Sorry, but you are not entitled to your opinion

Aaron D. Scott
Nov 17, 2016 · 48 min read

by Dr. Bruce D. Watson, Published on August 24, 2015, Source:


  • Part one: “I am entitled to my opinion” is a dangerous phrase
  • Part two: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion”
  • Part three: “I’m entitled to my opinion”
  • Part four: Is an argument a simple competition in which winning or domination is the goal?
  • Part five: SHUT UP! “I have a right to my own opinion”
  • Part six: Responsibility
  • Part seven: Dismissing the question, instead of responding to the argument
  • Part eight: Respecting beliefs
  • Part nine: The bible says…
  • Conclusion

You are not entitled to your opinion, but you are only entitled to what you can argue for.

I don’t feel that my inability to defend this opinion compels me to cease having it.

The lack of robust, personally reviewed evidence should certainly be a limiting factor in the strength of one’s opinion.

Addressing the issue of saying “I’m entitled to my opinion” specifically as a way to avoid new information or having to support their claim in a disagreement. It’s a bad practice, and I think it’s good for people to look at the ways in which they avoid questioning themselves.

A so-called opinion that is not thought out or has no concern for evidence is an assumption not an opinion.

No suitable and rational arguments are being made anymore because an OPINION is something that doesn’t need to be changed as everyone is entitled to have one.

“I’m entitled to my opinion” or “I have a right to my opinion” is a common declaration in rhetoric. Whether one has a particular entitlement or right is irrelevant to whether one’s assertion, opinion or belief is true or false.

When asserted for this reason, the statement exemplifies a logical fallacy, (red herring). To assert the existence of the right is a failure to assert any justification for the opinion. Such an assertion however, can also be an assertion of one’s own freedom, or of a refusal to participate in the system of logic at hand.

If you have a point of view, why are you so scared to have it challenged? Do you hate the idea of someone else being right, or even just having a point? Are you scared you might find out that someone you think you hate for their beliefs might actually have a reasonable point of view?

The freedom that comes from talking about an uncomfortable truth is better than the comfort of avoiding that talk altogether.

Part one: “I am entitled to my opinion” is a dangerous phrase

by Jamie Whyte, The Times. News UK. Archived from the original on February 8, 2011

I don’t believe in astrology but many people do. About half the women I meet ask me my star sign. I used to try to explain why they shouldn’t believe in it but I have given up. They can never answer my objections, but nor can I change their minds. They usually just get angry with me. Many even suggest that I am attempting to violate one of their rights: namely, their right to their own opinion.

It isn’t only astrology enthusiasts who insist upon their right to believe whatever they like. Type “I am entitled to my opinion” into a Google search and you will see that it is a standard riposte of the frustrated debater, on topics as diverse as politics, religion, music and football.

The idea that everyone is entitled to his opinion is one of those truisms so often repeated that it now goes without saying. Like many truisms, however, it is false.

It is also usually irrelevant. Let us suppose that Jill disputes Jack’s opinion that free trade causes poverty in the Third World. Jack may defend his opinion by producing evidence connecting trade and poverty but he cannot help his case by insisting that he is entitled to his opinion. How could that show that free trade causes poverty in the Third World?

The entitlement would be relevant only if it guaranteed the truth of your opinions. But it can’t do that, because it is an entitlement supposedly enjoyed by everybody. And people disagree. Jack and Jill are both entitled to their contradictory opinions about trade and poverty, but they can’t both be right. So insisting that you are entitled to your opinion cannot possibly give you any proper advantage in a debate.

Especially since there is no such entitlement in the first place. We do not have a right to our own opinions.

To see this, we need only understand one basic point about rights: namely, that rights entail duties. I don’t mean to endorse the new Labour slogan “No rights without responsibilities”, which is supposed to justify policies whereby the Government imposes good-behavior conditions on the receipt of social welfare. I mean something much more fundamental about rights: they are defined by the duties to which they give rise.

The law gives us all a right to life. Your right to life means that everyone else has a duty not to kill you. This is not something that the Government may or may not decide to associate with your right to life; it is that right. A law that did not impose on others a duty not to kill you would thereby fail to establish your right to life.

Does your right to life mean that others have a duty to feed you, to house you, to provide you with medical care? These are hotly debated questions, but no one doubts that the answers to these questions about others’ duties are what define and delimit the right to life.

So when anyone claims a right, the first question to ask is what duties this right is supposed to impose on others; that will tell you what the right is supposed to be. It also provides a good test for whether there is, or should be, any such right. For it will often be clear that no one really has the implied duties, or that it would be preposterous to claim they should.

I once heard an Australian government minister claim that every child has a right to be loved. But who could possibly have a duty to love every child? Or even a duty to love a single child? Of course, it would be nice if every child were loved. But that is irrelevant. That something would be nice to have — such as long eye-lashes or £10 million — does not mean that anyone has a duty to provide you with it. Nor, therefore, that you have a right to it.

What, then, are the duties that the right to your opinions might entail? What am I obliged to do to respect this right? Let’s start from the boldest possible demands and work down to the more humble.

Does your right to your opinion oblige me to agree with you? No, that would make the duty impossible to perform. For I too have a right to my opinion, which you must respect. If we disagree, I must change my opinion to yours, and you must change yours to mine. But then we disagree again, and must change our opinions again. And so on forever, never managing to do our impossible duty.

Part two: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion”


“Everyone is entitled to their opinion”. It is a phrase all of us have used or heard, most likely within the past few days. It is a phrase built to end arguments, prevent yelling, and provide a middle ground for those who simply can not agree. There are many cases that the phrase can be used for its intended purpose and remain harmless. One such case an argument is based SOLELY on opinion, such as preference to chocolate or vanilla, hot or cold, red or blue.

Another case is when an argument has continued through all other types of context and discourse that it has simply boiled down to a difference of opinion, often dealing with some sort of sensory information(feel taste smell etc.). Unfortunately, the use of “everyone is entitled to their opinion” has shifted over time, and is more often than not used in a visceral and spiteful manner. That is when the phrase becomes dangerous. The thought process behind the spiteful and lazy use of that phrase is what allowed cultures (speaking mostly of the US because that is where I am from) to slide away from a collective and productive entity, and into a state of cyclical banter.

