably add a couple of other religions to your list and add there are some jellies who believe all Muslims are terrorists.

The problem for me really, really, really gets big when people decide what I believe based solely on the fact that I come right out and say I believe in God. Here are a couple of things I do and don’t believe. I don’t believe the Bible is the truth straight from the hand of God. I believe it was written by men, men with agendas, and is allegory. I do not believe homosexuality is an aberration or any kind of sin. I do not believe God created in the world in seven days 6,000 years ago. I believe science and religion are in perfect agreement and if religion does not agree with science the religion is just superstition. I don’t believe in hell or Satan and I don’t believe the one and only ticket to heaven is accepting Jesus Christ as one’s savior.

Respect for me is taking the time to actually hear what I believe and refrain from judging me and my faith until you have done so. Once you know where I am coming from and I know where you are coming from, we can have a productive dialog.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think I believe the same thing @SuperMouse does.

jonsblond's avatar

It’s been said already. Name calling and words used to hurt another person.

Coloma's avatar

Anyone that does not believe my goose “Marwyn“is the messiah is doomed to burn for eternity. lol Bow to the goose god you heathens!

Qingu's avatar

@JenniferP, you have a double-standard. What gives you the right to judge people who are judging you? What gives you the right to say their criticisms are not fact-based?

If you want to bring up extraordinary claims, like for example that a cosmic Jewish zombie who is his own father somehow died and was resurrected for my sins as defined by an ancient Mesopotamian cult, guess what? You’re probably going to be asked to defend those claims.

Shippy's avatar

Well for the record I don’t like anything ‘shoved down my throat’. Any belief or religion including, for e.g. Catholicism, Buddhism, Atheism and Christianity. No person in their right mind would do that to another person. It would make them run a mile. People should only share regards this if asked. Or if they have a question relevant to it.The rest of it belongs in Kindergarten.

JenniferP's avatar

@Quingu-Who says I am “judging” them. I do however see the actions as wrong of someone who is unfair to me. What gives me the right to say their criticisms are not fact-based? Careful, continuous and impartial investigation-far more than they have investigated.

I think you are confusing me with some other religion (which proves my point about being judged). When did I ever say that Jesus is his own father. That is the Trinity of which I disbelieve.

Qingu's avatar

@JenniferP, what religion are you, exactly? Somehow I doubt it will be the one religion that I happen to think is not false.

In any case, I still don’t understand how you don’t have a double standard. You criticize other people’s beliefs and say they’re false, and that’s okay. But when people do it about your beliefs, it’s “being judgmental.” I have a suggestion: why don’t we just drop the meta-argument about whether or not it’s okay to criticize people’s beliefs. It’s always okay. The more important question is whether or not those beliefs are worth having. And you find the answer to that by critizing, debating, and reflecting.

JenniferP's avatar

@Qingu -It is okay to debate and disagree. But people should not allege untrue things. That is my point. When I talk about things I make sure that I am well informed (I’m certainly not perfect or anything).

What I object to is people believing things without checking out the facts. So what I do is very different than what people do to my religion which is Jehovah’s Witness. Having said that, if someone says something ignorant I don’t give them a hard time or anything. I mildly correct them. I am not hard on people or anything. I was mildly venting when I said the above.

ninjacolin's avatar

From reading the comments, it seems there’s two communication forms at play: Speaking and listening.

On the listening side: Don’t assume what someone believes, rather, ask what someone believes, listen to what they have to say for themselves, and specifically reply to the things they have shared with you.

On the speaking side: Make statements in terms of your personal opinion. For example, taking the time to prefix a statement with an expression like: “I always thought”, “I believe”, “the way I see it is..”, “it seems that..” makes a strong statement come across softer. As a conversation gets on, you can start to assume these friendly supposition verses, but it’s good to bring them back a few times through the conversation. Keeps a friendlier tone, I find.

And again, another thing you can do is: substantiate your claims!

JenniferP's avatar

@ninjacolin Great advice. But I didn’t substantiate my claims, because I was talking in very general terms.

Qingu's avatar

@JenniferP, well, from my perspective, your entire religion is based on untrue things. It centers on the existence of a Mesopotamian sky god Yahweh, who is an imaginary character. It says this Yahweh created the world and living things in a way that flies in the face of science. It mangles history.

