Ask Richard: Atheist Discovers She’s Working in a Christian Company March 31, 2011

Ask Richard: Atheist Discovers She’s Working in a Christian Company

Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Hi Richard!

My husband and I have recently moved from a small town in the bible belt famous for its wholesome, christian values to probably the most liberal college town in the state, which isn’t saying much. Before we moved I made sure I had a job lined up because we could not afford to be jobless. During orientation, I learned that my new job was a Christian based company, which I found a little odd because I am a CNA working for home health care. Even though I am an atheist increasingly losing patience with most religious people, I thought I could get over the occasional bible verses left for me on the phone system which I have to clock in and out on, until now.

I was just mailed a letter explaining that I was to attend a mandatory event that will be full of “fun, fellowship, and education!!” Any time I have been introduced to the word fellowship it has either been linked to Lord of the Rings or something religious. I am not up for spending a few hours being preached to and them telling me it’s apart of my education; however, I’m not looking forward to announcing to an auditorium full of Christians, my boss, and the company’s vice president that I do not want to take part in their religious fun. I stopped going to church when I was 14 with grand intentions of never going back and now being 21 years old I do not need to pray to some imaginary being to make sure I do my job right, just like I was taught in a secular class three years ago.

Now I know that the best action for me to take is just to remove myself from the situation all together, but that can’t happen until I find a new job, I can not go jobless. I have applied for everything including many, many jobs that don’t involve my certified nurses assistant experience but I have yet to hear anything back and I don’t know what to do in the mean time. I’m not aware of the laws in the US about religious discrimination or what an atheist is to do when working for a christian company and I just need to know what I should do or could do in this situation. I fear I can not just participate and keep my mouth shut.

Thank you so much for your advice and your time!
Ruth

Dear Ruth,

I’ve received many letters like this, more often at the stage where the employee’s atheism has already been discovered, and he or she is dealing with the consequences. In your case we can work on prevention instead of cure.

A “Christian based company” can mean many things. The management might be comfortable with some variety of religious adherence, but expecting atheists to be accepted with warmth and ease is probably expecting far too much.

If, as you suspect, “fellowship” at this mandatory event is code for some kind of religious activity, I wonder if one of its purposes is to discover any unbelievers among the newcomers. It’s easier to get rid of newly-hired people before probation periods are up, before clients become attached to them, before the company becomes dependent on their good work, and before the other candidates whom they turned down find other jobs.

There are laws against religious discrimination in hiring, firing and promotion, but it is very hard to prosecute such complaints, especially in private companies, and it involves long, drawn-out lawsuits. If you are the plaintiff, the effort and expense is entirely on your shoulders unless a group like the ACLU comes to your aid. Legal costs are only recouped if the plaintiff wins, and even then that’s still a maybe. During that litigation, if you’re fortunate or unfortunate enough to still be working there, you will probably not be feeling the love of Jesus coming from your bosses or co-workers. If you do win, and do get the option to recover or keep your job, you will probably not be very comfortable there.

If it is revealed that a new employee does not conform to the hive mind, instead of outright firing them, more often these companies try to get them to quit. The person will be given the worst tasks, often things that are not appropriate for their education and training, so they will not be able to perform well. This lackluster proficiency will be used to justify passing them over for promotion. There are glass ceilings for anyone who doesn’t sing along with the rest of the choir. Often the administrators are very savvy about staying just within the law. They are quite aware that it is unethical, but they feel completely justified. Yet they will never admit to what they’re doing.

Then there’s the social aspect. Most workplaces are not just places where workers work. They’re complex social forums with intricate interpersonal and emotional dynamics. Making friends, being treated with warmth and good will, and being accepted on a social level is very important to most people’s ability to keep up an adequate level of work output.

Co-workers can be a much more lethal weapon than the boss. Sometimes they’ll take the atheist on as a challenge for conversion, with all sorts of unwelcome proselytizing. When that fails, it shifts to taunting, by emphasizing their religious chatter when they know it will be the most annoying. Finally it will turn to shunning. If everyone is cold and aloof, the target person probably won’t be able to last long. The atheist will either quit or be fired for actual poor job performance. Most people are not able to become emotional islands, living in solitary confinement while surrounded by people. Even if they are able to do that, it’s actually sad to see it happen. Their detachment can become habitual. It’s not healthy.