My evidence of the danger of the phrase and the effect it has had on the culture is as follows:

  1. People use the phrase to lazily get out of arguments that are difficult, or are in a field that they are not familiar with. They use the phrase to cover up their ignorance, in order to protect their misconstrued beliefs. They will argue in circles for hours about something they don’t know, and justify the entire waste of brainpower as an “opinion difference” in order to move on with their lives without fracturing their beliefs.
  2. The idea of being an “expert” on a topic is no longer valid. It is no longer valid because bits and pieces of info are so readily available, individuals will allow themselves to feel they have enough information to form a strong belief without being an expert on the topic. The invaluable amount of time true experts spend in their fields(10,000 hours according to the fantastic book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell) is nullified by the amount of perceived expertise that is part of our current cultural climate.
  3. Factual arguments that can be argued down to a relative “truth” within the context of the argument are no longer explored. Opinions are seen as facts that are carelessly spewed from various news(propaganda) organizations. The “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” mindset is the engine that drives the divide in cultural beliefs. No suitable and rational arguments are being made anymore because an OPINION is something that doesn’t need to be changed as everyone is entitled to have one.
  4. Essentially what I am saying is that the idea behind the phrase, and the misuse of the phrase is an underlying cause of many of the political, cultural, and social issues that continue to exist year after year(with many of them getting worse). The idea that everyone has an entitlement when it comes to opinions that affect beliefs is preposterous and dangerous.

Part three: “I’m entitled to my opinion”

by Peter Ross,

…are the five words usually uttered by people in an argument when they have hit the wall defending their point. It is the last ditch effort to justify their point of view by defending their right to hold an opinion, no matter how stupid, ignorant or ill-founded it may be. Why am I talking about this today on a blog about success? Because there aren’t enough people in the world that can examine their beliefs and have intelligent conversations which provide an opportunity to expand their mind — something that is kind of important when it comes to success.

We have a problem with debate in the Western world that is part of a larger trend of anti intellectualism. People like to feel smart, especially nowadays with the internet providing so much information at our fingertips. We feel as though we must keep pace and be knowledgeable in everything. So when the time comes when we come into conflict with someone who shows us that we are less smart or knowledgeable than we think we are, we try to tear them down or we dig our heels in and refuse to budge. It is the same thing that makes people glibly brush off when an expert talks about their subject of expertise. I recall a couple of years ago a professor of pediatrics who made a point regarding some aspect of raising a child. Immediately millions of women attacked the professor, many saying he didn’t know what he was talking about because their experience with a single child was more valid than his decades of research and expertise on the subject.

And there’s the rub. Very few people nowadays can argue and debate with another person and come to any kind of compromise. We have to be completely right, never budging an inch, which means the other person is completely wrong and thus, stupid. It doesn’t matter if it’s vegans and meat eaters, Democrats and Republicans, NRA and gun control advocates or Sunnis and Shiites. My side is completely right and yours is completely wrong, and I’m not willing to concede an inch. You know what that does? It shuts down any reasonable prospect of meeting each other in the middle and discovering that both sides perhaps (and I say perhaps because it isn’t always true, eg evolution vs creationism or vaccines vs anti vaxxers) have a reasonable and valid argument. This has become so extreme that people will distort facts or omit any facts that don’t support their side just to earn hypothetical points in a debate, rather than having a genuine conversation.

What people don’t realize is the point of arguing and debate isn’t to “win”, it’s to hear another point of view and perhaps learn something. With the current strain of people who would rather cling to their own beliefs, regardless of how ridiculous they might be, that isn’t possible. This is why we can’t have reasonable political debates and discussions. Before each election they have a presidential (or prime ministerial) debate which is monitored by a worm or some other measurement tool that eventually tells us who “won” the debate. It turns from an exchange of ideas and the pondering of which are more valid in the running of a country to an attempt to discredit the other person and make them look less intelligent so you win the night. This is not a debate, it’s a school yard fight with all the maturity of yelling “I know you are, but what am I?”

It’s time people stop being so scared of not looking intelligent and knowledgeable and actually become intelligent and knowledgeable. We do this by reading, finding alternative points of view and most of all, debating and arguing, which test the validity of our own views. It’s very easy to convince ourselves we are right when we never have to hold our deeply held beliefs up to the light of day and other people’s scrutiny. I heard someone recently say something wonderful in this regard — “we should have strong beliefs, loosely held”. There is nothing wrong with having a strong opinion, so long as we are willing to reconsider that opinion in light of evidence that proves it to be incorrect or perhaps incomplete. Most people will cling to that opinion though, because people love nothing more than to think they are in the right.

I implore everyone that reads this blog, in the interest of becoming a deeper thinker and more useful human being to challenge your own beliefs on a regular basis. If you’re part of a group with certain beliefs, step out of your echo chamber and seek an alternative opinion. Here’s the thing though — do it with an open mind. Be ready to change. Be ready to admit that you aren’t completely right and people from another group may have a point and a valid perspective on things. There is nothing wrong with finding out that one of your beliefs doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and to drop it as a result — that’s the hallmark of an intelligent, enlightened person.

Don’t be so afraid of conflict either — the engineers at NASA used to get into furious arguments with each other, but the end of an argument was the end, no one held hard feelings. Some of my best friends now were people I vehemently disagreed with in the past, in some cases all the time. I respect the fact that they were willing to make an argument, that they could see my point of view and admit they were wrong or needed to think the subject over more. Don’t worry, this went both ways. To be wrong is a good thing, because it means you’ve learned something. To me there is nothing worse than someone who says things like “I don’t want to argue with you” or “fine, you’re right, whatever.” You know why? Because it’s weak. If you have a point of view, why are you so scared to have it challenged? Do you hate the idea of someone else being right, or even just having a point? Are you scared you might find out that someone you think you hate for their beliefs might actually have a reasonable point of view?

Finally, lay off the personal attacks (which in the language of debate is known as an ad hominem attack). If you can’t defend your point of view, admit it and learn something valuable. Attacking the person making a point is a really shitty, extremely anti intellectual thing to do and in my mind a low act. It’s unscientific, it’s unintelligent and shows you to be a child, because that’s how they settle arguments.

