Religious differences will continue to cause division, but the violence bred from religious ignorance is curable through open and rational dialogue.
Sometimes it’s said as a joke, but quite often the rule is quite serious — never bring up religion or politics in daily conversation.
I have no problem whatsoever with bringing up politics amongst friends, but religion? I wouldn’t dare — not unless I knew their stance on the subject and why.
As a Religious Studies major, this often presents me with many issues, as most people begin conversations by asking one of my least favourite questions: what are you studying?
I spend most of the following minutes after being asked silently looking at the well-meaning family friend, wondering if it’s a good idea to mention that I study religion. After contemplating whether it’s best to lie, I finally answer truthfully, but reluctantly.
My religious family members are pleased because they mistakenly believe I’m studying theology. Everyone else is unsure how to react, but it’s guaranteed they’ll ask what one does with a Religions degree and if it means I’m a radical Christian.
The only way anyone will talk about this taboo topic these days is if you refer to its political impact. The world’s inability to separate Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political movement is an example of this — people often conflate the two, so they end up attributing violent crimes to non-radical Muslims who are just trying to go about their normal life.
It isn’t uncommon for people to assume that anyone religious is radical and irrational, or that they’re contributing to radicalism and irrationality — even more so for many Muslims today. This is mostly because news outlets don’t report on religions or religious topics. Instead they highlight an act of terrorism and state that it was driven by religion, but they forget to discuss the diversity of the religion behind it.
Current discussion, be it in everyday conversation or in politics and news, stops before any education can take place.
We must begin to approach the taboo on religion in the same ways we approach talking about racism and homophobia — by letting go of stereotypes and being open to conversation.
It also requires patience and letting go of the belief that only one religion (or no religion) has to be the correct one.
Steph is one of The Journal’s Photo Editors. She’s a third-year Religious Studies major.
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