© 2021 Avenues: The World School
WANT TO KNOW WHAT I THINK?
An Uncomfortable Topic
By Yehuda Zilberstein ('23)
As I was sitting in class, debating the current book of the week with my peers,
something strange happened. We had been discussing gender roles and political
systems, but when the topic of religion came up, our teacher quickly moved us away
from it. It would be easy to criticize the teacher for this nervous response to a discussion
of religion, but many students felt uneasy talking about this subject, including myself.
This discomfort makes you wonder why religion is a topic we tend to avoid in
conversations. How can systems based on love for your fellow man and the morality of
life be uncomfortable to talk about?
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, “Only a third of
Americans say they talk about religion with people outside of their families at least once
or twice a month.” Religion seems to offer a sense of protection for most people, which
causes them to shy away from discussing it. In the same study, researchers asked what
people should do when they disagree about religion and got some very interesting
results. “Forty-one percent of Jews said it's best to avoid talking about religion with
people who have different views, compared to a quarter of all Christians. People who
don’t identify as any particular religion were even more likely to skip the topic: 44
percent said it’s better to stay away from disagreements about faith. And of all
Christians, Catholics, at 31 percent, were the most likely to say the same.” It is clear
that religion is a topic people avoid talking about, but why?
Religion is a touchy subject. Many of us have grown up with religion rooted in our
lives and have strong opinions about it that have been built up over many years. We
become protective of our opinions. Because we cannot stand the idea of being wrong,
we avoid the conversation altogether. As much as we say we want to change and do
not mind being wrong, we cannot stand what that statement really means. According to
an article by Wanda Thibodeaux in Inc, “Admitting you are wrong means that you are
opening yourself to learning and changing yourself. In most cases, this is a great thing!
But it is also work. It can be difficult to do all the introspective study it takes to grow, and
some people would rather hunker down in their comfort zones than put in this extra
effort.” Being wrong means having to change and do the work to be right. Whoever said
ignorance is bliss was 100 percent correct and could quite possibly have hacked the
code to human psychology.
We have determined that we do not like to be wrong, but what does that have to
do with religion? Why is religion the uncomfortable topic and not politics? Religion deals
with existence, morality, and meaning. That’s intense and personal territory. That is not
just day-changing; it’s life-changing. Religion offers us answers to the great unknown
and gives us purpose in what seems to be a meaningless reality. If those beliefs were
proven to be wrong or widely unaccepted by your acquaintances and peers, it would
create a whirlwind of self-doubt and confusion: What do you mean God isn’t real, Jerry?
Also, religion is different in the minds of everyone. A conversation dealing with
faith that was meant to enlighten and connect may dismiss and divide simply because
the universal truth is that we are all different. In an Atlantic article, Emma Green wrote,
“Instead of revealing commonality, these conversations may create a sense of distance.
That distance can be particularly tough to navigate in the face of firm beliefs about
topics like salvation and morality; a difference of opinion necessarily seems to imply
condemnation.” While we must overcome our differences, we must also acknowledge
their place in our world so that we do not create more division than there already is.
In conclusion, religion is one subject on which we cannot simply agree to
disagree. The possibility of feeling shunned and disapproved is so strong in our minds
that we must avoid any discussion of religion. Despite its powerful messages and
influential place in our society, religion remains a polarizing force in people’s hearts and,
for this reason, truly is an uncomfortable topic.