On Admiration for People who "Stand Up for Beliefs"

Months ago, a peer told me that he admires everyone who "stands up for their beliefs" no matter what the belief is. He thinks that people who stand up for beliefs are courageous. This is a very dangerous position to hold in all cases - this sentiment ought to be rejected.

If we accept that people who stand up for their beliefs should be admired, we would have to admire everyone who commits terrible atrocities and give credit to people who performed stupid actions.
Oh, well, you killed fifty innocent people because you thought that they'd be rewarded after death? Good for you, you stood up for your beliefs!

You left your child to die in a warm car last summer because you believed that this would send him to Heaven? Good for you, you stood up for your beliefs!

Hitler killed people in the Holocaust! Good for him, he stood up for what he believed in.

Sadly, I'm not making a strawman here...I've met people who seriously admire Hitler because he stood up for what he believed in...

We should examine the beliefs, the motives involved, the good that will come of the action, and whether there is any rational basis to these actions before admiring people just because they stand up for what they believe in. This may certainly be a case-to-case basis, but it should by no means apply to every case. Here are some examples:

  • Shall we admire someone who bashes his head off a wall ten times in a row because he thinks that money will appear out of thin air?
  • Shall we admire a person who believes that raping unattractive people is acceptable because it does them a favor?
The obvious answer to both cases is "no."

  • Should we admire a theist who confronts his fellow churchgoers about their hateful positions toward homosexuals and non-theists?
Yes, I feel that this person should be admired because they're going against the norm and challenging ideas that typically just pass by without challenge.

...but what about a more complex issue with religious beliefs involved?

Shall we admire football players who refuse to drink water during practices because of religious convictions?

This might have been the topic of a single blog post, but I decided to fuse it into this one. An Islamic football player for the Minnesota Vikings, an American NFL team, had voluntarily decided to abstain from any sort of hydration or food when the sun is "out." An article on Yahoo details this.

The football player sees this as a commitment to God that is representative of devotion, but I see this as dangerous, not worthy of admiration, and detrimental toward his football team.

Teammates and the team's nutritionist have to go through extra measures to accommodate this behavior. It's quite bad that this man is putting himself through such danger...other football players have died because of excessive heat, lack of hydration, etc during practice sessions. It would be so terrible if this player died or suffered serious injury because of this dangerous fasting.

I'm obviously not admiring this behavior, but some people posting in the comment section of this article certainly are because he is standing up for what he believes in. I doubt that they'd admire the man hitting his head off of a wall, but for some reason faith gets undeserved respect.

This man is doing what none of us have the balls to do. PROPS

This person seemingly admires the football player because "none of us" would have the balls to do this. Why would we want to do this, anyway?

again, if it doesn't affect you, why do you care? you're not the one doing it, so relax. you don't believe in it, you don't have to. his health will be his problem, not yours.
I want to challenge the idea that we should respect people simply because they stand up for their beliefs. I don't want to see people die or injured, so I do care. Of course it's "on him" and he's an adult who is making a decision. I'm not trying to stop this, but am rather shedding light on the issue and raising a philosophical argument that we shouldn't admire people who stand up for beliefs just because.

A team letting a player do this to themselves is tantamount to assisted suicide. Teams must have some type of hydration policy in place for safety purposes. If a player doesn't follow them, he should be released.

'm not too sure about the policies that team members have to follow. I would venture that if a player simply said, "I'm not going to eat or drink during practices for the next three months" someone would say, "No, drink some water or we'll have to release you because we care about your health and don't want responsibility for any injury," but religious beliefs provide exemptions, even when the beliefs inform actions and are personally very dangerous.

So putting his needs above those of the team is OK? I don't think so. Nothing against religious beliefs, but I think he will be affecting the team in a negative manner during this fast. If he is not as strong as he should be, or if he becomes dehydrated, etc....it will affect the team. So while his personal sacrifice is fine, he is forcing others to sacrifice a bit with him and that is not fine.

I agree.

The real idiots are the ones thinking that this "gladiator game" of football is more important than a persons spiritual beliefs. Have you read the reports of numerous atheletes that suffer debilitating injuries from the barbaric consequences of this sport. The Ramadan fast is one of the most strength giving mentally and physically rituals you could ever imagine. Much respect to this "true gladiator".

No, health and rationality is more important than football.

God first... you have nothing but respect from me

Yup. We should certainly put God above human concerns and health...really?

No loving God would ever ask us to put ourselves in danger or risk for them.

Agreed...almost. I don't think that a loving god would want humans to put themselves in unneeded danger like this. Shouldn't there be some sort of non-dangerous way to show devotion?

Impressive? Respect? WTF! Anyone who places their health in jeopardy over a myth...


Doesn't Islam make exceptions during Ramadan for people who can't give up food and drink for health reasons? (e.g. pregnant or nursing women, young children, et al) I think these workouts might qualify Abdullah...

Interesting...I knew a diabetic Catholic who chose to abstain from eating meat during Lent, but he had the sense to eat meat on Fridays to get the protein he needed (or for whatever reason) instead of putting himself at risk. If you really want to fast, modify the fast if it's dangerous to your health.

God also knows that we r human and im sorry but in that heat in the end your human. so if he dies of heat stroke i hope God says well thanks for fasting!

Now this is just dangerous and harmful thinking...

There are many people in the comments section making personal attacks against the football player, but this isn't the intention of this post at all. While I think the decision is foolish, this isn't any sort of attack. I may, for example, think that a decision made by President Obama is foolish, but this isn't a personal attack on the president. We can certainly critique ideas without attacking people.