How Important is Unity and Dialogue? December 10, 2009

How Important is Unity and Dialogue?

David Hayward (a.k.a. nakedpastor) has a list of 10 questions meant to be asked to Christians who want to find unity with others.

I think they could be asked to atheists as well:

  1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
  2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
  3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?
  4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?
  5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?
  6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?
  7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?
  8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
  9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?
  10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?

How would you respond to them?

A couple other questions I’m curious about:

At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • NP

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. Yes
    4. No
    5. Yes
    6. Yes
    7. Yes
    8. Depends, if your beliefs make you vehemently opposed to drinking – then you will not be invited out to the bar. If we are going out for a steak dinner and you believe eating animals is akin to genocide then you will not be invited to the dinner. Outside of where belief directly interferes with the activity at hand all are welcome.

    9. Not the only one.
    10. Nope but everyone gets a shot though.

  • As somebody deconverted in the last couple years, still married to a very christian wife (of 13 years), I struggle with this… but the brass tacks are that yes, you cede “points” for the sake of the relationship (same applies to many other friends and family for that matter).

  • ImmortalityLTD

    Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    I abhor being incorrect, to the point that I don’t mind being proved “wrong”. But, you won’t prove me wrong without evidence. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong about something–you may not have had all the facts. But refusing to change your mind when faced with the evidence? Well that’s just wrong!

  • I’m not really an “in your face” kind of atheist but as I looked at the questions I found myself feeling a little militant. I’m not sure these questions can be applied to atheists because they all appear to be couched in: given that there’s a god, can we set aside the minor differences.
    Although it mentions “lack” of faith, the questions relegate the notion as a Catholic and Protestant family might Mary’s continued virginity.
    Most religious people don’t take their faith too seriously, which is the reason Americans get a long as much as we do. A person who truly lives their faith, no matter the faith, is by definition deranged.
    For most (even though they would die rather than admit it), being good or expedient– depending on your disposition — trumps religion; it is not people’s primary concern even when they claim it is. That’s the context that allows these questions to be asked.
    So the first question is the trickiest. People do not have a right to their beliefs. People have a right to some beliefs. Homicidal and genocidal beliefs are (obviously) excluded but, more to the point, the end game of every religion is to be true; that is, the last one standing. It’s a subtext that’s easy (and preferable in civilized countries) to ignore and as people turn away from that ridiculous notion it becomes easier to forget how dangerous the truly religious are.

  • Stellar Duck

    Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    Yes, I do.

    Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
    Yes, if the person in question is not a jerk. Not related to ideas. I just don’t like jerks.

    Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?
    Yes. There are plenty of them so I would have to work hard to ignore them.

    Will it kill me if I were wrong?
    In the case of religion it will probably get me a ticket to hell if I’m wrong, but no, it won’t directly kill me. 😀 And normally, no, I’m not that bothered about being wrong. Only means I have more stuff to learn.

    Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    Not quite sure I understand that one. Blame it on not being an English speaker natively. Or me being stupid.

    Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?
    Yes, as long as it’s not too much. But I’d appreciate it if the feeling was mutual.

    Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?
    Yes! In fact I often get grief for always going too deep.

    Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    Everybody can play, of course. Else it would fast get boring.

    Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?
    Pretty much. There is a few dodgy areas but that can be solved by talking about it.

    Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?
    Nah, I don’t. Hell, I’m not even sure I should. But I do respect their right to be here and live their life. No need for my love to do that. And I’ll treat them well and take care not to harm them. But I have limited love.
    In fact I’m not sure it’s even something to wish for, loving all other beings. Seems like one of those religious things that will only cause me grief if I tried as I’ll never be able to do it and I’ll end up guilt tripping about being a failure. Like not being allowed to covet your neighbours ass and what not. Never gonna happen so why bother. You will only end up feeling bad for failing and it will cause you endless grief for impure thoughts. As long as you don’t steal his ass you are golden.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?
    When other people try to encroach on how I live my life. That’s where it changes and the argument gets serious.

    Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?
    Yes, as long as you don’t cede too much of yourself in order to do it. You need to balance it. So as long as it’s not personality defining stuff and the other person is also willing to compromise. The world is not black and white and you should both be aware of that.

  • “You don’t have a right to an opinion you can’t defend. And we don’t have to agree to disagree – if you were intellectually honest, you’d agree that you’re wrong! … All critical, open-minded thinkers consider objections, weigh evidence, and revise their beliefs even when they are proven wrong.” – David Kyle Johnson

  • Valhar2000

    1.Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?

    Well, I want to say yes, but I do have the sneaking suspicion that I may have biases against this notion, in some cases. Nontheless, I do beleive that this idea is correct. It does not mean, however, that believing something “really, really deeply in my heart” gives you the right to commit whatever barbarity may strike your fancy.

    2.Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?

