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This is one of a series of Lesson-5 articles on evolving
Broadly, "religion" includes personal and group beliefs and practices about
Holy books (scriptures), God, prophets, origins, sin,
evil, and an afterlife. Family members and cultures can have major
disagreements about religious faith (e.g. Christianity vs. Islam), holy
places and things, and ways to worship.
This article explores...
what's unique about disputes over religion?,
common surface and underlying primary
premises about reducing family "religion" disputes, and...
options for reducing or resolving primary
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on
what you're about to read:
What's Unique About Disputes Over "Religion"?
Several things can combine to make
conflicts over religious beliefs and practices specially stressful:
- using Holy scriptures (The Bible, Torah, Koran, Upanishads) as absolute proof that you are
right and the other person or group is wrong "because God says
so." There is no room for respectful disagreement or debate.
(a) "sinning," offending God, and risking "eternal damnation;" and fear of
(b) scorn, pity, and painful rejection by a church community, and/or
critical relatives, and friends;
and adults who unconsciously equate being wrong with being bad
(inferior)can't tolerate others' implying their religious beliefs are wrong. This
is specially true for people who were significantly shamed as young kids;
And disputes over religion can be specially frustrating because of...
the confusing paradox that "I'm not disrespecting you (by
saying you're beliefs are wrong), I'm compassionately trying to save your Soul by
offering you the truth (my superior faith) - can't you see that?"; and...
different opinions - most (all?)
religious arguments net out to "My
book says that God said (something), so you and other unbelievers
are wrong to challenge God (vs. me) ." and...
between religion (man-made scriptures, rituals and rules),
mystical relationship between a
person and their Higher Power); and finally...
zealots are ignorant of...
other religious beliefs and practices, and how to judge whether these are
healthy or toxic,
ruled by personality
subselves who need to distort
reality ("I am not religiously biased - just
faithful!"); and ignorant of...
their way of
communicating (e.g. preaching, not agreeing to disagree) becomes
and ignorance of...
every situation is unique, some mix of these factors can make conflicts over religion specially divisive and stressful
A "surface conflict" is a symptom of deeper problems
(unmet needs). If you have conflicts over religion with someone, see which
of these you recognize...
"I (or we) significantly disagree with
and/or disapprove of...
what you believe
about God, scripture, worship, history, "facts," or related ideas; and/or
you believe it; and/or we disapprove of...
and/or where you worship your God
and/or express your faith - (e.g. preaching, demonstrating, disparaging other faiths...); and/or
we disagree with...
thepriority you assign
to practicing your religion, ("Worship should come before your hobbies."); and/or
I (or we) resent or disagree with...
about my or our choices of religious beliefs and
practices (e.g. your intolerance, ridicule, scorn, indifference,
and/or we disapprove of...
ideas and practices you're teaching the young
people in our home or lives, and/or how
you're teaching them - e.g. by scaring or shaming them, and/or not permitting
questions, doubts, discussions, or disputes; and/ or we're offended
theway you communicate
about our religious differences - e.g. you
won't take personal responsibility for your beliefs and/or
behaviors, and you insist you're only following God's word (as written in
your holy book);
most of all, people resent...
implying or saying your religious preferences and beliefs are "better" or
"more correct" than mine or my family's or clan's.
I or we resent your not accepting my
(or our) beliefs as legitimate even though they're different than yours.
Can you think
of other causes of religious disagreements?
These are all surface
stressors caused by deeper...
A "problem" occurs when one or more people have unmet needs(physical,
psychological, and/or spiritual discomforts). People who get "upset" when their religious beliefs or practices are
challenged or attacked are often unaware of these primary needs...
to feel respected (worthy) by
themselves and other people;
to feelright (good), because they equate wrong with "bad," and "saving
souls" is good.
to feelpowerful -
i.e."When I do the Lord's work by 'bringing the
Light to you and others, I feel the power of God!"
fundamental questions about life, death, good, evil, origins, and destiny,
vs. confusion, doubt, and uncertainty.
typical people who argue about religion need...
their own knowledge, judgment, and reasoning;
to belong - i.e. to
be known and accepted by a group of other people
(like a local and global church community).
to live with the horror of death and the (learned)
possibility of 'eternal damnation;'
and they need...
"I am a good person
in the eyes of a
judgmental God, myself, and my relatives and friends." Good depends on "saving your soul," and
"believing and doing the 'right' religious things - according to some
preachers and a
Holy book;" and average people need...
integrity (acting on
their core beliefs), their dignity
(self respect), and their identity (knowing clearly who I am).
These are each affected by beliefs about
God, worship, good and evil, and
Needs like these are primal, intense, and semi-conscious, so using logic and "reason" to change
another's religious faith can never work. Neither can threats,
demands, or punishments. Criticizing another's religion or
spirituality is as silly and arrogant as believing your fingerprints or ear
lobes are superior to
it seem reasonable that people who argue about religion
have some mix of the primary needs above? If so, are they able to describe
and own these needs? Can you?
Take a moment to reflect and clarify what you believe about these...
Premises About Conflicts over Religion
If you don't agree with
these ideas, identify what you do believe...
