Hi - I'm writing an article for the BBC News website on workplace discrimination against atheists. I have seen a few stories on this site about people who felt excluded by their co-workers or even lost their job after expressing their beliefs. I would like to talk to people who have been through such an experience. You can contact me directly - my email is brianwheelerbbc@gmail.com - or share your stories in this forum.

Brian Wheeler

BBC News, Washington

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**Moderator's note: After our initial message of caution to all of you we've had an opportunity to confirm that Mr. Wheeler is indeed who he says he is. Knowing this, we'd like to encourage everyone to please share their stories of discrimination in the workplace with Mr. Wheeler. We shouldn't let the opportunity of a BBC News reporter telling the world the story of very real anti-atheist discrimination pass by! He is on a deadline so you must contact him as soon as you're able to.

(Anyone interested in confirming the legitimacy of this Moderator's note may contact Nelson either on TA or by email.)**

Tags: discrimination, job, work

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Make jokes out of it, Alex.  Ask 'them' what would be their strongly held beliefs had they been born in the Middle East to Muslim parents.   ( Religions are mostly a matter of geography & parentage.)

I work for a private company wherein many of my coworkers are members of the same evangelical, non-denominational Christian church, and they tend to end sentences with "praise Jesus!" or sing recognizably prosyletizing hymns as they wander the halls. Emails are sent out during the holidays or after someone gives a charitable donation talking about how wonderfully "Christian" the act of giving food to homeless people is, for example. There are even some rumors that you can't get a promotion in this company if you don't go to the same church as the executive vice president. The president/CEO is, however, an agnostic, as far as I know, but this does not keep him from being bigoted on the subject of religion. In fact, I have made complaints to human resources over the president's terrible remarks over the religion of Islam (mostly the regurgitated line about how Islam insists on violence as a religion, whereas Christianity does not -- something we all know isn't true). There is a clear bent towards traditional, white "American" Christianity in this office, regardless of the non-church-member status of the president.

I often travel with a certain Christian colleague, who once told me, given my past as a Christian, I would eventually "come back around". Recently on another trip, I was discussing with this coworker the idea that our offices should be closed over the Christmas holidays -- an idea I support, since it's the traditional time in the USA when many businesses are closed, and not because it's a religious holiday (it's pagan in my book, if anything). We do have clients in a Muslim country, and I suggested that we could have volunteers work and get paid extra to support those clients during this time. My colleague suggested that we should have people who don't celebrate Christmas work during this time, and get their own holy days off as necessary, which I didn't agree with. She then posited that we should have the people who aren't religious work during that time, because "they don't believe in anything". I retorted quickly with, "Of course we believe in things. Family, for one." She backed down, but to me it revealed her utter lack of understanding that atheists are human beings with feelings and beliefs other than those she has in the divine. I avoid discussions of religion and politics as much as I can in the office, and when I am forced to sit in an office and overhear theology, I keep my mouth shut. Nevertheless, it's uncomfortable.

I don't hide my atheism in this office, which means I'm sure I get prayed for, but my beliefs or lack thereof are my business, and not anyone else's. 

When I started my work career back in the late 90s I was still a Christian. If anything I experienced the reverse. People thought me weird for being a Christian. Now that I am not any longer, I can see why as the ideas I were brought up with are rather weird. This was not discrimination in any form though. Just discussion and comments in the workplace.

But then, I live in Norway where Christians are common enough, but fundies are fairly rare.

Lucky you, Veronica.

I take it you work in one of the more educated fields? Atheists are significantly more common among higher college degrees.

I wasn't at that time no. Factory work.

Now I'm in academia, and there are very few religious people around. The few that exist are very liberal.

My experience is the opposite of many of these stories. I am a laser and robotics operator at an aero-space research lab. I am very openly Atheist with my co-workers and so far I have heard absolutely nothing to the contrary. Sure, many of the people I work with probably attend a church on rare occasion but none of them are fundies (christian fundementalists) to my knowledge. I really do think that this is because most of my co-workers are PhDs and such in physics, engineering etc. It has been my experience that higher level education tends to lean toward less fundementalism.

A few years ago a friend of mine was working at a Walmart grocery. She was getting along fine with everyone for several months until the 'holidays' came around and she voiced her stance as an atheist. She was slowly ostracized, and eventually, enough contention built up to where someone slashed her tires.

 

I won't even harp about the irony and hypocrisy. What gets me is how quickly a social group can become a red vs blue scenario. A simple trigger and religious people go into combat mode.

 

Today's oxymoron: {onward} Christian Soldier.

 

Hello, My name is Giovanni Ceron and I live in Bogotà, Colombia.

I don't know the exact statistics but most latin americans are Catholic and it is very hard sometimes to stand against the crowd.

In Colombia, for example, public education (at school level) is not the best if we consider certain ideas such as globlization and worls economy. The alternative is private schools that are normally out of reach for low or middle class citizens. Schools with the best projetcs, pedagogics, management and price happen to be religious schools. So, many people who do not have much money to use in the education of their children resort to these catholic oriented schools.

One result of this decision is that children are brain washed or trainned to follow good or acceptable  concepts in relation to society and they academically learn what they should according to the university system so when finish school and go to the university, they are generally succesful, so the system keeps its planned flow.

A side effect derived from the need to enroll children at a young age in religious schools is that they get also taught about the necessity to believe in God. When these children are in preschool or kindergarten until their sophomore level, do not offer much resistnce to believe in anything their teachers say regarding Christianity. By the time, they achieve their senior level is normally too late to have them ponder about the possibility that there is no God, angels and simmilar. Luckily, they will accept the possibility that God may have not created the universe in seven days.

The idea mention here is a steady situation in Colombia society unless some of those teachers mentioned above, decide to have students think from the beginning and not just beliving blindly in anything the authority says. Of course, for this kind of teachers, hard to find, getting a job in a public school is not always a good idea due to work conditions, so they go for those religious schools that regularly pay well since they have a good number of customers to make it a profitable business.

These teachers, get the job as long as they share the philosophy of Christianism but because they are smart they just keep their real thoughts off the surface, where the crowd does not notice their ideology. Notwithstanding, the plan does not always achieve its goal. At leat not for too long, because the presure from the religious community is strong and difficult to handle. They manipulate the information in an incredibly unethical and inhumane way, to the point of making some smart teachers gather the strnght to do something about it and implementing a counter attack.

I am one of those teachers, and that is the moment where discrimination shows itself up. My teacher fellow comrades exclude me, misinterpret everything I say, I become unbearable to talk or share with, I lose support from the Principal and eventually my contract is not renewed because I cannot keep up with the school's philosophy and it happens even when my students strongly believe I am a great teacher because I let them think or taught them how to think.

Once, I am outside and jobless, I find that I cannot really discuss the matter with people, including family, because they will simply no see what is going on. Because they, as the students that I left to the mercy of creationists and the like, are part of the society who will no let you mess up with the system. I feel heavily discriminated.

A concerned good human being,

Giovanni Ceron Sanchez,

Bogotà, Colombia.

  

 

@ Giovanni - Did you realize this would happen but was courageous and stood up anyway?

@ Flower - Actually yes. I wished it wouldn't and tried to avoid it but uh... no. Anyway I had to do what I rationally knew I had to do. Thanx.

Giovanni, you are a strong couragious intelligent person and I truly respect you. Wow!! Your story is fascinating and I learned so much. Please know that you did the right thing and are a great teacher. It would be an honor to be one of your students. We need teachers like you in the U.S. It took guts to do what you did! I hope you find another teaching job soon. Any students who have you as a teacher are very fortunate! Hang in there!

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