My granddaddy once advised me to avoid debating two topics: Religion or politics.

"You can’t win an argument when it comes to politics or religion," he said. "People get too passionate about both and that passion too quickly turns to anger. When people get mad they get personal and whenever a debate turns personal, everybody loses."

Granddaddy was right. When people start talking about politics or God, their voices often rise, the hands ball up into fists and, sooner or later, a punch is thrown.

We see it here on Blue Ridge Muse. A few weeks ago, a number of ministers and deeply-religious folks got upset when I wrote a column for another publication that combined God and politics. We saw it again over the holidays when I expressed concerns about the direction this nation is headed under the current Republican administration in the White House and an accommodating Democratically-controlled Congress.

The comments brought a sharp rebuke from a local conservative blogger who supports President George W. Bush, the war in Iraq and many other things that I, and many regular readers of this web site, find deplorable. I don’t mind folks disagreeing with me. I enjoy a good debate but the blogger, I felt, called my patriotism and love of country into question and that sort of thing makes me mad. I got pissed. I’m still pissed.

Others joined into the debate and some of their comments got personal, using the debate to unload on the blogger in question and vent their frustrations with him on issues that had nothing to do with the topic.

The result: A lot of anger, a lot of personal animosity and very little reasoned debate on the problems this nation faces.

I went back this morning and deleted the personal, nasty comments that some here directed at David St. Lawrence. They had no place in the discussion and their comments cheapened the debate. I have serious differences with David but those differences are philosophical, not personal. I’m sorry that he felt the need to respond in a way that I and others here felt questioned my love of my country but that bridge has been burned and only the future can determine if will, or should, be rebuilt.

But I’m also sorry that this web site was used for others to vent their personal dislike of someone else. As a rule I don’t moderate comments on Muse but the actions of the last few days have made me wonder if I need to start. It should be possible to discuss issues without making it personal.