Part four: Is an argument a simple competition in which winning or domination is the goal? (ad hominem)

by Ted Wrigley, Source:

First, let’s understand why people make ad hominem type arguments. There are three basic reasons* (based loosely on Habermas’ communications styles, if you’re interested):

  1. The belief that an argument is a simple competition in which winning or dominationis the goal. Personal understanding is unimportant, and mutual understanding is completely irrelevant; ad hominems are used to dominate the discussion through emotional reasoning.
  2. The belief that there is no argument to make, because the absolutely correct position is already known. An ad hominem in this mode at best stiff-arms the discussion, pushing off any attempt to question the unquestionable by knocking over the people trying to do the questioning. At worst it de-evolves to mere trolling: refusing to engage the discussion in any meaningful way, but using the opportunity to annoy, aggravate and harass the other people involved.
  3. The belief that arguing is entirely about social positioning; that the only meaningful outcome concerns which person looks best in the eyes of third parties. Ad hominem arguments in this mode are always blatant or subtle efforts to sabotage, undercut or demean the other people involved so that the speaker looks good, right, moral, trustworthy or in other ways better.

This is all opposed to what I (and Habermas) believe is the proper purpose of an argument: a communication process whose goal is the growth of both personal and mutual understanding. But set that aside, because that mode doesn’t allow for ad hominem arguments.

That was a personal attack, so you automatically lose the argument. Sorry. If you’d like to re-offer your last comment without the personal comments then you may still convince me, but otherwise… Thanks for the discussion, and I’ll take my win and go home.

Ok, so if you don’t think that personal attacks mean an automatic loss, what rule do you suggest instead? Why would that rule be better? If you can supply a better rule, we’ll use that, otherwise we’ll stick with what we have.

Part five: “I have a right to my own opinion”


When you put a view or opinion out there you make it everybody else’s business and have no right to tell them that they must not challenge it. Not everybody who says they have a right to their opinion means you must not hand them a challenge. But many do. This study is about them. The secret is to prepare them by having them agree beforehand that opinions are only attempts to work out the truth. Also, encourage people to ask questions instead of voicing their opinions. Instead of, “I think President X is right to liberalize abortion” say, “Do you think President X is right to liberalize abortion?” Opinions can enslave but questions cannot.

