I've recently seen some discussions on other sites where there are certain topics, in addition to religion, where broaching a certain subject or posing a certain question seems to be percieved as a personal attack. That of course, is one of the genius ideas of religion...infect the mind so deeply, that if another person questions or criticizes the belief, it is felt as if a cruel and uncouth personal attack has been made. Permanent acute defensiveness, to prevent faith from waivering.
But there are other topics where the reaction appears to be about the same. This is a reaction even stronger than the reaction when someone broaches a political topic...because even the most die-hard partisans have acclimated somewhat to the fact that their hero or party will inevitably be criticized by some people.
Here are some topics that seem to be sacred cows, at least in the USA...meaning that an attempt to rationally discuss the topic will inevitably illicit a number of very disproportionate, angry and irrational verbiage, of such a nature and persistence that rational persons will tend to withdraw from the topic:
The Ubiquity of Guns in America
The Wisdom of Motor Sports (dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, SUV's, NASCAR, jet-skis, etc.)
The Usage of Personal Fireworks on July 4
Limiting Childrens' Usage of Tanning Beds
Capitalism Vs. Socialism
Why do these topics (and others no doubt) set people off like you are talking about religion? Is it that these topics are somehow related to the boogieman of religion (circumcision, for some people, is...and so is abortion) and that is why they override rationality? Or are these topics that are contained within a volatile area of the brain? Does it have to do with topics related to the individual's concept of identity (seems to be the case with motorsports and Americans)?
Are some of these concepts actually equal to religion within the value system of some populations? Are there people who actually revere, say, guns and motor vehicles more than the totems of religion? And if we understood why those objects rate so highly, would we then understand religion better?
Just thinking is all.