So what to do? First, you’re already doing the wisest thing. Keep looking for a better place to work. Eventually you’ll find one. Find out ahead of time if any job prospects are at other “Christian based” companies. You don’t want to discover that again on orientation day. Doing this will make the rest of my suggestions temporary measures.

Now to the big event of “fun, fellowship and education.” I have no hesitation to suggest that you deceive them either passively or actively. Avoid letting them know the truth about your atheism at this time. You should reveal that only when it is in your own self interest to do so. Unless you were doing specific religious activities as part of your job as you might in a church, the true nature of your religious views is nobody’s damn business, and letting them know the truth could be very detrimental to your self interests. You have the right to protect yourself from both administrative and social harassment while you look for a better job.

Avoid religious conversations at this event and afterward as much as you can, but you’ll certainly not be able to dodge them all. Play along by using as vague or non-committal responses as you can. Have rehearsed answers ready for questions you anticipate you might be asked, such as to what church you belong. Answer everything in a way that gives them the impression that you are at least nominally in their camp, but be dull. Give them just enough response for them to relax their scrutiny, but not enough to get them interested. If you must actually lie, keep the lies small, brief, uninteresting, and as close to the truth as possible. Don’t use lies that involve having a problem, such as you haven’t been able to find a church to your liking in this town yet. They’ll want to help you solve your problem by inviting you to attend theirs.

This will definitely limit your social experience at your workplace. Your friendships will necessarily be somewhat superficial. So for your emotional health, you should develop friendships that are completely separate from work.

While you’re under cover, document everything. If by CNA you mean that you are a Certified Nursing Assistant, then you already have training in documentation. Develop the habit of writing down every single instance of “religious stuff” that happens in your work day every day, little things and big things. Include the dates, times, names, places, and how it affected both your work and your emotions. Keep this in a very secure place. You will only be using this material if you are discovered, the “treatment” begins, and you have to resort to filing a complaint either to a government agency or to a lawyer.

Hopefully, you won’t need to use your documentation, but even if you don’t, one immediate benefit is it might help you to feel less helpless. Taking assertive steps to protect yourself just in case of need can help you feel more in control in a challenging situation. You actually are fighting back even if nobody knows about it.

I’ve sometimes suggested the “secret anthropologist” approach for people who are stuck in a heavily religious environment, and they have to remain secretive about their atheism. Dispassionately observe the religious culture at work the way an anthropologist would while living among aborigines. This might help you to relax your impatience and frustration because you will be considering it in intellectual terms more than in emotional terms. Write down your thoughts and impressions at home. It might make a good article or book some day.

Ruth, it’s awful and it’s outrageous that I have to suggest these devious and cautious tactics to you, rather than telling you to just proudly be yourself, but this is the reality that many people have presented to me in their letters about self-described “Christian companies.” You’re in survival mode. You’re a secret agent in a hostile country. Take deep, slow breaths whenever your tension builds. It really helps. Stay cool, play their silly games just enough to placate them, and find a better place to work without losing income.

As George Herbert, poet and, ironically, an Anglican priest famously said, “Living well is the best revenge.”

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

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  • Ruth,

    I agree with Richard.

    There are basically two end-games involving deception that you could consider.

    1. Deceiving them just long enough to find another position somewhere else where you can just be yourself without having to worry about play-acting. View the deception as just a short-term thing that you are only doing to buy you some time.
    2. Deceiving them long enough where the deception becomes easy for you and you can continue the deception as long as the job proves convenient. You could rationalize that you live in a religion dominated society so you might as well get used to playing along by their terms.

    In either case, it would be convenient for you to adopt a religious denomination that is rare but still borderline Christian. Perhaps Quaker or Unitarian Universalist. That way if there are no churches (or meeting places) for that denomination in the town, it gets you off the hook for joining anything. If there are, then at least the experience would be more tolerable than a more traditional church.

    The other option is to just announce that you are an atheist and let the chips fall where they may. You will have to be the judge on if that is a good idea.

