Beliefs Don’t Deserve Respect

No belief is above criticism.

Beliefs are not above criticism, and do not deserve respect.

I don’t know how this idea formed that we have to respect the beliefs that people hold. It’s always some variation of “you need to respect my beliefs” or “I respect your beliefs.” And this is a stupid thing to say, no matter what you believe.

I think that most people who say this are confusing “respect my belief” with “respect my right to have this belief,” and it’s absolutely not the same thing. I respect that you have a right to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, died, and then rose from the dead. But I have absolutely no obligation to respect that belief.

The danger in this saying is the misuse of the term respect.

For one, it’s funny how people only generally want their beliefs to be respected. I know many Christians that will say the nastiest things about Muslims or Atheists, but then when I say something criticizing Christianity, it’s always, “you shouldn’t say that, you need to respect my beliefs.”

Second, most of these people tend to use the word respect, when they mean silence. Usually, “you need to respect my beliefs” actually means “I’m offended by what you said and you shouldn’t be allowed to say it.” Whereas stating that you respect someone’s belief is usually code for “I think your belief is stupid but I don’t want to say that.”

If we really want to be rational human beings, we need to get past this idea that beliefs of any kind deserve respect. I always say criticise the belief, not the believer. Respect is the opposite. Respect the believer, not the belief.

This is the written version of a video I posted on YouTube a few months ago.