Main Points

  • People say they have a right to their opinion when you say or are about to say something that may challenge that opinion. That is a ploy to shut you up and to shut what is possibly the truth up.
  • Opinions and beliefs should be deployed only in a search for the unvarnished truth. Truth does not belong to you. The truth is not yours. It is truth whether you like it or not. It is up to you to embrace truth and it is not up to truth to embrace you.
  • An opinion is a little better than a guess. Your opinion is a necessary evil — it is something you have to endure until more light comes along. Opinions are not ends in themselves but only symptoms of a journey towards truth.
  • Opinions need to be implemented by sincere reason or thinking. To say that X was cured of the flu because x sprayed musk on every day is to voice an opinion that is devoid of logic. The person just wants to believe this for she knows that you cannot say that growing a geranium caused World War 2. So the opinion is really meaningless rubbish not an opinion. In fact the stronger the opinion is held the worse it gets in terms of irrationality. Any respect given to it will be fake. You cannot respect such incoherence no matter how hard you try. An irrational idea gets more irrational not less when you try to support it with evidence because evidence is being abused not used. If God gave you your thinking cap he will not be honored by anything irrational not even if it is religious.
  • Opinions and beliefs affect your actions because of how you see others and how you see things. If you think your opinions should not be challenged then you are acting like a spoiled brat. You only damage yourself and corrupt and insult others with that kind of attitude. You also show that the opinion you hold to be so sacred is not an honest opinion — you suspect it is rubbish and you don’t want its silliness unraveled.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” is used to stop the opinion being examined or tested meaning you do not want to HEAR what the other person has to say against it. But what gives you the right to say you must not hear it for you expect others to hear your opinions and your challenges? That is how you got your opinions for heaven’s sake! Nobody thinks that that though you have a right to your opinion that others have a right not to hear it. If we thought that we would always keep our opinions to ourselves.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” when used to stop somebody trying give you the chance to change your mind implies that you think all opinions are equally valuable and useful so it does not matter what opinions anybody has. Its a nod to the dire threat of relativism — relativism teaches that truth is whatever you want it to be. Relativists are never consistent — nobody values the opinion that child abuse is a sacrament of God. Nobody who treats one opinion as good as another even if they are diametrically opposed really believes that one opinion is as good as another. If you are not into challenging the opinion you certainly do have to challenge the relativist attitude. The attitude is a bigoted hypocritical poison that seeps into everything everywhere. Relativists are saying to you, “Okay this is my view and I will not change it. Do not challenge what I want to believe. I believe what I want.” This only leads to people being afraid to speak their minds or thinking there is no point. It would be a dangerous thing if most people thought that others believe things not because they seem credible but because they want to believe them.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” masquerades as humility when it comes from a person who regards all opinions as good or true as each other. This sounds cozy and tolerant until you realize that it is saying that everybody is right no matter how much they contradict one another! If you are right and are arrogant about it that is not good but what is worse is being sure you are right when you are simply wrong or your view is not as convincing as you imagine.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” when used to stop somebody trying give you the chance to change your mind is just totally insane when the opinion is self-refuting. It challenges itself. It asserts and denies itself.
  • If you have a right to your opinion, you do not have a right to your facts. Imagine what would happen if people had the right to their facts. They would be able to murder and still claim that merely because they want to be thought innocent they are innocent. Facts matter and opinions only matter as a means of trying to be open to the truth. It is really the facts that matter. You cannot turn something into a fact merely by having the opinion that it is true. To say you have a right to your opinion overlooks the fact that it is not about your rights but the rights of the truth. If you have a right to your opinion it is because you have a right to truth. In that light, it is never right to refuse to have your opinion challenged or examined or corrected. You do not have the right to try and silence the challenger.
  • An opinion is very close to a guess or an assumption. By definition, it is not enough to base trust on. You don’t trust a stranger with your wallet even if your opinion is that he will not steal from it.
  • I have a right to my opinion is used selectively. It is usually used to silence people whose religious or moral views you do not want to hear. And political ones too — and we all suffer from the consequences of that! You never hear of an accounts assistant who insists that her unprofessional and ridiculous financial statement is correct and using, “I have a right to my opinion so I will not correct it for it is right” as giving her the right to refuse to have it fixed. “I have a right to my opinion” is used to enable moral religious lies and errors. Even if the opinion is right the intention is to create unnecessary risk of error and lies happening and growing in power. Using “I have a right to my opinion” to silence people is active support and it calls on the person you are talking to to stop challenging your opinion and thus passively support you in your lack of respect for truth.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” as a silencing tactic is too open to abuse. A person can pretend something is their sacred opinion in order to further an agenda. If you want to be judged sincere in your opinion, then don’t say “I have a right to my opinion” to silence people.
  • Avoid opinions to the best of your ability. Have beliefs instead and ground them as best you can in evidence and avoid contradictions. It is not right to have opinions in important matters unless the evidence is not clear. An opinion is a necessary evil. It is something you put up with until you get more light.
  • An opinion that is stated is asking for dispute. It is open to dispute and therefore requires it. Expressing an opinion is automatically asking for it to be challenged if needed. That is why it is never acceptable or polite to say, “I have a right to my opinion” in order to refuse to listen to a challenge — it is declaring yourself dishonest. You are saying you want the other person to hear your opinion but you don’t want to hear their opinion that you are wrong. To say you have a right to your opinion is saying that nobody has the right to ask you to think more. That is arrogant and unfair.
  • You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to what you can make a good case for. To say you are entitled to your opinion means the person who believes that murdering grannies for drugs is entitled to believe that. What you should say is that you are entitled to your opinion only until you get more light and evidence. If you are really entitled to your opinion then why are you risking somebody else changing their opinion to yours when you discuss it? Surely opinions should not be discussed at all if they are that sacred.
  • If somebody states a fact that others do not like, they will try to undermine her or him by claiming it is her or his opinion. It is unfair to accuse a person who states a fact of stating an opinion. It is unfair to them and to the truth. You may say that you have a right to the opinion that they are not stating facts but opinions! That would be a harmful opinions. It is cruel and sneaky and irresponsible to accuse anybody who claims to have a solid case for believing something of merely having an opinion or opinions that try to silence others. It is no better than gas-lighting which tries to get between a person and their attempts to attune to reality.
  • The right to my own opinion brigade often accuse people who know facts of merely having opinions and not facts. They are making a judgemental and arrogant accusation. It is very insulting to tell a person who knows something that they do not. It denies that serious belief in anything exists or that anybody knows anything. Instead of serious believers you have people who say they are serious believers but who are seriously attached to something. It is like they are addicted to what they pretend they know or strongly believe.
  • Opinions like beliefs have consequences for ourselves and others. Your opinions will impact on your behavior and values. Evil and unfair opinions lead to evil.
  • You are entitled to what you have earned. You do not earn opinions or beliefs. They just happen. You are not entitled to your opinion but you are entitled not to be harassed for holding the opinion. It is foolish to say nobody has the right to stop you from thinking. Nobody can do that so rights do not come into it.
  • Ask a person why they think they are entitled to their opinion when they try to silence you by saying “I have a right to my opinion”. They are trying to silence you so you have a right to know why you should forfeit your right of freedom of expression.
  • If they think they are entitled to it because it is no doubt right, then they are guilty of arrogance. An opinion might be right but it is not right to treat your opinions as fact and it is deceitful to promote them to others as facts. They might be facts but the point is you don’t know that.
  • When you say something is your opinion you are asking for it to be debated for you do not need to have an opinion. You can just suspend taking an opinion. Having an opinion when you have the option of not having one is raising the question of “Why?”
  • If a person feels so strongly about their opinion that they ask you not to debate it any more then it is more than just an opinion. Just tell them that. And if you feel too strongly about your opinions and they are really opinions then you must have emotional problems.
  • I have a right to my opinion translates as, “My view is my business not yours. Butt out. I don’t care if I am wrong.” In fact, you state your opinion and when you put it out there that does make it other people’s business and especially if they value truth. Grow up.
  • “I have a right to my opinion” when coupled with deliberate ignorance is really claiming that because you have free will you have the right to believe anything. But free will will give you the freedom and not necessarily the right. It is evidence that directly determines belief not free will. Free will is irrelevant as regards the right. There is no right, there is only the freedom at best.
  • You cannot silence anybody with “I have a right to my opinion” when your opinion like everybody else’s was formed through people and channels challenging you to think. Opinions do not appear out of thin air. Thinking about anything means being open to seeing it being challenged. You are not tolerant if you impose silence on people with “I have a right to my opinion” — you claim you have the right to the opinion that you should. But if that is true, why should you be allowed to express your opinion and not the other person?
  • “I have a right to my opinion” sounds like a nod to tolerance but in fact it is not. When groups with opposing points of view say, “I have a right to my opinion and that is that” the rancour only gets worse. Each side will accuse the other of refusing to try to understand it properly. And at least one of the groups is accused justly. Real tolerance highlights truth not what people want to think. Using “I have a right to my opinion” is an attempt to force silence on the views of others and force like that only feeds intolerance and anger.
  • Religion does not encourage the practice of using “I have a right to my opinion” to dodge a challenge or dodge getting corrected. But it does encourage it when it comes to “sacred” truths. The theologian will use it to silence the person who offers proof that Jesus was just another deluded prophet or that it is cruel to excuse the inexcusable in saying that God is right to let all the terrible things that happen happen. Countless examples could be given. They just don’t want to see anything that shows they are wrong. What they want to think matters even if it means they lead others astray.
  • People who use tactics to silence you such as, “I have a right to my opinion”, are taking advantage of the fact that forbidding certain opinions from being articulated never changed anyone’s opinions. They don’t want to let you voice your contrary opinion for they want to create the false impression that theirs is “better” or “wiser” than it actually is. Even if it is better and wiser, that is not what they care about. Don’t enable their arrogance. Enabling it is feeding it.
  • Those who are afraid to challenge an opinion because the person claims a right to it could challenge the person for trying to assert like that and make out that his opinion is something sacrosanct and above your opinion that it should be challenged. That way you are challenging not the opinion itself but the person’s arrogance towards you. It is a good way of paving the way for challenging the opinion.
  • If you call something your opinion in spite of it being obvious to you that it must be wrong you are contradicting the facts and the evidence. It makes to sense to call something an opinion which means it must be based on some sort of evidence however weak and then to oppose the best evidence because it refutes it. It makes no sense to have a contradictory opinion: “I believe Jesus loves sinners but does not forgive their sins.” If you contradict yourself you are asking others to say to you, “You say X and then Y so which is it and why?” To silence them with, “I have a right to my opinion” is just childish and unfair.
  • Nobody can make you or force you to change your opinion. That only proves they cannot do anything about it not that you have a right to your opinion. The freedom to have an opinion does not add up to a right to have it. The right to have it depends on whether you are open to truth or not. You only have a right to an opinion if the opinion is in fact correct or if you are trying to be correct and are willing to scrap the opinion should it be proven wrong.