  • If you must actually lie, keep the lies small, brief, uninteresting, and as close to the truth as possible.

    I Know this may not be pragmatic, but I would NEVER lie, not even a little, in situations like this. I think that this, while making short-term life easier, only acts detrimentally toward your goals. I agree that you don’t want to volunteer information in this situation, but there is a line. There is no immediate threat to body or life, so there is no ethical reason to be dishonest, even a little. See, if they do discover the truth anyway, you will just look dishonest or ashamed to be a non-Christian. That’s what they will likely assume anyway (in my experience).

    Instead, tell the truth in as boring a way as you must, keep it short, and they probably really won’t care. If they do, its not really their business anyway.

  • Rickster

    I think I might know the company you are talking about. When I interviewed with a nationwide “home senior care” company’s home office in a corn state, at one point I was told about their “core values” with the first one being To honor God in all we do. I was told “it’s good to work where you know you share the same beliefs as your co-workers”. There were a couple of funny things about this exchange however. The core values were written on a small piece of paper and not in their official stuff; like they were trying to hide them from people who shouldn’t see (hiding from ACLU perhaps?). I was also struck by the fact that right after telling me about the values he asked about my last name, having never met a male with one that was hyphenated before as mine is. I felt like he was suggesting my hyphenated last name MUST mean I’m a married homosexual or some other abomination to god.

    Anyway, I was never offered the job but am sure I would not have taken it anyway given that environment. Turns out now I work at a catholic/jesuit college but for most part those who know don’t seem to care that I’m an atheist.

    I agree with Richard that for the sake of your job you probably need to keep your being an atheist hidden for now. Keep looking though and get out of there as soon as you are able.

  • I think you’re all right, but just to be devil’s advocate for a moment – I also live in the South, and until recently lived in a town much like Ruth describes. It was my experience that lots and lots of people used the word “fellowship” as a synonym for “social time,” without any religious element whatsoever. They would also talk about “lifting up” people who had done things well, but they didn’t mean that religiously either. They meant “highlight” or “recognize.” So while I agree with the advice that Ruth should keep things on the downlow for the time being, I’d be curious to know if she finds that “fellowship” turns out to be just awkward slang for “eating food and chatting.”

  • Andi

    You could answer questions about religion with something vague like “My relationship with god is very personal and I don’t like to discuss it.” It’s true, but vague and will appear that you are religious and believe in god although you said nothing of the sort. Just a suggestion…

  • Shoves

    It’s pitiful that in the ‘Lnad of the Free’, you have to baa along with the rest of the sheep.

    The so-called leader of the free world is as backward in its thinking as the most primitive of religious peoples.

    Move over here to blighty, and you won’t have to face that shiote!

  • Starfire

    Richard: I have always thought that “Living well is the best revenge” had been coined by someone who feared real revenge from a person s/he had wronged. If the CNA who wrote to you keeps good notes on her experience, she should write a book. Because living well is not the best revenge. Writing a book IS.

  • Thegoodman

    Say you will attend the event. Then don’t.

    HolyRoller: “Oh, we missed you at the Jesus Parade yesterday. Why didn’t you attend?”

    CriticalMind: “I had diarrhea.”

    HolyRoller: “Oh..well I hope you get to feeling better.”

    I promise that will end the conversation.

  • Silent Service

    As somebody used to flying under cover, it sucks. But it can be done and you will probably eventually find allies inside the company. I’m betting that at every event they’ll start with a prayer. While the sheeple are closing their eyes and looking down, look around and you’ll find them.

  • HamsterWheel

    Perhaps a fun way to cope with the situation would be to make vague references that the company’s religious status is not extreme enough for her. Make ambiguous comments which might lead people to believe she belongs to a small group of extreme fringe fundamentalists with a disturbing interpretation of the bible. I think religious people instinctively understand the futility of trying to reason with other religious people, especially those who hold beliefs more extreme than their own, so use that perspective to deflect their bullshit with an even bigger, scarier load of bullshit, but never say anything specific. Fight fire with fire.

  • HamsterWheel

    @Thegoodman -that’s fucking hilarious! I love it.

