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Smashley's avatar

Why do people say "don't discuss religion or politics?"?

Asked by Smashley (4926points) February 12th, 2011

Seems to me like these are areas that many people hold incomplete and underdeveloped opinions about. If we actually encouraged respectful discussion and debate of these topics, particularly with the people we meet face to face (sorry Internet) wouldn’t we be doing a lot more good than quietly avoiding them?

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40 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Your question isn’t clear. Which people say that? It certainly isn’t on Fluther.

everephebe's avatar

People tend to raise their voices. Even online.

tranquilsea's avatar

Too many hot heads.

But I agree with you. It is lovely, for me, when I can discuss religion and politics and disagree respectfully.

Smashley's avatar

@YARNLADY – I see it from time to time, including on Fluther. It seems to be more of a standard piece of conversational etiquette that comes up. People recommend it for first dates, family dinners, roommates, hitchhiking, or any sort of social interaction that isn’t with your most trusted inner circle.

jerv's avatar

It’s a quick and easy way to start a fight.

JLeslie's avatar

Because religion and politics for many are part of their identity and world construct. These people don’t want their thoughts challenged, because then all the walls might come crumbling down. When you are with a group of people, and you are not sure where they stand on such matters, bringing up religion or politics can make a conversaion go downhill fast. Its different when you know the people well, or if you know you are witha group of people who like to debate topics.

ilana's avatar

They are very polarizing subjects because people have very strong opinions about them. My dad always said to us not to discuss either whenever we went to see family members. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is and until people can let go of the need to be right and believe only their opinions are the right ones, it will continue. Although it is very hard to change or open your mind about something you have opposed all your life. It’s all about humanities egos I suppose.

jonsblond's avatar

Here is an interesting article written by the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post.

ucme's avatar

…& boom goes the dynamite! Roughly translated is one reason….probably.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Everybody gets mad.

coffeenut's avatar

I and others I know try not to talk about religion and politics in real life because it always ends the same….we don’t see eye to eye and someone being offended.

john65pennington's avatar

There have been more arguements and assaults over discussions of politics and religion, than I guess just about any other topic.

I never discuss it. It saves a lot of friendships.

Mikewlf337's avatar

because people are take their views very personal and they don’t like people arguing them. They rarely end on a good note. Politics effect a persons life and religion is a personal matter. If you start saying negative things about a person then they get angry and I don’t blame them.

iamthemob's avatar

I would love if, as you suggest @Smashley, we could have more calm discourse about these topics.

Another problem besides those mentioned, though, is that both are enormous fields – pretty much spanning the history of mankind. They also don’t really offer very much that’s specifically predictable – e.g., we can’t say that if all people believed x or if we enacted y policies that the world would be “better” – and regardless of how calmly you discuss, it’s always going to be frustrating to here this or that new drawback to the proposition on the table.

Pattijo's avatar

Every since I was a child , the saying was ’’ If you want a arguement , talk about religion or politics and as I have gotten older the more I see this as a fact.

Fyrius's avatar

Because a lot of people are wrong about religion and politics, and then you have to shout at them about how stupid they are and it startles the cat.

It’s not the sort of subject people can easily be objective and detached about, unfortunately. Most of us quickly choose sides for all the wrong reasons and then get defensive about our choice as if the survival of our tribe depends of it.
I think you’re right, in a saner world things like this wouldn’t ruin the mood of your Christmas dinner or start wars.

iamthemob's avatar

@Fyrius – I feel like it would happen automatically on the political front if we didn’t have those messy categories of “Republican” and “Democrat”...

cockswain's avatar

Because polite people don’t cause unpleasantness.

Uberwench's avatar

Because they are cowards. Religion and politics lead to arguments, like others have said, and a lot of people are afraid of conflict. But if you can’t argue with people and still be friends afterwards, there’s something wrong with you (or your friends). Conflict is part of life, and sometimes it’s the only way we progress.

That doesn’t mean we should just go around starting arguments all the time. But the opposite extreme of never sticking up for what you believe is also ridiculous. Pick your battles, but don’t just abandon the field.

Fyrius's avatar

Don’t worry, we have no such two-party system and it happens here too. Though not as furiously, I think.

I have a feeling that humankind’s problems with politics can only be solved with another few centuries of cultural evolution, until/if we get to a point where the people at large know better than to get caught up in us-them dichotomies, read up on complex issues before taking positions on them, and all individually vote based on what they believe is best for everyone and not just for themselves. In short, when it becomes normal to be objective.
And even that only works if we can expect the majority to reach the best conclusions.

laureth's avatar

Because those are areas that many people hold incomplete and underdeveloped opinions about – and they like it that way.

roundsquare's avatar

Because in the end both of them involve value judgments that people form based on instinct, emotion and the way they were raised. When someone questions those judgments with any sort of reasonable point people get defensive since they feel like they are being personally attacked.

Look at gay marriage. The “sanctity of the institution of marriage” view is a belief people hold without necessarily knowing why.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it depends on the people present. If they discuss religion to understand how other people believe, no problem. If they discuss religion to convince others their way is the right way, then you have trouble.

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Kraigmo's avatar

Usually people that say that are the type to get angry during such a discussion, or they live with such a type.

peridot's avatar

Why don’t you hand a loaded gun to a toddler? Same damn reason.

