There has long been an unspoken rule observed by many to “never discuss politics or religion in polite company”. That means refraining from discussing these two topics in the presence of family and friends. This line of thinking serves one purpose and one purpose only: to avoid conflict. But as human beings, how are we expected to learn if not from each other. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at times to discuss religion and politics, but that does not mean they should not be discussed at all. We should be willing to listen to each other and engage in an open dialogue over these matters.
It is only natural that each individual will have their own worldview. Their political views may be shaped by their own personal experiences, by reading, watching various political commentators, or even by what they see and hear in the news. They may also be influenced by what they are told throughout their time in the education system. Ideally, each person will think for themselves and form their own political views. When it comes to religion, some may find their way to a religion on their own, while others may be brought up in one. Either way, it ultimately becomes our own choice to be religious and to follow God.
When it comes to discussing these topics with others, there is always going to be a difference of thought and opinion between us. That is to be expected, considering we are all individuals. Some will be religious, others will not. Some will be Conservative, others Left Wing. This means that there will be various sides to each point discussed. It goes without saying that discourse will undoubtedly arise. It is how we go about having such discourse that matters.
First, it is important to keep the discussion civil. This means no yelling matches. If people are just shouting at each other, no one is going to get their point across. In order to be able to have a civil debate and learn from each other, we must present our point in a clear and collected manner. In the same vein, we must listen to arguments opposing our own so that we may understand the other person’s point of view and formulate a response.
When it comes to making a claim, it is crucial that we are able to back it up. In this way, we can show others that what we say is not just some contrived falsehood but holds its place in reality. We cannot spout conjecture in the hope it changes someone’s mind. (Also, just a note on fact-checking here. Fact-checking websites each have their own biases, some Left, some Right. Thus, it is difficult to determine the accuracy of fact-checks. I say this because family and friends, or anyone for that matter, who are having a political discussion may decide to fact-check a claim.)
There are also several debating flaws that should be steered clear of when having discussions surrounding religion and politics. As mentioned before, it is not beneficial to anyone for those discussing a topic to yell at each other. In addition to this, never resort to insults and personal attacks. These are not arguments. Rather, they are the hallmarks of failing ones. If you find that the only thing you can use to retort someone’s argument is to call them a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a transphobe, a bigot or whatever else (there are far too many to list), that says more about the strength of their argument than the substance of yours. In that same vein, never call your opponent a Nazi. In fact, never insinuate that your opponent’s views are aligned with Nazism (generally this happens more so to Conservatives). As a general rule when it comes to political debates, the first person to invoke the Nazis has lost.
For far too long, politics and religion have been shunned from discussion amongst family and friends at gatherings. It should not have to be this way. Yes, these subjects encompass a wide range of issues, and can be polarizing, but that should not prevent us from discussing them in kind with each other. Isabel Brown of Turning Point USA put it best when she said “Politics and religion are subjects that belong around the dinner table. It’s time to learn how to articulate what we believe and why we believe it.” She is spot on.
We must be able to have these discussions, just as we must be able to have any other discussion with others. We should be able to clearly articulate our views on different issues and explain why we hold them. And most importantly, we must do this in such a manner that is civil and prevents a breakdown of family ties. We should never shun our own family simply because they hold opposing views to our own. That is unnecessary and over-the-top. Religion and politics should not tear families apart, but families should be able to get past political and religious differences and be willing to hold civil discussions with each other on such matters.
When it comes to friendships, it is interesting how friendships that have lasted for years can collapse all because of political differences. Generally, when such a thing occurs, it is a person with Left Wing views that attacks and/or shuns their friend who has made it known they are Conservative. Conservatives are generally more willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and debate them. And while there are some on the Left who are willing to take this approach, there are many who would rather lash out at their friend and have nothing more to do with them. Politics sometimes really shows you who your true friends are (and yes, believe it or not, it is possible for those with opposing views to be friends).
Religion and politics should not be taboo subjects amongst friends and family. They should be discussed openly and honestly so that we can understand each other’s worldviews. Civil discussion and debate are good things. It is healthy to engage in them. After all, these exchanges can be valuable, and give us insight into the lives and thoughts of others. We should bring religion and politics back to the table and allow the discussion to flow.