July 29, 2008

Promoting Atheism in the Workplace

I want to put a pro-atheist sticker on my office door at work, maybe the scarlet A from the OUT Campaign. I work at a state university located in an environment which is extremely oppressive to anyone who is not a fundamentalist Christian, and I want provide a safe haven for the few students who might actually be oriented to reality. I no longer care that it would piss off some of my co-workers. I do plenty of that in ways which have nothing to do with atheism. However, there is one compelling reason why I have been unable to bring myself to put such a sticker on my door.

I can honestly say that my motivation for wanting to put such a symbol on my door is not about attacking anyone's religion. Yes, I do that regularly on this blog. But that is really not why I want the sticker. I know there are students around who struggle with the oppressively Christian environment. I know that some of my colleagues and many of their peers would quickly tell such students that they are going to hell unless they have some sort of relationship with a mythical figure. I want to be able to communicate subtly that there is reason to be found even here. Much like I have seen others communicate tolerance to GLBT students, I want to be able to do this with atheist students.

I can explain the reason I am reluctant to do this quite easily. Imagine that you are an atheist college student and you see a pro-Christian symbol on the door of a professor with whom you need to interact. The inner reaction you are having right now is precisely why I am hesitant to put an atheist symbol on my door - I don't want to make students feel that way. All other reasons not to apply the sticker pale in comparison to this one.

So, it boils down to this: I must balance the good I could do by communicating that I was a safe place for atheist students to be themselves against the harm this could cause by making Christian students uncomfortable around me. At this point, the balance favors wanting to avoid the potential harm. However, I find myself becoming increasingly attracted to the alternative. I suppose it is a choice with which I must continue to wrestle.

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