How to discuss religion respectfully with those of other faiths?

I’ve been thinking about creating a list called  “The ABCs of Religion.”  I’ve come up with the first three, which seem to me the “building blocks” of religious discussion:


Every religion holds some individual/individuals as “authorities” on God/God’s truth/God’s will.  Let people discuss whom they hold as their religious authorities, and why they view them as qualified to speak on God’s behalf.


Every religion has core doctrinal beliefs which adherents internalize and share with other congregants–a common faith and purpose.  Let people discuss their heart-felt beliefs–you’ll learn much about them, as well as their church/religion.


Every major religion teaches the “Golden Rule”–the need to treat others mercifully, respectfully.  Exercise charity as others explain their walk of faith, even if it is different from your own.

Sharing “things of the soul” can be a rewarding experience.  Let’s not shy away from religious discussion, so long as we can word things in terms of “I believe . . . ” and not “You’re wrong.”



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On the Same Page

Yesterday morning, a woman posting on the New Order Mormon forum wrote:

Liberal Mormon wrote:
I so much wish I could tell my husband about how I’m a NOM and the not-so-great human stuff of the church, but I’m terrified . . . I love my family, I love the gospel, I love the people in my ward who have helped me so much while he was on military duty in Afghanistan this past year, etc. . . . How can I come out to him and yet be sure he won’t dump me and rat on me [to the bishop]?????? 🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁

It got me thinking about Erik’s “coming out” to me about his loss of testimony two years ago, and I posted the following reply:

“During spring break 2007, Erik (my DH) did massive amounts of reading and lost his testimony in about 5 days time. When he came to his conclusion, he knew he had to tell me no matter how upset that would make me. His integrity required it.

“We had a close relationship and were best friends, so he hoped our marriage would survive it. But he knew he had no guarantees (I was an RM and completely zealous!). After he told me, I was very upset, very sad, and very defensive of the church. For several weeks our relationship was GREATLY strained. Erik began to despair of our relationship surviving this rift. But I think the thing that helped me the most was Erik’s sincerity–he told me again and again how he’d tried to receive answers to prayer, how he wanted to do and believe what God wanted him to, how he would be willing to believe again and set aside all the “contrary” historical evidence if God revealed to him that he was to stay in the church and teach his children of its truthfulness . . . but since no answers were forthcoming (other than the “answers” a study of real church history had given him), he was acting upon his best judgment and the integrity of his heart. Erik’s sincerity, as well as his “backing off” from trying to convert me to his way of thinking, were what allowed me to ultimately put down my defenses and slowly work through things.

“Even though I could not agree with his conclusions at that time, I soon came to trust that God would be merciful to my husband because he had sincerely tried to know His will. I came to believe that, were DH to die and face his maker, God would explain the truth to him and not condemn him for his unbelief–because Erik had used his best judgment and tried to follow his conscience. Erik soon talked with the bishop, with me by his side. I was still TBM, but I was ready to be supportive of his spiritual journey. (I believed that God would eventually answer his many prayers to the affirmative.)

“I remember telling the bishop a few months later, when he asked how things were going with Erik, that DH was offended by things which both he [the bishop] and I would be offended by if we didn’t believe God had commanded them. (For Erik, reading “In Sacred Loneliness” by Todd Compton was what brought about his resounding loss of testimony. He could NOT believe that God would screw up people’s marriages in the way Joseph claimed God had: threatening destruction by a sworded angel if Joseph didn’t enter spiritual wifery with certain women–some already married!, which was the case with Zina Huntington Jacobs and others.) Eventually, when I had had enough time (two years!) to ponder the things Erik had exposed me to, and had had innumerable discussions with DH about all things religious, I too became offended by things in church history and believed they were not of God.

“Erik and I are now on the same page. I am glad my husband exposed me to the fallacies and myths in church history, though I certainly wasn’t at first.

“Just remember, ‘The truth shall make you free.'”

[end of quote]

I hope that all of us who love truth will be “on the same page”: using our best judgment and following our consciences–our connection to heaven–as we decide what to believe and how to live.  Integrity demands.  There need not be uniformity of belief–interpreting life through the same lenses–but may there be respect and openness between friends as each engages in the spiritual journey of life!



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Questions to Ponder 19, 20

19.  How did you arrive at the relationships you are in today?  Is there something you can regain/retain by remembering those beginnings?

20.  What is the most important thing you learned at school?   Are you content with the age and the context in which you learned it?  If you could do your schooling over, what would you change?

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