July 30, 2005

Religion in the Workplace: An American Problem?

I have my RSS aggregator set up to bring me posts from several excellent atheist blogs (basically everything listed in my blogroll) and many news sources related to atheism, church and state issues, etc. Sifting through this vast information every week gives me a fairly broad perspective, particularly since several of the blogs and news sources are from outside America. I have noticed that persons from outside America often express surprise that we Americans are frequently exposed to religion in the workplace. They have a hard time believing that such a thing could happen in an otherwise civilized country.

Although my experiences a certainly skewed from living in one of the most conservative and religious parts of the country (the deep South), I do not seem to be alone in my experiences with religion in the workplace. Besides, I encountered milder forms of this problem in two other parts of the country before moving to Mississippi. My understanding of this phenomenon is simply that religion is becoming an increasingly important part of public life in America.

For those of you in other countries still having a hard time believing this, I have provided some examples I have personally experienced (and continue to experience almost daily). Before reading these, please keep in mind that I am employed at a state university:

- Religious clothing and jewelry
- Religious calendars, posters, and other decorative material
- Sending e-mail containing bible quotes or "you're in my prayers," etc.
- Discussing events that took place at one's church
- Directly asking others where they attend church
- Directly asking others if they want to attend one's own church
- Criticizing other co-workers for not being "good Christians"
- Making comments like, "I guess my faith led me to that decision"
- Beginning events (graduation, certain meetings, etc.) with prayer

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