POLL: Are you open about your religious beliefs in the workplace?

Do you have some kind of belief symbol in your cubicle or on your desk? If religion comes up in a conversation around the coffee pot, do you mention yours? Do your co-workers know what you believe? (Of course, for some of you, this answer is simple – if you're a religious leader, it's your job to talk about your beliefs.)

Are you open about your religious beliefs in the workplace?

About Kellie Moore

Kellie Moore (formerly Kotraba) served as the editor and community manager of Columbia Faith & Values through summer 2014. Although she is originally from the West – Nevada and California – she’s now proud to call Missouri home. She currently teaches English at Fr. Tolton High School.

14 Responses to “POLL: Are you open about your religious beliefs in the workplace?”

  1. Brudda Voddoo

    I keep voodoo dolls of my coworkers on my desk so they all know what’ll happen if they steal my lunch from the community fridge.

  2. roy

    Home office, nuf said.

  3. Greg Lammers

    As an out atheist I tell coworkers that I’m a nonbeliever if asked, or if it is pertinent to the conversation (which it seldom is). If they want to talk further about it I’m glad to meet them somewhere other than the workplace.

    I wear a necklace with an atheist symbol pendant everywhere including work, sometimes it is noticeable other times not.

  4. wrdickson

    I don’t discuss it at work (because, you know, it’s work), but any coworker who follows me on Twitter certainly knows.

  5. Beth Thomas

    Don’t know if I count in your poll as I’m a brit, but I have always been open about my atheism (3rd generation). When I was young (I’m 61) this was an oddity and sometimes commented on adversely in the workplace, though nothing too nasty. Now I am the norm here in UK, and no-one is surprised about non-belief, just the strength of my non-belief. ie I am an atheist, not a don’t know, don’t care, non believer.

  6. Carla B.

    I’m an out atheist. If it comes up at work, I will happily talk about it but it’s not like I run around evangelizing about the joys of rationality.

  7. Brad Boling

    I agree with Carla B. I enjoy talking about my atheism and learning about others faiths. However, I try not to go out of my way to make it a subject.

  8. Kellie Kotraba

    As a religion reporter, the core of my job is hearing people talk about what they believe and how it plays out in their lives. And often, at some point during the discussion, the question is posed to me: What is my religious background?

    Different journalists answer this question differently. But as for me, when people ask, I’m open about my faith. I’m a Christian (a Lutheran, if you’re curious about denomination – any Garrison Keillor fans out there?), and actively involved in my church. That said, I spent part of my childhood in a nondenominational Christian church, and I’ve attended Catholic mass several times (I even did the daily readings at mass once).

    I’ve been asked how one can be “so religious” and report on religion. The answer is simple: Respect other beliefs, and remember that I’m a reporter, not an opinion columnist. I’ve also been asked how I can report on things I don’t agree with. Simple answer: Just because I disagree with something, that doesn’t make it any less real to someone else. And on top of that, I’m fascinated by every belief I learn about. Every experience is an adventure, and I hope to take people along through my stories, whether I’m attending a pagan full-moon celebration, a skeptic’s convention (anyone else out there go to Skepticon?), a Diwali celebration … they’re all exciting, and I wish everyone could have the experiences I’ve had.

    I hope ColumbiaFAVS makes it clear that there’s no attempt at conversion or promotion of one religion over another – this is a place where any person from any belief system can share a viewpoint and be heard and respected. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the job is seeing conversations, much like this one, spark between people of many different beliefs. How cool is it that we can all come together on the basis of our humanity? I once met an editor who said the faith section she was in charge of was “disproportionately diverse,” and that’s a good thing – I hope that ColumbiaFAVS comes across that way.

    On another note, I think this breaks the record for most comments in the shortest amount of time – thanks, everyone, for sharing your perspectives! Good conversation = happy editor.

    Kellie Kotraba
    Editor, ColumbiaFAVS.com

  9. Tiffany McCallen

    I do talk about my faith from time to time in my role as national community manager for the FAVS sites, because it’s completely natural to do so. However, I can recall when I was interning in college how squeamish I felt when the topic of faith came up. It’s interesting to me that I felt that way, given my deep respect and fascination with all belief systems. I just remember quite clearly wishing there was an additional layer of church and state. Chalk it up to defiant youth?

