A number of people, both in person and via comments, who have disagreed with various things I’ve said over the years have ended the argument (or occasionally started the argument) by allowing that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
Really? Gee, thanks. I feel so much better.
It’s treated as if the person saying it is being polite, when, in fact, it seems it is the farthest thing from it, because what is really being said is, “You have no reason, no feeling, no logic, no fact, nothing to support your argument, but I, in my magnanimity, forced to share the globe with such a troglodyte, will grant that you may have an opinion.” Or, simply, that the person saying it strongly disagrees with you, but doesn’t feel like having a reasoned discussion on the subject, so they’ll just insinuate that your position has nothing but your “right to an opinion” to support it.
I don’t generally use the phrase. I prefer to argue to the truth, or at least to a well-earned impasse (amiable, if possible). Although we all obviously have a right to an opinion, not all opinions are equally correct.
I’m not talking chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream. Some opinions have deadly consequences (“I’m personally opposed to abortion, but don’t think anyone has the right to condemn it or talk anyone out of it,” is a popular one), and need to be argued. Heck, even a bunch of lesser ones could use some arguing, instead of the brush off of, “Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”
Standing around on the soccer field sidelines, I got sucked into a discussion on religion. At first, I got the impression the man was trying to proselytize me. Then, when I commented that I was Catholic and argued some Scripture with him, he dropped the “checking to see if you’re saved” conversation and commented, “Oh, I used to be really anti-Catholic, but I listened to Joel Osteen, and he really blessed me, and now I accept that everyone is ok.”
I looked at him, at something of a loss for words. His position was that everyone was “ok.” Everyone who claimed the title of Christian was one.
Uh, no, I started out, for example, Mormons say they believe in Jesus, but they believe that he was the son of a sexual relation between God (who was just a deified good guy from another world) and Mary. The words have to reflect reality, or they don’t believe the same thing we do when we say those words. Jehovah’s Witnesses, as I understand it, believe that Jesus was really the Archangel Michael, he didn’t truly die on the cross, and God is not a Trinity of persons. They say they are Christian, the Mormons say they believe in Jesus, but they are far, far outside what Christianity has always professed.
I would honestly have had more in common with this person if he had still been anti-Catholic. That way, we both at least would have agreed that there is Truth out there to be found and argued for. The pro-abortion Presbyterians and the pro-life Catholics can’t both be right. The mainstream Trinitarians and the anti-Trinitarians (the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, so it must be a false belief!) can’t both be right. Those for and against women’s ordination, gay marriage, sola scriptura, and whether or not the Bible is actually true or just a holy myth can’t all be right. Smiling and saying that we’re all entitled to our opinions is false irenism (irenicism sought to establish a sort of lowest common denominator among Protestant sects after the Reformation, when it quickly became obvious that sola scriptura wasn’t working, since Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (and their respective followers and offshoots) rapidly fell into sharp disagreement over a variety of issues. Pius XII in Humani Generis (see para.11 and on) called this a “false irenism” because it failed to call error as error and truth as truth, in search of a “can’t we all just get along” middle ground).
A while back, I was in an ecumenical Bible study with three couples: us (Catholic), my DH’s Academy roommate and his wife (Southern Baptist), and some lovely British expatriates (Anglican). I have absolutely no doubt of the sincere Christianity of anyone in that group. One night, however, Mr. Brit commented something like, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, since we all believe the same basic things!” Mrs. Roommate and I had recently had a discussion about the debate within the Southern Baptist Convention about the inerrancy of Scripture, Baptist vs. Catholic understandings of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, and a few other major issues. We looked at each other and both said, “Um, no… no, we don’t, actually.” She and I had come to a better understanding of each other’s positions and beliefs, and we still disagreed on some fundamental issues. We both acknowledged that there was a right answer, but, apparently, neither of us was going to convince the other of our position at that time.
I’d rather honestly say, “No, we don’t believe the same things, but I can work with you on specific issues, and we can always pray together, especially for that day when ‘all will be one’ as Jesus prayed.”
So, please don’t bother telling me that I’m “entitled to my opinion;” I got that right from God giving me a free will, not from some other person. Frankly, I’d rather you just tell me you think I’m wrong and why you think so; then we can have a discussion that might bear some fruit.
I also received from God (as we all did, whether we listen or not) the urge to seek Truth. Turning that urge off, to settle for “sort of ok, kinda mostly true” is more of a betrayal of peace than daring to call something wrong.