Almost ¾ of U.S. adults claim a religious affiliation1. Even if you know that someone is religious, though, you shouldn’t assume that you know what they believe. Members of the same faith tradition can have different opinions on scientific topics, even on topics like evolution2 or reproductive health3. Faith is important for a lot of people4, and if you belittle or disparage a core element of someone’s identity, even accidentally, it can turn people off to what you have to say.
When you talk with someone about science, you’re engaging in science communication. Helpfully, there is a science of science communication to help you engage respectfully and constructively, and this applies to engaging with people of faith as well.
Studies suggest that effective approaches to science engagement involve making authentic connections with people and engaging with their emotions rather than focusing on giving them information5,6,7,8,9. When you talk with someone, approach them with genuine humility—respectfully listen and seek to understand what they believe and why, and see if you can genuinely relate by sharing your own perspectives. Feelings of curiosity, awe, and wonder are very human and very relatable. Keep in mind that you should try to meet people where they are—you should not be trying to win a debate! You don’t have to agree about everything, but people respond best to others who share their values, so finding common ground is a good starting point10. That common ground can be wonder at the natural world around us….or it can be completely unrelated to science, e.g., being a parent, a shared hobby, a favorite sports team, etc!