Decades ago, my mother warned me against discussing politics and religion with friends.

I followed her advice – religiously! I’ve always had opinions of course, but restricted myself to discussing them at home, or shouting at the TV screen in exasperation.

My experience in the recent EU referendum campaign changed all that.

Frustration got the better of me; I felt compelled to express an opinion, to articulate a point of view that wasn’t being heard in the extremity of the debate. And so I started engaging in discussion on Facebook.

There was no going back.

Although, or more probably because, my friends had different opinions I found our debates immensely satisfying. I learned more about the beliefs, values and judgments that make them who they are. I questioned my own perspective, and found out more about myself into the bargain.

I enjoyed making an argument, and particularly the process of developing my thoughts in writing.

Now I don’t want to stop.

I think our collective experience of the last few weeks has made it clear just how much we need to improve our understanding and tolerance of others’ opinions – rather than just dismissing them in ignorance.

We shouldn’t fear that debate and disagreement might strain relationships. We need to build our relationships by having these discussions, and learn to disagree without losing respect for an alternative point of view.

So, because I have opinions, and because I enjoy developing them, I’m going to carry on here. I aim to avoid factionalism, but you will have to judge my success on that front. I may throw in some original fiction and humour from time to time; let’s see if you notice.

One thing I don’t plan to cover is religion. I think my mother had a point there.

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