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shadling21's avatar

Do you discuss religion with strangers in real life?

Asked by shadling21 (6467 points ) October 15th, 2008

It’s amazing to me how, when religious debate pops up on Fluther, people from all walks of life join in. It’s great, in my opinion.

Is there a parallel in real life, though?

On a couple of occasions, I have discussed matters of faith and spirituality with people I have just met. People are always wary of such discussion, even though I am the last person to push my beliefs on another.

Is it bad etiquette to bring religion/faith/whatever up in conversation?

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46 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’m willing to discuss it with strangers. As a matter of fact, it’s a tendency of mine to purposely bring religion up when talking to someone new, who I might actually want to become friends with. I do it because it’s an easy way for me to determine whether or not I’m willing to get to know them more. I’m not a religious person, but I have to make sure that, if someone is, they aren’t the type of person to look down on other people for having opposing views. If they are, they get the axe right then and there and it saves me from wasting a lot of time and effort on someone who isn’t worth it. If they are religious but are tolerant of opposing views, they’re still worth my time.

I tend to do the same thing with sexism, homophobia and racism. I probably come on a little strong once in a while, but I just really don’t want to waste my time – or theirs – so I figure I may as well get it out of the way early.

I personally don’t see it as bad etiquette, but I know a lot of people do. I want to know someone fully, if I choose to be their friend. I don’t want to ignore parts of someone in order to get along with them. I won’t call anyone “friend” if I don’t know certain things about them.

PupnTaco's avatar

I wouldn’t raise the subject… but if it’s brought up, I’m all in.

damien's avatar

I’ll discuss (and often argue) with anyone about religion, but I’ll never bring it up myself.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I ask everyone they meet what religion they are. and then check the apropriate box on the admission form

osullivanbr's avatar

I have some very strong beliefs or non-beliefs as the case may be when it comes to religion. I also have some very strong opinions on the role of the Catholic Church in society.

However, I also try for the most part to respect other peoples beliefs and views. A lot of people develop a kind of peace within themselves because of religion, and in this uncertain society we live in that cannot be a bad thing, however incorrect I might believe it to be.

For the simple reason that I don’t want to undermine a friend, family members, or acquaintances peace of mind I try to stear clear of those kind of discussions in the “Real World”.

GAMBIT's avatar

No it is one subject I try to stay away from.

Sometimes around the holiday season it is more evident what someone’s religious practices are if they mention it I will acknowledge it but as a habit I’ve learned to say a very generic “have a nice holiday” to everybody that way I wont offend anyone by saying Merry Christmas.

I would never go door to door or talk to someone into joining anything.

Once while riding the subway train home from work a young attractive Mormon girl approached me I had to scoot over before she sat on my lap. She asked me my name what I did and then started telling me how great her church was before she got off the train she asked me if I was going to look into the brochures she gave me and I told her no that I was comfortable with my own belief system.

fireside's avatar

I’m definitely against proselytizing and forcing my beliefs on anyone. But if someone asks, or if the subject comes up naturally, then I am more than willing to share my thoughts and help them explore spirituality for themselves.

As for strangers, I typically don’t share much of anything with people I don’t know. If I am introduced and am in a comfortable setting, then the conversation might go beyond the weather and what everyone does for a living.

My friends and family may hear more of it simply because as I learn new things or have intriguing ideas, I like to share them and hear other people’s opinions.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Its one of those two subjects you should never talk about at a bar.
Religion and Politics
That being said, i will happily jump into a conversation about either. I wont bring them up, but if they arise im all over it. :P

Judi's avatar

Only if I feel that I can add something. When someone opens up to me about a tragedy or illness, I will often offer to pray. If I know the person and they know me and I know they won’t find it offensive I will pray for them right then, but most of the time they say “thank-you, I can use all the prayer I can get.” and I pray for them throughout the next several weeks.

Nimis's avatar

Depends on the company I am with. I’ll discuss religion with moderates, but extremes at either end of the spectrum drive me nuts. I might as well skip the “debate” and decide to beat my head against the wall for the next few hours instead.

bodyhead's avatar

I’m a classic bait and switch. I like to wear Jesus shirts and I have several last suppers hanging at the house. When someone asks me anything, (unless I’m trying to sell something), I will tell them my exact beliefs.

