Op-Ed: Politics and Religion Belong at the Dinner Table


Young Americans have become intolerant of opposing viewpoints, and it’s proving detrimental to our society.

If you ask Gen Zers in America what subjects you should never bring up around the dinner table, their answers will overwhelmingly be “politics” and “religion.” A recent NPR survey found that 58 percent of Americans “dread” talking politics at the dinner table, particularly on major holidays.

Living with a large family with vastly different cultural perspectives and political opinions, I often found myself thrown into a spirited debate at family gatherings, even at a young age. Politics and religion were never off-limits and I was encouraged to form my own opinions from the different perspectives I heard.

As a young adult, I now find myself eager to hear positions different from my own that will challenge what I believe. Some of my closest friends disagree with me on nearly every issue but still enjoy our friendly debates as much as I do. I attribute this joy of debate and my tolerance toward disagreement to one simple concept — open discussion around my family dinner table.

Our avoidance of peaceful conversations about crucial topics has led Americans my age to lack the ability to understand and appreciate values different from our own. We have forgotten how to articulate what we believe and, more importantly, why we believe what we do.

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By failing to challenge our own beliefs by engaging in vigorous debate, we do ourselves a disservice. What has become taboo among our families and friends has percolated into deep distrust and intolerance.

Our country’s disdain for friendly political debate has evolved into genuine contempt for those we disagree with. Today, 31 percent of American college students believe the use of physical violence is justified to prevent “hate speech,” which typically centers around political values they oppose.

Our inability to share our personal beliefs and engage in personal discussion is fundamentally changing the fabric of our society. A recent Barna study revealed that 21 percent of Gen Zers identify as atheists or agnostic. Further, teens 13-18 years old are twice as likely to say they are atheist than their adult counterparts.

This lack of conviction is creating an unstable foundation when it comes to my generation’s beliefs — today, nearly 1 in 4 Gen Z Americans strongly believe that “what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society.”

Do you think conversations about politics and religion should be welcome at the dinner table?

Faith in something larger than ourselves is no longer serving as a driving factor for political values.

Instead, we often base our values on the political leaders and issues of the day. This is how we have seen such a quick spiral towards socialism and full-blown government control, rather than the previously universal values of individual freedom and limited government, which have unfortunately become partisan.

We are living in a broken world characterized by violence and selfishness. The fact that we are evolving into a godless and ideologically intolerant society is no coincidence. Our society’s failure to expose my generation to different values and perspectives has caused our nation to spin into chaos, and our youth is suffering because of it.

The American Psychological Association recently reported that Gen Z is coping with the most mental health disorders of any other generation — 91 percent of my generation say they have “felt physical or emotional symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, associated with stress.” Perhaps this societal epidemic stems from a lack of ability to understand those different from ourselves.

This societal deterioration could have been prevented by a handful of lively conversations around the dinner table, not to indoctrinate beliefs from one generation to the next, but to challenge them, understand them, and expose the next generation to the art of exploration of ideas.

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Today, I present to you a challenge which could be a simple solution toward saving the civility in our society.

The next time you sit down at the dinner table, start up a socially forbidden conversation about politics or religion. I would argue that it only stretches our muscles for being stronger in the larger environment for tolerance, learning and understanding of both our own views and those of people we encounter.

You never know how our country may change as our appetite for tolerant dialogue increases.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Isabel Brown is a graduate student at Georgetown University pursuing her master’s degree in biomedical sciences policy and advocacy. You can follow her on social media @theisabelbrown (Instagram/Facebook) and @theisabelb (Twitter).
Isabel Brown is a recent college graduate from Colorado who endured years of leftist indoctrination on her college campus and is now pursuing her master’s degree at Georgetown University in biomedical sciences policy and advocacy. After serving as a Turning Point USA chapter founder and president for two years at Colorado State University, Isabel recently became a Turning Point USA contributor to continue sharing the powerful message of the organization. In addition to the content she produces for PragerU, Isabel independently produces and hosts On The Front Lines, a video series highlighting the adversity college students experience due to their conservative beliefs. Isabel is also a former U.S. Senate and White House intern. You can follow her on social media @theisabelbrown (Instagram/Facebook) and @theisabelb (Twitter).