To Talk or Not to Talk (About Religion)

May 2, 2016

By Herb Silverman

I grew up hearing that it was impolite to discuss in public the three most interesting topics—politics, sex, and religion. Discussions about politics and sex are omnipresent today, with religion often used to justify views on politics and sex. For instance, many liberals promote a social agenda with passages like Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor,” while many conservatives promote a different social agenda with passages like Leviticus 18:22, which refers to male homosexuality as an abomination. But you rarely hear them cite other abominations in Leviticus, like eating pork, having tattoos, mixing seeds, or wearing a garment made from two kinds of material.

We all have the free speech right to quote selected passages from holy books or talk about religion to anyone who will listen. However, I wish politicians would recognize the importance of separating personal religious beliefs from legislation that affects those who don’t share their beliefs. The more a politician equates public policy with religious belief, the less likely I am to support him or her.

Politicians aside, when should we talk about religion with family, friends, and others? A recent piece in the Atlantic categorizes Americans according to the frequency with which they talk about religion in public. Only a third do so at least once a month. Evangelicals do it most frequently, minority religions less frequently, while atheists and agnostics are the least inclined to talk publicly about religion.

Understandably, we like to talk about things important to us. That’s one reason evangelicals talk about religion more frequently than atheists. I grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Philadelphia, so religion was an integral part of my life and I often talked about it with my Jewish friends. But unlike evangelicals, I didn’t discuss religion with people outside my “tribe” because I had neither the interest nor the belief that I could “save” someone from eternal damnation.

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3 comments on “To Talk or Not to Talk (About Religion)

  • From the article

    I grew up hearing that it was impolite to discuss in public the three most interesting topics—politics, sex, and religion.

    I grew up with directive as well. Now I realize how convenient this was for the pedophile priests and other corrupt and conniving clergy. No one dared to speak out to our RCC friends and family members about what was going on in those days. What more could a pedophile ask for? They had free reign!

    If we want to diminish the special privilege that religion enjoys then we need to assertively challenge these religious friends, family and acquaintances about what they are really supporting when they sit in those pews and donate their hard earned dollars. That’s support! They are part of it! How can they realize this when we are are told in hushed tones that it’s impolite to bring the subject up?!

    This is America. We are not forced to attend a state endorsed church. We are free to get up and walk out. Find a better religion or better yet, go for humanism or no religion at all. Staying in those pews just because it’s what the family has always done is passive and weak. Make your own traditions, and make them better than the ones that have been handed to you by those who didn’t have the guts to walk away from the bad old ideas.

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  • or not to talk religion (in public)

    Shake things up > everyone use pantomime in lieu of words, see what happens; cacophony or concerto.


    Nothing but charades, introduced religiously intertwined agendas. Balk like Missouri mules they do, if challenged.

    I wish

    I wish my calendar has National Day of Reason printed on it; maybe some year soon if momentum continues.

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