    This one is tricky, for the simply reason that I refuse to use the word “respect” in the sense in which it is usually used (because I don’t think most people use this word the way I do; if they do and still say that things they say about respect, I pitty them). The way I see it, respect has to be earned. You shoudl expect tolerance, and perhaps even politeness, but if you want respect you’d better be ready to work for it.

    Can someone who has ridiculous ideas earn my respect? They may. Can someone who holds repugnant beliefs earn my respect? I very much doubt they would be able to, much less want to, but they might still be able to acheive things that would compel me to respect them. Still, not likely.

    3.Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?

    Yes, though I will admit I don’t always use it, and sometimes I’ll need to have them pointed out to me before I can notice them.

    4.Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    No. It would be embarassing, at most.

    5.Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    I don’t really understand this question.

    6.Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?

    Sometimes, but I’m afraid I don’t have a good track record here. I know I should make an effort to do this, but sometimes it’s hard.

    7.Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?

    I am inclined to say yes, though this metaphor could means all kinds of things; a couple of concrete examples would be nice.

    8.Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?

    Well, that depends on the beliefs and what I think of them. I am not obligated to be anyone’s friend, nor would I ask the same of anybody else.

    9.Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?

    I believe this is the ideal, although I do understand that more indirect laws and regulations will be necessary in the real world, although these should always be informed by the likelihood, given our best scientifically valid and evidence based knowledge, that they will avoid harm being done to people.

    10.Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?

    Perhaps I misunderstand this question; I do not, I am not willing, and I stand in dumbfounded incomprehension of the idea that anyone thinks this is necessary or even advisable.

  • As an atheist in South Carolina I find this very relevant. We are a rare breed here. People think you are a leper or something.

    1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    Within reason. A belief that interferes with anyone else’s right to self determination is a problem.
    2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
    Yes, but again within reason. I do not respect those whose beliefs sanction murder or persecution.
    3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?
    Yes, I examine my own thoughts and beliefs constantly to weed out anything not based on evidence.
    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?
    Nope, been wrong so many times I ran out of room to make hash marks on my walls.
    5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?
    Yes, if by lightly it is means not being thin skinned and easily angered when confronted with an opposing viewpoint. Will I lightly abandon my beliefs? Only in the face of counter evidence.
    6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?
    Of course.
    7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?
    Of course
    8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    I have friends on all areas of the spectrum. This is not a problem.
    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make? Yes, if by harm we include discrimination and abuse.
    10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?
    I don’t think this is possible. I have respect for all people and life in general and never destroy without purpose. But love, not sure. I have trouble splitting hairs on this because it ends up sounding like a religious nut going on about agape.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?
    When you lose sight of your principles in the name of getting along. Respect is a two way street.

    Is there any time it’s OK to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?
    As long as the other party is aware that you are doing so and you have a mutual agreement to disagree. Never cede a point falsely. If you have been persuaded that is one thing. Never let the other side think you agree on a point if you don’t. That is a compromise of principle.

  • Gordon

    I can hear what they say but I reserve the right to assess whether it is nonsense…

  • mikespeir

    Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?

    I guess it comes down to which is more important to you, ideas or people.

  • littlejohn

    A couple of these are badly worded.
    Can I recognize my own fallacies? Well, no. If by fallacy you mean something that is clearly mistaken, no one hold onto a fallacy. Once one recognizes a belief as incorrect, one discards it.
    Can I respect people despite their beliefs? No. Since beliefs drive behavior, it would be wrong to respect someone who believes members of another race should be murdered.
    It is obvious what the “correct” answers to these questions are, but they are the wrong questions.
    Does anyone here “respect” Sarah Palin? Of course not, and not because of anything she’s done – she’s done nothing. She’s an idiot; i.e. her “beliefs” are mistaken.
    Only Godwin’s Law prohibits me from mentioning “respect for the beliefs” of a certain 20th-century dictator.
    Of course I don’t respect people whose beliefs are evil and stupid, because evil and stupid beliefs lead to evil and stupid behavior – even if that behavior doesn’t go beyond wearing a swastika armband.

  • I do not understand what is meant by, “Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?”

  • Trace

    …distracted by…nipples? wt…? Good list, thanks.

  • cathy

    what do they mean by my ‘beliefs’? Because the way I would answer this in terms of religion or metaphysics is far different than how I would answer if in terms of living in the world as a queer, low income, disabled woman. Am I supposed to respect that my boss has ‘different beliefs’ when firing me for being queer, that the man who beat my friend for being gender nonconforming has ‘different beliefs’, that domestic abuser perpetrators, eugenicists, that couple who starved their ten year old child to death because she was disable, the doctors who mutilate the genitalia of intersex infants, and so many other things. The problem with being an oppressed class in this country is that the beliefs of the group in power are forced violently onto your body. Does it matter to me that the NY state senate does not think all of its citizens deserve equal rights? Damn straight it does.