  • LL

    …one immediate benefit [of documenting everything] is it might help you to feel less helpless. Taking assertive steps to protect yourself just in case of need can help you feel more in control in a challenging situation.

    Great advice, Richard!

  • CanadianNihilist

    I’ve never worked in a religious company before, but it sounds like it’s own special kind of hell.
    I sincerely hope you find a new place to work soon.

  • Heh. I’m an atheist working for an openly religious organization in the deep south. Oddly, they know. They also don’t terribly care.

    My experience is unusual, I know that. At the same time, don’t be so absolutely positive that they’re immediately forcing prayer circles upon you, or something of the sort. I don’t necessarily recommend just outing yourself – that’s never easy, and in your current situation may result in more hardship than is reasonable – but an earlier poster pointed out that ‘fellowship’ is often just used to imply an ice-cream-social type of atmosphere. I find that’s often true.

    All I can say for sure is that I drive to work every day with a scarlet-A on my car, and the only thing my bosses care about is whether or not I serve our constituency well, and whether I perform my job duties well. That’s it. Your own organization may surprise you as much as mine has.

  • Anonymous

    document everything

    This.

  • On her mention of the word “fellowship”:

    I belong to a not-for-profit mountain bike trail building organization called The Fellowship of the Wheel. It’s a play on, of course, Tolkien; it’s a totally non-religious organization (unless you count mountain biking as a religion).

    But, man, you should see the looks we get at trail-heads when we approach non-members and ask them if they’d like to join us and help build and maintain the trails they ride!

    It’s rather embarrassing.

    “Hey, guys! Have you heard about the Fellowship?”

    *Cringe*

  • Steve

    “The Followship” aka “The Family” is a secretive right wing Christian organization/cult that’s extremely well connected politically – up to the highest circles of the US government. Their goal is working secretly behind the scenes to strengthen evangelical “values” and establish some kind of Christian theocracy. They also meddle in foreign policy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fellowship_%28Christian_organization%29

  • Blacksheep

    Christians are discriminated against in work environments as well, especially in university settings – and that goes for students as well as professors.

    Excerpt from a recent story involving professor Mike Adams, whose case is just now being heard:

    A former atheist, Adams frequently received accolades from his colleagues after the university hired him as an assistant professor in 1993 and promoted him to associate professor in 1998. However, after his conversion to Christianity in 2000, Adams was subjected to intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and the denial of promotion to full professor, even though his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues.

    A little research reveals scores of scenarios like this. Granted, It’s not as bad as being fed to lions in the coliseum…

  • JanesTeapot

    Don’t lie.
    I like the idea of having such strong religious views, that they are truly a private personal matter. One can have convictions and not share them (and be admired). It is amazing how easy it is to deflect questions back, and appear to be “a good listener”, especially when in the role of a newbie. Also, a newbie can be socially “stupid” for a long time! Be very good at your job and be “devoted” with away-from-work family obligations.

    I disagree with appearing to be Quaker or Unitarian-Universalist. That could lead to more questioning and digging a larger hole of trouble. If one is uncomfortable with religious groups, why take on a “borderline” group that makes the religious group uncomfortable? (I used to be a UU, and wow, it was often very challenging to be with “the more” religious!)

    Again, don’t lie. Being true to yourself and to others, means knowing when it is appropriate to speak up and when to wait.
    Patience is a virtue. I hope you find a better job that suits you–soon!

  • GregfromCos

    Matthew 6:6 is a good verse to say you agree with. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    And say its a verse you admire, because it admonishes keeping any relationship with God private. As an Atheist it’s something I can agree with.

  • Gra’ma Banana

    I too moved to the Bible Belt to enjoy the sun, the southern hospitality, and the affordability. I now live in a state with the most churches per capita of anywhere in the WORLD!! I have lived in adjacent states and have never gotten used to the scene of patrons in a restaurant holding hands and praying before a meal. I probably will never get used to the WalMart greeter saying “Have a blessed day” when I exit the store. But life is easy here and outside of my frustration at not having anyone with whom I can converse about anything without their quoting from scripture at some point, I can cope. I call friends and family when I REALLY need to vent. I have learned the artful dodge and slick avoidance of any subject that can be turned into proselytizing. Keep a good sense of humor and find a non-believer friend that you can openly talk with about your situation. I have found out that Atheists are hated in the South MORE than child molesters and incestuous parents.

