How far would you go to respect someone else's beliefs?

  • #1
russ_watters
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Putting aside for now the moral relativism vs moral absolutism arguement, since moral absolutism is at the very least not clearly defined, most people will choose to respect other people's beliefs even if they don't agree. So how far does this go?

This example is the perfect hypothetical (actually, I have two), but its real:

I work for a small company. My boss met a few of his employees through word of mouth and he's had several that belong to the same Christian extremist religion. I'm not exactly sure what its called, but it doesn't matter. The core of their beliefs is essentially fatalism: you put your entire faith in God to direct the path of your life. Now this has several implications such as meaning you can't plan for the future in any way - no bank account, insurance, investments, etc. But the one that really concerns me is that you can't ever get any medical treatment of any kind. And when I say none, I really mean none: this includes band-aids.

So here's the situation: One of my boss's employess before I started working for him collapsed one morning in the office just before lunchtime. After a while, his relatives came and carried him away and he died a day or so later.

"Respecting their beliefs" in this case meant not calling an ambulance. Now we can't know if medical treatment could have saved the guy since we don't know how he died, but could you have sat and watched someone die without at least trying SOMETHING? Would you have called an ambulance?

Second sitution. I came back from lunch today and one of my coworkers left suddenly: his sister just died in childbirth this morning. She was 26. Statistically, its pretty rare these days for women to die in childbirth, but thats because the vast majority give birth in hospitals.

Now our legal system is pretty clear on this - if she had been 17 and died in a preventable way, her parents would now be in jail. It happens about once a year in Philly that some parents go to jail for not taking positive action to save their child's life (legall, prayer is not considered positive action).

So what do you guys think? If you found yourself in a situtation where you would ordinarily call an ambulance for someone, knowing their beliefs, would you do it? Would you give first aid? Perform CPR? Or watch them die?

My boss says he would (and he has) just watched them die. I don't think I could sit by and not do something.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Zantra
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Ouch. Well socially speaking, I think the social majority overrules the minority. And beliefs are contingent upon not harming others. Responsibility indirectly, is as bad as direct. If you know someone's going to kill someone else, and you let them without doing anything, you go to jail. It's involuntary manslaughter, or at best aiding and abetting. I remember reading a story about these "cultists" or this faith, if you will. They were somewhere in oregon, and they were letting thier children die because they were refusing to render medical treatment in any circumstance, choosing instead to leave it in the hands of God.

Of course if it is the wish of the person dying to do this, there's not much you can do, as long as it's legally documented. It's called a DNR, or Do Not Resucitate order. It's common in medicine for people with terminal illnesses who do not want to be sustained indefinitely if it means being in a great deal of pain, or in a vegetative state. And the doctors are prevented from saving thier lives. So if they have something along those lines, then they are covered. Of course you can't be held responsible if you save thier life and you don't know about the document. Personally I'd save them and suffer the consequences rather than let someone die, but then it's not my job on the line either:wink:
 
  • #3
Pyrite
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I honestly cant think of anything coherent to say about this. If I do, I'll get back to you.
 
  • #4
Sonty
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So for some people religion really IS POISON...
 
  • #5
Laser Eyes
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When I first read it russ I thought wow now there's a really difficult situation. But then I realised that the hypothetical situation that you have suggested is exactly the same in principle with the argument used by those who say woman can kill a fetus because it's their body. Isn't that what the pro-abortionists say? I didn't mean to turn this into another abortion debate but it is exactly the same logic. Time and time again I have heard woman say "It's my body, I can do what I want with it." Well isn't that the same here with your example. If someone makes it clear to you that they do not want medical treatment under any circumstances who am I to ignore their request. In fact wouldn't it be assault if I did? I have interfered with their body contrary to their wishes, that's criminal assault.
 
  • #6
Pyrite
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I have to say that the abortion example is a little different. One has to decide whether the fetus is a part of the womans body, or a seperate, living being.

