Friday, January 11, 2013

Undercover Agnostic (Update 2): Questions From My Boss About My Unbelief

I have come out to very few people at my job, even though it would be fairly safe for me to do so. Contrary to my online life, I actually don't talk about being an agnostic in the real world, and especially not at work.

Part of it is a personal feeling of mine that there should be separation of religion/politics and the workplace. If you need to work with people, it's best not to potentially have them turn on you because of being outspoken about political or religious beliefs when there really isn't a need to discuss it in the first place. I just want to get in, work, do my job, and go home (and enjoy a paycheck every 2 weeks).

 I've come out to a few people, mostly when during the course of the day, a conversation comes up about one's beliefs, and I try not to be obnoxious, or practically walk around with a sign that says "I'm agnostic". I find it annoying when religious people exhibit that kind of behavior, so why should I do it to other people? I don't hide my beliefs, but I feel no need to let it define me.

I'm different on the internet, because well, it's the internet. It's a place made for discussion and sharing, and it's my outlet for letting it all out.

Back to my job again, one of my two bosses on my shift is a very religious man, I've known that since I started working at this job. He has never been the type to try to force his faith on others, like most fundamentalists.

He is the kind of guy that his faith influences his lifestyle to the point that it oozes out of him in ways so subtle, even he probably doesn't realize it's happening.

He never talks about any specifics of his faith, and it fact, his calm, polite demeanor, and his sense of fashion had me wondering for a while if he was a Mormon (it turns out that he is a fundamentalist Pentecostal).

Apparently, one of the people that I have told around the workplace about being an agnostic had told him that I was, and in the last week he has begun to ask me about it whenever he sees that work has gotten slow enough that I have the time.

One day, he came by, and worked his way up to the questioning about my beliefs, by asking me about home schooling, he had heard that I had been home schooled as a kid, and he said he was considering it for his children.  I tried to keep my response truthful, but not too extreme, most of you probably now how I feel about home schooling
I expressed to him my ambivalence about home schooling, and he asked about my family back ground, was it a religious family I grew up in? (I think he already knew that I was agnostic  or had heard people say that I was, but he wanted to know directly from me). I told him about the beliefs of my family, and that it used to be my beliefs as well, I believed it all, knew it all, experienced it all, yet here I am today.

Fundamentalists usually have two reactions to former fundamentalists who have given up Christianity altogether, either they attack or get defensive because of their own insecurities (what if that could happen to me? Oh the horror!), or they are downright puzzled, and want to know more. How did this happen? How could someone who was just like me leave the faith?

Fortunately he's the second group, puzzled and confused.

He wanted to know more about my past, what led me to this point. I told him as honestly as I could, the contradictions in the Bible, the barbarity of the Old Testament (and the fact that according to fundamentalism, god approved of it at that point in time), the fear and hate towards outsiders such as gays, people of other religions, etc.

I also talked about my depression and how I was blamed for it. He seemed genuinely unsettled and concerned. Perhaps he was worried about what the image is of fundamentalism to outsiders. (It isn't great). He asked me about what denominational groups I was a part of, I told him about the two more well known fundamentalist groups I was a part of, and then my limited exposure (as well as my sister's long involvement with) the Independent Fundamental Baptist organization. 

His shock definitely increased then, and without me saying anything about the cult label that group often gets, (and deserves), he agreed that it was in fact a cult, but he started on criticisms of the entire collection of Baptist movements (one thing about Protestant fundamentalists, even though they may all share about 95% of the same beliefs, they like to think their various denominations are very different from each other, and they like to criticize each other's denominations).

Judging by his surprise and deep reflection when I told him about why I left Christianity, hopefully this will at least make him think about why people leave, and what fundamentalism looks like from the outside. You have to start small here.

At least his attitude towards me hasn't changed at all, which is rather fortunate for me, he's still his cheery self. I can only hope it had an affect on him.....

Sheldon's note: For the last update in this series, click here, for why I am the "undercover agnostic, check out this post.


  1. To be honest, I don't think he had any right to ask you about your religious beliefs. That's none of his business.

    I'm concerned, because even if his outward attitude toward you seems the same, his opinion of you might have changed. It could spell trouble if he's in a position of authority over you at your job. I hope I'm wrong.

    1. I think he was trying to tread carefully, I don't know for sure if he had heard that I am an agnostic, and I think that's why he tried to work his way up to the question.

      He started out by asking about home schooling, and probably figured it would come then (since most home school families are religious). It seemed like he was phrasing it that way so he wouldn't appear confrontational (which he's not much of a confrontational kind of guy, it's odd, taking into account his position in the company)

  2. Sounds like a really uncomfortable conversation. I guess if you already have a pretty good relationship with your boss it is okay, but I would be very nervous to talk to my boss about my non-religion for fear of being fired.

    1. Unfortunate that people still have to be cautious like that in the 21st century, and it isn't legal either.

      At least I am rather good terms with this boss.

    2. Yeah, it's not legal, but a clever jerk could find another way. That being said, I don't really think most religious people would do that.

    3. True, I think most of them would be scared of running into trouble with higher management, and with the law.

  3. (one thing about Protestant fundamentalists, even though they may all share about 95% of the same beliefs, they like to think their various denominations are very different from each other, and they like to criticize each other's denominations)

    Just replace "Protestant fundamentalists" with "believers of different religions" and the statement is still 100% valid.

    1. Lol. Very much agreed. I was speaking specifically about Protestant fundies, but that works for any religion.

      Just look at Islam, the Shia hate the Sunnis, etc...


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