Opinions are conclusions thought out at least a tiny bit but open to dispute. They need not be necessarily thought out carefully or well. The fact that an opinion is open to dispute means you ask for it to be examined by others to see if it is as reasonable or correct as you think. That is the case whether you like it to be examined or not. So if you say something is your opinion you are inviting debate.

It is said by some, “Beliefs are only opinions that you have evidence for.” This is incorrect. A belief is more evidence based than an opinion though at times there may be a thin line between the two. To say that we believe nothing and have only opinions is too skeptical. A man marries his wife because he believes in her and not just because he has the opinion that it is wise to marry her.

People say that you have a right to your opinion. This means it is only fair that you should be allowed to have your opinion. But who allows you? Do we say that you must be allowed to have your opinion just because nobody can stop you? That is not allowing. We should indeed see opinions not as something to be allowed or whatever but just things that happen. Allowing or otherwise does not come into it.

People say they have a right to their beliefs and opinions. That is actually a half truth. The correct thing is to say you have a right to your beliefs and opinions as long as you see them as helps on the journey to truth. If you say you have a right to your beliefs and opinions without any concern for truth then you are not being fair. Fairness is based on what is true. The person who sees the truth and calls it a lie is being unfair.

A so-called opinion that is not thought out or has no concern for evidence is an assumption not an opinion.

There are different strengths of opinion. The more reasons and evidences one has that an opinion is reasonable and possibly true the stronger the opinion is. Some opinions are just barely opinions at all. Sometimes if somebody has an opinion, you may doubt that you can change their minds but what you can do is help them to turn it from a strong opinion to a struggling one. You will do this easily and without upsetting the person if you try and find the common ground with them.

A weak opinion cries out for disputation more than a strong one does. An opinion that will cause grave disaster if wrong needs more challenging than one that will not do too much damage.

If you say something is your opinion, you are saying it to influence others. The alternative is that you are intending to talk to yourself! When you express an opinion it is a way of asking people to think about sharing that opinion. You are asking people to believe you. Thus you owe them reasons and evidences. You are not asking them to assume its your opinion. Assuming is no good. You want The person who bases their perception of you on assumptions will never really know you. Their relating to you is false and artificial. You want beliefs to be held about you.

A form of fake tolerance manifests when you are asking for your opinion to be accepted as something that should be protected from encouragement to revise it. “I have a right to my opinion” is how it is phrased. It will be used against somebody who helps you see that your opinion may be wrong. Its euphemistic for, “I don’t respect you for I want you deny you the right to encourage me to re-think. My opinion is more important than you.” Saying you have the right is fine when nobody knows or can know the best thing to do. But to use it to silence somebody is an abuse. If something really is your opinion you will welcome any challenges to it. An opinion is about what you think is true but because you are not sure of it being true you will be willing to give it up when you get further light. If you won’t hear it being challenged or debated you are really degrading yourself for the sake of what you call your opinion.

The person who knows how to deal with an opinion will use questions in order to help the other person rethink it. Using “I have a right to my opinion” to stop the questions is really just saying, “I am a bigot where you are your questions are concerned. My opinion comes first even before truth. I am addicted to my opinion.”

Part six: Responsibility

We have the right to free speech. That is not the same thing as the right to your own opinion. You can have the freedom to say something is your opinion when it is not your opinion at all. The right to voice your opinion implies that you have to take responsibility for what you say and you must not distort or lie. Take responsibility for the consequences.

The right to my own opinion thing that people say is really an excuse for refusing to listen to the truth or be challenged about their opinions which amounts to the same thing. Its a cynical discussion stopper. Its a refusal to take responsibility. A responsible person does not misuse their freedom of speech to say that something is to be left unchallenged just because it is their opinion. The people are accusing you of not respecting their right to accept garbage as true. It needs to be seen as rude and that message needs to be put out there. Tell them gently but firmly and politely what they are trying to do. And they know fine well there is no such thing as a right to accept garbage as true when you are being given the chance to see it for the crap it is.

They are saying, “I am allowed to believe garbage so let me, but I will impose my belief that you have no right to have the opinion that you should proceed in trying to correct me on you.”

You will try to reason with somebody about some issue such as right and wrong behavior or religion. It is very irritating when the other person says, “I have a right to my opinion.” This is used to silence you. It really translates as, “My opinion deserves automatic respect. Your opinion that you should try to correct it does not.” The audacity!

It also translates as, “Let people have whatever opinions or beliefs they want.” Nobody who says that means it. What if the vast majority of people took the opinion that religion is a form of schizophrenia and religionists should be incarcerated? What if the vast majority of people took the opinion that science was fraud including medical science? And religion itself is often missionary and has an ethos of sharing the faith in the hope that people will enjoy the benefits of adopting the beliefs and opinions of the religion? To say people should be let believe what they want denies that religion should teach religion. And it is intolerant towards the fact that belief should be about what you think is true and not about what you want. A religion that is concerned about what it wants to believe and not the truth will turn into a cult that abuses its members and be afraid of critics. Consider how the Jehovah’s Witnesses are like that and leave death and broken families and a deliberately mistranslated Bible in their wake.

If opinions deserve respect, then the more they have been thought through and the more evidence they are based on, then the more respect they are entitled to. The opinion or view of a person who honors, seeks and carefully evaluates evidence is the one deserving of the most respect. Take miracles. The miracle beliefs of most Christians do not deserve much respect if any for they make no effort to reasonably substantiate the beliefs. They make serious allegations about miracles happening. You need excellent evidence if you are going to say a miracle is a true miracle. It is a matter of being respectful to the persons you invite to agree with you and a matter of respecting evidence and truth and its a matter of integrity. Even if the miracles reported by the Church are true, that does not mean the belief of most Catholics deserves the same respect as that of the expert believers. They are superstitious in their attitude.

