Atheists: To Be Employed
Or Not To Be Employed
Don't you just love the Bible belt? I live in western North Carolina, beautiful mountains and a great climate, however, beware the fundamentalists. Last year I was "let go" from a local business after being called to the area from Florida for reasons that have yet to be stated. Perhaps it pertained to the fact that when asked to attend prayer meetings I declined. Upon further questioning I revealed that I am an atheist, one week later (after posting the highest sales record) I was released. I have since become employed by another similar business in the area.
Everything went smooth for the first few weeks, then I overheard a few of my coworkers discussing their hatred of evolution being taught in the classroom. I ignored their rantings and took a break to regain my composure. A couple of days later I was confronted as to why I did not engage in the conversation. I simply stated that I do not argue theism or politics at work. This must have triggered something, before I knew it I was drilled with more questions. Listening to a Christian bash evolution without the slightest notion of what evolution even means and promote superstition is like chewing on tinfoil for me but I did my best to keep my mouth shut.
He went as far as to inform me that Noah loaded the dinosaurs on the ark while they were still in egg form and that they are not in fact extinct, still living in Africa (but the "men who hold the strings" don't tell you that now do they?). He also offered to bring the cassette tapes that imbued him with this secretive knowledge. After staring blankly at my coworker through his tirade I told him that I could not address his argument without calling him a dumbass. I suppose my employment is in jeopardy once more.
Cliff, if there could be a hell this is it. Perhaps I should exit this continent altogether, I've heard that Australia is more of a secular country.
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 11:11 AM
We are very popular in Australia, usually outranking all of Europe put together. Europe is, over all, more secular, I think, and is certainly more economically viable due to Australia's relative lack of potable land. I have considered The Netherlands, and understand Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Nordic nations are wonderful places to live. Over here, you could do a lot worse than Costa Rica (my friend has some choice land for sale there), and a few of our subscribers have sparked my interest in South America.
However, Oregon and Washington are the two most secular of the states. What you describe would never be tolerated here; your story would definitely have made one of the papers. I'm kind of stuck, because I must live in the United States in order to qualify for my pension, so I will continue to live here for the foreseeable future. I've been in this same apartment unit for over one-third of my adult life, and have been in Portland, Oregon, for over one-third of my entire life. The longer you stay in one place, I've found, the easier life gets. Moving -- even across the street -- is quite the harrowing experience for me; moving to another country, or even to another city, can cause a world of trouble unless you're cut out for it.
Any way you look at it, you're always going to find certain situations where you do well to keep your views to yourself. My Mom used to say, "Oh, we're not religious," whenever people asked us about our views. This worked for her during the 1950s. If pressed further, she would announce that her grandfather was a Unitarian minister. This anchored her, culturally, as having come from a religious but non-Christian family, and stifled any wild speculations as to why she is less than enthusiastic about discussing religion. Frankly, my Mother does not care about such things -- they mean nothing to her.
In lieu of that, perhaps you might have better luck saying something like, "I have my own views about God, and I consider these matters too sacred to discuss outside of my family." Or perhaps you might want to figure out some language that takes the offensive: "I don't talk about God during casual conversations." You could obligate yourself to "walk your talk" by setting an example for your kids -- even when not in their presence: "I teach my kids not to talk about God with anybody but us."
You can deflect inquiries about your religio-political views with oblique remarks. When told of some terrible situation, you can say, "I'm sure God doesn't need our help in this situation" (and He doesn't need out help because he doesn't even exist!). A rant about the evils of evolution might inspire a deflection such as, "I think good people are usually smart enough to see through charades" or "I think our best bet is to pay close attention to what our kids are learning at school, and spend lots of time with them after school." Invitations to Church or prayer meetings are easily deflected by saying, "I think it's more important for me to spend what little spare time I have with my kid [or with my nephew or at a charity such as Little League] doing [pick a very constructive activity]."
Note that using the word religion in such statements could easily trigger the defensive, "Ours is not a religion -- religion is phony and ours is real!" or "I don't believe in religion, I practice spirituality!" But you can talk about "God" without literally having an Invisible Oriental Despot Of Cosmic Heft in mind.
Along with this very precise language I will usually make a big deal about morality -- making sure to practice what I preach. I will never hold a Christian accountable to the Christian sense of morality (if one can even know what that is!), but will, rather, provide a more humanistic, reasonable, and universal justification when advocating moral behavior. If nothing else, constantly stressing morality on each of the very few occasions that you open your mouth showcases Fundamentalism for what it is: tribal totem loyalism. Fundamentalists are never satisfied that you are living a good, moral life or that you spend more time with your kids each week than they do in a month. Fundamentalism is more interested in your holding the correct dogma and with your being a member of an approved congregation. Most Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians will tell you that moral behavior is not what gets you into the Christian Heaven (or keeps you out of the Christian Hell); rather, it's your loyalty to the biblical Jesus which determines your fate in the Christian afterlife. Fundamentalist Christian spokespersons constantly give lip-service to morality, but this is rarely if ever the bottom line for themselves.
If you look closely at the above responses and deflections, you will note that I carefully worded them so that you are not telling any untruth, even though you fall short of giving full disclosure about your atheism. I do not consider the refusal to fully state one's opinions on private matters to be a form of deception, because my views on such matters "ain't nobody's business but my own," as Taj Mahal used to sing. When people's closed-mindedness and bigotry forces me to provide less than full disclosure of the honest thoughts within my mind, I think they're getting what they deserve. Normally, I like to give my fellow-humans the best that I have to give. When they ask me to do something that I cannot bring myself to do -- lie about the honest thoughts within my mind -- then what's left is an evasive compromise. They are the ones who miss out, not I.
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