    “9.Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?” What do you mean by personal harm? Because sexist, racist, ablist, classist, homophobic laws and culture do a great deal of harm to people, as does coerced religion. When you are watching the supreme court, congress, etc debate whether you can have basic human rights, politics is damned personal.

  • Greg

    Bah! I just lost everything because IE stopped working. Ugh – I had 3 questions left… and I’d given comprehensive answers lol

    1.Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?

    I believe everyone has the right to form their own beliefs. If these beliefs, however, directly will cause harm to other people, I believe we have the right to take action against them. No belief has the ‘right’ to be accepted regardless of what it is. No-one has the right to believe they can go around killing people, or, if they do, they don’t have the right to complain when they are prevented from doing so.

    2.Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?

    Of course not. The person is largely made up of their ideas. By definition, if you do not respect the ideas, you cannot respect the person who holds them. I cannot respect someone who holds that the world is flat, or that evolution is false. Would you respect someone who willfully ignored truths like that?

    Yes, the inclusion of evolution in that statement was deliberate.


    3.Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?

    I hope so, I have enough of them, after all.

    4.Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    Well, if I were wrong about a belief that I were immortal…

    Seriously, of course not.

    5.Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    There are a couple of ways of taking this question. I’m going to take it as:

    Are you willing to enter a conversation accepting your position may be false?

    If that is it, then I certainly try to. Of course, when it comes to demonstrable truths such as a three dimensional earth/evolution (see above) that is another matter. That’s like saying: are you willing to converse with someone who think 1 + 1 = 3 (in base ten mathematics) whilst allowing that he/she may be right? It’s absurd.

    6.Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?

    I certainly hope so. As long as you mean idiosyncracies (i.e. peculiarities) as opposed to certain massively pronounced character flaws. I’m not going to appreciate the views of a racist.

    7.Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?

    Something I tend to do by nature anyway, so yes.

    8.Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?

    Obviously, what is the point of a debate otherwise? Having said that, anyone who comes into the debate without a willingness to discuss and follow the evidence regardless of what they want to believe will be disqualified in my eyes. There’s no point debating if you don’t care about coming to the correct conclusion, whatever that conclusion is.

    9.Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?

    I’m not entirely sure what the word ‘personal’ adds to the question. My philosophy revolves around the rights of the individual, so take that as you will.

    10.Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?

    Certainly not. As someone who had a lot of trouble with being bullied in school, I do not, and will not, love the people who did that to me unless something particular happens to change my opinion of them. I do, however, believe in doing my level best not to prejudge, or even judge on first few appearances. At least negatively. I will confess to make hasty positive judgments.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

    I don’t understand how the two are mutually incompatible.

    Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong

    Not to cede, only to agree to disagree, or if you make clear it’s only for the sake of further discussion imo.

  • “At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?”

    At the point when then negative effects of the beliefs are dangerous or significantly outweigh the positive effects. That is where the problem with fundamentalist religion comes in, because they assert dangerous consequences to disbelief of their religion.

    “Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?”

    Absolutely, because it is a way of showing respect to a person, as Hayward wrote, “Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies? Will it kill me if I were wrong?

  • Aj

    1. Yes. 2. I can, but I don’t have to. 3. Yes. 4. No. 5. No. It matters what is true or not. 6. No. 7. Yes. 8. No. You have a right to your own opinions, but not facts. Evidence based not revelation based. 9. No. 10. No, and no.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

    The question is dependent on numerous factors.

    Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?

    For the majority of people it’s probably worth it.

  • At what point is being right more important than being liked?

    When the wrong-beliefs interfere with the rights of others to hold differing beliefs, or when those beliefs harm others physically or mentally.

    As for ceding points just to keep a relationship going, at one point I would have said yes, but now I would have to say no. I can accept others for their differing beliefs. I can agree to disagree. But if I have to pretend to believe something I don’t, then I’m having to pretend to be someone I’m not. If they can’t accept me for who I am, then they are not worth having. It’s cost me a lot of friends, but flimsy friends who didn’t really care about me in the long run. I gained much more in the way of friendship than I lost when I finally started being true to myself.

  • Sackbut

    I don’t know what it really means to “have a right to their beliefs”. I can’t force people to believe something; I can’t even force myself to believe something. If I think their beliefs are stupid, I have the right to say so. I don’t think it’s reasonable to make this single aspect of the person the focus of my relationship with that person, though, unless the other person is the one doing it.

  • Greg said

    I’m not going to appreciate the views of a racist.
    I should hope not, but on occasion it is worth listening to them. Informative if a bit scary. I know a guy who has such radially racist ideas it borders on entertaining. I pissed him off so bad one time he didn’t talk to me for a year. Always an education to see the darker side of humanity when it really thinks it is moral and just.

