I first heard this phrase 20 years ago from my then IT director at a small association I was working for. We were having a discussion about how to manage a certain set of data, and as we debated the pros and cons of a decision we were making, he finally said “Look, it’s a religious issue.”
When I asked him what he meant he explained: “This kind of thing is a religious issue, in that there is no empirical evidence to support one decision over another in terms of one being better than the other. Either approach will work, and both have downsides. But neither is absolutely right or wrong. More importantly, if someone strongly believes one way is right, you’ll have a tough time convincing them otherwise.”
I use the phrase a lot with my clients, because the reality is, for many decisions we make with our database, there is no “right” answer. Very often, the right answer will depend on the technology we have, the resources available to us, and even the culture of our organization.
So when you hear someone say “Well, here’s how WE do that,” remember that very often, it’s a religious issue. Just because it’s right for them doesn’t mean it’s right for you.