I absolutely agree with the commonly held wisdom that you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion with someone or a group of people you don’t know very well. Both are incredibly divisive, loaded topics, and even the most innocuous comment could wind up offending someone. If you know the person or people you’re talking to, and they know you, then you’re all on the same page as far as how each of you feels about this or that, so having a conversation about either of those subjects won’t be a potential field littered with landmines. I also tend to believe that some people use those two topics as cudgels to bash over others heads and total strangers often bear the brunt of it, the idea being you wouldn’t treat your friends and acquaintances that way. Just look at the Internet. Go into the comments section on any website under an article about either of those two topics. People treat each other horribly. No one knows the other people they’re responding to, but it’s all insults, threats, and hate speech. If that’s how they treat someone they don’t know whose face they can’t see, how do you think they’d treat someone they don’t know who was standing right in front of them?
I’m very opinionated when it comes to politics in particular, and when I’m out with friends, and there might be one or two people at the table that I’m not acquainted with, I keep my mouth shut and stick to sports, TV, or the weather. The reason being, I don’t want to make everyone else uncomfortable by finding myself arguing with a Republican over whether the Affordable Care Act is President Obama’s way of turning the US into a socialist state or not. For one, it isn’t, in case anyone was curious and two, that’s not conversation you have over dinner in public anyway.