You’re not entitled to your opinion: Or, the aggressive ignorance of the 21st century

I’ve seen other people explain why “everyone is entitled to their own opinion” and “everyone can believe whatever they want to believe” are bad arguments. But I continue to see people use these arguments, so I’m doing it again. And because I’ve seen it come up recently, I want to apply it to people who say that they “just don’t believe in gay marriage.”

A legal designation isn’t even the type of thing you can believe or not believe in to begin with, but we use the word “belief” in very bizarre ways in the 21st century. Let me clear that up first.

A belief is an acceptance that something is true or that it exists. You can’t really say “I don’t believe in gay marriage,” because marriage is a social convention that already exists, and “gay marriage” is just extending that convention to gay people, who also already exist.

An opinion is a judgment that is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. Opinions are not conclusive and cannot ground an argument. Opinions are things like matters of taste. Here’s an example: I don’t like Jello. That’s an opinion. Jello is not objectively awful. It’s not wrong for other people to like Jello. It’s just not to my taste.

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We Believe in Nothing, Lebowski!

Note: I have to give credit where credit is due. This is kind of in reaction to Ryan’s blog. His question was why do people bother to call themselves agnostic? It seems like one of those PC labels that people use when they don’t want to say that they are atheists, because it “offends” people if you tell them you don’t believe in god. Oh, and I’ve given up on censoring all my foul language. You can blame John Goodman.

Now, at various points in my life, I have been accused of being (among other things) a nihilist, and it’s highly likely that my beliefs do fit under certain definitions of nihilism.

Nihilism can refer to different things. It can mean that values do not exist but are invented OR specifically that there are no moral values OR that life itself is without meaning or purpose.

And on some days[1] I likely fit under the first, definitely under the second, and probably under the third.

But can you really be a full-blown, believe-in-nothing nihilist?

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