Talking about God

Canada is one of the most spiritually diverse countries in the world.  And Canadians are well known for being polite and non-confrontational.  So you’d think that Canada would be a safe place to have a conversation about religion and spirituality.  But you would be wrong.  If you thought the United States would be a better place to talk about spirituality, you would be wrong again.

Why?  Why do we find it so difficult to talk about spirituality?  Even though survey after survey shows that most North Americans are interested in spirituality, for some reason, we often do not feel comfortable talking about it with each other.  “It’s private”, we frequently say, and then we quickly change topics.

The primary reason we are often not comfortable talking about spirituality, I suspect, is simply that we don’t know what to talk about.  More often than not, we don’t know what we actually believe ourselves, and we certainly don’t know what others believe.

Our reluctance to have meaningful conversations about spirituality is seldom driven by a desire for privacy or social restraint, but rather, it is often caused by a lack of understanding.

We just don’t know what we, or others, actually believe, so we make excuses to not talk about religion and spirituality.  It is safer that way, we tell ourselves.

Safer, yes, but it is also dysfunctional.  If we don’t talk about spiritual matters with the people around us, if we don’t engage in conversations about the “big things” in life, we then end up living and relating as incomplete humans.  And often, we feel alone and frustrated, because we feel like (and deep inside we know that) something is missing.

As both a professor and a pastor, I have had countless conversations about spirituality, with a tremendous range of people.  I’ve talked with Christians, Wiccans, agnostics, atheists, Muslims, and fatalists.  I’ve talked with leaders, students, grandparents, children, prisoners, and entrepreneurs.  The list could go on.

In terms of conversations about religion and spirituality, one common desire unites just about everyone: “I wish I knew more about _____”.

Sometimes the blank is filled in with “my own beliefs”, and other times it is completed with “what my friend, co-worker, etc believes”.

And there is a second common frustration:

“Even if I know what my neighbour believes, how can I start a conversation with her?”

Each week (for about 30+ weeks), I will post a brief article that will:

  1. Help each of us develop a basic understanding of some common North American religions and spirituality significant ideas and events, and
  2. Provide some initial conversation starters that we can use in a variety of contexts.

And … once the conversational ball gets rolling, it is amazing where it goes!

Mark

PS.  The first conversation starter will be posted tomorrow!

PPS. If you are really curious, the outline of the series is:

  • Conversations about God
  • Conversations about each other
    • Who killed religion?
    • Where do I begin?
    • How big is your story?
  • Conversations about sacred beliefs
    • Three views of sacred scripture
    • Why study scripture?
    • Can an ancient text be authentic?
    • Revelation and the end of time
    • Baptism and Laser Tag
  • Conversations about the world
    • Three views of the origin of the world
    • World conqueror
    • World transformer
    • World creator
    • World renouncer
    • World acceptor
    • Irrational Violence
  • Conversations about world religions
    • Five Pillars of Islam
    • Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
    • The Apostles’ Creed of Christianity
    • Four Yogas of Hinduism
    • Yin and Yang of Daoism
    • The Torah of Judaism
    • Devotion of Sikhism
  • Conversations about sacred days
    • What are Sacred Rituals?
    • Yom Kippur (Judaism)
    • Diwali (Hinduism and Sikhism)
    • Samhain (Wicca)
    • Eid al-Adha (Islam)
    • Advent (Christianity)
    • Hanukkah (Judaism)
    • Christmas (Christianity)
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