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Letter: Beliefs vs. opinions: Distinction with a difference

There seems to be a question about the interchangeability of the words “belief” and “opinion.” The word belief stands for a deeply felt idea that needs no facts to “prove” it, such as the belief in a supreme being.

I believe in the essential goodness of humanity and that we all should try to live in peace and harmony. To me, these are not only beliefs but they also sound right.

An opinion stands for an idea that should be based on certain “provable” facts, as far as possible at a certain point in human intellectual development. Although certain “facts” have been disproven in history, the opinions based on them were the best humans could do at the time. This presupposes a certain degree of trust and faith that another person will also seek truth.

I might say that I “believe” in another human being because all indications lead to that conclusion, but it is a fallacy to believe that that person will always do good deeds since all humans are fallible.

It is everyone’s inalienable right to believe in whatever or whomever he or she chooses, but sometimes I disagree, not with their beliefs, but in their use of the word. As an example, it is the believers’ willingness to believe that has spawned great religious happiness, but also great religious hatred. When brought to politics, we only have opinions. To insert beliefs into temporal and temporary opinions may lead to great harm, thus the separation of church and state.

So, while I fully respect others’ beliefs, I do not respect some opinions that, I think, are based on falsehoods, misconceptions and unflagging trust.

If you are a person of faith, cherish it. If you are a person of opinion, be careful, for wars have started for less.

Angelo Scouras


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