“That’s Just Your Opinion”

This was a story I first heard about from The Non-Prophets, but I didn’t see the video until it was linked to from Pharyngula this morning.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists was invited onto Fox News to talk about what atheists do in preparation for Hurricane Irene if not pray. His basic answer was (perhaps obviously) that we do everything theists would normally do to prepare for such a crisis, except for praying.

Now, as he points out in that video: they asked him what his opinions were. And when he tells them that atheists aren’t going to pray because it doesn’t do anything, he’s accosted with cries of “Well, that’s just your opinion!”

But of course it’s his opinion! That’s why you asked him on the show: to give his opinion. And afterwards you start screaming about how prayer does have a positive effect. Guess what: that’s your opinion. As Silverman points out, the facts about the world are on the side of his opinion, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an opinion.

This raises a bigger issue that irks me in real life whenever I start criticizing religion or homeopathy or government conspiracies. I hear about how my views on these things are merely my opinion and that I just think I’m right all the time.

Here’s the thing: I know I’m not right all the time. I get proved wrong on occasion, and when I do my opinion changes. But any opinion I currently hold hasn’t gone through this. It basically boils down the the following, which is my usual response:

Of course I think I’m right. If I thought I was wrong, I would think something else!

Look, we all have our opinions but contrary to what we were taught in kindergarten not all opinions are correct, or equally valid. If two people disagree about a matter of fact, then by necessity at least one of them is wrong. I can say God doesn’t exist as loudly as you can say he does but at the end of the day only one of us can be right. And atheists just happen to be the ones with evidence and reason on our side.

The point I like to make, though, is that we don’t need to go around prefacing our every statement with “I believe…” or “In my opinion…” Have some pride in what you think and go out there and say it. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes, so long as you change your mind when you are. But it’s also okay to be right sometimes too.

And if you ask someone their opinion, actually take the time to listen what they have to say and if you disagree say why. Because the only real response to “That’s just your opinion,” is “Well… duh!”

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