And it claims Yahweh gave us a moral code. This is a code that is clearly based on existing Mesopotamian legal texts like the Code of Hammurabi. It’s also a moral code that is condones slavery, rape, and genocide—which, while not really in the realm of “true” or “false,” certainly make the question of whether or not your religion is worth believing seem important to me.

KNOWITALL's avatar

In my opinion, listening without judgement on both sides is required, and not demeaning.

As a Christian, I can listen to atheists and agnostics and people with other faiths all day, but unless they ask for my beliefs or my opinions, I will always try not to disrespect them by ‘pushing’ my faith on them. I don’t even bother disagreeing with them because a person’s true beliefs are their own and usually people feel very strongly about them.

Here on fluther we’ve had several conversations where I could listen to those without my beliefs explain their own beliefs, BUT when asked to explain my own, excepting a few mature and educated people, I get attacked for believing in unicorns and imaginary characters. To me that is not a conversation, and it’s just rude.

Qingu's avatar

Just to be clear: are you saying it’s rude to call Yahweh an imaginary character?

Or are you saying it’s rude to do so without any sort of provocation and in an overly aggressive way?

ninjacolin's avatar

Prolly rude to do so without qualification.. Without showing how you could potentially be wrong..

Let’s see.. Try something like:

“Imaginary characters are ones that no one can demonstrate the existence of. Yahweh is a character that no one can demonstrate the existence of. So, you can see why it seems so clear to me that yahweh is imaginary.”

That way, your premises (substantiations) are clearly visible for anyone to politely dismantle should they perceive a way. Also, you’ll notice I put it back into opinion rather than conjecture form.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Quinqo To you, in your opinion, Yahweh is an imaginary character – that is a factual and not rude statement. That does not make it a fact however. Because a tree falls in the woods where no one can see, it still falls.

To me, Jesus did exist, and does exist, and it’s been proved to me through my life experiences. Pooh Bear and Tigger are fictional characters.

ninjacolin's avatar

Careful there, lady. I saw both of those figures in the fabric-flesh in Disney world. Hard evidence. I have pictures.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ninjacolin Good one! Finally some humor, can’t we all just get along?! :)

Qingu's avatar

@KNOWITALL, I don’t think Jesus is a fictional character. I think Jesus existed, just like Muhammad, Buddha, and other so-called prophets. I don’t think Yahweh, the Hebrew god, exists—for the exact same reason I don’t think Zeus, Marduk, or Tinkerbell exist.

Now, do you believe it’s rude to merely state this in any context? Or is your problem with people (like, to be fair, myself—I can be a jerk about this—who say this in an aggressive or umprompted way?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Qingu I’m a live and let live kind of person, so I think in a discussion where your opinion is called for, of course you should state it, otherwise it’s a one-way dicussion where no one learns anything.

My only issue is that I really don’t consider it a joke or funny subject. I take my religion very seriously, as do most people I know. Sometimes I don’t know whether people on fluther are joking or just enjoy being hurtful to each other. I was taught that my Lord died on a cross, was spit upon and hurt maliciously for the way he thought and what he taught. I cried when I watched Jesus of Nazerath, it really moved me. And I’m not the only one who reveres their Lord.

If you yourself admit you are a jerk about this, why don’t you make a point to regulate yourself?

For instance, I may feel that someone who had been introduced to the concept of God/ Jesus, and turns their back, will be eternally damned as my religion teaches. Would I ever say that to you? Of course not, unless you asked me. Does that make any sense? Do you think this is a subject for Miss Manners?

Would you tell an Indian his cow looked good to eat? It’s that kind of humor that is in poor taste, that’s all.

JenniferP's avatar

@KNOWITALL is correct. We need to show everyone else’s beliefs respect. For the most part, atheists don’t bother me when they say things like “sky daddy” as long as they (or anyone else) doesn’t single out my religion. But they still shouldn’t say that because that does bother some people. You can disagree with people in two ways. Either respectfully or disrespectfully. If you do so respectfully, you accomplish the same purpose and you in fact do so more effectively. If you are in the right, you may win the person over.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Either way mama says you catch more flies with honey instead of vinegar! Lol

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