Why You Should Talk Religion At Thanksgiving

We Should Not Shy Away From Topics, But Learn Effective Techniques To Approach Them

It seems one of the unspoken rules of Thanksgiving is a gag order. Do not talk about politics or religion at the table. But why? The purpose of Thanksgiving is to be gathered with people you care and love about. Why do you need to hide your views from them? In fact, I would encourage you to speak about religion at the table with your family. But there is a strategy to it. If you follow some guidelines you can have an open and mature discussion about religion.

First, conversations are about learning about other people’s viewpoints, not reaching a resolution. There have been arguments about religious doctrine that have raged for thousands of years. You are not going to settle them in between the appetizers and desserts. Believing that you can convert or convince others to your views will only frustrate you and make you less willing to hear other viewpoints, a recipe for disaster.

Which means you need to listen. There is a clear distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing is where you are waiting for your turn to speak again, not really processing what the other person is saying. Listening is where you are trying to think about someone else’s opinion and then measuring it against your own idea. Listening is a form of respect. A fundamental feature of every religion is a universal ethic of love and respect for humanity. Even if you are not religious, treating people the way you would want to be treated is a pretty good standard.

As a part of that do not censor others. If someone brings up a topic that makes you uncomfortable or upset, you can try some techniques to steer the conversation. Ask them about how they came to their opinion? Have they always had this idea? Why do they think that is so important? Sometimes the language or ideas may be too harsh or combative. The best thing to do is smile. Smile, say “you seem really passionate about that, are you also passionate about.” Ask a question about anything else. Do not try to fight. It doesn’t work. The loudest is not the winner.

What can make that difficult? Don’t drink too much. Alcohol impairs judgment. It also hurts your concentration. Every religion encourages either abstinence or moderation in alcohol use.

I wish all of you the best holiday season. Enjoy your time with family and friends. You do not need to censor yourself or others but instead follow a simple credo: Be excellent to each other.

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