With much help from (and much thanks to) the folks at the Pagan Forum and CafeMom’s Religious Debate section for their constructive ideas, I’ve been working on list of behaviors and attitudes to reduce conflict over religious beliefs between individuals. Think of this as Miss Manners putting the smackdown on multi-faith and interfaith discussions and debates!
Thalassa’s Etiquette Guidelines for Interfaith Discussion
1.) If someone asks about your religious beliefs, share (respectfully and with compassion). If they don’t ask, don’t assume that sharing will be welcome and go out of your way to do so.
2.) If you feel compelled to ask someone else as a way to spark a discussion about their beliefs, back off if they aren’t interested.
3.) Make sure the setting is appropriate for the discussion so neither party will feel uncomfortable.
4.) Don’t act like your truth is everyone’s truth–it isn’t, because if it were, there wouldn’t be a conversation on the matter. When expressing your beliefs, use I-statements to express your personal beliefs.
5.) Refrain from using absolute or exclusive language, but don’t assume that absolute or exclusive statements are made with negative intent.
6.) If you are in a mutual discussion of beliefs, don’t use your theological opinion as a tool for condemnation or insult.
7.) Realize that the people who vocally use their beliefs about religion as an excuse to be a jerk are louder than those that don’t, if you want to be a good ambassador for your faith, act your ideals, and even share them, but don’t preach them.
8.) Language is imprecise–different religious and denominations have differing terminology; understand the limits of your religious literacy and ask for clarification if you are unsure of one’s meaning.
9.) Disagreement is not an automatic insult or attack. Try to refrain from taking offense to comments that may be well-intended, but poorly phrased.
10.) Courteously and constructively correct misinformation. Do not get drawn into an argument (as opposed to a debate). Be polite, even when the other person is not.
11.) If things start going badly, be the adult and back off. When this happens, don’t wait for the other person – do it first. If you are a person that has to have the last word, remember that walking away with dignity while the other person brays like an ass is its own last word.