Why can’t you just respect my beliefs?
Isn’t that a terribly common cry to hear from those who still believe? You try to engage them in some sort of dialogue about your doubts, they give some pat answers, you shoot those down easily, and then they act like you’re attacking their faith, they get defensive, and they cry, “Why can’t you just respect my beliefs?”
I have to admit that my first thought in response to this accords with a quote I found by Bertrand Russell. “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”
How perceptive of Mr. Russell. The real problem with believers, and the real reason they are so easily upset, is a deep-seated insecurity. As I brought up in a previous post, God is really a surrogate parent. So believers who have their faith challenged are afraid of losing their parent, and by extension, their whole “faith family”. The cry, “Why can’t you just respect my beliefs?” can be translated more realistically to “Don’t take away my comfort and security! You’re scaring me!”
For me this realization brings me to wonder, “How do I get past this blockage? How do I help someone to set aside their insecurities and face their fears? How do I help them to grow up enough to face the world as an independent adult when they’ve been leaning on a parental figure for so long?”
From the experiences of just about everyone on this forum, I think it must be concluded that this process happens in a stepwise fashion, not all at once. These steps of course can differ for everyone, but there are some common elements.
- Doubts have to lodge in the mind of a believer and grow there.
- The believer needs to have some idea of life apart from his/her known faith.
- The believer has to develop some firm idea that something is true apart from what he/she has held heretofore.
- The believer has to be able to figure out how to deal with the cost of deconversion. After all he/she stands to lose friends, family, and more.
Of course there are probably more elements to add, but these are ones I can readily think of. The upshot of all of them is that respecting someone’s beliefs, or if you will not exacerbating someone’s fears, can be complicated. Still and all we do need to take the trouble to try to awaken people from their errors.
Why that last statement? Quite simply because religious beliefs aren’t just benign and powerless. They’re not like Easter Bunny myths. No, religious beliefs are constantly being thrust into politics, laws, school systems, and into the next generation of vulnerable, young brains.
I admit that I’m not the sort of fellow who likes to upset my religious friends and acquaintances by yanking away their security blankets and setting them into crying fits. But I also don’t want to live under Sharia law, or Old Testament law, or under some interpretation of New Testament law.
And I must hasten to add this point. At the end of the day, religious people aren’t usually very respectful of unbelief are they? Not really. Not often. Do unto others and so forth is supposed to be a prinicple they live by though isn’t it? (I not the one who make that rule up ya know.)
So here’s the conclusion that I get pulled to: I can’t respect your belief if that means letting you go on disrespecting mine, or demanding that your beliefs dictate how I should live, or allowing fantasies and poor performance to substitute for education. None of that deserves respect. In the end that’s really the final answer to the question isn’t it?
“Why can’t you just respect my beliefs?” …… “Because your beliefs don’t earn respect.”