1. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    A difficult question (moral/ethical delima inside!)

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by LordKyleOfEarth, Nov 20, 2010.

    Is it ever okay to try and change another person's personal beliefs, simply because you disagree with them?

    It could be something a big: a person who believes that abortion is fine/wrong, or conflicting religions, or political disagreements.

    It could be something small: should you leave the A/C on or off when you leave the house, toilet paper roll facing toward/against the wall, antibiotic hand soap or natural?

    Where is the line drawn? Trying to change a person's beliefs is essentially asserting that they are not entitled to their own opinion. I have a real-world example (that spawned this) that I'll drop in later; I just want to see what people think first.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For me, simply disagreeing with someone isn't enough to justify trying to change their beliefs. I would only try to change someone's beliefs if I feel they are immoral in some way.

    Except maybe for abortion, there's really nothing in your examples that would make me try to change someone's beliefs and values.
     
  3. DisFanJen
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    DisFanJen Member

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    Yowch! A thorny one.

    In my opinion, it's ok to debate an issue, but not to force an opinion on them.

    Case in point, my partner is an atheist, when your gone, your worm food - end of. Me, I believe that there must be something more than chaos running this universe however I don't quite think any organised religion has really managed to work out what that is (Does that count as agnostic? I mean I do believe in a supreme being, intelligence, force; just not that anyone has worked out what it is).

    So my partner and I have discussed it before, and disagreed too, but that's as far as it went. I'd never try try force them to think like I do and vice versa.
     
  4. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's right to try and force someone to always agree with you. So what if they disagree with you, we're not all going to have the same views on things.
    Although, it can sometimes depend on the disagreement. Say, if you thought someone needed medical help but they wouldn't go and see a doctor, then I would try and make them agree with me because it's in the best interest for them. But if it was because they were say a Christian, and I wanted to make them an atheist then that would be wrong; everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.
    As for the small things, like disagreeing on what to watch on TV, or what to eat, or what colour to paint the walls etc. it's more just a matter of preference and wanting to get our own way. I don't think it matters too much if you try and make someone agree on matters like these because it won't really matter either way.
     
  5. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is an old saying 'never get into an argument about politics or religion' I'll add, it could go on forever.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You have to consider what the consequences of that other person's beliefs are. Naturally, that is from the perspective of your own beliefs, so it's hardly an objective decision. But sometimes the consequences are sufficiently dire that you cannot in good conscience remain silent.

    Other times, you just need to swallow your pride and let it go. Some differences of opinion are just that.

    Your question is at the very core of ethics and ethical dilemmas. Don't expect a definitive answer.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can't think of any reason why it would be wrong so long as you're using reason and argument to attempt to change someone's mind, and not using force. You aren't saying that they aren't entitled to their opinion (which is what you'd be doing if you employed force), you're simply trying to change their mind. Using reason and argument to persuade implicitly recognizes their entitlement to an opinion of their own, in my view.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One more thing to consider.

    Workplaces have learned that diversity makes good business. It's not just Political Correctness. Building teams with differences of opinions, and a moderate amount of conflict, results inbetter decisions in the end, because conventional thinking is challenged and tested, and new ideas arise from the exchange.

    This is a major reason managers break up smoothly functioning teams and throw together people who seem to be a poor fit. It may seem Dilbertish, but it really does have concrete benefits that are worth the temporary chaos.

    The conflict has to be managed, of course. There have to be rules, and respect must be maintained at all times. But the goal is not to erase the differences, but to make constructive use of them.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course it okay to try to change people, we change a little every day and grow from the experience. We try new ice cream flavors, listen to news that change our world view just a little and get to know new people.

    The problem you facing is:
    "What ways are acceptable ways to try to change the person you are trying to change?"
    and that depends on who that person is and what sort of relationship you got. Some find a hot debate wonderful an enriching, some don't enjoying at all and get hurt.

    Find the unique balance in your relationship of what is an acceptable even nice way to change the other person. It might be negotiations "If you do x, I'll stop smoking", it might be positive encouragement, it might be drawing a line it might be talking about why you feel that way, or something else.
     
  10. Capt Bob
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    Capt Bob Senior Member

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    Honest and open minded debate should not equate with "forcing your views on someone"!.
    It's what the first amendment is all about. Without honest presentation of "new" ideas we stagnate.

    Differing opinions have but to be adequately described and understood by both parties. To "change" opinions, they must stand on their own alongside the competition and make a credible and persuasive case.

    Beliefs run a broad spectrum and at the extreme end may justify extreme force as with the Axis Powers of WWII--took bullets- to the first--and only--use of the A bomb. But there is little to adequately deny it's justification.

    As always, -the circumstances must be fully understood and the suitability properly addressed.
     
  11. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a Christian I often get into discussions with other people, but I just try to explain them how and why I think about things, not force them to feel the same way. (Since it's anyway up to them to do what they want with all they hear and learn)
     
  12. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    So this is what set it all off:

    I was at work and started to discuss a photography book with a customer. That discussion eventually led to him telling me that 1) he was sexually abused as a child 2) He now has 'unnatural urges' as a result 3) his views as a Christian cause him to constantly struggle to suppress those urges.

    I personally do not believe that homosexuality is a disease or something that a person should be ashamed of. I wanted to help the guy see that being homosexual (regardless of whether or not sexual abuse was the trigger) was not 'wrong'. But at the same time, I didn't want to tell him that his beliefs were 'wrong'. Who am I to tell him the version of Islam he followed (which gave him peace and strength to overcome drug/alcohol addiction) was incorrect?

    I said nothing about his beliefs, but it got my mind wondering...
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To start with, because it was a customer, your only real recourse in to nod noncommitally. A customer may not always be right, but he is never wrong.

    Where religion is concerned, you generally may as well take the same approach. You won't change their mind, you will only piss them off.

