“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?
It is never a good idea to discuss religion with people you don’t really know because chances are, once you’ve started discussing it, you are both idiots. Smart people would say “I believe in God” and “I don’t believe in God” and that would be the end of it. Idiots would continue with a barrage of arguments.
- Science has established there is no God
- Astronauts have seen no God
- All wars happened because of religion
- You are an idiot because you believe in something that doesn’t exist
- I know God exists because I believe in Him/Them/Her/It
- If there’s no God, everything is allowed
- Earth is not 6000 years old, it is a metaphor
- You are an idiot because you’ll be damned
- I have to kill you (some religions)
You see, the arguments never stand against each other, except the one about idiots, who they indeed become if they allow their discussion to continue. It is true though, that the end of such a discussion can often be described as “a dead atheist against an idiot believer”, but it does not make the atheist any smarter.
Politics is different. Unlike religion it should not be discussed with people you know! If it is a guy you just met at the bar counter, It is OK to clash with him wielding facts and rumours about the populism or real economic value of France’s 75% income tax. It is OK to fight his opinion on Obama’s choices in health care. You may discover another view, new arguments, and fresh rumours, all rooted in a different background of the person you are talking to. You’d realise though that you may have learned something new, but at the end you still stand on the same spot from which the discussion began. It is OK. Certainty of opinions is a chemical process in the brain, not something you can easily surrender. Do not, though, go to extremes. Do not drive through poor districts of Paris with a Sarkozy poster on your car or through the redneck areas of the US with a democratic bumper sticker. If you value your car, that is.
But discussing politics with people you know, friends or relatives, is as dangerous as flexing your muscles in front of cannibals. Emotional attachments link you to the opponents you know. These attachments will clash with emotional connections towards politicians. You’d feel anger and pity that people so close to you are so wrong in their political beliefs. Your discussion will be fueled by passion, not search for knowledge, and passion leads to anger, anger leads to the dark side, and the dark side leads to you not talking to your dad for a month. Obama is not to blame for it. Be a real Jedi, don’t discuss politics with people you know.
So, politic or religious debate can be navigated to safety. Yet, there’s a minefield you simply have to stay away from. Do not discuss it with anyone. Friends, relatives, total strangers. Art, and anything related to Art is this minefield.
You are in front of a painting, sculpture or installation. You may say, “I like it”, or, “I don’t like it”. You can then expand on what and why you like or don’t like, but god forbid (evolution theory does not allow), to start discussing or criticising preferences of the other guy. It kills any relationship you might have had. It prevents a potentially attractive relationship from development. It cost an ear to Van Gogh.
PS And remember, – that’s two words that kill any argument.