Taking Off the Taboo

The other day I was at a cocktail-party type reception. I was talking to man there, one I’d never met before, and we were having the normal sparkly, witty, superficial kind of conversation one usually engages in at these things. Suddenly, he made an offhand political comment, and then quickly apologized, saying, “I know I’m not supposed to bring up politics or religion.”
And, yes, it is the common wisdom: don’t bring it up on first dates, to new acquaintances, or to anyone who might not agree with you. But his quick comment made me pause. Because, really, why is religion taboo? (Not that the politics part doesn’t interest me as well, but coming from a politically split family, I can see how easily tensions rise when politics enter the conversation).
It’s ironic that we push something so central to our world under the rug politely. Conflicts across the globe are caused by religious differences—clashes in the Middle East, ones between Tibet and China, even bigotry and misunderstanding here in the United States. The only way to counter these problems will be, eventually, to come to terms with them. To understand the religions involved thoroughly. To hear what people believe and why.
We avoid conversation about religion because we don’t want to offend, but what if we wanted to learn, instead? By talking about religion, by trying to understand the similarities and differences and the deep inner faiths people hold, we would be practicing tolerance.
Yes, religion is a combustible topic. There is a danger of heated discussions when it is brought up. But isn’t it better to bring it up now and work your explosions out in speech rather than in a minefield?
Let’s start a conversation about religion. Let’s speak about faith.
Originally posted on my Tumblr blog.  
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