You may partly respect a wrong or dangerous opinion. Nothing is all bad. As an opinion is just an opinion, people must be encouraged to voice their opinion even if it is unpopular. A really nasty opinion is nasty but if the holder of the opinion is basing this on evidence, the concern for evidence has to be respected. If you disagree, you must seek the common ground of respect for evidence and use this to help the person reconsider the opinion and open up to new evidence.

Seeking automatic respect for yourself is a sign of arrogance. And seeking it for your views is no better and is really seeking it for yourself. “Oh I’m A1 because of what I think!” It would be good to explain that to a person in order to forestall them dismissing what you say with, “I have a right to my opinion.” Dismissing what you say is pure rudeness. If you present what you believe or know to a person, who will not deal with it, that is disrespect. You were good enough to give them something to deal with and they were not good enough to face it. Another good idea is when somebody gives their opinion ask them to explain why they hold it is true. Then if they give a silly or useless reason then ask them to explain why it is a reason. They will then see through it themselves. You always need to be clear on how you know something before you start talking about what you know.

Part seven: Dismissing the question, instead of responding to the argument

Dismissing is a form of rudeness where you ignore the truth that a person has spoken

An example of dismissing is the following.

A — I challenge belief in Catholicism for people are better off without that religion. B — but many Catholics are good people, leave them alone. Good people claiming to be in a religion or to believe in it has nothing to do with the question of whether the religion is good or not. And B is not dealing with the core of the issue — your right to challenge a view you find unhealthy.

Another example. A — the Church should do gay marriage because the Church in marrying provides a service for the state and the celebrant of marriage — religious or otherwise — represents the state when he or she officiates at a marriage. B — the Church is a big thing in society so the Church should be exempted from performing marriages it does not approve of. That is not dealing with A at all. Its off-topic which is the rightness/wrongness of the separation between Church and state. And as far as B goes, you don’t argue that the Church is big in your country therefore the state should collect taxes for it or that other religions should not be allowed their own schools!

The right to my own opinion thing is offering an excuse for unbelief in the truth. What excuse can be as lame as, “Well, they have the right to their own opinion”? Indeed its not an excuse at all. It is an excuse for those who are too lazy or too selfish to try and gently but firmly stand up for the truth.

When religious believers say their beliefs and opinions should not be challenged for they are sacred, it clearly proves they are are more concerned about getting offended than they are about anybody offending God. Or do they care about God at all? God is supposed to be a God of absolute truth so to use, “I have a right to my opinion” to silence the truth or possible truth is anti-God. They need to be told to get thicker skins.

The gobstopper that you have a right to your opinion is habitually used in matters of morality and religion. But it is not used in geography or matters of mathematics for example. It is unfair to apply it to one field and not others. Why should morality and religion be a free for all for you where you can assert what you want as long as you say you have a right to your opinion and thus reduce others to silence when they might know or see that your opinions are wrong?

Respecting the opinion of the other means you don’t ridicule. Instead you gently and kindly help the person see the error. The notion that respecting the opinion means you cannot even do this is just an attack on your integrity. Its an insult. It implies that you have the right to hurt others if you simply think you should.

If people want you to respect their beliefs and opinions, they must do nothing to censor you — if they really respect belief and opinion, they will respect your opinion and belief that you should gently and kindly guide them into the light. In fact censorship does not lead to any belief being respected, it only leads to fake respect that is just a cover for resentment.

Respecting the opinion actually requires you to help the person see where they have gone wrong. If the person refuses to listen, do not persist. But if they listen, then help them to help themselves. If you say nothing, you cannot say you are truly respecting their opinion. What you are doing is disrespecting it but hiding it.

Back to the audacity involved in expressing your opinion and manipulating others to leave it unchallenged. It is even worse if the opinion is based on nothing but feelings or on weak evidence or against the facts. The person who silences me is deliberately opposing facts. They do not stop to consider if they might be wrong. They take offense or pretend to. They are pretending that they should be praised for holding on to their opinion regardless of the ignorance or irrationality and harm involved. They are asking for such praise and that is against my rights.

They are saying they are not accountable for their ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.

If you are entitled to your opinion, the opinion must be based on evidence, open to revision, open to changing your mind should evidence come up that refutes the opinion. Being entitled to your opinion if you are opposed to the facts or the evidence or don’t care would be saying that right and wrong in behavior and everything else does not matter. It becomes an absurd and dangerous philosophy of, “As long as its your opinion do what you want even if its murder.”

Rights are based on need. You need water. You do not need ice cream. Ice cream is not a right but a privilege. Rights are defined by the duties to which they give rise.

Rights entail duties. In other words, people must be compelled to respect your rights if possible. If it is not possible, it would be a case that if you had the choice to compel, you would.

If you have a right to your opinion regardless of reason and facts and evidence, then why listen to any debater at all or why even bother? “I have a right to my opinion” is really just a proverb for the lunatic and the disciple of chaos.

And some even claim that to try and correct somebody’s opinion is not respecting it. That is false. They say that if somebody corrects you or your work they are doing wrong for they are trying to correct opinion not fact. This is ludicrous. Who are you to judge that what another person may know is just their opinion? If they know it then its a fact and not an opinion. Do not say they irritate you — you are irritating yourself and using them as an excuse. And surely if opinions are good, then the person who gets you to discard a weak and bad opinion for a slightly stronger and better one should be praised?

It is said that we should always say that we personally don’t agree, not tell others that they are wrong. But this enables disregard for truth and puts what people think before the truth. It is neither helpful nor sensible.

They claim that they are being non-judgemental but they are. They are judging the person who knows the facts as if he is a person who does not know the facts. An example of that is the agnostic who says the person who says they are sure there is a God is arrogant and the atheist is also arrogant for claiming to be sure there is no God. This seems tolerant and humble but in fact it is arrogant itself. Perhaps the believer in God is sure there is a God and is right. Or perhaps the atheist is the one who is sure because he is right. Being sure is not arrogant if you are sure BECAUSE you are right. That can happen.

We cannot genuinely believe something just because we want to. Wanting to believe what you believe does not mean that you believe fully or partly because you want to. An opinion that is held only because you like it is not an opinion at all.

You do not have a right only to follow God’s opinion.