  • Same as Stellar Duck, except:

    Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    I would often preface comments with “Let’s say for the sake of argument…”.

    Is there any time it’s OK to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?

    Nope, never – that makes you a liar. Just agree to disagree.

    I have to say – if someone is being disingenuous or a moron, I reserve the right to completely ignore them.

  • Ed

    Interesting list, but it isn’t written in a very useful way. As it is written it really is just something to consider briefly and then quickly get back to the business of disrespecting those you disagree with and remaining stubborn and inflexible. It would be of more use to write it with “Does what I am about to say or do” before each question.

    1. Does what I am about to say or do affirm everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    2. Does what I am about to say or do respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
    3. Does what I am about to say or do demonstrate a capacity to recognize my own fallacies?

    and so forth. Obviously it would not be practical to spend one’s day incessantly asking oneself 10 questions before talking or acting. One could however, get in a habit of checking their motivations using one or two questions similar to some in this list, at specific times.

    On question 10- I don’t know if it is possible to “love everyone” but I think there are benefits to trying to, people like the Dalai Lama and Matthieu Ricard for example who regularly meditate on compassion for all beings, seem rather happy. If we are defining love in the sense of definition nine here it seems a reasonable and worthwhile goal.

  • Eric Mattingly

    I’ll go out on a limb and admit that being wrong bugs the crap out of me. When I’m proven wrong (which, alas, has happened quite a bit) it does almost seem to kill me. Luckily, I’ve been able to survive and adapt my beliefs up to this point, and I hope it will continue.

    As far as being right vs. maintaining a relationship goes, there is a difference between being honest and insisting on being right. We should always be the former, and rarely do the latter.

  • Nan

    After 20+ years of marriage to a believer, I won’t say I “cede” points but rather just take the whole discussion off the table.

  • Julie Marie

    after a decent attempt has been made to find common ground, in order to stay in relationship with someone important to me, I will take a discussion off the table, agreeing to disagree. that doesn’t mean it can’t resurface if some major change of heart happens on either side. as a former believer of the conservative evangelical flavor I can say, people do change their minds.

    on the professional side I’m much quicker to not press my case – I’ll present what I believe to be a best course of action, and answer questions, however, if I get pushback from above, I will set my ideas aside and work with whatever idea wins the day.

  • codemenkey

    I should hope not, but on occasion it is worth listening to [racists].

    no, it isn’t. ever.

    some beliefs (e.g. racism, antisemitism, “god is a white-bread republican and americans are the chosen ones” christianity) deserve condemnation and ridicule, and to listen to such beliefs is to put them on equal grounds as those which do deserve the time of day.

  • codemonkey,

    I am not saying there is any validity to the viewpoint, only that it is valuable to understand what motivates people.

  • codemenkey

    viggo,

    that’s true in most cases, but perhaps you would concede that there are some beliefs that deserve no empathy.

  • Miko

    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    Nope. I’m in a line of work where I constantly try to prove my own ideas wrong, so I’m used to it. Truth is more important than being correct.

    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?

    This is sometimes taken as the definition of libertarianism (with a little caveat on the use of the word ‘harm’ as technically everything I do from breathing the air you want, to taking the job you want, to dating the person you want to, etc., harms you a little bit). I agree with it and think that everyone else should too, but I’m not sure why it’s on this list.

    I believe this is the ideal, although I do understand that more indirect laws and regulations will be necessary in the real world, although these should always be informed by the likelihood, given our best scientifically valid and evidence based knowledge, that they will avoid harm being done to people.

    For that to be a meaningful normative statement, you also need to believe that policymakers will likely be so informed. Personally, I don’t think that such legislation and government-run regulation is necessary, although I’ll cede it’s a little bit of a gray area. However, it’s a moot point because no government in history or in an imaginable hypothetical has ever or will ever govern based on the principle you gave. (You also get into slippery-slopes where people start weighing the value of different lives and saying ridiculous things such as that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified by ‘saving’ lives.)

    Yes, if by harm we include discrimination and abuse.

    We include abuse obviously, but not discrimination. If I hire the best person for a job, I’m discriminating against the less qualified candidates. If I date one person instead of another, I’m discriminating. If you use violence to prevent me from doing this, you’re doing much more harm to me than I am to others. Sure, there’s good discrimination and bad discrimination, but if you try to build this into a moral philosophy, you’re just going to end up with an arbitrary mess that’s based not on any moral principle but on everyone having to do what you say, or else.

    I’m not entirely sure what the word ‘personal’ adds to the question.

    It prevents interpretations that justify such monstrous ideas as corporate person-hood and propertarianism.

  • Ikkyu

    I could not agree with Ed more.

    The point about loving others is not to let them walk all over you.
    The idea is to understand what could drive them to act the way they do, to help them, if possible, and for you not to make the same mistakes.
    Of course this includes stoping them from harming others if need be.

