At what point does a person not deserve any respect because of their POV?

Inspired by this Pit thread.

It’s a judgment call made all the time, here and IRL. Believers in Intelligent Design, for example, get little respect from anyone, either on the SDMB or (I firmly believe this) in the wider world. That’s one line. Folks like Der Trihs give no one with religious beliefs any respect, because they believe they are being oppressed by said people, and that those folks would mindlessly slaughter them if their religion commanded them to. That’s another line. A similar line you see all the time in polls about the “types” of people voters would be willing to support for President. Not insignificant numbers would turn away types like gay, atheist, etc. by various margins.

But where SHOULD that line be? Does anyone want to argue that everyone deserves SOME measure of respect? Or are there certain types you just must ignore/condescend to/whatever? How does that affect their place in larger society, if at all, and should we even care about that? How much does it depend on your position of authority?

I’m sure there are more questions implied, but it’s hard to find them all. Feel free to address any that come up organically.

Just because someone believes in intelligent design doesn’t mean that I would have no respect for them as a human being, or for the potential validity of their opinions and thoughts on topics unrelated to intelligent design.

Just because Der Trihs is, well, who he is, doesn’t mean I would discount his opinion about a random book or movie that seemed to be unrelated to politics.

Why not? One could argue that the person’s belief in ID would affect his opinions on a wide variety of subjects, if only because it indicates a certain level of Christian fundamentalism, and we see all the time how religious belief of any stripe affects a wide variety of opinions, outlooks, and preferences.

Is respect synonomous with civility?

That’s a very good question. I think, to an extent, it is/can be, especially when the relationship is optional and not unequal power. Besides, I don’t think you can long hide a lack of respect for someone if you interact with him/her regularly.

I don’t think so. You can be civil to people you consider worthless scum, and call people you respect all sorts of names.

Here’s my POV. There are all sorts of topics which are very complex and require some amount of studying in order to have a basic knowledge of them. If I haven’t studied a topic, then I won’t (or at least I’ll try not to) go around lecturing people about that specific topic. There’s a lot of threads around here that I read but I don’t participate in, simply because I don’t feel I have the requisite knowledge to say anything with any certainty.

So, I think people who go around spouting about things they’ve never studied are not worthy of respect. Civility? Sure. That never hurts. But respect? No.

As an example, you’ll frequently find people saying that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Now, thermodynamics is a really difficult, complex topic that most people will never study in any depth unless they do a science or engineering degree in college. So, when someone says to me that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics, I immediately know they’ve never studied thermodynamics. And so, because they are spouting off on a topic which they clearly haven’t studied, their viewpoint doesn’t deserve my respect.

And if you say my POV doesn’t deserve your respect, I’ll submit that you haven’t ever studied me closely enough. They don’t offer classes on me until the masters level. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think you almost always have to separate the belief from the person as a whole. A person can hold a completely idiotic belief (or several of them) and still be capable of great moral virtue, courage, compassion or even intellect for which they deserve respect.

I also think that probably everyone in the world holds at least one belief that others might see as ridiculous. They may never speak it out loud, but I suspect most everyone has some potty little theory or notion or superstition hiding somewhere.

The hardest kind of belief for me to look past is bigotry, be it racist, sexist, homophobic or religious, but even bigots can have good qualities and be deserving of respect, so I would so that I would find it difficult to say that any per se belief is necessarily enough to dismiss a person in toto as deserving no respect.

A person might deserve respect, even when they hold views I don’t respect.

For example, as an atheist (to continue an example already mentioned) I don’t respect religious views, I think they are grossly misguided.

But I respect any number of people who hold religious views, not because of but in spite of those views, and for other, overriding reasons. When you are speaking of respecting a person, you are speaking of the totality of the person.

Even someone who believes in the validity of something you find totally repellent (say, a member of NAMBLA) could conceivably be worthy of respect when you consider his whole life’s accomplishments and the entirety of his character. (I have never tested this particular case in real life, however.)

Finally, I think it is possible for a very good person to hold very misbegotten views about any number of subjects for entirely understandable reasons. In spite of my atheism, there are a couple of tenets from the New Testament that I find useful in this regard: judge not, especially on incomplete information; and be careful about tossing that first stone.

and, on review, beaten to the punch by DtC.

I agree with both BrightNShiny and DtC.

