Quoting Johann Hari,

I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous ideas.

How is this quote relevant to this entry? Here's the context:

One of the notions that society as a whole seems to have accepted is the idea that beliefs should be respected - in particular, religious beliefs. It is generally regarded as somewhat a taboo to criticise, challenge or even just to discuss about religious ideas. When somebody does any of the above, it is regarded as distasteful, insensitive or just plain rude

In summary, it seems that, in the minds of the religious majority, mere criticism or discussion of religious beliefs is deemed "disrespectful". This is unusual. To paraphrase Douglas Adams (listen to the quote at the 9 minute mark in this video), it seems perfectly normal to argue about preferences of computer operating systems, about the virtues of one economic system over another, about particular political ideologies but somehow it's "disrespectful" when the same amount of respect is afforded to religious ideas.

One of the most common justification I come up against is this: in order to respect someone, we avoid criticising his/her beliefs because we respect the person who holds them.

I beg differ. I think that's an invalid justification. There's a few points that could be made (I can think of two others) but I wish to push this point forward - the one could be summarised with the quote mentioned at the beginning of this entry. And I think it's not made explicitly often enough.

I "disrespect" your beliefs precisely because I respect you as a person.

I "disrespect" your beliefs (ie, to criticise, challenge or discuss about them) because I
  • respect your intellectual abilities that you can understand the arguments I'm putting forth to you.
  • respect your integrity that you would want to be honest with others and with yourself.
  • respect your independence and personhood that you are reasonable to be reasoned with.
  • respect your right to knowledge and welfare that you should benefit from what I know.
That's assuming that I'm correct. If I am wrong, I
  • respect your abilities to defend your perspectives (why else would a discussion be worth having anyways).
  • respect that you care enough for your fellow human to explain why your position is more correct.
I place respect for the person over and above respect for his/her beliefs. The very idea that I bother to engage in the discussion/debate demonstrates this. If I do not think that you are smart enough, reasonable enough, mature enough, I wouldn't be bothered to be engaged in the discussion in the first place.

If you weren't the independent thinking human being that I think you are, I wouldn't bother even to begin "disrespecting" your beliefs.

In fact, I don't see the need to talk of respecting or disrespecting beliefs. It is the free market of ideas that enabled progress in our modern society. We place every belief/idea under scrutiny - and they stand or fall based on their own merits.

From this perspective, it is even more unusual to talk of "respect" for beliefs. If a belief has its own merits, it would stand without any need for special respect. So where's the point? Unless one already realizes that the belief is indefensible, why the demand for special respect? And if the belief is indefensible, isn't it a matter of vocabulary to use the adjective ridiculous? To take it even further, why bother having such indefensible beliefs?

Respect? Yes, you're getting some - just not the "special ones".

If atheists went to heaven

Here's Darkmatter2525 interesting video on the entry to heaven.

For those who can't see the point to this comedy, here's darkmatter2525's answer:

This video was about how if the tables were turned, we wouldn't want to see you burned.

That is, the heaven and hell system as described by Christianity is fundamentally unjust.

I made a difference

I often wonder if the things I argue about on the (STOMP) forum would ever make at least some impact to somebody's life. I don't mean literally life altering but at the very least provoke them into thinking about the issues being discussed.

And then, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the following:

Posted by Lucifer78
In fact, I like this type of exchanges in the forum. We can learn a lot on each other stand and strength our own "faith" in our individual stand. I learn more on the bibles from Veekee75 and more on science from Atheozoa (sorta of "converted" into atheist by him =p). It's quite healthy exchanges here as long as we dun flame each other ^^.

Before this particular post, I've already noted his apparent change in the style and content of his recent responses in this thread. But never did I realize that it was partially due to my influence.

I helped. And that matters.

Why immaterial?

I have been thinking. It seems that there is something fundamentally odd (perhaps, just plain wrong) with postulating an immaterial (and supernatural) entity as the creator of the universe.

I'm not exactly sure but the reason for adding such a property goes something like this: The universe (in its current state) is an effect whose cause is traced back to the Big Bang. No matter how science may attempt to explain using natural/material causes, it will eventually run into the problem that the cause must itself have been an effect. Thus it would only just add one more step to the regress.

The solution (in their opinion) is to postulate an immaterial (and/or supernatural, I don't think the distinction matters too much) agent (ie, god) to end the regress. Thus, it is also called the uncaused cause. Other properties that comes along include eternal and intelligent.

But I think it is just odd.

How does postulating an immaterial entity supposed to solve anything?

In fact, couldn't an immaterial cause be itself an immaterial effect and thus be no solution at all?

If the solution lies in the property of being eternal, why can't the cause be material?

Perhaps I'm just missing something and this post is just brain diarrhea.