Rights are something you simply have. The state can only recognise that you are entitled to them. You have rights whether it allows you to have them or not. The right to life implies that the law should establish your right to life.

It is said that my right to my opinion does not mean that others are obligated to agree with me. This is wrong. It should be, “My right to my opinion does not mean that others are necessarily obligated to agree with me.” Others are obligated to do their best to agree with me if what I believe is more than just an opinion and is a fact. They are obligated to agree not because I say so but because truth and honesty require it.

It is said that others are not obliged to agree with me because if they did that they would have to be exactly like me in outlook on everything and that is unrealistic. And why me? If they change their opinion every time they hear a new one life will soon be unsustainable. But the reality is that people will still have different opinions. It is stupid to worry about everybody turning out the same. And others are not obliged to agree with you but with the truth. To agree with one who has the truth, means you care about the truth not the authority of who is teaching the truth.

Am I obligated to listen to your opinion? It is unrealistic to expect me to unless I have the time to listen or unless it is a very important matter. I cannot listen to every opinion and listen properly. Religion is a violation of our rights because it invents important things that are not really important. Listening to somebody trying to help you believe that Jesus is the only one who can save you from everlasting torture will not put bread on the table. Listening to somebody who can tell you where the bread is is far more important.

People who claim they have a right to their opinion actually should be honest enough to rephrase their claim. They should say something like “My right to my opinion means you have a duty to let me keep it. I don’t want to change my mind or know if I am wrong. Fuck the facts if I am against them.”

They always wait until the point where they might have to admit or see that they are wrong before they say they have the right to their opinion.

We have no duty to let others keep their opinions. And even less so when they cannot honestly admit that they are happy to oppose truth and integrity.

We have a duty to try to change them for as an opinion means that which is not proven and which is open to dispute then the holder of the opinion gives us the right to dispute it.

We have an even stronger duty if the opinion is harmful. For example, if your friend thinks that drinking rat poison will improve her health you will help her see that she is wrong.

If a person is genuinely honest and concerned about the truth, the person will not object to — or claim to be offended at — the presentation of evidence contrary to her opinion. The attitude, “I have a right to be offended if somebody comes along with evidence and facts that show that I am wrong” is so ridiculous that it is laughable. I have a right to be offended if somebody claims I offended them with evidence and truth

The person who says they have a right to their opinion may prefer their opinion to be true. You must assume that they do — its the most charitable assumption. Remind them that if they prefer their opinion to be true they will check it out and not only be open to a challenge but welcome it.

The truth is not too important for them but important enough.

What do you do if somebody tries to stop you challenging their view with, “I am entitled to my opinion”? That is okay when we are talking about some things in which it is impossible to know the truth or what should be believed. Just leave them to it. But remind them that calling something an opinion is saying, “I think this is the case though this may be disputed and I must welcome new light.”

But if they start saying “I am entitled to my opinion” to avoid accepting something that is plainly correct — such as that they have to pay £1 for their milk if that is the price on it — then do not leave them to it.

Your beliefs are not about you at all. Neither are your opinions. Your beliefs and opinions are about the world. To say, “I am entitled to my opinion”, is always evil when it is used to mean, “I don’t want to hear the truth or if I am wrong.” That is saying that it is about you when it is actually not. It shows disrespect to the person they say “I am entitled to my opinion” to.

If you ever feel tempted to resist an argument or conclusion by saying “I am entitled to my opinion,” stop! This is as clear a bias indicator as they come. It may irritate you to give in, but honesty demands it.

People feel they must have their own opinion in a democratic society. But any opinion will not do. If you care about democracy you will do your best to check out your important opinions. You will want to hear criticism. Democracy based on lies is not democracy at all but a facade.

To say, “I have a right to my opinion” is actually to say, “Make it your opinion that you should say no more.” It is to attempt to impose your view on another. The other person may be only trying to help you help yourself. He is not trying to impose an opinion. If you give you should be able to take. If you take you should be able to give. Tell them what they are doing.

You can show a person the truth about something they believe. You can disprove it . They will insult you by saying, “That’s your opinion. I have my own opinion.” They claim the right to judge you that you are dressing up your opinion as fact. If they have that right they have the right to malign and slander you.

You will, if you respect yourself, tell them that.

You have the right to say, “You told me that its your opinion. Nobody can have opinions unless they have reasons for them. Please, tell me why its your opinion? Why do you think it is right?” If you tell somebody you believe or think something you are imposing on them unless you give them reasons to show that you believe or think it.

Part eight: Respecting beliefs

Some people say we must have our beliefs and let nobody else change them. Nobody else can change them. Only we can do that. Even if we are brainwashed at some point we let it happen to us. Their saying is really the notorious,” I have a right to my opinion.” That is actually a discussion-stopper. It’s intolerant of future discussion and therefore rude. Avoid it. Sincerely say, “Thank you for what you said. I will think about it.”

Christians have succeeded in making many people think that the Christian religion should have special rights in relation to freedom of speech. The critic of the religion can be silenced or condemned or socially frowned upon while the Christians can preach all they want.

Many Christians though do not evangelize or try to attract others to the faith. But if they are Christian, they will believe that they should. The Christian then who says, “I have a right to my religious opinion”, upon hearing something that challenges the truth of the religion should be told that they have given that right up by claiming to be Christian. A religion is about giving you the opinions and beliefs it wants you to have. It is up to it not you. If you have to promote your religious faith, you simply have to let yourself be exposed to challenges and you cannot run away from them.

Some say that they do not accept your beliefs or opinions but respect them.

Can you really respect what you consider to be wrong? You don’t respect the beliefs of Jack the Ripper that it is a good work to kill prostitutes.

Some amend the claim to say that they respect beliefs and opinions contrary to their own but only if the beliefs and opinions do not interfere with the rights of others.

Respecting or celebrating one’s right to a belief or opinion is not the same as respecting the belief or opinion itself. Thus I will have the right to scorn and disrespect your beliefs and opinions if I think they are ridiculous or dangerous. But I will still stand for your right to accept them.