In the case of this, I can only reccomend trying to convince them (subtly) to allow you to call an ambulence or such. Perhaps get them to tell you exactly why they cannot have medical aid. Surely, if god wanted you to die, being taken to the hospital would not stop him.
 
  • #7
Iacchus32
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Yes, life and death. Without life there would be no death. In the case of abortion I would say nothing venured nothing gained. At least the soul (if a fetus has one) didn't develop to the maturity where it can experience the "depravity" of hell. So nothing lost in that sense either.

However, if somebody was laying there dying, especially if it was at my house (or, in the case with the employer at work), I would have to say call an ambulance. Or would I? ... I would have to say yes, because I'm not responsible for another person's beliefs (although I may be able to sympathize with them), and would just assume not be held accountable for what would otherwise be construed as negligence on my part.

I think if I was the employer, I would make it very clear, that we must abide by the rules -- at least in this instance -- otherwise don't bother to show up for work. Of course if I held similar views, that may be another story?
 
  • #8
Screw other people's beliefs!

Then again, I'm all about personal freedom: you wanna die, knock yourself out.
 
  • #9
Another God
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Absolutely. Natural Selection at its best. If these fools think God is controlling their lives to that great an extent, then let their vengeful god wipe em all out.

OK, so thats a little harsh, But still, i don;t see why I should interfere with someone else wanting to let their life end. Even if a friend of mine wanted to commit suicide, I would try to talk them out of it (for selfish reasons), and then I woul dprobably kick and scream and beg them to change their mind (for selfish reasons), but in the end, if they stuck by it, sure, i'd let them kill themselves.

I don't see why I should be able to stop other people killing themselves. Surely the control we have over our own lives is absolute in at least that one sense.

-
When I read the question in the title though, my planned answer was going to be: "I would go as far as challenging every facet of someone elses beliefs to show my respect to them."
-The unexamined life isn't worth living.
The unexamined belief isn't worth believing.
 
  • #10
radagast
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Originally posted by Zero
Screw other people's beliefs!

Then again, I'm all about personal freedom: you wanna die, knock yourself out.

While I may not have put it so colorfully, I have to agree. We have to stop using the law to play 'mommy and daddy' to grown adults, just because we don't like the decisions they make. People should be able to make their own decisions. As long as those decisions don't directly impact another, then they are welcome to it. I would say that this only applies to adults deemed sane and rational.
 
  • #11
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by radagast
While I may not have put it so colorfully, I have to agree. We have to stop using the law to play 'mommy and daddy' to grown adults, just because we don't like the decisions they make. People should be able to make their own decisions. As long as those decisions don't directly impact another, then they are welcome to it. I would say that this only applies to adults deemed sane and rational.
As if that wasn't a whole new can of worms!
 
  • #12
radagast
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
As if that wasn't a whole new can of worms!

No kidding!
 
  • #13
FZ+
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Yes, considering that the way we judge people as to whether they are sane and rational again goes all the way back to the idea of the nanny state.

(BTW Laser Eyes, the difference in the abortion case is the fetus doesn't have any beliefs that "must be respected" yet, as far as all evidence shows. They lack that which makes the person - the mind.)
 
  • #14
russ_watters
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Originally posted by FZ+
(BTW Laser Eyes, the difference in the abortion case is the fetus doesn't have any beliefs that "must be respected" yet, as far as all evidence shows. They lack that which makes the person - the mind.)
I agree with you on the principle, but clearly it is still a matter of debate. In any case it is to me irrelevant: in the case I'm talking about there is only one person and one set of rights to consider.

More later, but I've been thinking about this a lot now and I came up with an even worse hypothetical:

Suppose I'm in a car accident with my coworker. He gets knocked out and badly cut on his leg. I can't imagine that if I saw him bleeding to death I would even hesitate to apply a tourniquet. But what happens when he wakes up? Or if his family gets to him before the paramedics do? Now they have to decide if they should go with their beliefs, remove the tourniquet, and let him bleed to death.
 
