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Everyone’s Entitled to Their Opinion

Recently, my more religious sister criticized me for speaking out against theistic belief. Instead of discussing my criticisms of theistic belief, she simply stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have actually heard this claim made by a lot of people and not all of them were theists. A few silent atheists have also be critical of speaking out against ancient superstitions stating that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

I problem here is that I don’t disagree that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and yet these people seem to be implying that I do. I never said people aren’t entitled to their own opinions. In fact, not only have I repeatedly talked about my support for the freedom of religion, I have actually gone to congress and personally lobbied in favor of free speech. The second some Congress-person, Senator, or even the President tries to push a law restricting people’s right to have their own opinion, I will be right there to fight for those rights. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

What they are not entitled to however, is for their opinions to be protected from criticism. The fact is that we all acknowledge this. We all not only criticize other people’s opinions on a daily basis, but no one in their right mind would claim that it was immoral to do so. No one has a problem criticizing what Hitler did to the Jews. Nor do people have an issue criticizing the KKK for their views. Tom Cruise is continually criticized for his religious beliefs and mainstream Christians and Jews are usually right there at my side criticizing the more fundamentalist believers in their own religions. But the moment anyone criticizes their beliefs, they attempt to over dramatize the criticism with claims of intolerance and/or hate. Insinuations are made that their free speech is being taken away. I don’t hate Christians. I have many Christian friends. I certainly don’t hate Jews. For starters, I am a Jew. Plus my family is Jewish and I love them very much… even my overly religious sister. But I do take issue with what these people believe and so while I will fight for their rights to have their own opinion on religious matter no matter how ridiculous and silly those opinions might be, I will also criticize those opinions if they are ridiculous, silly, and/or dangerous.

In my view, dangerous opinions lead to dangerous actions. And when they do, we need to stand up and strongly criticize those dangerous actions and be critical of the beliefs which lead to those actions. Now again, I am not talking about outlawing those dangerous opinions and beliefs, but I am talking about being critical of those opinions and beliefs. I supported the ACLU when they defended the KKK’s right to march peacefully. But if the KKK wanted to march peacefully in my town, I would be on the sidelines being very critical of their beliefs and arguing against those views.

I think it is pretty hypocritical of theists to claim some special protection from criticism for their beliefs when they seem so willing to criticize other people’s beliefs. Why is it that they think that criticizing political opinions is okay, but criticizing religious views should be forbidden? As I stated before it isn’t even all religious views that they seem to think should be protected; just their religious views and the religions which are closely related to their religious views. Judaism and Christianity should be protected and maybe Islam, but not necessarily. Other religions it seems like should definitely not be protected like Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanists, Wiccans, etc.

In my view however, no opinions should be above criticism. I believe in the market place of ideas and in that market place all ideas and beliefs are welcome and should be equally open to criticism. Let the best ideas and beliefs win. But it seems that the believers in the Abrahamic religions know that their beliefs are ridiculous, silly, and have no valid evidence supporting them. So they don’t want to compete in the market place of ideas because they know their ideas will lose. So instead they try to protect their failed ideas from any and all criticism. How sad.

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  • Issa

    I enjoyed reading your post, Staks. Very good, intelligent points :)

  • Azadeth

    Of course everyone is allowed to have their own opinion – No freethinker could ever say otherwise. But freedom of speech goes both ways, and if you have a right to state your opinion, then I have a right to criticize it…otherwise MY freedom of speech is being violated. Clearly, the religious (moderates in particular) want to be able to have their cake and eat it too, regardless of whether or not that is fair or logical.

    It is of course in a religion’s best interest to make criticism of its views (and only its views) taboo, simply because so little of it can bring the whole house of cards tumbling down. Since they’re (mostly) not allowed to silence people through fear of reprisal anymore, that has become their new tactic.

    But to paraphrase Sam Harris, “I do not respect your beliefs. I evaluate your reasons.” That’s damned right.

  • ProgRockGirl

    It turns into the oldest argument in the book: “I have the right to express my opinion”
    “Well I have the right to criticize your opinion”
    Sometimes that can go around and around.

  • Robb

    Here, here, Stacks. Belief and opinion, which are actually two in the same, are by their very nature invitations for criticism. The Buddha is credited with saying “People with opinions just go around bothering one another”, so basically prepare to be bothered, everyone.

