Civility and tolerance on holiday

Sometimes there are moments in life that are more memorable than others. Some moments stand out.

On the other hand, there are also moments you can’t remember no matter what, like where you put your car keys last night. I guess I’m going to be late to work.

I remember a moment at my latest job when the conversation turned to religion and I decided enough time had passed and I was secure enough in my position that I could out myself. I revealed my atheism.

The response was not easy to forget. My boss turned to me and said, “Can I ask you a question? Why don’t you kill people?” This from a religious person who I have come to regard as being much less ethical and moral as I am.

It’s a weird world we live in.

At work I’m a minority. There are a total of four people working in the office. 25 percent of them are atheist. 50 percent are Mormons. And another 25 percent are garden variety “Christians” of unknown specific beliefs.

How did all of this come to be public information? Thinking back on it, I realized that the atheist in the midst was the only one who didn’t frequently broadcast his beliefs to everyone around him. Everyone else seemingly went way out of their way to project their beliefs into the workplace. Again, I find that weird.

Personally I found it quite enough motivation to keep my atheist views to myself. I wasn’t about to leap into the middle of the fray and shout, “Look at me! I’m different than the rest of you.”

So it came to be that it took quite some time before I finally outed myself. It wasn’t that I was actively hiding anything, but I wasn’t in any great hurry to reveal it, either. Back when I was still a probationary employee I had to consider the very real possibility that such a revelation would get my ass promptly shown the door. I didn’t really know these people yet, so caution was advised.

After a while came the time of the revealing. Back then there were only three of us in the office. The 66.6 percent (coincidence, I’m sure) hinted, probed and outright questioned me about my beliefs on a near constant basis. I found such behavior inappropriate but not overly offensive. After all, I actually take a bit of pride in my beliefs. I arrived at my beliefs applying my own thoughts and reasoning. For example, the decision to become atheist wasn’t something I simply adopted for the comfort of being similar to my parents. It was something I decided on my own and for myself.

My status, as expected, didn’t generate much hubbub and appeared to be readily accepted. There was a brief period where it prompted several predictable philosophical discussions, like how I viewed “right” and “wrong” and stuff like that. But that sort of stuff eventually died down.

But it did very subtly set me apart. And it has been that way ever since.

Last week there was much chit chat about the impending Easter weekend. The 75 percent were discussing big plans since, for them, Easter is a big day. Then my boss turned to me and said, “Do you have any plans for Easter? Oh, you probably don’t celebrate that day, right?”

Upon reflection, I realize I must have been irked by the way he asked. Without thinking, I replied, “Of course I do. It’s Zombie Jesus Day.”

I immediately regretted my flippant response. But there was no way in hell I was about to apologize, either. So there it floated with no take-backs.

I’m not generally out to tear down the beliefs of others. I do very much enjoy, however, pointing out a good hypocrisy, and that’s a sport I engage in often. I generally respect those with religious beliefs, because in my experience they are sincere. I can even be happy for them. I’ve had some religious people in my life I’ve really admired. Where I run into trouble, though, is when I don’t get that same sort of respect in return. Then there is trouble. (Like my recent Divide and Canker t-shirt in response to a preacher saying who should leave this country of freedom.)

What gets me is when someone says, “You are an atheist. You are not saved. You are going to Hell.” And then, if I say anything contrary to that, even just merely sharing my belief (which I’m entitled to) I get the response, “Why are you being disrespectful?” Excuse me? Project much?

To be continued…

12 responses

  1. It is a shame that so many people expect, but do not give, tolerance. That’s a two way street, isnt it?


    1. There are some who drive down that two-way street and judge those going the other way. I deliberately try to avoid that sort of thing. Hypocrisy on its own affords all the opportunity one would ever need.


  2. I respect you and your beliefs and I am sorry more people don’t do so! You are A-ok in my book, for whatever that’s worth…

    And? Zombie Jesus day? That was epically fun-neeeee!


    1. Polls often show that atheists aren’t viewed too kindly. There was a poll last year that looked at the “comfort level” of Americans in regards to the religion of presidential candidates.

      The poll findings as expressed in “comfortable” percentages:

      Catholic: 83%
      Jewish: 80%
      Evangelical Christian: 67%
      Mormon: 60%
      Muslim: 38%
      Atheist: 37%

      And it gets worse. The percentages when broken down by “entirely uncomfortable” are:

      Atheist: 44%
      Muslim: 36%
      Mormon: 17%
      Evangelical Christian: 12%
      Jewish: 6%
      Catholic: 5%

      Atheists stand head and shoulders above the rest. This might explain why preachers so often include them when they go after the perennial favorite groups of liberals, homosexuals and atheists. Coming out, especially in a small religious town, can be a rather big deal.


      1. Well, as your official un-official Jesus lovin friend, I will say that most preachers are ignorant asshat’s who don’t know jack about ‘loving one another’ nor ‘judge not lest be judged’.

        Even though you & I believe in different things, I will agree that people who claim to be ‘christians’ act anything BUT christian. They act like assholes. Except for ME, of course, I’m too shiny to be an asshole :o)

        It is a real bummer you have to put up with that kind of behavior in the workplace and beyond.
        Stay strong!


  3. I think the most common reaction by believers to atheists is one sort of like: of course you REALLY do believe, you’re just having a teenage/midlife crisis and are acting out. I don’t think the reality of NOT believing actually enters their conscious minds.


    1. You’re right. That is a very common reaction. This is loosely along the lines of the famous insult, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

      Not once in my life have I ever told a person of faith, “Oh, you don’t really believe that. You’ll recant on your death bed.”

      It’s offensive to think of it that way, eh?


  4. What the hell kind of question is ‘Why don’t you kill people?’


    1. It is the question of a pompous socially-damaged asshole. I bet you can’t guess who I’m talking about now, right? Hmm. That’s a toughie. Who in my life meets that description?


      Maybe in Part Two of this alleged “to be continued” piece I’ll try to expound on how I responded.


      1. Oh I can not wait to hear how you responded. I of course would’ve spit on him and then left a two word note on his forehead.


  5. Wandered over form Ginger and Bats on twitter.
    Great story. Sorry you can’t punch them in their collective heads.
    You’re a nicer person than me.

    How do they react to the hypocrisy notes?


    1. It’s great to have you. I have to admit, the societal restriction that makes it bad form to punch people in the heads can feel quite limiting at times. 🙂

      I generally turn to my blog as an outlet for dealing with energies caused by religious hypocrisy.


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