Proud But Private

Let me start by saying that I am a very private person. I don't post daily status updates on facebook, and I don't divulge much of my private life to any but a select few. However, in the last year, I have grown very tired of feeling like I had to hide my interests and started following several atheist pages on facebook.

A little background information: my parents are very conservative, christian missionaries. My father is a pastor. I knew I did not agree with their beliefs from a very young age. I memorized scripture verses so I could argue with my father (which invariably ended with me being punished for not "honoring my parents"). Yes, had I lived in ancient Israel, I would most definitely been stoned as a disobedient child. My relationship with my parents has always been rocky. To date, we are currently experiencing the best period in said relationship. However, I still feel like I cannot be honest with them, because they cannot accept that I do not believe like they do. My mother screamed at me over the phone, called me a fornicator, and basically condemned me to hell for moving in with my boyfriend (now my husband). If I came out of the godless closet, I think it might kill them. That said, I feel that I am not living authentically as myself since I have to censor and curtail myself whenever I am with them.

Sharing all of this was prompted by something that happened to me at work this weekend. I am a nurse, and I am currently working at a catholic hospital. I have been trying to transfer to another hospital here in town but, so far, have not had much luck.
While most of the people I work with are not catholic, the majority are christian of some brand or another. I was in the nurses station working on paperwork. At the time, there were about 8 other people at the station. It is not very big and there was no where else for me to sit. They were all talking loudly when one of the nurses turned to me and said, "So, I have a question for you." This immediately put me on my guard because this nurse has a "gift" shall we say for asking extremely personal questions loudly and abnoxiously in the middle of the station. If you won't answer her, she makes her own assumptions and announces them to the room. She is also the biggest gossip on our floor. Anything you tell her will make the rounds within a couple of days.

So, I looked at her and said, "Okay..." - all the while bracing myself for whatever she might ask.
"So, are you an atheist?" Damn, you could have heard a pin drop in that station. It was like 60mph to 0 in 5 seconds flat.
I just stared at her for a second and then said, "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I just saw that you like this page on facebook and it was about athiests. Are you an atheist?"
I tried to figure out how to answer her but not answer her at the same time. " I don't like to discuss religion or politics at work," is my standard reply to probing questions, so I used that.
"Well, you posted it on facebook, so it's not like it's private or anything."
"Yes, but this is work, I don't discuss these sorts of things while at work." I turned back to my paperwork. She tried to engage me in conversation about this a few more times, but I just kept deflecting with the same responses.

By now, I'm sure everyone on my floor is convinced I am an atheist. While this is true, it is not something I chose to make a public announcement about at work. I don't feel it has any bearing on my ability to perform my job, but I lived for too long in the christian community to not know how they view atheists.

I wondered if anyone here has been through a similar experience and has any advice for dealing with any future interrogations. I just have to wonder though, why does she think her behaviour is appropriate? I don't ask other people probing personal questions unless they are very good friends. At the same time, I wonder if I should have just come out at that point, except that it would have led to her demanding to know why i don't believe in her god. another discussion I don't want to have at work. just needed to get all this out - any comments, suggestions, commisserations are welcome.

Teasaidh Teasaidh
26-30, F
6 Responses Sep 3, 2012

I've been in these situations many of times in Kansas with many hardcore Christian conservatives so I feel ya. I recommend to say your belief, only. Because I like to link it with the saying "I'd rather die on my feet than to live on my knees" I want you to really contemplate that saying, becuase no matter what religion is just a belief system or business, think for a second, nationalism is probably the best keeper of certain religions, examples like Greek gods, or roman gods, but so now compare those religions really don't exist anymore, why? Becuase there nation/empire/country didn't outlast the other contenders that the world inhabits. If you open your mind to see why the middle east is not fond with us or why they call us the infidels it's simply because we still believe in the same derived **** from 2,000 years ago. Christianity to me is a threat system, (ex- Dante's inferno), christianity is also the best adapting religion ever, another reason why middle east proabably doesn't like us. Think how many different changes it has made to be still followed. Churches threaten back in the day (hundreds of years ago) now with the population rate exponentionally higher they scaled back into thinking well lets make it the people's choice to choose their religion. This tactic is huge Because people now think they have there own choices but now with our society being so sophisticated people simply always follow what is currently strongest. And well Christianity was one of them. So simply just break it down for a moment and summarize all this and realize, you can make your own choice and let others be put through a drone system.

I am not sure I can be of much help here, except to say that if I am asked I will simply tell people that I am an atheist. Here in the UK it is not a problem. I have worked quite happily with christians and muslims who have been aware that I am an atheist in the past. This should not affect your work. Ultimately, if you live in the USA, you can always quote Thomas Jefferson at people if anyone has a problem with you being an atheist. "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

I would add that I have only rarely had conversations at work about religion. I work with a woman who is training to be a priest & we have discussed religion once or twice. She is well aware of the fact I am an atheist & we have discussed my reasons why in a courteous and cordial manner. If people ask me why I am an atheist I have no problem with that & am always happy to supply an honest and courteous answer. I won't be rude to or argumentative with religious people for the sake of it. However, if a religious person was to have harrang me with bible verses in a rude and aggressive manner, I am more than happy to give as good as I get. I have no problem with telling people where to stick their religious beliefs face to face if the situation demands it. And if they find that offensive - tough. If you can't take it, don't dish it out is what I say.

I am fine with doing that in most situations, but I have seen too many people lose their jobs over trumped up reasons. I don't want to give them an excuse to go looking for a reason to fire me. In situations like this, I always think of Ghandi: I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians - they are so unlike your Christ.

Teasaidh,<br />
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Thanks for sharing, I have always wondered how I will deal with his. I am a Preschool teacher at a church and I dread the day when one of my coworkers asks me what church I belong to. <br />
I have just been able to fully admit to myself this year that I am atheist even though deep down it was something I always knew. Your coworker seems to have extreme boundary issues the way you handled it was quite well.

I used to work at a daycare in a church. Even though it was supposed to be independent of the church, the director, assistant director, and 95% of the teachers all attended there. It was a similar situation there, but I didn't have to work in such close quarters with them since I had my own classroom.

have you ever questioned why does your spirit care? Instead of getting wrapped up in the response that you get back, have you ever just pondered why on earth as rebellious as you may want to be does your spirit go into a closet when speaking about this matter? In one sentence you are with drawn, another aspect you out there, your flesh and your spirit are doing two totally different things and I just want to know have you ever pondered why is it they dont line up?

Thanks for sharing your story,Teasaidh. You asked why your co-worker thought her behavior was appropriate...good question!!!! The fact that she is following you around on Facebook is creepy. I would seriously think about changing your privacy settings.<br />
I think Believers assume everyone is a believer. As Agnostics and Atheists, we have to decide if we are up to the criticism and judgment. I have recently had my beliefs challenged in a big way. The funny thing is, the Christians seem to feel sorry for me. They give me lots of hugs and are SURE that God will find his way into my heart. Weird, huh?

I think many agnostics and most especially atheists have had a similar experience at work. Although I work in the sciences were people tend to be far less religious, I'm still in a very religious country and on occasion I do come across some real Bible thumpers. For this reason I am very careful with Facebook. It sucks I know, but the fact is that nothing, especially on Facebook, ever stays private. <br />
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The one time that someone asked me a inappropriate question at work that was meant to put me on the spot, I answered by saying that we were work colleagues and that I could not see how their question was related to our work. You could feel the chill in the room but it's important for people to know their boundaries. The jerk replied 'I was just asking no need to get all offended' and sarcastically said 'sorry!'. I said, no need for an apology, that I was not at all offended. I think everyone got the picture.