If you enter the forums, beware! I want to start by saying that I love HubPages (I truly do!). Without it I would have never had a platform for my writing and ideas. I believe HP is probably the best such site. The set up is like being the editor-in-chief of your own magazine, as someone once mentioned before.
If you're not a masochist, I would avoid the forums (unless you start and control your own thread and thereby set the tone), especially the political and religious forums. It has been my experience that those so-called discussions deteriorate into mean-spirited, incoherent zoos very fast!
But perhaps you, JSParker, like to argue. Perhaps you like a good "fight," and all that. Perhaps you thick-skinned and can "give as good as you get," and so forth. I don't believe there really is a "safe" way or "best" way to get started. It's sort of like asking: What's a good way to fly into the sun?
But the fact that you even asked the question, JSParker, indicates a certain civility about you. I would say that at least half of the regular participants in the forums never bothered to ask or even think about the question you have asked. I hope you are not very badly disappointed.
Keep in mind that this is the Internet, and a lot of people take that as license to talk without any restraint, they take a no-holds-barred approach to what they call discussion. In this modality, it seems that human feeling means next to nothing to them.
If you do choose to venture into the forums, JSParker, beware! Beware!