  • codemonkey,

    I do agree that there are beliefs that need no tolerance, obviously. However listening to someone make an ass of themselves and let them give you a truly accurate picture of their views can have value.
    Also, there are lots of people that have the views they do from childhood, have never had them challenged and simply hate on reflex, not the muscular hatred of a jihadist, the disgust at something foreign.
    These are the poster children for the banality of evil. Some can be wakened up with exposure, some alas not.

  • Miko

    Only Godwin’s Law prohibits me from mentioning “respect for the beliefs” of a certain 20th-century dictator.

    Even if Hitler had never been born, we would have seen something similar in Germany. Perhaps the National Socialist party would have still taken power at the same time and done the same things even with a different leader, perhaps some other group would have. Either way, as much as we don’t want him to be, Hitler was part of a larger cultural zeitgeist. And if you want to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again, you have to ‘respect’ his beliefs at least (and at most) to the extent of understanding why they were popular with a certain significant segment of the German people at that time.

    Besides, while his outcomes were wildly divergent, many of his actual beliefs are quite similar to the beliefs of most politicians.

  • We include abuse obviously, but not discrimination. If I hire the best person for a job, I’m discriminating against the less qualified candidates. If I date one person instead of another, I’m discriminating.

    Granted, poor wording on my part. I was using the word in the political sense of limiting a set group’s civil rights and limitations.

  • codemenkey

    viggo, well stated, but it doesn’t account for the fact that people are morons.

    it seems that if a certain belief gets heard enough times, then people assume it’s legitimate and has some backing. this has real consequences and can cause real harm. for example, just look at the momentum and funding that the creationist movement has in america. observe our continued inaction on climate change.

    maybe i’m just being cynical?

  • Polly

    1)Yup
    2)Yup
    3)Yup
    4)Quite the contrary, I’d have everlasting life – of a sort.
    5)Yup
    6)To a certain extent. I don’t tolerate ad-hominems against me. Feel free to talk about others, though.
    7)Context matters. Sometimes even more than the actual arguments being put forth.
    8)All are welcome.
    9)Yes, that’s it. Feelings and their protection are a matter of the individual’s responsibility and not anyone else’s. If you can’t handle having your opinions questioned, then back away fromt the conversation, don’t blame the questioner. Conversely, if the questioner is being an ass, why take their abuse?
    10)I do not love all beings. I’m closer to misanthrope than to humanist. But, I’m willing to give anyone a chance.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

    When you start to feel like a phony.

    Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?

    Any relationship that is endangered by an intellectual discussion has other problems that you’d do well to investigate and remedy.

  • 1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    Sure. Everyone has the right to be as ignorant or well-informed as they choose.
    2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
    No.
    3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?
    Rarely, but I am willing to accept them as they are pointed out to me.
    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?
    5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?
    N/A – Rational people accept that they might be wrong. These questions aren’t really for the atheists.
    6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?
    Yes. But if a person has idiosyncracies and is wrong, I reserve the right to stop listening at any time
    7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?
    Yes. Again, this question isn’t really for the rational or curious.
    8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    Of course not. Kirk Cameron, for example, is not invited to my house for dinner.
    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?
    Well, no. I prohibit myself from eating blue M&Ms, but I don’t know what that has to do with “unity”
    10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?
    Of course not. See #8.

    Bonus questions:
    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

    These aren’t mutually exclusive. One should always be open to new evidence.

    Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?

    If you’re ceding points, the relationship isn’t strong.

    These two questions seem to be about how far one is willing to be not oneself in order to please others. I’m not willing to go very far, I’m OK with not having a personal relationship with everybody.

  • Carol

    I like these questions; I think the religious and non-religious could get along much better if everyone could take a deep breath and have their different beliefs, and agree to disagree without going into a big rant.

    The one sticking point is the question of harm: as others have pointed out, that’s where the line has to be drawn. My moral code is “Don’t hurt others.” Murder obviously hurts others, as does lying and stealing and rape. It also hurts others to force one set of beliefs onto someone else (who believes something else) – so saying that gay people can’t get married hurts gay people, and saying that abortions should be universally illegal hurts the pregnant woman. People should be free to live their own lives without interference from others’ beliefs, as long as their own beliefs don’t hurt others back.

    Off topic, I find it “funny” how Christians care SO MUCH about life, right up until the baby is born, and then the kid is left to flounder in sometimes horrible conditions: in poverty, possibly around drugs, sometimes with abusive or non-existent parents, terrible conditions with no social help – yeah, that’s really “valuing life.” Ooops! I guess I need to take a deep breath and have different beliefs without going into a big rant, eh?! 🙂

  • 8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    Of course not. Kirk Cameron, for example, is not invited to my house for dinner.

