Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing About Talking, Part Three: Religion

There is a lot to say about whether people should or should not talk about religion in company. Yahoo! Answers contributors said not to, unless you know the company really well. An opinion I've already agreed with - as far as manners are concerned, it's more polite not to potentially agitate, offend, and otherwise ruin a party by broadcasting one's beliefs.

But CW would say anyone can say whatever they like and if someone else get's offended, it's their responsibility; you can't go through life worrying if you're going to offend someone.

Which I also agree with. So the answer must lie in the middle. And I think Matthew Warner at Fallible Blogma had a good argument: maybe if we talked more about religion, we'd be better equipped to handle passionate disagreements politely. Although I think his assertion this this adage has resulted in "generation illiterate of politics and ignorant of religion" is harsh; I always thought this advice was attributed to Ben Franklin, am I wrong? I do think, however, that this policy has made it harder for us to talk when it's important to talk - without talking, how can we hope to understand different beliefs from our own and find a way for them to coexist peacefully?

Then, Randy Cohen at the New York Times took a different twist in an article posted last Fall. He was covering the Vatican's invitation to Anglicans "uncomfortable with female priests and openly gay bishops" to rejoin the Catholic church. He was dissatisfied, to put it mildly, that mainstream media didn't "castigate the Vatican’s invitation to misogyny and homophobia".

But then, when has the mainstream media been good for anything?

I like some of what Cohen had to say, particularly the Federal government's mixed policies regarding what religions can and cannot be held accountable for. But he says that a church, like any other major organization, ought to be "subject to moral scrutiny, whether the group is the Boy Scouts or Nascar or the Roman Catholic Church".

But he forgets: who's morality are we scruitenizing them under? What makes that moral scruitny more acceptable?

I can understand where he's coming from. I don't think it's right to forbid women to hold positions equal to men or to hate homosexuals, but that doesn't make it ok to tell a whole group of people they're wrong. If they adhere to beliefs and ideas that are unpopular, they'll lose their strength, as Catholics are in the US (please note - I don't agree with the perspective of this author, but the statistics are compelling) and as numerous. religions. have in the past.

Although critizing an organization or belief isn't the same as having contempt for it, as he said, I would suggest there is a difference between critisim and questioning or discussion, which is always my aim with conversations about religion. I want to understand someone else's point of view, and why they think that, and talk about what makes our perspectives different or similar. That's fascinating. But I don't think anyone has any right to critisize.

1 comment:

  1. I have the right to critisize. j/k... very interesting blog MF. The more I read your blogs I have found that we are actually very very different people and I like it!