  • #15
zoobyshoe
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I would save their lives, and then
swear on a stack of bibles I had
no control over having done it:
God made me do it. I don't sup-
pose they're allowed to refuse
help from someone whose on a mis-
sion from God are they?
 
  • #16
LURCH
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Originally posted by russ_watters
I agree with you on the principle, but clearly it is still a matter of debate. In any case it is to me irrelevant: in the case I'm talking about there is only one person and one set of rights to consider.


I think you may have missunderstood the point LaserEyes was making. Either that or I have! I don't believe the rights of the fetus were being included in the example. Rather it was a refference to the position held by those who do not consider the fetus to be a person or have rights. In that case, there is as you put it, "only one person and one set of rights to consider". To those who hold this view, the one person has every right to do whatever she wants with her own body. So I suppose the question would be,"is that only true for abortion cases, or is it a general rule?".

Perhaps the greatest value of this question is to determine whether we are making judgements based on the rights of an individual (both people have the right to do whatever they want with their body) or based on our dissagreement with someone else's religious beliefs (abortion is OK because religious people oppose it; death by natural causes is wrong because religious people support it). If there is a discrepency between the two situations, it should be examined, there might be usefull information in it.
 
Last edited:
  • #17
Laser Eyes
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Thank you LURCH. Yes, that is indeed the point I was making.
 
  • #18
russ_watters
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Originally posted by LURCH
I think you may have missunderstood the point LaserEyes was making. Either that or I have! I don't believe the rights of the fetus were being included in the example. Rather it was a refference to the position held by those who do not consider the fetus to be a person or have rights. In that case, there is as you put it, "only one person and one set of rights to consider"....
Actually, I think you understood his point but missed mine. My "only one person and one set of rights to consider" statement was not referring to the abortion case. Maybe my coworker's sister being pregnant is confusing the issue, but thats not part of the case - the baby survived and the mother died AFTERWARDS. The only issue is how to deal with the mother and her rights re: not getting medical treatment for herself.
I would save their lives, and then
swear on a stack of bibles I had
no control over having done it:
God made me do it. I don't sup-
pose they're allowed to refuse
help from someone whose on a mis-
sion from God are they?
Ugh, yet another complexity. Your point is well made. I would be giving my coworker medical treatment based on my beliefs: "God made me do it" certainly would be a reasonable way to describe it. But that just makes the issue tougher for him when he wakes up: by removing the tourniquet (damn French and their damn hard to spell words) would he be undoing God's work? Of course since he doesn't agree with my faith, he may well consider it to be the devil's work. How does he differentiate between the two?
 
  • #19
I would be willing to go as far as possible to suspect someone else's beliefs, then do what I thought was right.
 
  • #20
LURCH
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Actually, I think you understood his point but missed mine. My "only one person and one set of rights to consider" statement was not referring to the abortion case.

Yes, I got that. But what I think LE was trying to say is that, from the "pro-choice" view, the dicission as to whether or not abortion is acceptable is a decission involving only one person and one set of rights, and this makes it identical to the decission made by certain of your co-workers. If this view is correct, then there should be no difference between the decision to abort a pregnancy and the decision to refuse medical attention. Based on this perspective the conclusion is always reached (in the abortion debate) that the choice is strictly up to the individual, she has the right to do whatever she wants with her own body. So doesn't that also demand that, in the case of refusing medical attention (say, for the worker with the heart trouble), the same conclusion must also be reached; that the choice is strictly up to that individual, and that he has the right to do whatever he wants with his own body? Or, if the two cases are different, how/why do they differ? (I can think of one possible way, but would like to hear someone else's ideas first)

I think that was the point, anyway.

But another question that I hope will do more to clear the issue than to muddy it up: how far do you think your co-workers or boss would go to respect your beliefs? I mean, if you suddenly fell unconscious to the floor and stopped breathing, would their beliefs permit them to call for emergency medical attention for you? Or at least try the Heimlich maneuver? It is one thing for them to be willing to die for their beliefs. IMO, it is quite another thing for them to decide that you must die for their beliefs!
 