    One should always be open to new evidence.

    Would that include new evidence about Kirk Cameron?

  • OK, it took me a while (see question #3), but I think I understand question #9 now. It could be rephrased as “Are you willing to accept others as long as they meet a minimum standard of not harming others?” So my answer would be similar to that for #6. If one does no harm, but is still wrong, I can walk away. Also proselytizing = harm, so there are fewer candidates for this “unity” than the author of the questions thinks.

  • Thanks for posting my list for dialog. And thanks for the lively discussion following. Refreshing!

  • Sackbut

    I’m surprised at the number of people who say no, they cannot respect a person if they don’t respect that person’s ideas.

    Imagine a neighbor: a devoted parent who helps out in school; who treats everyone, child and adult alike, with kindness and respect; who advocates high-quality education, attending meetings and writing letters, supporting teachers. Is this person worthy of respect? Now imagine this person is a Satanist. Has anything changed? What if this neighbor is a staunch advocate of proper science education, and is firmly in favor of separation of church and state, but yet holds these bizarre religious ideas?

    People hold many ideas. I can’t see dismissing a person, failing to grant them respect, unless a very large number of ideas they hold, or certain very important ideas, are incompatible with what I think is reasonable. There are plenty of religious people I respect but whose religious beliefs I do not respect. I can’t imagine the case is drastically different for most atheists. What am I missing?

  • sackbut: that’s what i meant.

  • Sackbut,

    I was thinking much the same thing. Intolerance is intolerance no matter what side you are on. If the person’s beliefs and ideas make them act in an abhorrent way then no, they don’t deserve respect but short of that…

  • littlejohn

    sackbut, you gave a very unusual example of a very decent person who holds one, harmless belief. I could have a certain respect for that person, but I would have more respect without the satanism. Likewise, my opinion of President Obama would be only slightly affected if I found out he believes in flying saucers. But the change, however small, would be in the direction of less respect.
    But if his UFO beliefs caused him to divert a big chunk of our military budget into anti-flying saucer defense missiles, I would lose all respect for him.
    So it depends on how much an odd belief affects a person’s behavior, and how much that behavior affects other people.
    If he weren’t president, and merely built, with his own money, an anti-flying saucer bunker in his back yard, I wouldn’t much care. I kind of like harmlessly eccentric people.

  • I posted the answers on my blog, but I’ll repost them here since it was Mr. Mehta that requested it.

    1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    Yes. Beliefs are internal, and up to the person. Whether you consider them to be wrong or right should only be addressed if the person publicly voices their beliefs.

    2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?
    Yes. If a person holds what I percieve to be a negative belief but doesn’t take action in using that belief to harm others then I can respect the person.

    3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?
    I hope so.

    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?
    I’m assuming that “kill” in this sense refers to great emotional stress. In that case, I don’t think so. During the time that I was gradually coming to understand my atheism it wasn’t a major crisis for me, and that is arguably the most life altering realization that I’ve ever come to.

    But I could be wrong.

    5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?
    Absolutely not. The truth is too important to be treated lightly, even in the interest of dialog.

    6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?
    Of course, I’ve tried to do so for nearly my entire life. Additionally, I always attmept to, not only hear but, listen to what they say.

    7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?
    Ooohhh… someone wrote a deepity. As a kayaker I’ll further this analogy. Looking at the surface will often tell you what the deeper currents are like if you know what to look for. The trick is drawing on past experience with those currents.

    So, in effect yes. I won’t be distracted by the surface ripples, because I’ll be using them to give me a greater idea of what is underneath.

    8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    I hope that my answer to question #2 would give you some idea of my answer to this. I’m willing to converse, associate, or “play” with anyone, regardless of their beliefs. I will however avoid or confront someone who takes a negative action against me or another person.

    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?
    Absolutely not.

    10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?
    By my definition of love, no and no. Love, like respect, has to be earned, but love takes a deeper involvement in order for a person to earn it. If you were to love everyone, then you would truly love no one.

    11. At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?*
    Being approachable/likeable isn’t imporant to me to begin with. I try to conduct myself in a way that others won’t find condescending, intimidating, or threatening but there are some people that you just can’t deal with.

    12. Is there any time it’s ok to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?*
    If you have to “cede points” to someone to keep the relationship going it doesn’t sound like there is a strong relationship to being with.

  • Viggo,

    If you have new Kirk Cameron evidence, I’m listening.

    Sackbut,

    What you (we) are missing is a dictionary. The question leads us to use respect in different ways. This is from Webster’s:


    Re`spect´

    v.t.
    1.To take notice of; to regard with special attention; to regard as worthy of special consideration; hence, to care for; to heed.
    [imp. & p. p. Respected; p. pr. & vb. n. Respecting.]
    Thou respectest not spilling Edward’s blood. – Shak.

