I often hear the phrase, “I am entitled to my own opinion.” Is that true? If so, what does it mean? This piece has some similarities to my previous article, but I believe this topic is worth exploring separately.
I agree everyone has the right to have an opinion, this blogger included. But don’t we often mean, “I have a right to my own opinion and you need to accept my opinion as valid,” or, “I have an opinion and I want you to accept it as being right or good whether or not it actually is right or good—simply because I’m the one saying it”?
Here is what I believe it means to have the right to our own opinion. We have the right to form an opinion and share it, but (and this is a big but) we also have the right to be told if our opinion is wrong. And let’s face it. There are plenty of wrong opinions out there. I’ve had quite a few myself. My hope is I’ve rarely shared those publicly.
Is It Okay to Quash Some Opinions?
Isn’t it okay to be hostile to wrong opinions? And by “wrong” I mean false or bad—even downright evil. Hitler had an opinion of his race being superior to others and we all know how that turned out. Not all opinions should be taken seriously.
Here’s a more recent opinion from English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author Richard Dawkins:
With respect to those meanings of ‘human’ that are relevant to the morality of abortion, any fetus is less human than an adult pig…
What do you think of this opinion comparing human fetuses and adult pigs? Is this an example that shows although all lives matter, not all opinions matter? Or do you think Dawkins is on to something?
Let’s look at a famous parable used by many people to make varied points. I’ll use it simply to show how opinions aren’t always aligned with truth.
The Six Blind Men and the Elephant
There are a few versions of this parable, but here is generally how it goes:
Six blind men in India visit a Rajah’s palace and encounter an elephant. Each man reaches out a hand, touches a different part of the elephant and reports what he is touching.
The first man touched a side of the elephant and said it is a wall. The second man touched the trunk of the elephant and said it is a snake. The third man touched a tusk of the elephant and said it is a spear. The fourth man touched a leg of the elephant and said it is a tree. The fifth man touched an ear of the elephant and said it is a fan. The sixth man touched the tail of the elephant and said it is a rope.
If it weren’t for the Rajah being awakened by the commotion of the ensuing argument from the six blind men, they might have continued arguing their individual opinions ad nauseam rather than learning the truth. “The elephant is a big animal,” he said. “Each man touched only one part. You must put all the parts together to find out what an elephant is like.”
What Kind of Opinions Matter?
How then can we successfully navigate the court of public opinion? It doesn’t take long swimming in the ocean of social media before we start being covered by the monstrous and tumultuous waves of opinions from comments on Facebook and tweets from Twitter.
We need to put an opinion to the test. Is it true? Is it right? Is it good? If so, it should be championed. If not, what should we do with it? Should we let people get away with sharing blatantly false or otherwise bad opinions? If so, please give me an example of this type of opinion that shouldn’t be furiously forgotten.
People can be redeemed, but opinions can’t. Oh, you can change your opinion but the previous version of it is still out there and it can’t be forgotten completely. A bad opinion once given is there to stay. And that is sad. A person who has done bad— on the other hand—can be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. And there is great rejoicing in that!
What Does the Bible Say About Opinions?
Here is a quote from Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
This is not saying that people who express their opinions are fools. It is good to express worthy opinions. This word from the Bible is simply pointing out foolish people often give wrong opinions regardless of the consequences of their words.
If it is good and right and true, it’s an opinion that matters. I’m of the opinion that if something is worth saying, it’s worth repeating. With all due respect to Richard Dawkins, I think his opinion on human fetuses is anathema. It is clear to me that although not all opinions matter, all lives do.