Beliefs Are Personal – A Consequence of Attacking Beliefs

In a post post yesterday, I called the Catholic Church a misogynistic, homophobic, anti-semitic, pedophile-protecting institution. While I don’t regret writing those words, I do regret the effect they had on a dear friend of mine who is a Catholic.

She, of course, disagreed with me, which is her right, and even her obligation, if she truly is a believer, which I am sure she is. She said to me that it really hurt her to hear me disparage her beliefs like that. I explained that I didn’t intend to hurt anyone, especially her, and that I do not judge people by their beliefs, but by their actions. After some discussion, we patched things up and our friendship is as strong as ever. Maybe even stronger.

I’ve already written about how an old, good friend was very angered by one of my posts. I think that our friendship is probably at an end, by his choosing, not mine, just because I expressed my beliefs that were contrary to his. That’s two friendships so far that have been either ruined or threatened by my blogging here.

Does that mean I need to stop saying what I believe? Of course not, but perhaps I could express what I believe in a less radical way? I don’t want to start to self-censor so as not to antagonize my friends. This, I think, would be intellectually dishonest. It’s a tough nut to crack and I think that I am just going to have to maybe step away for a bit before I press the “submit” button from now on. I’ve always said that you shouldn’t send e-mails when you are angry and I think that the same should probably apply to blogging.

I was angry when I wrote those words about the Catholic Church, but I did mean them, but perhaps I could have found different way to express them that wouldn’t have been so vitriolic.

In my last post, as part of the Declaration of Religion in Public Life, it states:

“Freedom of conscience, religion and belief are unlimited. Freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.”

Was I disrespecting my friend’s rights when I published those words? I don’t think so, because I certainly respect her right to believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church and I would never judge her based on those beliefs. I do, however, disagree with her on these beliefs, and I think, as rational adults and as friends, we should be able to discuss these differences. We may not change each other’s minds, but we certainly will gain a better understanding of each other.

I think that in a free society, we have to deal with ideas that we don’t agree with, and sometimes when ideas that we disagree with are expressed in a certain way, we feel personally insulted or put upon. But we need to remember not to take these things personally. We need to listen to the other side and give it serious consideration, out of respect for, not the idea it’s self, but for the other person’s right to express it.

In the future, I’ll try to take a breather before I post something that I’ve written in an fit of anger or in righteous indignation. I take great pride in my ability as a writer to write clearly, movingly and persuasively. Giving myself some time to calm down and reread my words can only benefit me and my readers.

Still, I won’t promise that I’ll never use inflammatory language like ,“misogynistic, homophobic, anti-semitic, pedophile-protecting institution” again, because sometimes it is exactly this kind of language that is needed to get the point across.


4 thoughts on “Beliefs Are Personal – A Consequence of Attacking Beliefs

  1. I hear ya on writing out of anger. I guess I’m a bit more laid back, but in the end if an organisation doesn’t support gay people then it’s homophobic. So I guess I should give up my fear of offending people.

    I like to think people can discuss these things in a reasonable manner and listen to one other fairly and unemotively. I’m probably overly optimistic there.

  2. Addendum: “Does that mean I need to stop saying what I believe? … I don’t want to start to self-censor so as not to antagonize my friends. This, I think, would be intellectually dishonest.”

    This is exactly the issue I find myself tackling in my current post, which led me to find yours.


  3. There is no particular right to be not offended.

    Bingo. I would also add that no one has the right to go through life without their world view being challenged. I have no problem with an individual’s right to hold beliefs, but there is nothing which says I must respect the belief’s individuals may hold. Many believers are already offended by the very existence of non-believers, so trying to accommodate such people is a fool’s errand. If such individuals’ tender sensibilities are offended by our expressing our own beliefs, the problem lies with them. I certainly accept no responsibility for any dismay caused by the Flying Spaghetti Monster symbol on my car.If anyone’s belief is so brittle that they are offended by a bus ad as innocuous as “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”, they will get zip from me in terms of sympathy. To keep our atheism locked away and not stand up for ourselves I view not only as cowardly, but as a patently immoral act. The status quo is not working and is only encouraging believers to erode our individual freedoms. Christians the world over have been rewriting history by claiming that our legal systems are based on the Ten Commandments and try to place such religious icons in what must remain secular institutions in order to shore up this nonsense. They enact blasphemy laws that try to rewind the tape of history to a time when religion was exempt from the criticism it so richly deserves and so obviously violates freedom of speech. Muslims try to have their misogynistic laws made valid in secular nations that have long since worked tirelessly to divest themselves of.

    Enough’s enough. I have no problem with people believing what they want to believe. But when they try to tell me that I have to follow rules based on their beliefs that I don’t share, I say “No!”

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