Are All Beliefs To Be Respected?

Are we misunderstanding respect? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Quite recently, I have seen several interactions in the internet world with people of different beliefs and each time I have seen statements like “I respect your beliefs” or “Let’s all try to respect the beliefs of one another.” I understand why some people make such sentiments, but I cannot help but think that they are fundamentally built on an error.

For instance, let’s suppose I think a belief is fundamentally false. In fact, not only do I think that the belief is false, but I also think that it is dangerously false? If you have the belief that torturing babies for fun is okay, I am not going to tell you that I respect your belief. I am going to oppose your belief with all that I have. It is as far as I’m concerned, not just a wrong view, but a wicked one, and why should I respect something that I think is evil?

Now some of you are saying “But not all beliefs are like that.” Correct. There are varying degrees. I do not agree with a dispensationalist approach, for instance, but I can respect that it seeks to uphold the Lordship of Christ and to find a place for Israel. I just think the views are wrong. I cannot thus respect is as a whole, but I can give respect where it is due. I can also respect the rights of people to hold beliefs that I think are in error in some places. My own spouse after all is a dispensationalist.

Ultimately, what we are seeking to really have is respect for the rights of people to hold certain beliefs. We do value freedom, but we know some beliefs are dangerous to hold, such as the belief that it’s okay to murder your neighbor. When people act on such a belief, we respond by locking them up or giving them the death penalty.

Note also in this that it is not just what beliefs are held that matter, but how they are held. I have more respect for an atheist who can well argue for his viewpoint than I do for a Christian who can give no reason why they believe what they believe. I think the atheist is at least taking reality far more seriously than the Christian is. Even if I agree with the Christian on the essential matters, their approach is not one that I respect as it is simply the result of a blind leap.

Let us make clear where we stand. Some beliefs are wrong and we must oppose them, but this does not necessarily mean opposition to the holder of the beliefs. It all depends on how much they have researched their beliefs and how much they have researched the side that they critique. To use an example, I cannot respect the new atheism, even though I can respect some atheists. Why? The new atheism has done squat to understand the beliefs of those they argue against and consistently put up straw man after straw man.

Respect ultimately is not just given. It is earned. If you show up in the marketplace of ideas and know how to argue your beliefs and know what your opponents believe, you will get respected. If not, you won’t.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


15 Responses to “Are All Beliefs To Be Respected?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    “Respect ultimately is not just given. It is earned. If you show up in the marketplace of ideas and know how to argue your beliefs and know what your opponents believe, you will get respected. If not, you won’t.”

    That’s not really correct (or at least, it’s not a very reliable way to get along well with people). A better approach is to treat everyone respectfully, but to allow for the possibility that someone can /lose/ your respect by behaving badly. To say that someone must earn your respect before you will treat them respectfully is probably to overestimate your own importance, and certainly to have a lot of interpersonal interactions that don’t turn out productively.

  2. michellemu Says:

    I agree with Jeff.

    “Respect ultimately is not just given. It is earned. If you show up in the marketplace of ideas and know how to argue your beliefs and know what your opponents believe, you will get respected. If not, you won’t.”

    Some of us, well, maybe a lot of us, just listen to the ideas set out in the “marketplace of ideas”, but keep our opinions to ourselves. I know what I believe and why I believe it, and I think I could articulate those, but I am not adept at debate. I’m not fully disappointed that I cannot earn your respect since you behave kindly toward me, but a little esteem for life experience and some wisdom gathered along the way would be nice.

  3. apologianick Says:

    Michelle. The assumption is one is arguing. If someone shows up wanting to tell me I’m wrong and they’re right but doesn’t know what I believe or what they believe, then they do not get respect. Note also if someone shows up and does know what we both believe well, I can respect them without respecting their viewpoint.

    You always have my respsect.

    • michellemu Says:

      Okay, gotcha. In debate respect is given to a worthy opponent only. How long does it take to earn your respect?

