And so it goes with the application of that impossibly broad brush called religion. It's as if we can't even speak the word without walking into the minefield of someone else's wounds. Guards go up immediately and with good reason. It's the ultimate conversation stopper, an association to end all associations. Who would want to get caught anywhere near it? And in our day, could calling someone "religious" ever function as a compliment? It's one more label we use as a placeholder of persons and populations, as if we've somehow gotten to the bottom of who they are with an adjective.
I want very much to take this attitude aside and punch it lovingly in the stomach. I want good humor and candor and more truth between us than a label could ever afford. And if it's the case that mention of religion mostly shuts conversation down, I want very badly to somehow crack it open again. If we're open to it, the word need not always signal a dead end; it might even be a means to a breakthrough, a way of fessing up to the facts of what we're all up to.
—Adapted from the introduction, "Religion Happens"