When people show up to buy something (off Craig’s list or the like), they want to shake the hand of someone honest. For some crazy reason, people correlate honesty with religion. So, I don the old crucifix necklace and and fake it just like all the TV hustlers that need your money every Sunday.

Nimis's avatar

Body: Would love to buy something from you off of Craigslist,
just so I can see your Jesus shirt and crucifix necklace get-up.

marinelife's avatar

Not if I can help it.

Nimis's avatar

Haha…I’m sure Marina is just replying to the original question.
But I like the picture of her trying to beat me to Bodyhead’s house.

bodyhead's avatar

@nimis, That did make me laugh. You’d be surprised. I’ve got a prominent (black) last supper in the living room. I’ve got a big black Jesus picture. I’ve got several smaller traditional white last suppers. I’ve got a ton of religious paraphernalia. You can be a collector but not a believer

Since I also live in the south, I’ve got a wide assortment of Jesus belt buckles.

Nimis's avatar

I can totally see that as the cover to an art book: Flutherers In Their Natural Habitat.
You can attempt to wear your entire Jesus belt buckle collection at once.
That would be AWESOME.

Harp's avatar

I get called upon to give presentations about Buddhism in classrooms occasionally, and I do enjoy that. Buddhism tends not to raise people’s defenses quite as readily as other religions because people know we don’t proselytize and don’t claim to have a monopoly on truth. There’s a lot of curiosity about it, and people feel that they can ask freely without getting a sales pitch for an answer, so discussions can be quite uninhibited.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually raised the subject of religion among people I work with, or among people I deal with day to day. I’m very interested in how people think about religion, which is why I love our Fluther discussions, but I find that spontaneous conversation about it puts people ill at ease, so I won’t be the one to broach the subject.

Nimis's avatar

I love that Harp just got 2 GAs, but his lurve didn’t go up at all.
Has everyone already maxed out their lurve for Harp?

I know I have!

fireside's avatar

lol, looks like i have too

augustlan's avatar

:( me, too!

I usually don’t bring it up, but I will discuss it.

Harp's avatar

I really appreciate the GA’s anyway. Thanks guys.

marinelife's avatar

@Nimis Lurve to you for making me laugh. If I can still give you lurve. I am not sure.

Nimis's avatar

Mari: Thanks anyway! If it didn’t register, it’s mutual though.
I think I just gave you some placebo lurve for another answer.

FiRE_MaN's avatar

very bad idea in nj

SoapChef's avatar

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” Linus Van Pelt

Oh well, I guess two out of three ain’t bad. :0)

El_Cadejo's avatar

@FiRE MaN how so?

laureth's avatar

All the time, on the internet. Y’all are strangers to me! ;)

deaddolly's avatar

It ususally starts an argument, but if it’s brought up I’ll voice my opinion.

rowenaz's avatar

I get up and leave the room – too scared. I always find out that people are hating on the Jews (me!) or my husband (Moslem!) and I feel disappointed that some of these people, who I thought were my friends, are so ignorant and thoughtless….like today in the lunchroom a teacher said to me, “Why do you take those holidays off? You get to take Easter.” I was like, “huh? But I don’t celebrate Easter. I don’t have a choice but to take it off, the schools are closed.” I just feel sick in my stomach that someone educated with a college degree can’t understand why people want to take their own religious holidays off and not be satisfied with someone else’s. Ooops, I didn’t mean to have a rant. Sorry. No, no religion talk if I can help it, RUN AWAY!!

augustlan's avatar

@Rowenaz: I see your point, but you and your husband are in a perfect position to disabuse those people of their ridiculous notions. People who already know and like you will have to rethink their opinions of Jews and Moslems(Muslims?). The more people realize that you are just like them, the better for all of those perceived as “different”.

shadling21's avatar

@augustlan – Well said! If everyone keeps quiet, the ignorance continues. I totally understand the desire to sustain the peace, but maybe it’d be better if we all agree to make some trouble so we can understand each other better.

augustlan's avatar

Sometimes it is scary, though.