    • Mr. X

      LOL – I LOVE bothering people! WOOHOO!

  • Tina

    Wow!!! Thanks!

  • existential blues

    You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled not to be criticized. I also retain the right to think you’re dumb if you say that I’m violating your first amendment rights by criticizing you, Miss California and Governor Palin.

    • existential blues

      By the way, everyone’s entitled to my opinion.

  • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

    I’m learning that to express your thoughts you have to have thick skin. Those who don’t have thick skin get upset easily and once you’re upset people stop listening. The people that argue that you’re attacking their freedoms probably see an attack on their mythology as an attack on them personally; to question their beliefs is to question their intelligence. Knowing that someone may be criticizing them makes them feel less able to speak freely for fear of being responsible for their words. So, in a way we are threatening their freedom of speech…simply by questioning them

  • Ryan

    Well said and semi-good view points friend, you sound somewhat like Voltaire. Yes people are free to their “Opinions” or “Beliefs”, the minute they start to call them “Right” they are entering into the the science of ethics and are under the microscope of objectivity. What is wrong is wrong and cannot be right, you are free to practice the wrong but not free to escape the destruction recked upon your soul and reality around you. It would take little questioning from a man “In the Know” to find the contradiction and total depravity that is your sisters soul, but what I’m more concerned about is your Psycho-epistemological view of existence. You istate that you fight for reason, but, at the same time you state that you are willing to fight for those who are unreasonable,….. “integrity”…”consistency”? Though I applaud your efforts for the fight for reason I am reminded of a rule called the wizards second rule from the sword of truth serious book number 2 though I am unable to recall all of it: “The wizards second rule is that the greatest of intentions can be the insidious path to destruction, it seems like a paradox but the best of intentions can lead to destruction.”

    • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

      I get your meaning. If we fight for the rights of those who hold unreasonable beliefs we may be giving those people the power to do harm, but by denying their freedom we could fall down a slippery slope. Though, at the same time we can’t be so tolerate that we tolerate intolerance. the KKK is all about hate, nothing more…we shouldn’t tolorate it…but once we ban one belief system where do we stop?

      I better stop this before my eyes go cross-eyed, but good point.

  • Janet

    I also don’t care what people believe in their own homes. I do have a HUGE issue with those beliefs influencing MY life, however. Stem cell research, teaching creationism in school etc. just to name a couple examples. Keep YOUR god out of MY life, thank you very much!

  • http://www.poweressence.com/ Maxwell Jennings

    This is an issue that I’ve stated on numerous occasions, that I respect everyone’s freedom to choose what they want, but I am not obligated to respect what someone chooses. Hate groups are free to spout their idiotic rhetoric as long as they are not infringing on the rights of others. In my opinion, many religious groups and individuals bound together by stringent religious doctrine are basically hate groups against all other groups in that they discriminate. Political correctness and restrictions of freedom of speech are all control-freak ploys to protect beliefs, as you’ve said. It’s past time to expose these whiny ass cry babies for what they are — bigots and con-artists.

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  • Ronlawhouston

    ” I will let those who believe such silliness know that they are believing in a ridiculous belief.”

    If it’s not hurting you then why? Would you do it if you thought you were hurting the person? I think these are serious and legitimate questions.

    Look if you see anyone doing dangerous and harmful actions then by all means take action. However, I don’t think what you’re proposing (i.e. laughing, shaming, or informing them of the ridiculousness of their actions) is going to have even the slightest effect on those types of people.

    You raised a very legitimate issue about people marginalizing atheists. However, I think if you really step back and take an objective view of what your saying, you’re really simply marginalizing religious believers.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Religious beliefs not only hurt the believer, but they hurt us all! When someone presents misinformation about the world, it makes sense to correct that information. Sometimes the only way to educate someone is to point out the ridiculousness of their misinformation first. Criticizing and even mocking silly beliefs is not the same as marginalizing actual people. For more on the dangers of religion , check out my Atheism 101 article: Why do atheists care about religion? – http://www.examiner.com/article/atheism-101-why-do-atheists-care-about-religion

  • skeptic15

    Don’t Christians reject vicarious punishment / redemption via human sacrifice predicated on animal sacrifice outside the context of Christianity? Seems to me, Christians do criticize and dismiss these things in the context of any other religion (as being “false beliefs,” etc.) – so, why are they not open to criticism by atheists (or anyone, for that matter)?