Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Religion and Politics Free-for-All

There was a time, I’ve been told, when people didn’t discuss religion or politics in polite circles. Propriety forbad it, because it led to uncomfortable situations and bad tempers and, frankly, resolved nothing, ever.

It STILL resolves nothing, but the guardedness we used to have about those subjects seems to have evaporated. I’m not saying that’s good or bad or indifferent, it’s just a fact. But the main stage it all plays out on seems to have become social media, and as it turns out, that particular stage is the most useless of all.

Every single day, without fail, you’ll find tons of posts on FB reflecting the poster’s political or spiritual beliefs, sometimes pretty aggressively. Just yesterday, I came across:

An atheist friend of mine posting a meme calling out religious faith as being childish and nonsensical.

A Christian friend of mine posting a dramatic montage of Jesus and some American soldiers, insisting that the Lord was protecting them.

A liberal I know bashing Newt Gingrich for being a hypocrite.

A right-winger I know posting a pic of Obama, calling him The Great Divider.

Oh, so many opinions. Which, as we know, are just like assholes… we all got ‘em.

Here’s the thing. I think I’ve had enough, thanks. Whether I agree with you or not, I’ve decided that I’m not interested in your opinion about these things anymore. If I agree with you, then you’re preaching to the choir. If I don’t agree with you, you’re just annoying me with your half-ass, ill-informed rants.

Now before you call me out as a hypocrite, I will concede that I have, on occasion, voiced my own political or religious views on FB. Guilty. But in my defense, I haven’t done it often. And over the last year or so, I’ve gotten better at censoring myself. Not out of fear that I’ll offend someone, but out of the realization that honestly, no one gives a shit about my opinion. And there’s no reason they should. I’ve never studied political science, so my insight into the subject is practically worthless. I don’t have a degree in theology or philosophy, so my theories about those things are irrelevant. Yes, you can be an informed citizen without those qualifications, but the people you’re spouting off to would have no way of knowing you’re anything other than a half-informed zealot picking and choosing whatever information best suits the positions you’re most comfortable with.

Also in my defense, there is a difference between religion/politics and causes. I don’t talk about religion much, but I DO occasionally spout off against anti-evolutionists. Some folks have mistakenly seen that as anti-religion. I will also occasionally speak out in support of the “Occupy” movement and protesters—and that is sometimes viewed as being a liberal position. I’m reconciled to the fact that those things will sometimes be misinterpreted. But it’s not the same thing.

If you’re a non-believer trying to convince believers that faith in the supernatural is idiotic, posting insulting memes on FB isn’t going to do the trick. Ditto if you’re a Christian trying to save the souls of us poor deluded atheists. Posting scandalous insults about commie pinko liberals serves no purpose other than pleasing the people who already agree with you for a minute, and ranting about America-hating right-wing dickheads is equally pointless.

None of this qualifies as conversation. It’s just grand-standing. Trying, trying, trying so hard to prove that you’re right and those who don’t agree are wrong.

If all of this eventually led to actual intelligent conversation, I wouldn’t be so annoyed by it. But it almost never goes that way.

I for one intend to refrain from spouting off about those things on FB from now on. I also intend to skim right over anything others post espousing a political or religious point of view, whether I agree with it or not.

I’m there to interact with friends, that’s all, and there's no reason FB has to be an annoying minefield of aggressive opinion-spouting.


  1. I have tried to lessen the political things I post FB for this reason. I do love to point out the hypocrisy of the things that our political/religious leaders feel is OK. Newt Gingrich espousing "family values" while on his 3rd wife....that kind of thing.

  2. The stuff you post, Bill, is almost always stuff I agree with you about, but it is all sort of pointless, isn't it? And the so-called "debates" those posts sometimes spark just go in big fat circles.

  3. God, I hear you on this. Everyday I have to restrain myself on FB from pointlessly jumping into pointless political/religious/whatever conversations. I try to stay aloof, you know, but I admit to jumping in despite myself more than once.

    It's only gonna get worse, too, on account of that whole election thingy happening later this year.

  4. Court, me too. Sometimes I can't resist throwing myself directly into the line of fire and trying to engage in an actual convo thread. I almost always regret it, especially when the other party seems intent on misconstruing your words or painting you as a particular "type" they can easily dismiss.

  5. Plus I don't think anyone's mind has ever been changed based on what read and/or typed on FB. It's just everyone scoring feel-good points for themselves.

  6. ...and it's especially hard to resist when the post is really arrogant or insulting.

  7. This is also why I quit voting. The people that spout this shit nonstop always say "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain." I feel that, in turn, my non-voting should exempt me from being subject to these nonsensical debates.

    But I have one question I've been dying to ask....... what, the fudge, is a meme??????

  8. I jumped in on one a while back and haven't since. There was not point. I now only jump in on discussions in writers groups that are relevant. You are right--who are we trying to convince? I just posted a blog post today about social media and common courtesy. Good friends are quitting Facebook and others just because of annoying things like this.