Critter38's avatar

I can never once remember bringing up religion with a stranger. I’ve always been on the receiving end, and invariably that has involved a Christian of some denomination raising the subject with me. I try to be polite, but honest.

It’s one of the best things about fluther and other internet sites of this nature, it enables a group of people with a far wider variety of beliefs to interact than normally would, in a relatively safe environment, to voice opinions they would probably not feel comfortable sharing with others, certainly not with complete strangers. By so doing we expose our views to challenge, helping to refine our ideas and the ideas of others. It’s the intellectual equivalent of natural selection and can only be beneficial.

deaddolly's avatar

Yes, I agree with the above. People need to be more tolerant of others religions. I was raised Catholic, raised my daughter Catholic and we now both are athiests. I let her make her own decision when she was old enough….something not afforded to me.
Many things led me to despise the Catholic faith and now I’m blissfully free of them. Of course, telling ppl that makes them want to SAVE ME. Why can’t we just let people believe what they choose? Why do we feel we must educate them to our way of thinking? Maybe someday we’ll learn tolerance.

cyndyh's avatar

I don’t bring it up except with close friends if some recent event related to religion affects us in some way. If someone brings it up with me, they’re most likely going to hear what I think, though.

XrayGirl's avatar

no, not bad etiquette at all. Freedom of speech.

Noon's avatar

I don’t make it a point to run up to people and talk about religion, and it is not something I just ‘happen’ to bring up.

BUT, if I am handed something, if my door is knocked on, or if I’m asked about the status of my salvation, then all bets are off. I do however find it aggravating that most who approach me are not prepared or willing to have a discussion.

shadling21's avatar

@Noon – Haha! Is that phrase used? I can imagine it now… “Hey dude, so… What’s your situation? What’s the status of your salvation?”

Noon's avatar

Well it’s mostly “Have you been saved?” Which is a question about the status of my salvation, no?

rowenaz's avatar

Oh my…if someone asked if I had been saved I would be at a loss for words. That hasn’t happened to me in a LOOOOONG time. What’s a witty comeback for that when you’re Jewish? “Yes, I’ve been sitting on this shelf for a long time.” ?? “Saved from what? ” and then I seem to descend into insult and hostility, and have already deleted what I’ve written here five times…..

Judi's avatar

That’s why as a Christian, I think the best evangelical question I can ask is, “Can I help you?” I think that God gets to be the heart changer, my job is just to be available and be Jesus’ hands and feet. I don’t need to “convert” anyone. I just need to live my faith.

scubydoo's avatar

Religion is always a touchy subject. i usually leave it alone unless someone else starts it.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Do I discuss religion with strangers in real life? It’s unlikely I’ll discuss religion with strangers or friends since it is a sensitive topic.

You may find, though, that people tend to be more sensitive about The Box than what’s inside The Box.

Well…what does that mean?

It means that you can hold enlightening discussions on religious/spiritual principles that are applicable to everyday living without invoking the name of any particular deity or religion. Valuable insights can be obtained in discussions of this sort and you may discover you have more religious/spiritual commonalities with others once you remove yourself from the “my god/your god/no god” vortex.

DrMC's avatar

I can’t discuss religion. I don’t have freedom of speech. I’m a doctor. I have to be professional.

I like to spout off to strangers though, it vents a little.

I lived as an agnostic for years,and I’ll tell ya, being the target of evangelizing is very annoying when you are not into it.

If someone needs help, and already percieves faith as benificial, then I don’t mind being supportive. For many reasons however to witness the reasons for my faith would be destructive in general.

I’ve found people in fluther pretty free with their speech, bashing people that believe in creation, so I suppose turn about is fair play here.

DrMC's avatar

rowenaz, just tell them that you have a different faith, and you are quite happy with it, and if they pursue it you will be offended. If that doesn’t do it, just close the door.

Not all evangelicals are created equal, I would argue the best time to sell something, is when there is a market for it – some people are just not cut out to follow the “great commision” – a christian who does not witness is not doing his duty.

Many of us know the error in this, some don’t

rowenaz's avatar

@DrMC that is certainly true.

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