Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

I Don’t Need To Respect Your Beliefs

Share this post:


Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant path. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way, it’s not my aim. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.


It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.


55 Responses

  1. *stands on table, commences slow clap* YOU are speaking my language sistah!!! OMG i love this post so much I’m going to have it tattooed on my back. FUCK YES, THIS GIRL IS MY SISTERWIFE! Put that in your pipe and smoke it

    also, was this message not resonating in Oo7?? This is my JAM. “I don’t care about your beliefs” <<< LOVE.

    1. Beth, You’re making me almost collapse in tears right now. I was scared as hell to publish this. Saying anything remotely related to religion is stoking crazy flames. But damn, if I can’t write about it what good is writing, right? Thank you for making me not have to listen to crickets on here for too long.

      And YES! Order of Seven was so about this! I’ve been trying to put my finger on the feeling I was left with after reading your book and now I get it. I felt… amazing… like physically, so at peace and in such a good place after I read it. I honestly have never had that happen when reading a book. And now I get why. I mean, I knew that the vibe was my vibe, but it’s hard to decipher particulars when you’re moved emotionally.

      <3 BIG TIME.

      1. we would make beautiful babies, GKelly. Jes saying’…….

        I love that Oo7 left you with that feeling. No, love isn’t a strong enough word. My heart liquifies into fizzy-writer-ecstacy and mind-blowing-validation. <<That kind of love.

  2. Wooo hooooo! You tell it, GKelly! I love it when you are all on fire like that. Oh, hell, Beth stole my quote. Ok, I like this one better anyway: “Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.” I have always said, for people who use faith and fear and intimidation to judge others and scare people into agreeing – if your faith was solid, you wouldn’t need the safety in numbers.

    This. Is. Awesome. <3<3

    1. Thank you SW! I do love to do an angry rant every now and then. 🙂 But this time I was reaaaallly nervous. You guys are making me feel like I can breathe now… I almost sent it to you guys on the SW page to get your opinions on if I should post it at all but then I decided to suck it up and just do it. I think I gave myself an ulcer… I have issues, I know…

  3. I love, love, LOVE this. And you, and your amazing mind and your shinybright soul and how you make things seem so SIMPLE – you’ve cut through all the dross and crap and gone right to the heart of the issue – which is so beautiful and perfect and UTTERLY 1000Speaky I actually CANNOT EVEN!

    As I’ve said on occasions before now “If you want my opinion, Gretchen has it”. You’re so, SO good at putting these things into clear, accessible, inoffensive, wonderful, just-common-sensical ways. ADORE that about you.

    1. Awww, thank you my sweet Lizzi. I don’t know what dross is but I’m glad I was able to cut through it! You think it’s 1000Speaky? I hope it has that tone to it, I certainly didn’t want to be a jerk about it, that’s for sure!

      Your support means the world to me and your opinion matters to me… thank you. So very much. <3

      1. You weren’t even *close* to being a jerk about it. You were MAGNIFICENT. Absolutely AMAZINGLY so.

        (dross is the ashy crap which burns away when you set it on fire to get the good bits of metal refined)

  4. Just a view from across the Pond, a few decades ahead of you Gretchen but, in the words of the immortal bard ‘Awesome, Girl!’. I have to say I’m with you, pussy-footing in my PC way around people of faith, not wanting to upset or start a fissile explosion of righteousness, but you explain quite plainly what I think. Thank you for shedding some articulacy on some half formed notions.

    1. You just went Shakesperian on me? Ohhh, the highest of compliments that is! 🙂 I struggled with writing this because I’m scared to death of offending someone, especially when it comes to these very personal matters of faith. But at the same time, this ridiculousness will keep happening if we don’t start talking about it, right? And honestly, I’m tired of pussy-footing and tiptoeing around it when it comes to using faith or beliefs as a cover for discrimination. And thank you for your kind words from across the Pond.

  5. Awesome!!!

    I understand the trepidation — I’m ALWAYS nervous before I publish something like this, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about with this one. The only times I’ve had real problems (garden-variety trolling doesn’t count, that’s just part of Internet publishing) are:

    1. When I connected friend zoning to rape culture and wasn’t precise enough with my language. In that case, the person who created the problem was setting me up from the minute we started talking, anyway.

    2. When I shared a popular post from a big page about Ferguson, MO on Facebook and it landed in peoples’ newsfeeds who I should have had on the restricted list anyway.

    In both cases, the problem was caused by the specificity of the arguments. I don’t see the sort of argument here that really pushes peoples’ buttons. (Though of course I could be wrong.)

    Great job!

    1. Ah, yes. I remember the Friend Zone debacle. My opinion is that you were absolutely precise enough with your language. That whole thing still just… astounds me. I will never cease to be amazed at what people will do to other people.

      As for the rest (and it’s easy for me to say but not always to heed) the bottom line is some people can not have a discussion in which they disagree with someone else without it getting personal or ugly. Sad, really, because I love a good healthy debate and cast no judgement whatsoever if I disagree with someone’s opinions.

