Saturday, February 17, 2018

Religion At Work


The other day I saw this ad on the internet advertising a 1 day conference called "Faith at Work New York" that according to its website is a "dynamic, one-day conference on how we, as Christ-followers, can engage in everyday work as a sacred calling from God Himself, and thereby become agents of grace in workplaces everywhere."

It seems to me like it's trying to teach people to preach the gospel and proselytize at work, and it got me thinking: is it appropriate to proselytize at work?

I would say the answer is no. One should keep their religious beliefs out of the workplace as much as possible. Here's why.

Work is a place you have to be (unless you want to go broke). And most people don't have the luxury of just being able to quit their jobs and go somewhere else. Millions of Americans are a few paychecks away from being homeless, and so work is such a special kind of environment. It's not like a shopping mall, or a street corner that you can leave without severe consequence. Because of this, when people are at work, they shouldn't be subject to religious proselytizing as it could make them uncomfortable with undue pressure to respond a certain way.

This is heightened by the fact that there are many power imbalances at work. Managers have the power to fire workers. What if a manager tried to preach the gospel to a subordinate? The subordinate might feel as if accepting their manager's enticements might get them favors, or worse, rejecting them might get them fired. Just as with workplace relationships, power imbalances at work make religious proselytizing a big complication. Big enough that I think it should be avoided altogether.

Every work environment is different and I have no idea what kinds of tactics will be taught at this conference. I would hope these concerns are taken into account. At my job, religion is almost never talked about, certainly not in a way where it's presumed to be true. My manager is actually a theist, but he's critical of religion, and so whenever it comes up, he's never preachy about it. If I was put under pressure at work to believe Christianity, I don't know how I'd react. The anti-theist in me would lash out and tell my coworkers their religion is nonsense. The accommodationist in me would be more diplomatic. Thankfully, living in the secular metropolis of New York, I've never had that experience. But I know my fellow atheists in the south are not as lucky.

I don't think religion nor atheism should be promoted in the workplace. In other words, there should be a separation between business and religion. Now if your business is religion that's another story. But in general, in most businesses that are merely selling a product of service that has nothing to do with religion, and so religion should be kept out.

I hope that the faithful don't think it's a good idea to bring religion into the workplace as a tactic to increase their numbers. That will likely backfire in our increasingly secular culture. There is no going back to pre-2000s levels of religious belief. That's just not happening Christians, sorry to burst your hopes. And the increased irreligiosity of generation Z ensures that.

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