People sometimes say that we should respect the beliefs of others. If you consider respect to be synonymous with “politeness” or “common decency” or “refraining from abusing others”, sure, I’ll sign on. Here’s my beef, though: I don’t actually think “respect” is synonymous with those things.
My friend the Interweebz tells me that respect is:
Look closely at some of those synonyms: ESTEEM, ADMIRATION, REVERENCE, DEFERENCE
- People should esteem other peoples’ beliefs
- People should admire the beliefs of others
- People should revere the beliefs of others
- People should defer to others’ beliefs.
Are those sentences as comfortable and easy to co-sign? For me, no.
In other words, why do I have to respect (esteem, admire, revere, defer to) your beliefs? No one has ever been able to give me a satisfying reason for this bit of folk wisdom. People in the past have said to me that refusing to respect the beliefs of others is bigoted, but I don’t think it is. I think we can support diversity, leave discrimination behind and behave politely and fairly to each other without even once referencing your beliefs or mine. In other words, I can respect your personhood and humanity without having to “respect your beliefs”.
In my experience (yours may be different) people start talking about their beliefs being “respected” when they do not want anyone to challenge or contradict their beliefs. If that’s the case, I think it’s more honest to say “I don’t want to discuss my beliefs with you, as it’s clear we disagree”.