If your upbringing was anything like mine, there was probably someone, somewhere along the line who uttered this bit of advice: "Never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table." No point in ruining a perfectly good meal with a lot of heated discussion that never resolved anything by the time the dessert arrived.
Hot button issues can really wreak havoc on the Sunday chicken.
Still, what is nearest and dearest to the heart does seem to call out for some room to roam -- a time or place or situation in which faith can have its say. I suppose churches and temples -- in the case of religion -- offer a resolution, however imperfect. Here you can toot your horn to your heart's content ... as long as you either keep it to yourself or rein it in and/or make nice about it.
My faith, to the extent that I have one, tends to lean towards what I cannot help but think of as the grown-ups in spiritual endeavor -- the ones that are older, that have been around the experiential block and are less inclined towards lock-step compliance or youthful and limiting exuberance. Without intending the sort of insult that would not play well at the dinner table, I think Christianity, Judaism and Islam qualify in the youthful, sometimes-threatening category. Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism -- while not denying they too have been enthusiastic teenagers -- qualify as grown-ups.
But when I try to winkle out what it is that makes the grown-ups grown-ups in my mind, I find myself circling back, over and over again, to the one aspect of religion that I think of as a sine qua non, an utter and inescapable imperative of a realized and peaceful spiritual life. I simply cannot think of another option ... religion has to go. The same door that is marked "entrance" in religious life is likewise marked "exit:" One side says "entrance" and the other says "exit." Same door.
This is no artful conceit. It is just an imperative -- not a "should" or a "fry in hell if you don't." Going through the door marked "exit" is just what happens at the end of a satisfying movie. Do whatever you have to do in order to grow up, but then ... grow up. Better and worse have nothing to do with it. A grown-up is just a grown-up ... no big deal. Peace, like sex, is not a big deal unless you're not getting any.
So by my lights, it's something to keep an eye on. It's OK to be devoted to this religion or that, this discipline or that. But keep an eye on it. And when it decides to walk away, when the last wisp of campfire smoke disappears (and I don't mean anything as facile as making a trip to the undertaker), then you're home ...
And you can enjoy the Sunday chicken without choking down politics or religion.
Without disrespect -- eat, digest, shit. Is that so complicated?