Spreader's avatar

Is it motivated by devotion to Christian ideals, faith in God and a desire to see his will done on earth? To what will it finally lead?
The Bible graphically illustrates how God views relationships between religion and politics. They are likened to illicit sex relations and called “adulterous.” (Jas. 4:4, Jerusalem Bible) So, fittingly, worldly religion’s role in history is represented in the Revelation as being like that of a “famous prostitute . . . with whom all the kings of the earth have committed fornication.”( Rev. 17:2, JB) But the Bible shows that things are going to change for this prostitute. All the political rulers who have put their powers at the disposal of the worldwide political organization, the U.N. (pictured by a “beast”), are portrayed as “ten horns” that “are ten kings . . . all of one mind in putting their strength and their powers at the beast’s disposal.” Soon, now, the Revelation goes on to say, “the time will come when the ten horns and the beast will turn against the prostitute, and strip off her clothes and leave her naked; then they will eat her flesh and burn the remains in the fire.” Those who formerly enjoyed this prostitute will see reason to “turn against” her, laying her open for all to see what she really is, and then destroying her.(Rev. 17:12, 13, 16, JB) So religious meddling in politics leads to God’s condemnation and unexpected destruction from the political rulers themselves. And the foretold destruction will come with startling suddenness.( Rev. 18:4, JB)

rooeytoo's avatar

@everephebe – that was said tongue in cheek! But it is a simple fact of human nature that it is much easier to discuss a contentious subject if you are all on the same side.

The answer directly above is the reason I would have trouble discussing religion with @Spreader, how the hell do you have ten horns meaning the UN and what is this about eating prostitutes, that doesn’t sound very christian to me!

roundsquare's avatar

@Spreader I think the question is about why both religion and politics are such taboo topics. Its not about religion and politics intermingling.

Also, as a side note, only about 30 percent of the population is Christian.

Smashley's avatar

Thanks all for the answers! As a follow-up, does anyone have suggestions for keeping such discussions calm and respectful?

jonsblond's avatar

@Smashley There are some helpful suggestions listed on the link I posted up above. Maybe those will help?

JLeslie's avatar

@Smashley Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that just because someone agrees with Obama’s healthcare that they also agree with everything the Democrats are saying of late in the media. Be willing to end a discussion, to agree to disagree. Don’t try to convince someone they are wrong, rather state your view, it is up to them whether to accept the view or not. Be genuinely interested in their point-of-view, don’t dismiss their ideas out of hand. You would be surprised how often people have made the wrong assumptiont about intent.

One example is prayer in school. People I talk to here in the Memphis area feel the area has changed, people from other parts of the country are taking religion away from our kids and hate Christianity. In the minds of the people who want public school to be secular, we want just the opposite, to protect religion, protect a persons right to teach their own religion to their children, and not have state influences indoctrining their children. A political/religious discussion can reveal this, but only if people are discussing the motives behind the opinions, and everyone listens to each other.

Lastly, if someone is very religious, whatever religion, they are most likely not going to be open to changing their point of view, you have to know going into the conversation. They also might feel easily offended or judged. They also tend to have some fear wrapped up in their faith, especially the evangelicals in my experience, so entertaining another way of thinking about something worries them the world will go to hell in a handbasket. It is not just an exchange of ideas, but the end of the world, God, and afterlife. So tread lightly. With many people who maintain a strict adherence to religious doctrine it is not difficult to punch holes in it, and religious people don’t want to think about inconsistancies many times. You have to feel it out, and pull back, or change the subject if the conversation starts to go south.

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mattbrowne's avatar

Well, if the Egyptian Facebook users hadn’t discussed politics online and how to change it, they’d still suffer under a totalitarian regime. Yes, it’s a quick and easy way to start a fight, but some causes are worth fighting for.

I’ve decided to no longer discuss religion online, only in real life. Aggressive atheists tend to be less aggressive in real life. And I guess the same is true for religious zealots.

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Smashley's avatar

@Spreader Hey, this is a question about etiquette and how people discuss religion and politics with one another. It is not a forum for political/religious debate. As to your on-topic point, where you say that it is devotion to Christian ideals that motivates people to not discuss religion or politics: what do you mean? It seems like it is primarily the diversity of opinions (particularly on religious topics) that motivates people not to discuss them, rather than homogeneity.

@JLeslie Wonderful answer, thank you!

roundsquare's avatar

@Smashley On the other hand, you can just find people who are willing to discuss these things and then talk about it with them. @JLeslie‘s suggestions still come in of course, but I’ve found that I just prefer to avoid these topics with 95% of people and engage in them (heavily) with the other 5%.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Gadzooks, why is it people cannot discuss politics or religion? I can name a few other subjects people run from like the plaque, but the reason politics and religion are high on everyone’s list is because in short, most people have knee-jerk reactions. Their emotions short-circuit any sound logic that could be found.

Religion is something deeply personal to a person, because if you believe then you are not thinking of just this world, this realm, but the one after death. No one wants to be wicked, or seen as wicked. Everyone wants to believe they are close to God or as close like God as they can humanly be. If there are a zillion ways to God, then no one track can logically be that potent. To many, if there are more ways to God than one way, they have to question if they are on the right walk. People by nature do no like being wrong, making mistakes. It is better to avoid talking about it less you find out you are wrong. The reaction, on a visceral sense is to either avoid or staunchly defend no matter what.

Politics is not much better because no one wants to have to admit they are following leaders that have the smarts of a grub worm or is as effective in a match in a downpour. They chose their party because the party represented ideology or thinking close to their own. To be a part of a party that isn’t write or doesn’t function again means they chose wrong. If they chose wrong it might subconsciously speak to their intelligence. Why were they not smart enough to choose better, or correctly? That is why a lot of people taken by Ponzi schemes never mention it, they just take their loses in secret. They are embarrassed that someone outwitted them, and maybe someone they think they should have been smarter than.

It would be better to talk about these issues, and some others, in a logical calm manner. That doesn’t happen because many could not fight themselves out of a wet paper bag with an ice pick off their logic; so they get frustrated and get angry. They see their bi-plane flamed and going down with no way to bail. Their fear is so palpable they cannot even fathom any other plausibility than the one they want to believe; not even to hear what ideas or theories anyone else has to say.

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