It is often said as though it were a matter of good behaviour that we should respect each other's opinions and not brand those we disagree with as misguided, mad or or even evil but just as people who take a different view and who may have as much reason for that as we do for ours. The Archbishop of Canterbury made the same point on television a while ago saying that if we don't accept other people's right to their own beliefs, we risk sliding into extremism and hatred. Everyone has the right to their own view and no one has all the truth. We must all respect each other and not think we alone have the truth. That was the gist of what he said.
This is all very nice and civilised and, up to a point, it is correct. We should respect others. Truth does have more than one facet and it can be approached from different angles. The problem with this attitude, though, is that it results in a cultural/philosophical/spiritual relativism with nothing better than anything else. For the fact is that truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and bad do exist, and people often make what they maintain as purely intellectual choices based on their own inner state of being. A person orientated to the true good will follow what accords with that. Somebody not so orientated will not do so and will perhaps believe and promote ideas that work against the true good because these ideas support his own inclinations. In this sense, you can say that good people believe good and true things and bad people believe bad and false things. It has not escaped notice that many leftists often are so because of envy and resentment. So, although it might be more pleasant to be in a position where we could just agree to disagree in a friendly fashion, it is also the case that sometimes you cannot do this because certain beliefs are founded on lies and even evil. This is more the case than ever now when things are "coming to a point" by which is meant what might previously have been seen as shades of grey are more clearly becoming black and white.
If you and I disagree whether Bach or Beethoven is the greater composer, there is no problem. If you prefer Beethoven I won't call you mad or bad. But if you and I disagree over whether God exists or not then we are not standing on equal ground. God exists. That is the truth. To say that God does not exist is a falsehood. I don't necessarily claim you are mad or bad not to believe in God but you are certainly wrong and you may well be rejecting God because of something mad or bad within you. There are other beliefs which even the friendly and tolerant archbishop would hold to be mad or bad, such as the right to kill for personal advantage. So, the question is not whether some opinions are mad and bad and can only be held by mad and bad people but which ones these are and how many of them there may be.
Real intelligence tends to make people think the same thing with regard to matters of truth and ultimate concern. How could it not? If intelligence really is intelligent it must be directed towards the truth. The truth is one thing. It may have different aspects to it but it is one fundamental reality and if we are correctly oriented we will see it because it is within us as well as "out there". There is one truth and it is everywhere. So really all intelligent people should agree about the basics. They may differ in externals but as regards the reality of the universe and of man there should not be any real disagreement. To take a different view is unintelligent. We can't agree to disagree when there is truth and falsehood. To allow this gives the devil rights he does not deserve.
The Masters who spoke to me were all individuals but they all spoke from the same place of understanding. They all agreed. There was no dispute among them because they lived in truth. Those who live in truth cannot compromise with those who live in falsehood, and, because we live in a moral universe, it has to be said that those who live in falsehood do so because they themselves are false. Spiritual truth is not just an intellectual matter, not just matter of knowledge. It is also a moral matter.
Beliefs have real consequences in the world. These consequences can be good or evil. Therefore beliefs count and they count a great deal. We cannot respect the beliefs of those who proclaim untruths.
Added note: I've just realised I had the title of this piece back to front. It makes better sense now.