Each person has the innate right to evolve their own beliefs about God,
worship, good and evil, messiahs and prophets, sin, the origin of the
universe, the Earth, and life; heaven and Hell; Satan and angels; death and
an afterlife. Family adults are responsible for encouraging their kids to
form their own beliefs ("faith") over time
[I Agree / Disagree / or ? (am unsure)];
"religion" (beliefs, practices, holy book, God, language) are
values conflicts. They are not subject to logic or reasoning, and are resolved
differently than disputes over provable "facts," natural laws, and physical things.
The keys to
values conflicts over religion (or anything else) are
(a) self and mutual awareness and respect, and (b) each person agreeing to disagree
(A D ?)
To genuinelyagree to disagree, each person must be consistently
true Self. Restated: to
compromise over different religious beliefs and
practices, each conflicted person needs to be free of significant
The odds forlasting resolution of conflicts over religion
are proportional to all
affected adults wanting to(a) be
to (b) help each
other grow fluent in seven communicationskills. Often,
"religious disputes" are really over how people proclaim
and compare their beliefs (e.g. arrogantly, rigidly, and disrespectfully).
(A D ?)
Typical social conflicts are two or three concurrent disputes:
inside you + inside the other person + between the two of you.Therefore, odds for lasting
compromises rise as each person involved resolves
internal conflicts (confusion,
ambivalence, or uncertainty) about spiritual faith and practices.
(A D ?)
More basic premises about "religion conflicts":
People vary on how important resolving disputes
over religion are compared to other values and needs. (Agree Disagree ?)
("There is no 'God'") and agnosticism ("I
don't know or care if there's a God") are spiritual faiths
meriting as much respect as any other belief. Labeling these
faiths as "wrong" is inherently arrogant and disrespectful, no
matter how "righteous" the motives. Conversely, atheists or
agnostics insisting they're right and other religious beliefs are wrong
are equally disrespectful. (A D ?)
final (sad) premise about resolving surface religious conflicts is...
Some people and groups are so
unaware that even if
the premises above, they won't be able to agree to disagree.
They have a higher need to be "right" (1-up and "worthy") than
to have a mutually-respectful relationship. You can keep trying to be
respected, heard, and accepted by such people; or scorn, avoid, and/or oppose them; or
choose options like these.
To resolve significant
family disputes over religion, consider these steps:
Clarify how your needs
and opinions rank compared to other family members. If you're
controlled by false selves, those subselves may claim "Their needs and mine are of equal value," rather than admit
"My needs and opinions
come first here!" Your true Self is likely to
and my conflict partner/s' pinions and primary needs are
equally valid and important to me now."
Review your attitudes to
avoid having them compound or distract you from the primary "religion" conflict.
Review this sample
Bill of Personal Rights,
and see if you genuinely feel they apply equally to you and each
conflict-partner. If not, suspect well-intentioned false selves control you.
More resolution-preparation steps...
Review your options on
loyalty conflicts and
Your "religion conflict" probably is causing these universal
stressors. Reality check: can you describe to another person what each of
these three dynamics is, and how to resolve
primary needs in this conflict using the examples above. Typically
they will include needing to feel respected, clearly heard, and genuinely
accepted. Review these ageless
these options for improving communication
effectiveness. It's highly likely
part of your "religion conflict" comes from ineffective communication.
you need other family members to admit and reduce their conflict over
religion, go here.
Options IfYou Are Conflicted With
Arrange a distraction-free meeting with each person you disagree
with. Ask if they're willing to discuss your dispute over religion. It
describe values conflicts and how to
them, and propose you two have a values conflict over your religious beliefs;
identify specifically how your values and/or
priorities differ; (e.g. "You're convinced there are sinners and I'm not.")
ask if the other person is willing to
genuinely agree to
disagree about your differences.
If s/he isn't willing ["No, there
ARE sinners (and
suspect that s/he's controlled by false
selves, and see these options;
you're receiving from this person. If you feel unheard and/or
disrespected ("1-down"), (a) review your personal
rights, and (b) offer assertive
to describe your feelings and specifically what you need.
if s/he denies disrespecting you or claims
you're "too sensitive," you have another values conflict.
If you have a problem with the way the person communicates about religion, (a) review these common
blocks and (b) focus on
reducing themas teammates with a common goal.
the "Religion" Conflict is Between
Your discomfort is probably not about
There are too many possible problems to list here.
Some typical ones are...
respect for someone because of the way s/he is behaving in this family conflict; and/or...
anxious that this conflict between other
family members may destroy something you value, like a
marriage, family bonding or peace, a child's emotional security, etc.
You disagree with the religious
instruction that a child is getting from other kids or adults; or...
This "religion" conflict between other
family members may be emphasizing unresolved
to their relationship, and you're not sure what
to do about that; and/or...
The conflict between others is
hindering you from getting something you need or want, like going to the
church of your choice or studying a Holy Book with others, and/or...
stepfamily stress, invite your adults
to study and apply
Arguments about "religious" beliefs and practices can be specially emotional
and stressful. They all are
values conflicts and/or communication problems, which
are amplified if one or more conflicted people is psychologically
Lesson-5 article explores...
what's unique about social disputes over religion,
common surface conflicts and underlying
premises about family "religion" disputes, and...
options for reducing primary
more perspective and options, see this article on managing major
prejudice over race, gender,
politics, abortion, or similar topics.