  • GregfromCos

    Christians are discriminated against in work environments as well, especially in university settings – and that goes for students as well as professors.

    Excerpt from a recent story involving professor Mike Adams, whose case is just now being heard:

    Mike Adams who said this about Atheist groups on College campuses…

    …when I get back to the secular university in August, I plan to round up the students I know who are most hostile to atheism. Then I’m going to get them to help me find atheist-haters willing to join atheist student groups across the South. I plan to use my young fundamentalist Christian warriors to undermine the mission of every group that disagrees with me on the existence of God.

    That means an invading group can turn a smaller, weaker group into second class citizens on campus. That’s what I intend to do to those groups who do not believe in God.

    I do not seek robust debate. I seek power over the godless heathen dissident.

    Does that really sound like someone who should be given full professorship at any University? It’s one thing to want to have “robust debate”, It’s another to simply “seek power over the godless heathen dissident.”

    I’d try to find a better example of Christians who are being denied promotions, as opposed to this apparent psychopath.

  • ash

    I’d add Mark 12.17 as a quote you should be familiar with, “And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.”, generally interpreted as supporting the idea legality of seperation of church and state.

    Maybe try going to the first ‘fellowship’ to see what the deal is; if it’s religious go with Thegoodman’s suggestion and suddenly develop explosive diarrhea. You can then decide whether to be ill each time, or to start pressuring to end an illegal practise – with or without admitting you’re an atheist. The Matthew 6.6 would help with that. Good luck.

  • esattezza

    Black sheep,

    If it’s the Mike Adams I’m thinking of, he has some super unscientific ideas that are actually completely separate of any religious belief. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that his loss of job had anything to do with his religious beliefs.

  • Dan

    I don’t think it is appropriate to just assume that the word “fellowship” necessarily implies that this will be a Christian event. It probably does, but I will tell you, as a former evangelical Christian, that oftentimes religious people will speak in Christianese even when not being overtly religious. I have worked with evangelical Christians and I can often pick them out based on Christian code words that they picked up in church and now use in regular conversation (like blessed, fellowship, god willing, archaic agricultural references from the King James Version, etc).

    Again, please don’t necessarily assume that this event will be a revival or something similar. They might just be using religious language due to being inundated with it at church. I do agree that an individual in this situation needs to document EVERYTHING. It is illegal to discriminate based on religious or non-religious beliefs, but you need a lot of evidence to show that is what really happened to you.

  • Verimius

    Tell ’em you’re Jewish.

  • e.ebullient

    Perfect advice. I’d also second what Silent Service said:

    “As somebody used to flying under cover, it sucks. But it can be done and you will probably eventually find allies inside the company. I’m betting that at every event they’ll start with a prayer. While the sheeple are closing their eyes and looking down, look around and you’ll find them.”

  • “As somebody used to flying under cover, it sucks. But it can be done and you will probably eventually find allies inside the company. I’m betting that at every event they’ll start with a prayer. While the sheeple are closing their eyes and looking down, look around and you’ll find them.”

    I’ll third Silent Service’s advice. Our company has the occasional potluck or group meal and there is always one religious guy who leads everyone in prayer. There are 4 of us that never bow our heads.

    During out User Conference there is a meal with about 250 clients and our 50 staff and he leads this prayer, and the people who have their heads up (a small minority of clients, but they are there) all look around and nod at each other – sort of a silent fistbump – just to let you everyone know that they aren’t alone.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I have used the “My religion is personal, I really prefer to keep it private, and I don’t discuss it” line, and it has been quite successful. I’ve shut down more than one evangelist at my door that way. They just make the assumption that I have some deep “faith” and I just let them make that assumption. I didn’t lie, they are happy, and they let me alone. That’s a win all around.

