Have you ever been at a family reunion or some other social gathering where someone present brings up the subject of religion? Sure, sometimes it goes well, but more often than not it ends with people red-faced arguing about whose faith is better.
Because of this, many people choose not to bring up the topic of religion or God for fear of creating tension. The question I have, however, is why? Why does the discussion of belief so often end in anger? We all tend to be happy with our moral or religious stances, so why does it make us so mad to talk about them?
When a person has a set belief system, he or she holds to that as the guideline by which they live their life. It becomes very dear to them. Therefore, when Uncle Randy starts implying that his is the only acceptable belief system, everyone else in the room tenses up. It’s not that everyone is looking for a fight. It just kinda hurts when someone tells you that the standards by which you live your life are wrong. Nobody deserves that. So, in an effort to defend what they believe, someone else makes a comment to Uncle Randy suggesting that the only reason he believes how he does is because he’s ignorant or otherwise impaired.
Five minutes later, you’re sneaking out the back door while an all-out brawl is breaking out in the kitchen. Not fun.
So what is there to do about it? Should we all just keep quiet on what we believe and feel? That sounds like a pretty lonely life to me. I would like to suggest a better option. This will require the cooperation of everyone involved, but I believe that if we do our best, we can get rid of that awkward tension around the dinner table.
We can start by asking honest, sincere questions about what others believe. Show an interest in what they have to say, and be respectful of the differences between your faith and theirs. Resist the urge to use questions designed to ‘help them see the light’, and instead do it out of a real desire to understand more fully where they’re coming from.
And I mean REALLY listen. Don’t half-heartedly listen to what they have to say in an effort to find something wrong with what you hear. I think you’ll find that if you make an effort to pay attention to what they say and how they feel, you’ll find out that they really aren’t bent on the destruction of the modern world (most likely, I can’t speak for everyone).
My point is, people are generally pretty reasonable if you give them the chance to explain their point of view. You can learn a lot about a person this way.
Lastly, find some common ground. I am unaware of any religion, faith, or moral system that doesn’t share at least one common principle with any other given viewpoint. So, as you listen to what they have to say, look for the similarities in what you believe rather than seeking out differences. Establish what you share with them.
I think you’ll find that if you do this you can actually have a very pleasant conversation on the subject of religion, and you can form a deeper relationship with others in the process. Nobody will leave angry or hurt, and you’ll all understand each other better.
Below I have illustrated some of the similarities between several of the major religious groups. The references are from books of scripture and quotes of leaders of different religions. Reading through it, it’s easy to see common beliefs in these groups, and it’s these similarities that we can build off of to become more unified across religions.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Holy Bible, Ephesians 4:32).
“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith” (Quote from Mohammed).
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 4:15).
“He has told you, O man, what is good! What does your God ask of you, that you do justice, love loving kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Tanakh, Micah 6:8).
“My success can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look” (Quran 11:88).
“I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Holy Bible, Galatians 2:20).
“But I, I trust in you, ADONAI; I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Tanakh, Psalm 31:14)
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3:7)
Lastly, I would like to make a request of you. Please don’t be *that person*. You know, the one that says, “Ok, some things are the same, but…” and then tries to justify being hateful or having a low opinion of the beliefs of others.
Nobody likes that person. If you feel the need to discuss differences in religion, do so after gaining an understanding of the other point of view. That way you can be sure it’s done in a spirit of kindness and love, rather than contention.
If I have in any way misrepresented any particular group, please let me know and we can talk about it. Thanks for reading, and please do all you can to increase understanding between religious groups.