Respect others' right to be wrong

"I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim."

-Jean-Paul Sartre

During the vice presidential debate, Sen. Biden said, "I have never ... questioned the motive of another ... with whom I've disagreed. I've questioned their judgment." Let's take this statement out of Washington, D.C. and think back to the evangelical visitors we recently had on the college green.

Last week, two individuals were on campus saying that those who supposedly go against God - primarily gays, but also others to a less focused degree - were doomed to hell. I disagree. In fact, I don't even believe in heaven and hell, at least in the traditional sense. But this is a belief of some and I cannot say that I am right and they are wrong. Though I can take issue with how individuals express their beliefs, the beliefs themselves, so long as they can be expressed within basic human morality, are not for me to attack.

I raise this because I was both enormously proud and sometimes confused by my peers' reactions after the situation had subsided. I was proud to belong to a community united in its acceptance and support of diversity. Knowing that so many students came to rally in defense against uncivil expressions of condemnation is both humbling and powerful. I was confused by the hypocrisy though, as I began to hear students say that the individuals' beliefs were definitively wrong. This is where a thin line was overlooked.

Although I disagree with those two individuals, I would never be so presumptuous to think it my place to tell them that what they believe is wrong. I do, however, feel perfectly justified correcting blatant lies and made-up statistics that try to negatively portray a group of people. I have no trouble telling them that biologically and psychologically it is becoming more apparent and accepted that one's sexual orientation is not chosen, but inherent.

These are questions of objective truths. It is our right and obligation to correct those who are misinformed and those who intend to misinform others. But when it comes to ideas that are not objective, but subjective, things change. We can take issue with the uncivil manner in which those individuals expressed their views, but - except in cases of objectively refutable lies - we cannot take issue with their beliefs.

There does come a point when it is time to be concerned with someone's subjective beliefs: when the expression of them would harm the community or go against the most basic levels of human morality. If someone believes one race to be superior to another and therefore has a right to enslave or deny rights to that race, then that belief needs correction.

But it is possible for a preacher who believes homosexuality is against the will of God to express him or herself more civilly than what we saw on the college green.

You can disagree with the beliefs themselves, and you can attack the methods of expression, but not the existence of expression. How do you feel when someone tells you that believing homosexuality is ok is wrong?

It is perfectly fine to believe in a subjective truth so long as it has healthy means of expression. It is all right to express and suggest the merit of one's beliefs, but it is not all right to push one's beliefs onto those who are unwilling.

Before you ask someone else to tolerate diversity of lifestyle, ask yourself to tolerate diversity of thought.

Jesse Goldberg is a freshman English major who fully respects your right to his opinion.