One quite often encounters comments on News24 by someone who is offended by some criticism of a belief or idea such as, “We should respect other peoples' beliefs”, or “We should not criticise others' beliefs”.
What do they mean by this plea? How should we respond? Well this is nothing but a ploy used by religions in an attempt to prevent criticism of their beliefs. The hope is that people will not wish to feel they are being disrespectful, rude or discourteous to someone's personally held beliefs and hence this demand for respect will stop debate in its tracks. The clear intention is to effectively prevent us from even discussing let alone challenging, ridiculing or criticising religious and other superstitious beliefs.
I looked up a few definitions of the word “belief” and the following seems to me most apt:
Assent to a proposition or affirmation, or the acceptance of a fact, opinion, or assertion as real or true, without immediate personal knowledge; reliance upon word or testimony; partial or full assurance without positive knowledge or absolute certainty; persuasion; conviction; confidence; as, belief of a witness; the belief of our senses.
Simply put, belief is having faith that something is real or true with any evidence.
So let's examine some prevalent beliefs and consider whether they are worthy of respect or not. As you consider each of the 20 beliefs listed below rank them as follows:
R = Worthy of universal respect. Not to be criticised, laughed at or mocked.
---- or one or more of the following:
S = Silly. Not harmful to anyone.
L = Laughable but potentially harmful to the person who believes it.
O = Of concern as people who believe it my harm themselves.
U = Unacceptable as people who believe it will attempt to influence the legal system to protect their beliefs from criticism and to force non-believers to comply with their beliefs.
D = Dangerous as people who believe this are likely to harm themselves, their immediate families or others.
C = Criminal: as the people who propagate the belief are simply fraudsters exploiting human gullibility.
X = Very dangerous as believers are likely to harm anyone who does not share their beliefs.
So here we go.
There are people on planet Earth that sincerely believe that:-
Belief #1: Leprechauns, poltergeists, zombies and ghosts are real.
Belief #2: When people die they are reincarnated in a different life form.
Belief #3: There is some monstrous and evil invisible character that induces people to do evil things; that people can be possessed by demons and need a preacherman to exorcise the demons or that some people are evil witches and should be killed.
Belief #4: There is a god that exists outside space and time who watches what each of the 7 billion human beings on the planet does in their daily lives and rewards or punishes them after they die depending upon whether a person believed in the god or not.
Belief #5: Sangomas and witchdoctors can create special medicines (Muti) which are more effective than Western medicines. Some of these medicines are so powerful that they can stop bullets so one can safely riot, go on the rampage and murder people and the medicine will protect you from bullets fired at you by the police.
Belief #6: There are in fact tens of millions of different gods but one god is supreme and his name is Brahma.
Belief #7: 75 million years ago a supreme being Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do this today.
Belief #8: The Universe and the planet Earth and all living creatures on Earth were created less than 10 000 years ago by an eternal god in 6 days.
Belief #9: The universe was born out of 'Hiranyagarbha', the golden womb. The 'Upanishads', vedic scriptures, maintain that 'Hiranyagarbha' floated in an anti-matter before breaking into two-halves 'Prithvi', the Earth and 'Swarga', the Heaven.
Belief #10: The universe began as an egg. A god named Pangu, born inside the egg, broke it into two halves: the upper half became the sky, while the lower half became the earth.
Belief #11: The Bible verse, Mark 16:17-20, indicates that Jesus' followers "shall take up serpents" and not suffer harm so some believers literally handle poisonous snakes as part of their religious services. Many get bitten and die.
Belief #12: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, fairies, gnomes, trolls, pixies and ogres are real.
Belief #13: It is better for people suffering from life threatening diseases and conditions to be cured by praying to a god rather than resorting to doctors, hospitals and proper medical treatment. One cult, for example, bans blood transfusions. Many children die unnecessary and horrendous deaths as a result of these beliefs.
Belief #14: A god instructs his followers to kill people who do not share their particular beliefs and they commit terrorist acts in pursuit of a goal of imposing their beliefs on everyone else.
Belief #15: Manifestations of the face of Jesus or the Virgin Mary which appear on toast, grilled cheese, potato chips, water stains, etc. are deliberate signs or messages from a god.
Belief #16: We are in the “End Times” and that Jesus will appear any day now when there will be an apocalypse, an anti-christ will do something or other and all true Christians will suddenly be whisked up to a heaven with Jesus to live happily for eternity while everyone else will suffer the most terrible trials and tortures. People have been recorded ridding themselves of their possessions waiting for particular dates when “prophets” predict this will happen.
Belief #17: In 1856 the Xhosa nation believed that tales of a girl, Nongqawuse, about a “a great resurrection”. The Xhosa killed all their cattle and 80% starved to death.
Belief #18: Just a few years ago some clever Americans dreamed up idea of a “miracle” rubber bracelet which “improved balance” and enabled sports people to perform better. Millions of gullible fools believed the marketing hype for these ridiculously expensive rubber bands. Few bear the embarrassment of wearing then today.
Belief #19: Homoeopathy and alternative medicines work, are not just sugar water placebos but valid effective alternatives to modern registered medicines. Pharmaceutical companies, medical aids, qualified doctors, and hospitals know these medicines are better but don't use them.
Belief #20: Religious believers, whose god allegedly instructs them not to use contraception, that abortion is murder, that homosexuals should be denied equal rights or stoned to death, that sex is disgusting and evil and depictions of it worse or that pictures of their particular prophet are forbidden are entitled to force others, who do not share their beliefs, to conform to the same strictures.
I could go on and on about psychics, fortune tellers, channelling, ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology, wishing on a star, etc. All are beliefs based on faith alone without evidence.
So here is my challenge to those who believe their particular beliefs deserve respect. Are your beliefs superior and more rational than any of the 20 listed above? Do you believe we must respect all of these beliefs, never criticise them, never question them and never ever laugh?