  • doglovingirl

    Ruth,

    As a nurse, I know that most hospitals are religious-based. Some pipe their morning and evening prayers over the loudspeaker (argh!!). Others want potential new hires to explain how their personal values fit into the hospital’s (christian) values. (A sly way of seeing how “christian-like” you respond.)

    It’s hard to find a non-religious (read: independent community) hospital or home health facility, but they exist. (If you want to move to California in the lovely Sierra Foothills, you can check out Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, we might be hiring CNAs soon.)

    You can also ask potential work places to send you information about their facility. It’s sometimes amazing the stuff they send (and the stuff you can find out). Until you have something else lined up (something you’ve checked out and know isn’t religious; again, it’s hard to find), keep your head down and your chin up (is that possible?) 😉 Good luck!

  • ckitching

    Another quote that seems fairly apt in this situation:
    “He who hid well, lived well.”
    — René Descartes

  • cut.throat.jane

    Richard, thank you so much for your advice, it has calmed my nerves a little. I want to thank everyone for their advice, too. Sorry if my letter seems a little over dramatic, I have just been so fed up with religion lately. I think it mostly comes from moving away from my little oppressive town to this bigger more liberal college town and still not being able to escape my childhood religion. It doesn’t help that now I am going to PP for birth control I have protesters swarming my car screaming at me as I try to leave. :/

    I really just don’t want things to sour because of this. I wish they could just keep the religion to themselves. I’ll probably go with “I keep my religion matters private,” reminding them of those Matthew and Mark verses, if I don’t end up backing out from an extremely bad case diarrhea 😀

    Thanks again for you support, guys!

  • I agree with a few other people that ‘fellowship’ may just be ‘getting together and hanging out’. The ‘fellowship hall’ at most churches is the place they go after the service to have coffee and donuts and talk about everything except what was going on in church.

    If it is a religious service of any kind, it would be illegal for them to require attendance/participation (but it’s legal for them to have it… EEOC v. Townley Eng’g & Mfg. Co.). A prayer after a company meeting usually is legal (at a privately owned business, not government), as long as people are not compelled to participate in the prayer.

  • wow. i guess i don’t really understand this country. protesters at the PP, church at work, fear of outing yourself… what kind of hellhole do you live in, Ruth? get out, get out now. move. seriously. save every penny you have and look for a job in the North, where this can be avoided, totally. there are rarely and sparsely attended protests at our clinics up here, and i have *never* had an employer who forced ‘fellowship’ or prayer on employees. not once, and i’ve worked about every job a person can have over the years.

    the Bible Belt sections of this country are going medieval and i for one would leave them now, while you still can, those of you who are trapped in jeebusland. the time is coming when they won’t let you out. except by way of a pyre.

  • Blacksheep

    Does that really sound like someone who should be given full professorship at any University? It’s one thing to want to have “robust debate”, It’s another to simply “seek power over the godless heathen dissident.”

    No, it doesn’t. But my point still stands – I’ll just post other examples.

  • Tony Konrath

    I’d probably have to phone in with a bad bout of DI (diplomatic influenza.)

  • When they say “mandatory” do they mean that they really want you to go or that it is part of your contract? If it is the former then just don’t turn up. If you’re not getting paid for it then you’re under no obligation to do a thing. If they are paying you then turn up and count the money that you’re earning for doodling on your note pad.

    Being an unsociable git I never attend work related social events, not even the obligatory Christmas shamefest. My excuse is that I’m a professional person and I keep my work and home lives completely separate. If that doesn’t work then I just tell them that I don’t like them and don’t want to spend my time with them. That usually does the job although for some reason some people think that I’m joking when I say that.

  • Ibis

    @Blacksheep, I’m sure that your other examples, if investigated, would yield similar results. If someone is being passed over for a promotion or job in an academic setting and religion is involved it’s likely because that person’s religion is interfering with their critical thinking or acceptance of scientifically discovered reality. Either that or they’re bringing their religion into the classroom or publications in a detrimental or embarrassing way for the institution.

