The Score on Believe What You Want To Believe [Last Modified on 2006.12.03]
It is important to understand that we fully support your right to believe whatever you want to believe, regardless of the supporting facts, or lack thereof. We firmly support your right to your own personal beliefs, and we would gladly argue for you to maintain that right. That said, it is equally important to understand that we maintain the right to not believe what you believe, and to think that what you believe is silly. Just because you believe something passionately, don't expect us to respect that belief. We will respect your right to hold that belief, but not necessarily the belief itself.
The main issue here is that we should all have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, as long as that belief doesn't infringe on the rights of others.
There has been a push in recent years to accept all worldviews, beliefs, cultures and lifestyles as equally valid — in large part, this is based on the Politically Correct movement. The problem is that such "even-handedness" and "fairness" does not — and cannot — extend to actual facts. Your choice to hold a certain faith-based belief is "valid," and should be supported, even if someone disagrees with your belief or lifestyle. This does not mean that your actual belief itself is factually valid. We must differentiate between culturally respecting each other's decisions, and examining the facts and supporting evidence for any opinion. You may think that Creationism — a purely faith-based belief — is equal to or more valid than the fact-based theory of evolution; but empirically, the facts and evidence demonstrate that this is not the case. Asserting that all beliefs of any type should be treated equally is nothing more than misguided Politically Correct nonsense.
While fact-based beliefs should be viewed as separate from faith-based beliefs, it is important to note that all faith-based beliefs are equal in merit, and should be treated as such. To us, Christianity equals Judaism equals Hinduism equals ESP equals Crystal Healing equals Astrology equals UFO abductions, ad infinitum. These are all examples of beliefs based on faith instead of facts, and they are all the same to us. A common tendency among humans is to believe that your faith-based beliefs are valid and worthy of respect, while the beliefs of others are just silly and/or dangerous. Remember that just because you think Christianity is the only valid faith-based belief, someone else who thinks that Astrology is the only valid faith-based belief won't automatically concede the divinity of the Bible — and we won't concede the validity of either of those beliefs. It is the whole menagerie of faith-based beliefs — any and all of them — that cannot be permitted to infringe upon the rights of others.
A primary example of how faith-based beliefs can infringe upon others is by forcing or even just pressuring others to adhere to your beliefs. This can happen in the form of proselytizing, or having your beliefs mandated as law. Examples of people trying to impose their beliefs as laws are in abundance in the United States these days, including laws and positions on abortion, stem cell research, and homosexual marriage. A particularly sickening example of pressuring others into beliefs that they do not share has been recorded recently in Southeast Asia. It seems that certain faith-based relief workers have been withholding emergency care and supplies if the needy failed to embrace Christianity.
Another example of how faith-based beliefs can infringe upon others is when your beliefs dictate discrimination against another person or group. This can happen if your belief states that women are inferior to men, that homosexuals are inferior to heterosexuals, or that pagans are inferior to Judeo-Christians — or, even if you don't claim this inferiority, you are claiming that a group's rights should somehow be limited or revoked.
An oft overlooked way in which faith-based beliefs can infringe upon the rights of others is through the portrayal of a faith-based system as scientifically sound in order to propagate that belief system. An example of this would be stating that there is sound scientific evidence to support the benefits of homeopathic remedies, or any other form of medical quackery. This is a fabrication intended to increase belief in a faith-based system, and the possible results of this fabrication could be detrimental to the education, the well-being, or even the health of other people. Such ramifications make this type of behavior dangerous and unacceptable.
The bottom line is that as long as you aren't infringing on the rights of others, you can believe whatever you want to believe — just don't expect that your belief is protected from criticism, or that it is universally worthy of reverence.