    In orchards and gardens, we do not so much respect beauty as variety of ground for fruits, trees, and herbs. – Bacon.

    2.To consider worthy of esteem; to regard with honor.

    I will respect(1) your imaginary neighbor’s right to have his views. I will not respect(2) your neighbor.

    or,

    n.
    1.The act of noticing with attention; the giving particular consideration to; hence, care; caution.

    But he it well did ward with wise respect. – Spenser.
    2.Esteem; regard; consideration; honor.

    Seen without awe, and served without respect. – Prior.
    The same men treat the Lord’s Day with as little respect. – R. Nelson.

    With respect(1) to his beliefs, I disagree. Respect(2) is earned, not granted, btw.

    If nakedpastor is still reading, my I suggest changing question 2 to “Can I be considerate to a person without agreeing with his ideas?”

    I would then change my answer to “yes.”

  • Jack rawlinson

    1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?

    Yes

    2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?

    Perhaps, perhaps not. It depends very much on their ideas. I hold a person ultimately responsible for the ideas they hold, therefore I refuse to absolve them from that responsibility. If someone’s ideas are disreputable enough and they continue to hold them in the face of sound rebuttals I most certainly will not respect that person.

    3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?

    What fallacies? 🙂
    No, but seriously, I think I do. I am always willing to concede errors in argument.

    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    Depends on circumstances, no? If I’m arguing religious ideas over the internet and I wrongly assume the person I’m arguing with is not a psychotic fundamentalist, then no, it won’t kill me. Face to face, however, it might.

    5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    Sometimes. It depends on who I’m having the dialog with, how much I respect them, whether anything’s riding on the argument. Many of these questions are grey yet are trying to push for black and white responses. I’m always deeply suspicious of the motivations of those who pose questions like that. Let’s just say it doesn’t surprise me that this particular set came from a religious person.

    6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?

    If what they have to say appears to be worth it, then yes.

    7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?

    If they exist, sure.

    8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?

    Ostracize, no. I’m not promising I’ll be nice to them, though.


    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?

    What a strange, ambiguous question. I’m not sure exactly what it means.

    10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?

    No, I’m not a brain-dead hippy. There are plenty of “beings” wholly unworthy of love just as there are plenty who are unworthy of respect. Forget that ridiculous Godwin nonsense; sometimes Hitler makes the point validly: was he a being I should have been willing to love?

  • martin

    1.Yes as long as it doesn’t force their belief onto others.
    2.Do it all the time
    3.Do it all the time
    4.about gods no,
    5.I admit I may be wrong all the time, atheism to me is based on not being able to believe in something without evidence.
    6.always do, even if I have heard it a million times 😀
    7.?? sure
    8.as long as they are respectful
    9.yes
    10.too much sometimes.

  • Greg

    Indeed, my answer would also change to yes with mingfromongo’s revised second question.

    There’s also ambiguity in the original 2nd question. You can read it as either:

    Is it possible to disagree with someone’s beliefs and yet still respect them?

    But it could also mean (and this is the way I took it),

    Can you respect someone no matter what beliefs they hold?

    To clarify – I could respect someone who believes the earth orbits the sun. (As opposed to them both orbiting a common centre of mass. :p)

    However, I could not respect someone who believed that they were entitled to commit genocide.

    Naturally there is a sliding scale between the two… 🙂

  • muggle

    First of all, isn’t it rather hostile to come up with this set of 10 questions in the first place? Frankly, if a Christian came up with this list and said I could talk with an Atheist dependent on how they answer these questions, I’d say fuck you, follow it up with sign language that meant the same thing and walk off and disregard anything they had to say.

    LOL! After saying that should I really play the game and answer these questions? Shrug, since I like games and ridiculous personality quizzes, I will anyway:

    1. Do I truly believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs or lack thereof?
    Yes but that doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged or even acted against if the person holding them should try to physically force them on others through force of law or physical force.

    2. Can I respect the person, even though I may not respect their ideas?

    All their ideas? Or just some? Of course, I can. In most cases. If they have a belief that is utterly abhorrent and it is held fanatically and they cling to it so violently that they’re freaking scary — then no.

    3. Do I have the capacity to recognize my own fallacies?

    I’d like to think so but if I’m honest probably not most of the time. Of course, that is a fallacy of mine.

    4. Will it kill me if I were wrong?

    Depends on what I’m wrong about. If I think that berry on that bush looks delicious and I eat it and it’s poisonous, obviously it can. Figuratively as you mean it, no, but I could be pretty damned embarrassed or have my whole way of looking at the world shaken to the core. Then I can see why it’d feel like it would.

    5. Am I able to hold what I believe is truth lightly in the interest of dialog?

    No. The truth is the only thing I revere. Why should I hold it lightly just because someone else believes in a delusion. Fuck them. Of course, if the truth in question is that I’d die without chocolate, well, then yeah. I’m just being silly.