    If the welfare of a child is threatened, or that of someone else not legally competent to extricate themselves, you may have to appeal to the authorities. Other than that, you are only infinitessimally likely to persuade them, and much more likely to trigger their obstinance response
     
  14. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would been on the path to say "I'm glad that you with your world view found you own peace, in your own way. It must been hard for you, both being abused and being a part of a faith that have strong view on sexuality. "

    And leave it at that. I think to change someone you must listen rather then talk to them.
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with W176 - if that person wants to come out great. If they don't no one should force it. My experience with people in my life is that only an individual can make that choice and make the right one for themselves.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to me, it would depend on why the change was sought...

    if it's to save lives or avoid hurting others in any way, i'd say it's ok to give it a try...

    if it's just to make them agree with you, for no good reason, then it's not...
     
  17. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    If it's over something small, I try to change people's minds to either get my way or to ensure efficiency. It always strikes me as odd when people do things the hard way; I expect nothing less for me when I'm doing things the hard way.

    For bigger things, I honestly just like to discuss them. I'm not the author of their life story, and it's rather pretentious of me to assume that I am. I'm just a character, in most cases a minor one at that.

    For instance, in LordKyleOfEarth's case, I'd try to figure out why he thought homosexuality was wrong; he may have sound logic to believe that. Either way, once I've heard what he said, I could tell him that I've found that sexuality doesn't deal with concepts like right and wrong, as they're not connected in anyway, save for when we explore them with other people (consensual sex is ok, but rape, incest, etc. is all wrong). He doesn't have to believe me, but as a character passing through his life, he may start to think about that and put more weight into thinking about his sexuality and the lack of a moral nature instead of just feeling bad because sociological and religious standards demands that he should.

    Of course that varies from person to person, but the big stuff? Talk about it, but let it be.
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It would depend on how deep and how fundamental the belief is. For me, anyway.

    To use your examples:

    The toilet paper roll debate is fluff and of little consequence to a person's definition. I would argue my side to the ever loving hilt.

    The issue of religion... I have my point of view, and it is an atheistic point of view. When I was young and angsty, I hones my argument to a razor's edge. I was young. And dumb. I had yet to learn some empathy. I would not bring that "razor" to bear unless somehow the situation were one of preserving my civil liberties. Other than that, I would not knock the foundation from beneath someone's house. No.
     
  19. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    Going to go ahead and pull this thread back up... I'm just now reading it.

    I don't think it's ever okay to force your beliefs on someone or to argue your point, ascertaining that you think your opinion matters more than theirs. I think, in every instance, it is totally okay to express your own opinion and to justify why you believe what you believe. I think it's the differences people have that make us interesting. That said, just because you have the right and that it is 'okay' to express your views doesn't necessarily mean you should. ;) I never talk about religion or politics. I'm not a very good debater on the spot, and I usually end up getting irritated. And you'll never win. Like Wreybies said... it's shaking that person's very foundation, and if that person's mind should ever change, it's something they're going to have to work out themselves.

    In the case of your customer, Kyle, I think it'd be nice for someone to tell him that she thinks what he's doing is okay and not immoral and nothing to be ashamed of. His views may or may not change, but his perception and self esteem could. I think it's important for people who are ashamed of something about themselves just need to hear that, regardless of the morality of a sexual preference, they are loved and valuable anyway. Maybe if he heard that enough he could accept that (in his mind) what he is feeling is dishonorable, but it's just one "bad" part of someone who is overall a very good person.
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think that a lot of people confuse tolerace with passivity. People can be, and often are, wrong in an objective sense about moral or social issues. Just like not everyone's opinion matters when it comes to particle physics, not everyone's opinion is equal when it comes to questions of morality. The fact that their opinion is most popular, or divinely sourced, does not change this. So with things like homosexuality, I think, as a reasonable person, it is correct to say that people who believe homosexuality is immoral are objectively wrong, in that their belief/moral code does not produce a morally ideal society (in which personal and social well-being are both maximised). This version of moral absolutism doesn't necessarily mean that there is only one right answer to moral questions, but allows us to say objectively that certain views are wrong and should not be considered. The idea that we are obligated to consider everyone's opinion in moral matters (particularly at a social level) is the reason that baseless hatred and discrimination remain prevalent in what is otherwise an advanced moden world.
     
  21. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Debate is one thing - dogmatic dogma is another.
    No-one has the right to force their beliefs on anyone.
    Stand up for what you believe in. But do not force your believes down other peoples throats. Be tolerant to other peoples opinions and accept the fact that, whether you like it or not, they are entitled to their opinions.
     
  22. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Sometimes, opinions can be dangerous, the opinion that what wikileaks has done recently means they are terrorists is a dangerous opinion. There are other opinions that are dangerous, such as those relating to gender identification, sexuality, and race. These opinions can harm people and are detrimental to society. These opinions not only should be changed, but must be changed.
     
  23. Lavarian
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    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

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    What should the rest of us do when those whose opinions are deemed "dangerous" (whoever it is who decides that) refuse to change?
    Do we force them to change?
    Maybe line them all up and shoot them?
    Or do we all go on hunger strike?
     
  24. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Behavior modification of course. If someone has the opinion that taking something without paying for it is OK and they act on their opinion, we put them in prison. If someone voices the opinion that America is bad we label them a terrorist and send them to be waterboarded. It's done all the time by police, military, and the judicial system.
     
  25. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was not aware that we were talking about 'dangerous opinions' e.g. racist, enticing hatred etc., in the UK we have laws to deal with these things.
    I was talking about everyday opinions in which I would include political and religious beliefs. Everyone has the right to their opinions, to follow their religion to support any political party of their choice. What they do not have a right to do is force their beliefs down someone elses throat.
     

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