It is said that I can stand up for a person’s right to believe in racism but I will ridicule their belief and I will stop them exercising or carrying out that belief in a practical sense. For example, if they start putting up “Blacks out” posters. But if it is fair to stand up for people being wrong then why not encourage them to be wrong? The proper view is, “Nobody has the right to believe in racism. But apart from talking to them, it makes no sense to try and stop them being racist. We tolerate their beliefs for we cannot stop them having them.” Why give somebody a right or permission to think what they like? Whether you do or don’t will make no difference. Giving permission to believe in racism is against your own right to refuse to have anything to do with racism. Giving permission says something about you.

Suppose you believe that God forbids abortion even when its needed to save the life of the one doctor in the world who can cure cancer — there will never be another like her. If she is a believer, I will respect her right to refuse the abortion and die. But I will not respect her if she tries to stop others having abortions to save their lives — say if she rams an abortion clinic with a lorry.

If you believe in the Sabbath day, stay in the house resting but do not start trying to use legislation to force stores to close on that day etc.

I will respect you if you believe that the communion bread is actually not bread but the body of Jesus Christ. I cannot however respect this belief. Even if it is not silly, it certainly looks silly. I cannot be blamed for ridiculing it.

A belief can only be respected if the evidence and proofs for it are very good or sufficient. The opinion supported by the best assessment of evidence is the opinion that deserves the most respect.

The person who says they respect a belief they do not respect at all is being a hypocrite and acting ignobly. Far better to admit they do not respect it and guard each person’s right to a belief they disrespect.

Though we might say that people have the right to ask you to believe something we mean this loosely. Strictly speaking, nobody has the right to ask you to believe anything. What they have is the right to empower you to help yourself to believe.

We object to other people’s views on loads of things and will tell them that and we will try to persuade them to think differently. When it is religion we try to persuade them out of we may get a hostile reaction. People root their faith in stupid reasons and when it is challenged they see no option but to form battle lines and try to scare the challengers into silence. If people think debates about religion and whether it is true or false are dangerous because they lead to hatred and persecution then they fear religion even if they profess to support it. They are intending to support something they see as dangerous tribalism.

Nobody seriously suggests that as it is traumatic to give up your religion or religious belief that nobody should encourage you to do so. If you adore your local clothes store you could be traumatized by finding out that the clothes are made by slave labor. The person who challenges us is not to blame for how it makes us feel. And we should be used to having our precious ideas challenged. Any grown-up person would be.

We need to have empathy with others to be able to have friends and be part of any community. Empathy means to suffer with and also to be happy with. It is inviting others to challenge us. Thus we have to accept that others have a right to challenge our beliefs.

It is worrying that humanity in general has a tendency to defend doctrines and principles with more passion and ferocity when they don’t have decent evidence to support them.

If rights and truths are subjective and just opinions, the only opinion that can prevail is the one held by the powerful and influential people. It turns rights and education into a battleground. Might is right becomes the law.

It is ONLY over religion that many people say, “Let people believe what they want. Even if two religions contradict each other both are right.” Religion creates a hostility and antagonism towards truth and slanders those who challenge its truth claims as bigots.

The foundation of all law and knowledge and science is the law that truth must be sought earnestly. If people oppose that, their opposition cannot be respected. To respect their opposition as opposition is to say there is no law at all. And if we start thinking that we will soon have a mad mad madder world.

Part nine: The bible says…

2 Corinthians 11:3, 4 “But I am concerned that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted and turned away from the straightforward simplicity of teaching about Christ. Because if someone comes along preaching another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive originally, or if you receive a different gospel which you did not originally accept, you put up with these things too easily.

This clearly forbids a Christian to use, “I have a right to my opinion,” too much. It only applies in matters of uncertainty and unimportance where the facts are disputed and the evidences inconclusive.

God commands all men to believe on the name of His son, Jesus Christ, not have their own opinions about him. 1 John 3: 23 “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” An opinion and a belief are two different things.


If you think a person wants to waste your time by ending your chat with I have a right to my opinion then make sure you ask them questions so that they see the contradiction in their thinking. People are less defensive when they are asked to think.

Do not let yourself be bullied by people who go “I am entitled to my opinion.” You have told them your belief and opinion fair and square and they come back defensive which is an attempt to get more honour and protection for their opinion at the expense of yours. They demand respect for their opinion — by which they mean it should not be disputed — while they dispute yours. They are saying, “I dispute your opinion that mine should be questioned. I am being unreasonable because an opinion means that which is open to dispute.” They are trying to silence you as if their opinions are about them and not the world. Their opinions are not about them. People who think their opinions are about them are the ones who are trampling on the poor and oppressing others. Don’t be an enabler of such horror. Mostly it is religious people who go “I am entitled to my opinion.” That warns you about the dangers of religion.

Remember that the person who asserts their right to their opinion in an attempt to silence you is denying your right of freedom of speech. Yet they assert their freedom of speech in order to claim they have a right to their opinion. What about yours? They should be told what they are doing!

If some opinions are sacred and nobody must ever say they could be wrong then freedom of speech is nonsense. Those who use freedom of speech to curtail freedom of speech are hypocrites who do what they condemn in others. Who decides what opinions are sacred? Who decides how many of them are sacred?

Freedom of speech is far more important of a right than a right to opinion. There would be no opinions without communication. And an opinion must always be expressed in a spirit of, “I would like to be corrected if I’m wrong, but this is my opinion.” That is what opinions are all about — trying to get the truth instead of trying to be a fundamentalist and encourage nonsense. The right to my opinion brigade does not know what an opinion is — a provisional position until further information comes.

You do not have the right to your opinion. You have the freedom to have your opinion but that is a different thing. It does not follow that because you are given the freedom to say things that you have the right to say them. You do not have the right to see a strange light in a cinema and then express the opinion to others that it could be a fire. The law will come down on you for that!

“I have a right to my opinion” is common.

It is not rude to ask the person who says it, “And on what grounds do you think you have the right to hold this opinion?” They invited the question whether they care to admit it or not.

And it is not rude to say, “You are saying you have a right to think something to be true. That means you saying you have to be open to checking it out.” You could then change the subject.

Or you could say, “I agree. We both know opinions are just views we hold about the truth and that we have to make sure we are informed correctly.”


The freedom that comes from talking about an uncomfortable truth is better than the comfort of avoiding that talk altogether.

Aaron D. Scott

Written by

Interests: Programming, data science, machine learning, music and Epistemology. A former devout evangelical Christian Right-Wing conservative Supply-Sider.

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