  • cut.throat.jane

    I looked at my flier again, and if fellowship isn’t religious enough they also have refresh renew and rejoice across the top. I do believe we are going to be paid though, it’s a four hour service and that would be cutting into one of my shifts. This company is pretty religious so I wouldn’t be surprised if what they were doing was illegal and they knew and just didn’t care. Like I said earlier, on special occasions they will leave messages for us to listen to and just read bible verses to us over the phone.

    @Chicago Dyke,
    Yeah it can get pretty scary here. I was horrified when I went to PP for the first time and they gave me a flier explaining that March and April are prime protesting months and not to leave with your windows down because they will try to stick their heads in your car or throw things in at you. I don’t even think they offer abortions services at this location.

  • mike

    Is living well the best revenge? What is living well?… “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” -Conan … So it is revenge after all. 😉

    Lie. Truth is ethical, but so is providing for yourself and your family. This is one of those times when you must choose the lesser of two evils, so do so decisively and without regret. Be sure to minimize your lies and control your narrative closely. Saying that your religion is a personal matter is ok. You don’t have to submit to a lie if you insist on withholding the truth.

    You could try something like “I was raised X, but I do my own thing now”. And if someone pries into what your “own thing now” really is, just reply that it is personal and what part of personal don’t they understand.

    I actually don’t have a problem with lying. I never told my wife when I masturbated, is that wrong? I told my dad that I studied hard when I was hammered the previous night (long ago), is that wrong? I’ve told someone that it will all be all right tomorrow when it won’t, is that wrong?

    I don’t see an ethical problem in giving a disingenuous answer to a disingenuous question. If someone wants to ask if you practice the exact same religion as they do, that is disingenuous, they know or should know that the real answer is almost always no. There are genuinely inquisitive questions and there are disingenuous coercive questions (among others); you have no obligation to answer the second type truthfully.

  • delzoup

    My atheist roommate also works undercover at a Christian daycare. As part of her teaching duties she has to read Bible stories and sing hymns with her kids. She had been a school teacher, but when the job came along she had been unemployed for over a year. You’re not alone.

    “Fellowship” in the churches I have attended has always been code for hanging out and socializing. “Outreach” has been with sermons with a fun activity to bring the unbelievers in :D.

    I’m sorry to hear about the protesters at PP!

  • Okay, I’m kinda laughing, but not at Ruth or Richard, just at church culture in general. I’m pretty sure Stuff Christians Like has done a post on this.

    Like Delzoup said, “fellowship” is Spiritspeak for “hang out.” It’s not likely to be indoctrination or ferreting out the nonbelievers. It’s a way to spiritualize a social event that will likely have nothing more than perfunctory religious language, like the kind you might get at a grocery store when a customer says, “God bless you” when you hand her a receipt.

  • Richard Wade

    cut.throat.jane, (“Ruth”)
    Let us know how it goes. There are many people in predicaments like this, and although each situation may have some unique aspects, we can all benefit from collecting each others’ experiences about what worked and what didn’t work.

    I wish you well.

  • JanesTeapot

    Must…comment…again…
    I live in the north. Perhaps big cities like Chicago are more liberal, but most small towns are still as difficult for atheists as ever. As a public school employee, I never talk about my faith-or-lack-of-it, but there’s a huge christian-assumption factor in almost all situations. It might surprise some readers how christiany most school environments are. I don’t know of a single other atheist & I’ve worked in many bldgs for many years. One year, I was asked to decorate an entry-way holiday board, so I tried to broaden the typical Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter fare with other religions & culture events. After that year of stange questioning, I simply went to neutral seasonal displays. (But no more scary looking Easter bunnies!) How does one answer this question: “Hey, why do you have that Jewish candle-thing up there when we only have one Jew student?”
    It is considered unprofessional for staff to have political bumperstickers on cars, wear slogan shirts, or speak of politics or religion in front of students, but okay to wear a cross necklace. I don’t think I could wear a Darwin-fish or Flying Spaghetti Monster pin.

  • JanesTeapot

    …And as far as PP protests? We don’t have the luxury of a local clinic –shut down completely long ago. There’s a private fund with a network of supporters who will help arrange rides across state lines.

    Many years ago, I lived in Louisiana. I was a fish out of water, but in a way, I felt much more accepted. No one assumed I was anything but odd!