Some businesses readily demonstrate a preference for religiosity or have overtly religious management teams. One example is Chick-fil-A which cites religion as reasons for closing on Sunday and opposing gay marriage.

1. Are you, as a consumer, less likely to spend at a business that is overtly religious? Why or why not?

2. Do you keep track of which businesses bill themselves as religious, which have taken no public stance, and which are run by atheists? Do you know of any resources for keeping track?

3. Say you pulled into a gas station and read this message on the pump. Would you still buy gas there? Say you have a choice between a Catholic hospital and a secular hospital. Do you avoid the Catholic hospital because it is Catholic?

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I most certainly wouldn't buy petroleum distillates from this establishment. Quite apart from the far right overtones, the message is in all caps and there shouldn't be a full stop there.

Genereally though I base my buying decisions on the behaviour of a business and its employees, rather than their  beliefs. I am an atheist and a secularist, which means I think people should be free to hold the beliefs they hold, and to practice any religion along as they repect human rights. I therefore differ from the position held by many religious establishements, who do not agree people should hold such freedoms.

Depending on my mood, I would walk away and never use the machine… or this would have been the last straw on the camel's back and knock shit out of the machine to make a point, but overall, I would refuse their services in the future.

Only if they are blatantly offensive about it.

1. Not by default. All other things being equal, I may choose to patronize an outfit with no religious affiliation over a company with religious ties, but it's not a significant issue.

If I hear that a company has discriminatory practices, or they shove religion directly into our business transactions, then no, I will not support them, but I tend not to assume that of religiously connected businesses right off the bat.

2. To a limited extent. With large corporations I am more likely to research ethical issues in general. I don't search for religion specifically, but with issues such as homophobia or the recent Hobby Lobby case religion tends to be part of the mix. With smaller, local businesses I usually only look into them if I am given cause to question.

In many cases, the companies in question are not companies I support anyway. I've never eaten at Chick-fil-A, for instance, and likely never will. Some franchises openly supported LGBT people, but even if I am ten times as likely to support those franchises over others in the chain, 10 x 0 = 0.

3. I thought, with the gas station example, it displayed that message after you had already pumped your gas, in which case I'd tell them to enjoy the dinner they put on the table that night owing (in part) to my atheist dollars. If the message displayed prior to pumping my gas, I'd likely move on unless I was coasting on fumes.

I can't relate to the hospital scenario. Other business types are a matter of context.

My decision to patronize a business is based on value of the product or service I receive for my money.  I go to Chick-Fil-A because they serve the most delicious chicken sandwich that beats anything a comparable fast food chain sells.  What the Cathy family does with the profit they earn off my purchase is their business and right.  If I was at the gas pump in the picture, I would think "Well I don't like it so I'll leave and get gas elsewhere."  If it makes the owner feel morally superior, so be it.  His perceived superiority really doesn't affect me except that I have to inconvenience myself to find another gas station.  I'm pretty confident that the Muslin or Sikh owned franchise down the street may provide the service and product I seek without the proselytizing.

My wife works at a Catholic hospital and for insurance reasons I've had a couple procedures performed there.  My Jewish surgeon and Buddhist anesthesiologist don't seem to have a problem working there so I'm not too concerned if the registration forms ask me if I want to give my confession before going under the knife.

When a clerk at a store I went to would tell me to "have a blessed day", I always wanted to tell her "I'll have any damn kind of day I please" but instead of being confrontational about someone's beliefs which are different than mine, I just accepted that this was her way of being friendly and there's nothing wrong with that.

Some religious people may choose not to do businesses with atheists, though they would seem to be ignoring the inclusiveness and nonjudgmentalism Jesus seemed to be promoting in the parable of The Good Samaritan.

Most Christians I encounter seem to forget the greatest commandment - "Love one another as I have loved you."

I have yet to meet an evangelical who passes that test. On average the evangelicals are among the most racist and hateful people I have encountered. Never, ever work for one! I learned that lesson the hard way!

As a business owner myself, I wouldn't want people to avoid my business just because they disagree with my lack of belief. Which is why we don't advertise ourselves in such a way. It's certainly no big secret, but in business it's important that everyone feel welcome.

Why any business would go out of their way to do the opposite is beyond logic, but many do. I try to base my choices on quality of service but I often wonder; if they are missing this basic component of business skill, what else are they doing wrong?

Answering your questions directly:

1. I live in PA's Amish country. Many businesses advertise themselves as Christian. It would be impossible to avoid even if I wanted to. I am however, more likely to support a business that is outwardly non-religious.

2. I don't make it a priority. Though when I do hear of a business doing something particularly awful (i.e. Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood) I will remember it and avoid them. I know of no particular resource for better tracking, this could be a useful tool.

3. Gas station: I would make it a point to tell the owner that I disagree with his statement and am leaving to give the Sikhs down the street my money, as he requested.

Catholic vs. secular hospital: I know of no reason to believe the level of care is different at either type of facility.

Personally, I think tolerance is the key. Christians are SUPPOSED to be tolerant, but often are not. Being intolerant of their proselytizing or witnessing won't make any of them think harder about atheism, it will simply reinforce their prejudices.

I had surgery in a Catholic hospital and other than a priest stopping by to ask if I was OK and if there was anything he could do for me, I wouldn't have even known I was in a hospital run by a Christian religion.

In fact, a huge percentage of the hospitals in the US are associated with religions. At the same time, one wonders how often conflicts arise, such has whether to save a mother by terminating a pregnancy.

I agree 100% on all points. Particularly that being intolerant of their proselytizing won't change their views.

I will say this though. People don't often know they're doing something wrong unless they're told. In the case of the gas pump for example, I would want to ensure that that person knows specifically that they were about to receive my money but because of that statement (telling me to leave) they won't. That direct correlation may hit home when it comes time to make payroll.

One of the things that keeps people in a religion is the fear of being an outcast. Being surrounded by statements like that only adds to that fear. If pointing out the financial negatives might make that business owner remove the message, I see it as an overall positive because it might make for a more generally secular environment. The business owner will hate me, but a Mennonite girl who is doubting her religion might benefit from one less reminder of her fear of leaving it behind.

Catholic vs. secular hospital: I know of no reason to believe the level of care is different at either type of facility.

I mean the business side. Not your hospital care, but your money and how the Catholic Church uses the profit it makes from your patronage.

Of Hospitals in the US, 18% are for-profit, 20% are government-run, and 62% are non-profit (which include religious). The non-profits, partly through pocketing $12 billion in religious tax exemptions and subsidies, are by far the most profitable, with the top 50 alone making over $4.27 billion in 2006.

As one (of many) examples of where some of those billions are going, consider the Catholic Church. It runs thousands of health clinics in Africa and is partly responsible for millions of deaths due to its superstition against condom use: one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV.

I wouldn't put money into a collection basket at a Catholic church because it's not a worthy charitable organization. Likewise, I don't put money into the Catholic Church by patronizing their hospitals. It's all for the same reasons. The Church uses the money to cause harm by promoting ignorance and superstition and to perpetuate itself. I'm not going to support either one if I can help it.

I think it's better to choose secular health care options and donate to secular charities like Oxfam, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.


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