I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between respect for the individual and respect for ideas and beliefs. I have run into situations in the past where I’ve lost friends because they felt that I was attacking them personally when I was really attacking their beliefs. I’ve been called hurtful, hateful, and even a degenerate deviant.
Normally, I don’t care when people say these things about me, but in these cases these were friends, often very close friends, who said these things. Yes, I was attacking their beliefs, but I have my beliefs attacked all the time. I’m told that I’m immoral and that I’m going to hell. These kinds of people attack me personally, instead of attacking my beliefs. And therein lies the difference between them and myself.
I have no personal animosity toward people I disagree with, unless they are being purposely hurtful or hateful. I have several good, dear friends who are devout Christians or spiritually minded, and we often disagree and even rub each other the wrong way, but we still love each other. That’s because we agree to disagree. Often, we both learn something interesting and important about each other and our beliefs. We respect each other and we respect the right we each have to believe (or not believe) in a god or spirits or whatever.
We are all deserving of respect and basic human decency. This is a an unalienable right that every human being has. Ideas, and the beliefs that they engender, are not, and should not, be above question and even ridicule.
If we didn’t question and challenge ideas, the American Revolution would never have been possible. Our founding fathers knew that and enshrined this idea in first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Freedom of speech has the implicit implication that no idea is above reproach. Unfortunately, many people, on both the right and the left, feel that their ideas and beliefs are above reproach: they are wrong.
What needs to be understood is that I can ridicule your beliefs while still respecting you. You, as a person, are deserving of respect; your ideas are not.