      And thank you, my friend.

  6. As to the substance . . .

    You are right to focus on actions and make beliefs beside the point. Laws are about regulating behavior, not thoughts. Of course, beliefs are going to inform behavior, and that is fine. The bottom line for me on this one is that same sex couples need the same access to things like health benefits and parental custody rights as everyone else. Those sorts of rights have to trump beliefs, or else we’re sunk.

    1. Yes. Once you start making laws based on beliefs you are getting into dangerous territory. (as we’ve already seen play out in our country) And I really wanted to take beliefs out of the conversation. I think it is a clever cover for these types of arguments. But it shouldn’t even be considered a legitimate reason for taking away rights. Bring all other arguments to the table but leave your beliefs at home (or place of worship). At least, that’s the way it needs to be in my opinion.

  7. THIS!
    This is why I adore you, and why we all wanted you to be in Sisterwives. It was a no-brainer. You write the important stuff.

    My favorite phrase? “The cult of fear and judgement.”
    I want to stomp that cult to the ground. Thank you. xoxoxoxoxoxo

    1. Yes Samara! Stomp it into the ground! I’m so tired of tiptoeing around the issue because someone decided to use their faith or beliefs as part of the argument. If you put it out there as an excuse to take away rights? Well, then you better be ok with us calling bullshit on that whole line of reasoning.
      Thank you, my awesome fearless SW and friend. xoxo

    1. Ha! Yes, I see. I also realized while writing this that after I go on and on about not caring about someone else’s beliefs I then decide to state what mine are! 🙂 I love the free reign that comes with blogging! And thank you Lisa! I’m honored that you would say that.

  8. Basically what everyone else said. I love this post so much. Sharing everywhere humanly possible. Thank you.

  9. Yeah what Jen said, hard to say it better than everyone else did, well maybe I can … YOU ARE FREAKIN AWESOME I loved this so much!

    And I loved this “I believe that equality is equality is equality.

    No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.”

    I believe, I believe, I believe

    1. Hahaha! Thank you Darla! Isn’t it crazy that such a simple concept, like equality, gets so muddled and mangled? And sooooo frustrating… thank you for saying this.

  10. I love that you said that you don’t have to respect other’s beliefs. I’m really tired of supposedly having to respect someone’s beliefs, especially when their beliefs lead to discrimination and hatred.
    I love that you didn’t pull any punches.

    1. I KNOW! I’ve spent my life hearing bigotry and hatred being spewed with the protection of religion. I’m really sick of the whole notion of “respecting beliefs.” Makes no sense.

      For you to say I didn’t pull any punches is a high compliment. Thank you.

  11. This is absolutely terrific and so very true, Gretchen. To me, a person’s beliefs are merely a moral compass; what matters to me is the direction they choose to take.

  12. Preach it like you feel it! Indeed. One of the best posts I have read in the last day or so. Truly sums up the hipocrasy inherent in ideology which is the worst -ology of them all…

  13. You captured so much of what I feel about people judging others. I’m a Christian and I really get ANGRY when Christians use the Bible to defend their ill-behavior and petty judgments. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” – so where’s the love for EVERYONE? What powerful, inspiring, and honest post…again. You rock!

    1. Thank you so much! And that’s exactly it, I think that most Christians are not discriminatory and judgmental but the perception indicates otherwise. Christians standing up to this kind of bigotry would be the most effective fight against it! Thank you for your kind words…

      1. I completely agree with you. There’s always a sour apple in the batch – but it gives everyone else a bad name. People as a whole need to stand together against discrimination – no matter what religion, socioeconomic status, or background there otherwise.

  14. Gretchen, I don’t know if you’re looking at this… haven’t heard from you lately.

    I live in an area that so many people consider nowhere.

    But in the past few years… the national spotlight hovers over here. I’m talking WAY more than just the marriage issue. WAY more.

    Richland, WA (30-40 minutes away from me, a few years back):

    Someone accidentally displays an American flag upside down at the door to their restaurant. Citizens are INCENSED. They insist that it’s a deliberate insult. Oh yeah, I did say it was a Mexican restaurant, right?

    More on topic: Baronelle Stutzman. Arlene’s Flowers. Go ahead, look it up. But did I mention this business was on THE VERY SAME STREET?

    Pasco, WA (15-20 minutes away from me, past few months):

    A man was shot and killed by police officers. Mentally ill. Mexican national. A few days ago, protesters blocking a nearby street were arrested.

    People already have strong opinions about the area I live in. Some look with disdain, because we are an “emerging area”, mostly by dint of the Hanford project with the Department of Energy. (Nuclear, y’know?) Otherwise we’d still be farming towns, much like Eastern Oregon next door.

    The world isn’t technically getting smaller, although data is passed much more quickly. People don’t get the full picture, they don’t actually come here, and they judge.

  15. The irony of this blog post is that it is entirely about your beliefs and anyone who disagrees is a narrow minded bigot. People have been and are excluded because their actions are contrary to social mores and codified law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles