Sunday, April 24, 2011
Nearly every day I go out of my way to make certain that the "faithful" around me are comfortable. I keep my opinions on religion to myself, avoid reading atheist blogs on the computer lest a co worker be exposed and feel uncomfortable, and supportively listen to them go on about how the devil is to blame for their problems and how god will get them through rough times. When they start talking about religiously fueled topics from the news I am politely silent or steer the conversation away from religion. I don't go off when they ask my kid about church or Jesus or hand her a bible. I never assume my beliefs and opinions are everyone's. When in a small group if a co-worker or friend has a belief different from the majority I make an extra effort to make sure they are not offended by the conversation and feel at ease. If a christian friend is in a group of non theists I will do my best to talk about something we all have in common rather than go on about how great Christopher Hitchens' last talk was, that is just being a nice person. Unless the situation is one specifically set up for debate or discussion everyone should feel safe and at ease. This should perhaps be the most true in the workplace but this is often where the situation is the worst.
On a daily basis at my workplace (a small midwestern liberal arts college) I am exposed to a barrage of Christian opinions and commentary, I remain polite and non confrontative. Last week while discussing the state of affairs at the college and in the country in general, an otherwise intelligence and respected person spouted some of the most offensive and ignorant statements I have heard in some time. This person prefaced his statements with the disclaimer " I am a person of faith so I can say this," he then proceeded to degrade anyone who was not a person of faith, specifically his faith. He proudly said, " Can you imagine how much trouble our country would be in if we ever elected a president who didn't believe in god? " He then went on to also include Muslims and Hindus with atheists as examples of people who would destroy the American way of life if put into a position of power. Considering that this person is a teaching faculty at a very liberal yet outwardly very PC college I am surprised that he would make these statements so openly, perhaps he thought his disclaimer made it OK. I must conclude that he simply assumed he was in like minded company as we were at the service building and aside from himself we were all blue collar "staff" people and we all know hourly workers are all god fearin' Americans. The irony of this encounter is that the conversation began as a light talk about a need for common sense at the upper levels of the college as we search for people to fill important positions.
The truth is, those of us without religion or faith are the the least likely to pre judge or condemn people for their religion, race , gender or any other adjective you can come up with instead choosing to get to know them before forming an opinion. We require evidence before making a conclusion and we are always open to change our opinion as new evidence comes to light or situations change. We want everyone to feel safe and comfortable, we don't care what you personally believe until it infringes on the lives of others. Your religion should be a personal thing. I hear Christians go on about their personal relationship with god all the time but they seldom keep it personal. Perhaps it is time the "persons of faith" keep it to themselves. Or perhaps the better choice may be for those of us without, to start speaking up.