Home > religion > I Demand Respect!

I Demand Respect!

In a recent on-line discussion my opponent demanded respect for his beliefs. When I said that I didn’t automatically hand out respect for anything he accused me of being a robotic non-human and hating babies or some similar nonsense. When I pointed out that it was ideas I was withholding respect for and not people the conversation just stopped.

It’s funny the way that often happens when people realise they have been totally out-maneuvered. In fact in another recent debate I couldn’t resist firing a parting shot just to show how much my opponent had been owned. His last comment was something like “well played by skilled debater” to which I replied “I’m not that great at debating. I just have the unfair advantage of having the facts on my side”. Yes, I didn’t hear from him again either!

So getting back to respect. Many people demand that all ideas should be respected but I don’t think they are right and I think, if they really thought about it, they would realise that it’s not really what they should want either.

Here’s why: If something is too easy it loses it’s value. If I automatically offer my respect to any new opinion, theory, or belief I hear then how does anyone distinguish between those and the beliefs which have greater value? Must I offer respect to someone who thinks the Earth is flat? If I do and also offer respect to someone’s Christian views then that doesn’t really mean anything regarding that person’s ideas does it?

I don’t really think most religious people really want me to offer their ideas automatic respect. If I respected mainstream Christianity then surely I should also respect militant Islam as well. After all, if I am going to respect them before I examine their underlying philosophy then how would I tell which is peaceful and which is violent?

The same might apply to people. Should I respect everyone I meet? In general I try to because I try to base my opinions (either positive or negative) on ideas, what people say, what they believe, and how they reason, rather than who they are. Of course that is an ideal which no one can fully live up to on every occasion.

So instead of demanding respect people should show why they deserve it. I think this has been a tactic used by religious groups for many years. By demanding respect they make it more difficult to point out just how plain stupid a lot of their ideas are.

Also I’m not saying I only respect people who agree with me. If someone can make a reasoned, sensible argument against mine then I will respect them for it. Even if they get to the point of saying they have no answer to what I’m saying but prefer to continue to believe in a religion through simple faith I will have some respect for that too. At least it’s honest, although I would have to add that I find it hard to respect faith itself.

There is one other aspect to this too. Respect isn’t just a simple yes/no thing. I don’t just have or not have respect for something. I have varying levels of respect. When I first discover a new idea I would try initially to start with a moderate level. If the idea is supported by elegant reasoning or impressive facts my respect would increase. But if it turned out to be supported by circular logic and myths then my respect would decrease.

But nothing would ever reach a level of respect where I would no longer question it. Yes, that even applies to the greatest scientific ideas like relativity and evolution. I do have great respect for these theories but it’s not total. Conversely even the most stupid nonsense, such as creationism, doesn’t deserve zero respect (although it would be close to zero) and I would be happy to be persuaded to move it up the scale if there was ever any real evidence found to support it.

As you can probably tell by the criteria I described above, I do value truth above all else. So that’s one of the most important things I look for when assigning respect. Other people might look for something else but it seems to me that if an idea isn’t true it’s hard to be respectful towards it.

But whatever the details of the process one thing’s for sure: you have to earn respect, not demand it.

  1. March 4, 2013 at 8:05 am

    This reminded me of a statement from Christopher Hitchens in one of his debates. I couldn’t find it isolated so I’ll just link a long video that it’s in. http://youtu.be/iR0GyYaeI-k?t=5m30s the clip starts at 5:30 and is only a few seconds of the entire video. It should skip ahead to the right part automatically.

  2. ojb42
    March 4, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Hitch was one of the greatest debaters of all time. He was so sharp. As it happens, I had already watched a few Hitch videos on YouTube earlier today. I watched all of that one too. I totally agree with him: faith is not something to be proud of, it’s something to be ashamed of.

  3. March 4, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Not to jump into the frying pan here, but are we using respect in its verb form, which is defined in these ways by the online dictionary: verb (used with object) 9.to hold in esteem or honor. 10. To show regard or consideration for. 11. To refrain from intruding upon or interfering with. 12. To relate or have reference to. Really, 10 and 12 would be the only interpretation that I could imagine someone legitimately demanding. If what your opponent was attempting to convey, was a desire for you to attempt to consider their arguments from their point of view, or come to some basis to relate from, perhaps definitional? Then I would say that perhaps they had a point. Without a solid frame of reference, agreed to by both parties, there really is no room for honest discourse. However, if what they were demanding was, definition 5. : The condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect. Then I agree with you one hundred percent in that respect should be earned. There is no reason to automatically attribute special qualities to individuals or ideas you do not know or fully understand.
    I am not sure I comprehend your reasoning for something that is too easy being of less value. I believe that my misunderstanding is in the form of the word respect we are each choosing to use. To have an opinion on whatever “ridiculous” proposition, you come across, you have to acquaint yourself with the arguments that support said proposition. The act of giving consideration to the arguments, (respect 10), offered and then tearing them to shreds is, by a kind of default of definition, giving respect in this context. The value of the idea however is a bit confusing. I assume, (possibly a bad move on my part), that you are using value, to indicate importance or significance associated with an idea, ideology or opinion. Ease of acceptance, that a rock will always fall if dropped, does not make the value of the observation more or less accurate.
    You do follow up by clarifying that you are open to revise your opinion on different subjects if there were to be credible evidence presented to you, and you acknowledge that you are still critical in your acceptance of other theories and ideas. You seem to define respect of a thing, as an endorsement of its validity, or truthfulness, if I understand you correctly? You hold the truth in (9) esteem, and respect propositions based in tangible real life data. You argue people should know why they deserve to be respected, and unfortunately I think this is where you run into the problem of conceptual words. I think you would agree that everyone deserves to be shown consideration and thoughtfulness. This is a definition of respect. I will grant that anyone or anything must earn respect, if defined as an attitude of admiration or deference.
    To be honest I am not trying to split hairs with you, I have just been exploring what happens when I engage in some of the more explosive topics of conversation myself. I have discovered a great many instances of talking at cross purposes, due to different use of definitions, or differing understandings of a single words context. Usually, when a definition is agreed upon, there is a clear understanding that we may not disagree as much as we thought we did.

  4. ojb42
    March 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Yes, I take your point. These are the two main definitions in my dictionary; 1. admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements; and 2. have due regard for (someone’s feelings, wishes, or rights).

    I was thinking more of definition 1 when I wrote the entry but maybe 2 is more appropriate. All I would say about 2 is including the word “due” makes it a bit meaningless because what is “due” is very much a matter of opinion. So it’s sort of a circular argument. Also, the amount of regard many people are “due” in my opinion is probably less than they might expect.

  5. March 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I do believe in showing people -some- respect. Ideas, on the other hand, are a different issue. Some people take disagreement as a disrespect, but that is not so. An insult is disrespectful; a disagreement is not.
    I actually do not respect some belief systems and the people who have them. For example, if you are going to try to enforce your beliefs on me you’re not showing me much respect, so I have no obligation to show it to you. In this respect, I guess some people are not worthy of respect either.
    So I change my previous statement and instead conclude you’re totally right. Some people and some ideas are not worthy of respect. Which does not mean I won’t be respectful to them: I will show my manners, I guess, because I respect myself.

    • ojb42
      March 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Well stated. Just about exactly what I also believe. People who *demand* respect rarely deserve it. Those who truly deserve respect just get it naturally.

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