Do you ever talk about religion with people outside of your family? It's a provocative question, and recently was posed in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Group. Here's what they discovered. 18% of American adults discuss religion at least once a week. 15% discuss it one or twice a month. 18% discuss it several times a year. 33% seldom discuss religion. And 16% said they never discuss it with non-family members. (www.pewforum.org)
So where do you fit along that spectrum? The same survey indicated that a majority of folks would not try to change the mind of a person whose religious views were different from their own, but a significant portion of mainline Protestants (70%) said they would seek to understand the other person's point of view. An admirable position to be sure But there's a catch. First you need to talk!
I know many folks were told as they were growing up that it is impolite to discuss religion or politics in public. (In response to that admonition I once heard someone ask, "So what's left?") Certainly in my life, some of the most interesting discussions I've had over the years are about religion (and for that matter politics as well!) To prohibit religious conversation seems to imply it can't be done without rancor. And, unfortunately, that is often true. But it doesn't have to be. For if we never talk about religion, how can we ever hope to understand another person's point of view if it differs from our own?
Throughout my career I have been advocate for interfaith dialogue--and I will continue to urge just such conversations. I not only learn much about others in such conversations, just as importantly, they help me to hone and understand my own beliefs. Such conversations help me to grow in my own faith. What a gift!