  10. Holli

    I bet it breaks the record for number of non-religious responders, too! :)
    I don’t go out of my way to tell people I’m an atheist, but if religion comes up, I have little problem sharing. My “work” is homeschooling my son, and I’m active in our homeschool group, which is quite diverse and inclusive. We don’t go out of our way to talk about religion, but it does come up from time to time, and so far, everyone does a great job of being respectful of everybody else’s beliefs, which is good, because we really are broadly diverse, so we have to be respectful, or the group would fall apart!

  11. Kevin Glenn

    As a pastor, it would seem obvious to say, “yes, I talk about my faith at work”…since my workplace is a church :) I’m sure many would wonder about the authenticity of my faith if I didn’t.

    On the other hand, it can be an occupational hazard. Belief comes hard for me. I’m naturally skeptical, and a bit adversarial in learning. Doubting Thomas is my hero, so I’m constantly asking the kind of questions that make fellow believers very nervous.

    Even when I’ve arrived at a belief, I just can’t leave it alone. I continue to question, prod, poke, stretch, and kick it around in search of as many facets and variants as I can find. More than once this has resulted in at least learning how to better understand and communicate the belief, and at times changing or even abandoning that belief altogether. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. For me, the unexamined faith is not worth having. I’m never satisfied with easy answers, and I’m content with mystery, so I’m always examining, wrestling, and exploring.

    Unfortuntely, many expect their pastor to be settled, certain, and complete in their beliefs. Faith is too complex for me to reach absolute certainty and too dynamic for me to be completely settled. That just freaks some people out.

    So, while it might be expected for a pastor to have an easy time discussing their faith in the workplace, the reality of my faith journey often requires that I discuss it in a very limited and “sanitized” manner. To talk about what’s really going through my mind might rattle cages and ruffle feathers.

  12. Barbara

    As a former public school teacher in a rural school district, I lived in constant fear of the witch hunt, and for good reason.

    Just before Easter last year, I had a student complain about how Easter had been stolen from the Christians. I said that, actually, Christianity had stolen it from the pagans. I went on to talk about the symbolism (eggs, bunnies, etc.) for about 30 seconds. The bell rang, and I thought nothing of it.

    Come Monday, that student pulled me out in the hall to tell me that she and her family were extremely upset over what I had said. I told her that if she were to look it up on the internet, she would see that I had only spoken facts. Well, she did NOT want to look it up. She didn’t know what pagans were, nor did she WANT to know. And further, how DARE I suggest that anything came before Jesus!! She was the sort of student who had parents who would go directly to the superintendent over something like this, so I barely slept for 2 weeks, just waiting for the fallout.

    Thinking back over the other scares I had (for instance, the student who saw my freethinker group meeting in a bookstore and said, “I know where you were last night,” with a threatening tone), I decided that I didn’t appreciate living under the Sword of Damocles, and I resigned last year.

    As far as my coworkers go, my closest teacher friend knows, the other atheist teacher knows, and a couple of others just know that I am not Christian (they’re cool with that). The majority of the teachers there are devout Christians, and I avoided religious conversations with them at all costs. I’m pretty sure that if some of them knew, they would be very upset.

  13. Sam B.

    As a life long Atheist, I do talk about my views at work. I enjoy hearing other peoples stories about how they came to their views (especially those of deconversion). Although in some jobs it has been a fine line to walk between being open and proud about my beliefs and being hassled about them

  14. Larry Brown

    Those who know me understand something of my religious background, affiliations, beliefs, and practices; however they more clearly understand my religion by my open engagement in peace, justice, and social service activities in the community. I generally do not “parade” specific religious affiliation, but will not hesitate to comment when asked. I am always interested in others’ value systems, communities, and other spiritual perspectives, whether or not they label them as religion; although I am somewhat annoyed by people who will not think critically about the myths they live by.


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