I do think that most people hold some ridiculous beliefs. Mostly it believe it is because they don’t think about it and just accept something. That doesn’t mean that as people they are unworthy of respect. It does mean that you don’t need to respect their specific beliefs.

However I think “minor” virtues such as politeness and civility are underrated. They often get brushed aside in the supposed pursuit of “higher” virtues such as truth. For example people will say hurtful or rude things because they “don’t lie”. This is crap. Very little excuses you from being polite and civil, in my mind.

That being said I do find that as I get older I have less time for what I consider to be silly or uninformed beliefs. I feel like saying “Piss off and go read a book before you argue with me” but I end up saying something like “I don’t want to argue with you about this” and I’m quite comfortable with the thought that they might think they have “won” the argument.

A friend’s wife wouldn’t go to see the new(ish) Planet of the Apes with him. No, not because it was going to suck and we all knew it, but because “it had evolution in it”.


I would say it comes down to reasoning. If their POV has no reasoning behind it, or demonstrably bad reasoning, then it deserves no respect.

In an argument once I was told that I had to respect that person’s belief. And I responded that I only had to respect that person’s right to have a belief, not the belief itself. As an example I said that my belief was that their belief was stupid, and I asked if they respected my belief. Obviously they didn’t. You’re allowed think whatever you want, and I’m allowed to think it’s dumb.

You can argue that yeah, but you’d still have to actually show it was true. I knew a guy in college who was a good programmer and a creationist. I can acknowledge that he was skilled and a loony at the same time. His beliefs did not affect his ability. It’s possible for something like that to interfere entirely with a person’s life, but it’s not as likely.

I’m going to draw a nice distinction here. Both America and Britain are free countries. However much we disagree with someone else’s opinion - even if it is provably wrong - we must respect their right to hold that opinion. Because someday it might be us that has an opinion that others do not like.

If it is provably wrong ( and by what standards?), does it matter if anybody likes it or not? If I want to preach race hatred and intolerance, how entitled to an opinion am I?

Fully entitled.

But nobody has to like you, listen to you, or think that your hateful and intolerant ideas have one single brain cell backing them.

Is respecting a person the same as respecting at least one characteristic they have? I would say no, but I’m not sure how I would coherently argue that. I hate to Godwin the thread, but it’s an easy example. Most people wouldn’t respect Hitler, but would concede that he was very good at public speaking. Is that respectable? Does that mean you respect Hitler?


I agree with this. In general, I think it’s possible–even necessary–to separate the belief from the believer and respect the person while dismissing his or her views.

But a neo-nazi? A klansman? Someone else who advocates the violent overthrow of the government and genocide? Sorry, but these guys are pretty much scumbuckets by definition. I’m having a hard time imagining a kind and cuddly member of the Aryan Nation.

This is probably just my own individual prejudice here, and I hesitate to generalize it into “I hate them, and so should you,” but I also have a hard time warming up to 9/11 conspiracy nuts. Something about their total lack of reasoning skills just irks the living shit out of me. Those Larouchians, too. We’re talking some serious fucking irk. I can pretty much look at people like these and figure out that we are not going to get along.

It’s pretty much given by now that respect is about as simple as quantum mechanics.

As for me, I’m a total bigot. I respect no one’s opinion until they have demonstrated that they have come by it honestly. It doesn’t matter if they’ve said exactly what I would have or exactly the opposite. If they’re just parroting something that sounded good to them they’re just making noise.

Take BrightNShiny’s example. Evolution and thermodynamics. I’m not going to agree with that opinion, but whether I’m going to respect it coming from you is a separate question and will depend on whether or not you can defend it. “I heard it from a friend/professor/internet/cantalope” ain’t gonna cut it.

There are also opinions that you can hold that are completely indefensible as far as I’m concerned and will completely nullify any respect I would have otherwise afforded you. Racism, sexism, and a few other isms that elude me until I next encounter them. I would simply rather not be in the company of anyone expressing them.

In a nutshell, I’ll respect everyone’s right to an opinion, at least until they have expressed it. Respect for that opinion, and by extension, the person, is reserved for those deserving of it.

Sort of along the same lines, a person will lose a lot of respect in my book when he/she applies some comment to everyone within a large group. That group can be race, gender, religion, nationality, and so on. Someone who generalizes in such a way oversimplifies the complexity of real people, and isn’t very open minded, IMHO.

I will note that I have to put my self in this category of generalizing my opinion about people who generalize. D’oh!