Respect is a Two Way Street

I was taught by my parents that “if you want respect from others, you need to show respect.” I’ve tried to live my life that way.

That’s what I mean in the title of this post. But unfortunately as atheists and skeptics, we don’t see a lot of that whether it comes from theists, or our own.
I know that some of you are going to object to that last statement, especially the last part. But we all know it’s true. I’m not tossing a wide net here, but there are people we are all aware of that will not tolerate any dissent from their opinion. They tend to label others as harassers, abusers, morons, even trolls for the simple act of a polite and honest disagreement.
That’s not even close to being respectful of someone else’s opinion, even if the other person is flat-out wrong. We’re all wrong at some point or another and I have experienced “respectful disagreement” from others. I’ve pointed out before that we can all learn from one another and, if you at least claim to be a skeptic, we should evaluate the evidence presented and be able to modify our opinion if necessary.
There are some however, that won’t, and never will. These people will immediately devolve into the above name-calling, and block the respondent.
Some even deride the very thought of “dialogue” within the atheist/skeptic community to settle any disagreements. When I first saw this post concerning having a dialogue, I admit I was a bit shocked. We can’t even discuss the differences? How are you supposed to change any minds if you’re not willing to have a meaningful dialog? The argument presented in that post is at best specious. Is everyone just supposed to believe your opinion and/or data without question or elaboration?
Not me. This is the ultimate in disrespect.
I can understand if discussion is abusive. I’m against blocking people from commenting on this blog, but I won’t allow abuse to me, or any other commenter. But dissent, if respectful, is not abuse and I see it more and more people trying to redefine terms so that they don’t have to respond to the question or comment. We’re accused of JAQing off for asking a question or clarification of some point.
This attitude is mind-bending, and it’s strictly ego driven People need to put aside their egos for a moment and at least consider what the other person has said instead of rejecting it out of hand because they believe they know better.
We will never progress as a community if we are not able to have open minds. I’m not saying here that if someone disagrees with the Theory of Evolution and wants to push Intelligent Design that you have to consider it. You don’t have to become disrespectful to that person though, even if you don’t respect the idea. As long as the other person is willing to have a polite discussion, no matter the subject, we should at least listen, and then present our own evidence and reasons for disagreement.
If we can’t have respectful discussion within our own community, how do we expect to be able to convince the rest of the world?


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