    6. Can I overlook and maybe even appreciate the idiosyncrasies of others in order to hear what they have to say?

    Absolutely, idiosyncrasies are what make people fun and interesting. As long as they aren’t the kind of idiosyncrasies Charles Manson has.

    7. Am I willing to discern the deeper currents rather than being distracted by the surface ripples?

    I maintain my right to be distracted by surface ripples, especially if they come in the form of muscles and dimples displayed in a charming smile and subtle flexing of a male of the species. Also, I came of age in the disco era. I like shiny.

    8. Can everyone play? In other words, will I not ostracize someone because of their beliefs or lack thereof?
    Depends. I don’t drink but have been known to party with those who do, sometimes even more heartily than they do. But don’t bring me down with Jebus or Allah or you’re out on your ear. Also, if you’re a mean drunk and want to fight.

    9. Is personal harm to others the only prohibition I am willing to make?

    Of course not. See above. I don’t drink and I don’t pray and I’m not respecting a moment of silence. Ever.

    10. Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?

    I don’t like spiders and snakes… or assholes. And no I’m not willing to open up to them. Fuck them.

    At what point is being right more important than being approachable/likable?

    It always is. As I said, I revere the truth.

    Is there any time it’s OK to cede “points” to the other person just to keep the relationship strong?

    No. I will only concede “points” if you’ve shown me I’m wrong or at least genuinely make a point. I will, if I like you or want to be on friendly terms with you (rather than ignore you which is what I choose rather than squabbling) for whatever reason, agree to disagree when I grow absolutely frustrated with you and/or not think the discussion worth it any more and/or it’s just all too painfully obvious that there’s going to be no meeting of the minds no matter how much you and I would like there to be because we like each other.

    .

    All that said and as egotistical as this sounds (and probably is as far as I know), I think this world would be fine if everyone took my philopsophy of either liking people or leaving them alone. I can’t be bothered with feuds. If I find someone that despicable, I walk away and just have nothing to do with them. If they refuse to do likewise, pity them. They shouldn’t have underestimated the power of a bitch, especially one that just wants to be left alone to live her life in peace.

  • Tometheus

    This is an interesting post in light of the recent request by Ray Comfort.

  • Stephanie

    I don’t believe that there can ever be any “unity.” In the case of the religious person who thinks his religion is the only way, he will keep trying to “save” you. It is a life and death matter to him although he may downplay it by giving lip service to “respect” and “unity.”

  • insanityssister

    I think, due to my religious background, I understand where ‘nakedpastor’ is coming from, and, as is, this list could possibly be asked of many Christians and other ‘religionists’. But, for the rest of us, life is too complicated to answer simply “yes” or “no”. It always depends, just like so many people have commented in this discussion. I agree with several other respondents that the questions could be more useful if reworded. (How, is for someone else to figure out.) And, I would replace the word love with compassion, considering ‘Ed’s dictionary.com list of definitions. (I really don’t think that I could feel “profoundly tender” or have “passionate affection” or have “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection” for, or have a “sexual passion or desire” for many/most/all people. Maybe a, relative, few at a time…but no.) And I agree with ‘mingfrommongo’ that the use of consideration instead of respect makes more sense. It seems that ‘mingfrommongo’ and ‘Valhar2000’ agree with me, and others here, that respect is earned, not simply a given. I think it is quite reasonable to be polite and to consider and acknowledge the humanity, the ‘beingness’, of others. You don’t have to “love” them to do that. And, let’s be honest, in living our lives, most people, for the most part, live in their own little worlds and ‘ignore’ the rest….Life is too complicated. Discussions like this are good, but, never conclusive and they should never cease.

  • insanityssister

    I also have to say that, ideas are important. Truth is important. But, we are all in the same boat, trying to get through each day, not really knowing the whole truth about much of anything, certainly, not about each other. We, humans, are more important than ideas…

  • HornHighAceDeuce

    To viggo, sackbut, mingfrommongo, nakedpastor and some others, this is in regards to question 2:

    A coworker and I got into a discussion of the term and use of the term ‘respect’ and we realized there is at least two different categories of respect that needs to be addressed. I can respect someone’s accomplishments without respecting their beliefs, or personal behavior. I don’t know that you can say that you respect someone, and mean it to be the ‘whole’ person.

    I have a supervisor who follows Islam. He is extremely capable and very good in business. I respect him professionally. I would take any business advice he were to give. However, I absolutely do not respect his beliefs and ideals. I am actually angered at some of the things he believes.

    So, the question of respect is several very gradient rulers to put up to someone. Professional accomplishments, social behavior, environmental responsibility, etc.. are all areas where respect can be given, and be totally separate from each other.