  • #21
russ_watters
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Originally posted by LURCH
...from the "pro-choice" view, the dicission as to whether or not abortion is acceptable is a decission involving only one person and one set of rights, and this makes it identical to the decission made by certain of your co-workers. If this view is correct, then there should be no difference between the decision to abort a pregnancy and the decision to refuse medical attention
Thats fine, but weren't you guys arguing that the view is NOT correct? It seems like you want to have it both ways - use one point of view to connect the case to abortion, then say that point of view is wrong but still leave the case connected to abortion.

In any case, I really didn't want to turn this thread into an abortion debate.
 
  • #22
russ_watters
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Originally posted by jammieg
I would be willing to go as far as possible to suspect someone else's beliefs, then do what I thought was right.
That is of course the default position, but it doesn't answer the question: how far EXACTLY would you go?

Its fine to say that there is a line, but there is always a line. The tough part is defining where the line is.

I guess I know where my line is - if the person is conscious and refuses medical treatment or there is a relative there to take responsibility, I'd probably wash my hands of the issue. But without some clear authority to counter mine, I'd act as my beliefs require.

This of course doesn't make it any easier.
 
  • #23
Netme
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Id say anyone stupid enough to believe in a religion like that should be left to die with all we know about disease and what not common sense should have ended that religion a long time ago.
Nothing personal to you people that actually believe in that bs.
 
  • #24
Laser Eyes
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Thanks again LURCH. I wish I had made it that clear in the beginning. I might ask you to explain all my points in future.
 
  • #25
russ_watters
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Originally posted by Netme
Id say anyone stupid enough to believe in a religion like that should be left to die with all we know about disease and what not common sense should have ended that religion a long time ago.
Nothing personal to you people that actually believe in that bs.
Thats a knee-jerk reaction that I have shared, but now being FRIENDS with two such people, its tougher to hold it now.
 
  • #26
Zantra
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Thats a knee-jerk reaction that I have shared, but now being FRIENDS with two such people, its tougher to hold it now.

So if your friends were instead members of a Heaven's Gate type of cult who believed that if they committed suicide that 40 virgins would come down and take them away in a spacehip would you go along with it? What if they told you they were going to kill themselves? Would you try and prevent it, or would you be "understanding" because they are your friends? Friendship doesn't automatically preclude sanity. A good friened knows when to smack you upside the head and tell you what a dumb### you're being.

Honestly, I would not let someone die no matter what their beliefs are. If they had issue with that, I really wouldn't care. Morality aside, I'd be following my gut instict, and if that person wants to die so badly, then after I save them they can go hang themselves. At least it won't be by my actions. I would rank fatalists right up there with Heaven's gate, David Koresh, and Jonesberg. It's the same type of mindset- in other words delusional. And I could go into the psychological aspects of people like this. How they are generally easily succeptable to suggestion, gullible, traumatize, not very intelligent, etc .. .but I won't
 
  • #27
russ_watters
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Originally posted by Zantra
So if your friends were instead members of a Heaven's Gate type of cult who believed that if they committed suicide that 40 virgins would come down and take them away in a spacehip would you go along with it? What if they told you they were going to kill themselves? Would you try and prevent it, or would you be "understanding" because they are your friends?
I think you missed the point. I'm arguing the same thing you are.

Netme said he WOULD let them die. I said I would NOT.
 
  • #28
Tail
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I respect everybody else's beliefs until what they think I have to do clashes with what I think I have to do. I don't want to watch anyone die if they can be helped, and I don't think it's anybody's right to tell me what to do.

If it was something I could do that wasn't very important, I'd do it. But if that makes me feel guilty for not having done anything, the person will have to understand and no amount of respect for that person will prevent me from doing what I think is right if it is serious.
 
  • #29
Netme
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Originally posted by russ_watters
I think you missed the point. I'm arguing the same thing you are.

