"No one has the right to destroy another person's belief by
demanding empirical evidence." — Ann Landers
This is widely quoted but I haven't found a full citation of the original source. Thus, it's remotely possible that this is a misquote, out of context, etc...
Still, I'm not too worried about misquoting a shared pen name. My main concern is that in 2008, it is still possible to read a quote like this without flinching. One might even agree!
The statement implies two things. The first is that the freedom of speech should be abolished. (We'll look past that one for now.) The second is that it is unreasonable, inhumane, and simply impolite to expect people to base their worldviews on ... the world. In intellectual discourse, once someone says the magic words "I believe," it is inappropriate for other parties to continue further.
In fact, a more honest phrasing of the Ann Landers quote might be:
"Don't speak up; you might inadvertently cause someone to change their mind."
I've had my beliefs turned upside-down by empirical evidence dozens of times in my life, and I'm probably not done. I used to believe that aliens crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. I used to believe that Uri Geller was psychic. I used to believe that homeopathic preparations had medicinal properties. I used to believe that computers couldn't think — and would never think.
I am a better person for being able to change my mind.
"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." — Carl Sagan
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" — Douglas Adams