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DIANE MEDVED: Why People Don’t Talk About Religion

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Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table


I’m listening to the Michael Medved radio show, and he’s talking about why few people are willing to discuss religion in social situations. Let me offer my response.

Remember when there were two topics not to be discussed in polite company lest someone become upset? Those two used to be politics and religion. No longer. Now, politics may be like a religion to many people, but talking politics reigns, as radio and Saturday Night Live, and outlets for our feelings–like this blog–let us spew our passions about current events to anyone with a smartphone or computer.

But the taboo against discussing religion is stronger than ever, as one’s faith is considered extremely personal. Unless you believe that it’s your duty and job to lead others to it.

For most people, uncertainty about God and what God wants is a bit disturbing, and sometimes brings guilt, confusion, doubt or discomfort. It involves many emotions, and rests in the intangible and un-provable. That’s why it’s called “faith.”

Making people uncomfortable isn’t a nice thing to do. Much better to avoid the topic and keep the relationship on an intellectual, real-life basis.

I confess that at our Shabbat table I made a mistake and asked two guests to explain, in one case what brought her into her religion, and in another case, what led him to leave it.
The one who came to her church said “it just felt right.” The one who left it said his research regarding the physical world caused him to disbelieve tenets of the faith.

As a psychologist, I love learning how people think. And I care about the people I invite for Shabbat, and want to know more about them. As a hostess,though, I’m a flop–I made two guests uncomfortable. I hereby apologize for putting them on the spot.

If you believe that scriptures are from God, and that they’re the truth, you’re going to be passionate about them. Other than from its own material, can any religion prove it’s correct, or that other people should believe it? Can anyone be objective about the religion he accepts as God’s word?

In a nation becoming increasingly diverse as immigrants from more varied homelands contribute their cultures and beliefs, it’s ever-more-difficult to insist any single faith is “the one.” The only thing adherents can assert is that it’s “the one for me.”

That’s why the Shabbat guest who answered “it just felt right” is as worthy of respect as the one who said, in effect, “it no longer felt right.” And unless you want to get into doctrines–and who does?–what kind of conversation is that?

Much better to just let it go. It’s part of our tolerance trend, or the “whatever gender you say you are” shrug, or our “as long as nobody’s hurt” acceptance. Sure, you can do your religion, and I’ll either do mine, or, as increasingly politically correct, I’ll do none, thank you. Not talking about religion now falls under the banner of respect. You can’t knock respect.

Except when you’re talking about politics…


Diane’s Blog:

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Comments (8)

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  1. Bill Bleuel  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    She didn't answer her own question … Why don't people talk about religion. I still don't know what she thinks are the reasons. The vacuous answer in her blog is not worthy of the time to read it.

    • Paul Robertson  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Sure she did – increasing diversity, not wanting to make others uncomfortable and respect.

      • Jonathan Atchley  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 5:05 pm

        Her point is made, rather cleverly, hidden but present, to sting conscience, just a bit,

  2. Brad Heisler  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Very insightful. I think you nailed it. So here is the problem for Christians. Jesus last words to his followers were "go, therefore and make disciples of all nations…" To be polite we shouldn't talk about religion, but Jesus died for us and then asked us to share, convince, persuade, make new followers.

    I would also challenge (politely but firmly) those who base their religion on "feelings." We are taught that you can't argue with someone else's feelings, and I think that is right. But our belief in God should not be about our feelings. They are too unreliable. Rather, I would say there is one God and one truth. However, no one, as a finite created being, can claim to have all of the truth. The challenge is to test our beliefs and to improve them and to seek the one God and the one truth and to grow closer to God in the process. Elijah and the prophets of Baal conducted one such test 3000 years ago on a mountain in Israel. The Baal religion was a fraud and was exposed. Not all beliefs are the same, nor are they equally valid or accurate. Some are based on myth. Others are based on facts verified by archeology, books containing eyewitness accounts of actual events painstakingly copied over thousands of years and other evidence. Some religions produce murderers and wife beaters and inquisitions and other horrors, while others (when followed) produce people with beautiful character traits. We can test this "evidence" and make value judgments as to which religion is the most accurate path to understanding God and his will for our lives. It is important work, work with eternal consequences.

    Enjoy the Holy Sabbath. I will as well.

  3. Jostin Talcott  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Your discussion on the topic was not helpful. I love to talk about religion, it is possible to disagree and try to use facts and logic to convince others, and still be best friends in spite of having different religious views, so long as you are respectful of the differing views. Your husband is excellent in his discussions with Christians. I think men like your husband could have many fun conversations with Christians. The teachings of Jesus make him a peacemaker for those who honestly consider and follow his teachings. Jews who are wise, I am sure honor this perhaps wisest Jewish Rabbi. Christians who are wise honor the Religion which created him.

  4. Craig Morton  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I agree with Brad, as a Christian the last thing Jesus commanded his followers to do was to make disciples of all nations (people groups) teaching them to do everything that He commanded. Since when is it a sin to respectfully cause someone to become uncomfortable. Our God given conscience and the Holy Spirit do that to us when we do something wrong (sinful). Discomfort is also usually needed to initiate growth and change or to move one to consider another way, in this case, the way, the truth, the life, the Lord Jesus Christ, apart from whom no one comes to God the Father. As it says in Acts 4:12, there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

  5. Tim  •  Apr 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    We do not adopt a principled silence at dinner when physics or geography come up, and it is hard to see why religion is any different. Religious claims, like those in physics or mathematics or geography, are either true or false, and can be evaluated in the way we evaluate the truth of anything else–that is, based on reasons. It's hard to see how it's more respectful to adopt a principled avoidance of such discussions. Rather, respect here just amounts to the same thing it does in any other discussion. That is, being gracious, humble, listening, not being pushy when someone doesn't want to talk about it. But all this is consistent with passionate disagreement as we provide reasons for what we believe. After all, if certain religious claims are true, as I think is the case, heaven and hell for each of us depend on our lives being arranged according to those claims.

  6. Tom Henry  •  May 25, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Here is my input in the discussion based on the article written by Diane Medved. There isn't a single religion that can guarantee eternal life with the Lord. The apostle Peter made it clear. He said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Peter also said in Acts 2:36: "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both lord and Messiah." Continuing, "When the people hear this , they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, " Brothers, what shall we do?" Then Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now from the mouth of Jesus: "I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever live by believing in me will never die, Do you believe this?" Jesus also said. "I am the door, whosoever enters in by me shall be saved; … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand. The great apostle Paul speaking to a prison guard in the city of Phipili, who asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" And Paul told him truthfully. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and and you will be saved." The Evangelist Philip, also made the way of salvation very clear to the Ethopian Eunuch. "Began at the scripture and preached unto him the gospel of Jesus"..before Philip baptize him, "If. You believe with all your hearth, …and the Eunuch answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God." Paul also said, "That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. The bottom line is salvation is not in a religion, but in a RELATIONSHIP with the Lord Jesus. Thank you Ms Medved for giving me this opportunity to be part of the discussion.

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