      In other areas of life, respect is earned in other ways. Again, how long does that take?

      Wouldn’t it be easier (and more charitable) to start out with a posture of respect and slowly relinquish it when an opponent (in debate) or, well, other person (in various situations which are not debate) prove that they are not worthy of your esteem?

      Maybe I have such a different outlook, being pretty much your complete opposite. I cannot imagine myself being superior to everyone who hasn’t already proven they are worthy of my respect; I prefer to take the lower position as long as possible.

      • Dante Ting Says:

        To me, not respecting someone isn’t the same as believing myself to be superior over them. To not accord respect is not to disrespect. Is there no neutrality between respect and disrespect?

  4. apologianick Says:

    I always prefer to start giving my opponent the benefit of the doubt. They lose that or maintain it or perhaps increase it. What am I opposed to here is this kind of thinking that “We should treat all ideas equally.” No. There are some ideas I don’t respect even if I respect their holders. It’s a kind of mentality that doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers and says “We’ll treat all beliefs nicely.” Those who want to champion that the most are quickest to condemn those they disagree with.

  5. Rdr. Arsenios Says:

    Nick, I am no longer permitted to communicate on T-Web, and my days there are over, so I just wanted to thank you for your postings there and say good-bye – I cannot PM anyone or keep PMs on T-Web at all… If you read this and can say thank-you and good-bye for me on a few threads, I would be very grateful… I have not been told, but suspect that my banishment is for criticizing DeeDee on the Domestic Discipline thread after she had told me she did not wish me to post there… But no matter, I am out, and have no way to say farewell… You are all in my unworthy prayers…

    Thank-you – You can email me at if you wish…


  6. apologianick Says:

    George. You’re incorrect actually. This message comes to you.

    Please let him know that he isn’t banned, but his old account has been merged into his new one, so all his posts are under his new name.

  7. michellemu Says:

    @Dante Ting
    In my way of looking at the world and the people in it, there is no neutral area between respect and disrespect. I am intrigued, however, with this idea because it might involve tweeking my understanding of the words ‘respect’ and ‘disrespect’. Thanks for giving me something to ponder today.

    • Dante Ting Says:

      Well, as far as I know, there is quite a difference in the way different cultures view respect. Perhaps my view of respect stems from the fact that we Chinese have a very different system of valuation; here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

      • michellemu Says:

        Thanks, Dante Ting. I admit that the concept of ‘face’ is a hard one for me. (I worship with a Chinese congregation and realize that I miss many of the subtleties.) Tell me about your outlook. Are most people ‘neutral’ to you? You and I don’t know each other. Do you have neither respect nor non-respect for me?

      • Dante Ting Says:

        For people whom I know nothing about, “neutral” would be it. To me, respect goes beyond not disrespecting someone, but holding someone in high regard. In the secular Chinese community, respect is accorded according to your occupation, e.g. doctors and lawyers will be accorded more respect than, say, artists. It’s as though your worth is determined by the money you bring home, but that also only to a certain extent. Of course, as Christians, we are called to not judge according to appearances, but make a right judgment, so I deviate from the Chinese social norm in automatically according respect to humble workers among the “lower” occupations, on the basis of attitude.
        Now, honor is a concept that I treat to be different from respect, so while I will honor whomever I meet for the first time, I hold neither respect nor disrespect for that person.

  8. michellemu Says:

    DanteTing, I see my problem. I consider ‘honor’ and ‘respect’ to be synonyms. I will consider what you’ve said here and see if I can refine my distinction between the two.

    • Dante Ting Says:

      Well, I think it’s simply a cultural difference, so if you apply our honor system you’d get looks as though you’ve taken off your shoes just to enter into a friend’s house 😛

      • michellemu Says:

        Oh, man, funny you should mention that! As I said, I worship with a Chinese congregation and I HAVE developed the habit of taking my shoes off at the door.

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