1. “I believe that black people are all criminals.”
2. “I believe that AIDS was a disease sent down by God to punish homosexuals.”
3. “I believe that when someone commits murder they should be hung by the neck until the brain is starved of oxygen and they die.”
4. “I believe that MC Escher is a rapper.”
5. “I believe the earth was created in six days.”
6. “I believe that privatisation of public amenities results in a better service through healthy competition.”
7. “I belive that rape victims secretly want sex with their attacker.”
Here is a list of some things I don’t believe. I don’t doubt that some people will disagree with me.
The thing they have in common, and the thing that I am really struggling with at the moment, is that they are all beliefs. How much right does anyone have to criticise someone’s belief? How much right does anyone have to try to change someone’s belief?
I like to think that if anyone in my presence was expounding on statement 1, I would challenge them fairly robustly. I am not sure this is true for some of the others. I think it is true for statement 6 for completely different reasons.
Statements 2 and 5 for me are both irrevocably incorrect. This is my opinion. I think I would challenge 2 more than 5, as 2 is incredibly offensive, whereas 5 is just bizarre. It has, however, been pointed out to me that it is not really on to criticise someone’s belief system, and I am concerned that, unknown to myself, I am some kind of fundamentalist atheist.
This upsets me mainly because I don’t like fundamentalists. Tolerance is a key virtue for me, in its purest form and stripped of the negative connotations that we investigated in the last post.
So, in summary, my quandary is that I am not sure if it is wrong to criticise beliefs at all, whether there are set occasions when it is and isn’t, and if there are some topics for which any opinion is acceptable and some for which there is a prescribed opinion. If anyone wants to share their thoughts, they would be most welcome.
Oh and apologies to those who like the lighter hearted stuff. But, you know, mix and matching is key to retaining your audience, or so they say.