Netme said he WOULD let them die. I said I would NOT.
So basically your saying you WOULD allow further generations to suffer the same fate of stupidity rather than let the current one die off and ultimatly end. Even hitler didnt make his victems suffer an entire lifetime..
 
  • #30
Zantra
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you all realize of course, that we're one step away from discussing assisted suicide? That of course is the next step up. Really it becomes an issue of where to draw the line. If the person wants to die, do you stand by and let them, or do you even help them?
 
  • #31
wimms
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question boils down to whether you respect your beliefs first, or respect others beliefs first. When conflict occurs, you are to decide whether you are piece of crap not worth your own slightest respect, or you act as your heart tells.

As to your friends, to me it seems that the only thing they stick to is that they themselves do not seek for help. But any external help or event they'd accept as act of god. If you save them, you represent the will of god. So, seems you don't even have a conflict. Your friend might even be relieved and thankful to god afterward.
 
  • #32
LURCH
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Originally posted by wimms
question boils down to whether you respect your beliefs first, or respect others beliefs first. When conflict occurs, you are to decide whether you are piece of crap not worth your own slightest respect, or you act as your heart tells.


Which brings us back to the roll-reversal question I asked earlier; if you fell incapacitated in the workplace, possibly experiencing a heart attack, would they call an ambulance for you?

You see, reciprocity is one of the quickest and easiest tests of fairness. Whenever I'm faced with a question of what is fair or unfair, I try to reverse the rolls. It can't allways be done, but nearly allways, and this case is no different. If you were on the floor, having a heart attack, would you want your co-workers to act according to their own beliefs, or yours? In addition to asking what you want them to do, you should also ask yourself what you think they would do, and what you think they should do.

Then, apply the same principles to yourself. If a coworker collapses, you might decide that, since you are the one forced to make the decission, it is your beliefs that matter, not theirs. If this is your decission, are you not telling them that you should be treated in a simillar fashion? If they would not call an ambulance for you, then they are showing that disregard for the beliefs of others is a part of their belief system, and you would then be acting in accordance with that belief by violating their beliefs.

All of which makes it sound far more complicated than it is. Short-and-simple version; what would they do in your shoes?
 
  • #33
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Putting aside for now the moral relativism vs moral absolutism arguement, since moral absolutism is at the very least not clearly defined, most people will choose to respect other people's beliefs even if they don't agree. So how far does this go?

For me, this is really simple. If what someone believes does not cause serious harm others, then I say live and let live.

But when someone's belief is about to cause immediate, life-threatening harm, then I have to ignore their beliefs and follow my own conscience. If they tried to interfere, I'd tell them, " you do what you think is right, and I will do what I think is right." And if I had to fight them in such an intense situation to do what what I saw as right, I'd do it . . . may the best man/woman win!
 
  • #34
In theory the individual should have the right to do or say or think whatever they want provided it's all on them and it is their life; disregard personal freedom of the individual to choose their own beliefs and bad habits and what they can't say and they start loosing their personal freedom.
In theory I would not call the ambulance, but in practice feelings would probably overwhelm judgemnet for the better depending on such things as our relationship, their age, their reasons for their beliefs, and the conviction of their beliefs. This situation is grilling because there is no opportunity to discuss it with them once it happens, the decision seems to be all on you and most people are going to act on instinctual feelings at that point unless it is clearly discussed before.
What about the children of the parents, should they also be able to choose to refuse medical attention, should a 5 year old be able to say, "I want to die of pnuemonia", and we respect that belief? This is probably a major question for law, and would guess where a line will be drawn by the majority.
 
  • #35
russ_watters
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Originally posted by LURCH
Which brings us back to the roll-reversal question I asked earlier; if you fell incapacitated in the workplace, possibly experiencing a heart attack, would they call an ambulance for you?
I must have missed that before. Thats a really good question.

Since they don't believe in medical treatment, would they call the ambulance for me? I'm really not sure.
 

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