Hey guys.

I'd like to know your opinion on a subject. I come from a country where religion is not as common (New Zealand) and at work more than once we have been forced to pray.

An example would be at the end of year company lunch. The CEO of the company told a story about a man trying to get somewhere in life. I thought to myself oh yeah, I can learn something from this, until the end of his story. He ended with the man not getting where he needed to go until he accepted god into his life. He followed by saying YOU will not get everywhere you need to go unless you accept god into your life (coming from a man who started rich and ended rich). And proceeded with "let us pray", I'm surrounded by atheist's who just go along and bow their heads and say their amen's (other than me and a few select people). It infuriates me to see people behave this way just because their boss puts them in this situation. In such a large company I find it unprofesional.

Has anyone had an experience like this, I want to know how I should react to this sort of forced religion.

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I would say that this was entirely inappropriate in the work place. In fact, I'm quite appalled.

You're right: it's highly unprofessional and I would have been tempted to walk out. It might even be classed as a form of religious discrimination, against which, depending on where you are, there are laws. The subtext of his story could quite easily be read as 'believe in god or you will not successful at this company'. It could be perceived as a veiled threat. This is highly questionable and I would get advice from a lawyer who specialises in employment.

I might also be tempted to send your boss an email from an anonymous email account and explain your (and others) grievances.

As an aside, the egocentrism of your boss is absolutely staggering. God has time to make businessmen successful but ignores the pleas of sick children and the millions of other people who are suffering? Unbelievable. But typically narcissistic of a believer. I might have reminded him that, according to the bible, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."


Ok, this issue niggled me so much that I went away and did some research.
The following is from "Religious Diversity in the New Zealand Workplace" by The Human Rights Commission.

"Staff should be protected from unwanted, significant or repeated religious activities at work...The right to have a religious belief and not to hold religious beliefs are equally protected under the law (HRA, 1993)"

""Q. The company where I work has a prayer session. Can I refuse to take part?
A: Yes, such prayer cannot be compulsory and you can refuse to participate without any negative consequences"

Essentially, your boss is contravening your rights by imposing a religious observance on you. He didn't offer you the choice. If he wants to hold a prayer session he should offer it separately to those who wish to attend.
But even that doesn't get around the problem of him making employees feel uncomfortable by suggesting/threatening that unless they believe in god (or take part in the prayers) they will not be successful at the company.

This might all be pointed out to him.

More info (pdf download from the Human Rights Commission):


u lucky to have such laws. in other places, religious discrimination is the law...

Hmm, Ive ran into that before, I just start looking around in utter boredom then walk away half way through the prayer... Then get asked why I walked away, I'm very straight forward with people, and usually they leave me be.  If someone has an issue with me Ill take it up with them straight and if they don't like it too bad. as said, your boss wont be able to do anything to you if you refuse to prey or gather or whatever, different story if they take it further by trying to "get rid of you" because your not interested in there crap.  if push comes to shove, shove back:)

You could attempt to be a smartass and ask your boss which way faces east so that you can direct your prayers to Mecca. You could also start a wild interpretative dance to honor your deities, usually these kind of things work out pretty badly, because of course you would be making fun of their religion. Thing is, to me I would probably do something silly like that because I feel strongly that if you don't want your religion publicly humiliated you should keep it private.

Not really the same thing, but I used to have a coworker that continuously put religious texts as footnotes in her emails to her colleagues in a quite proselytizing kind of way. First I asked the person herself if she could refrain from introducing her religion at the workplace as I didn't feel that it was the right place for personal beliefs. She did not stop, so I took it up with management who basically told me that sharing personal beliefs by email was allowed and that I had no reason to complain. 

Being the asshole that I am I made sure that I had that in writing before I returned the favor to my coworker. 

After the first email she literally came crashing into my office, screaming and making accusations, I was happy to quote to her from the email of my boss that stated that "among adults it should be possible to communicate about personal beliefs as one's personal beliefs should not be offensive to another".

That rule (which is actually against the law as far as I know) was retracted by management, I still think I did pretty well all things considered. I suppose other people might have found a less confronting more sneaky way, I'm an asshole that hinks he's funny, so there you have it ;)

While I am certainly very much in favour of being as asshole (I'd like to interrupt the boss's prayer to ask him specifically which god he is referring to and how, when he's accepting god into his life, he knows it's the right god and not one of the thousand other gods that have supposedly imposed themselves on humans since existence began), but in this case I'd be tempted to play it safe...well, not safer, but smarter.

You have to be smarter than the guy and stay one step ahead of him. Let him see that we atheists know our rights and that any kind of mismanagement or unprofessional behaviour will not be tolerated.

"If you're doing business with a religious son-of-a-bitch,
Get it in writing.
His word isn't worth shit.
Not with the good lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal."

- William S. Burroughs

Well obviously you have to be prepared to a certain degree, a professional asshole such as myself will always make sure that I have incriminating evidence on paper or at least several dependable witnesses that can verify what happened.

Without these proofs it is often better to not act but to wait and to either create or wait for a better situation.

More EDP CEO's ? or ... the people/org/fam that owns that CEO!?
anyhew. on the frontlines:

Ethan Lemmon, has there been any development with this issue in your workplace?...

ahh yeah, I've been in that situation numerous times. I'm the only atheist in my company, and a co-worker friend is agnostic, and during company gatherings such as a Xmas dinner, the CEO would say some words, then ask my IT director to do a prayer. I just sit there and glaze over, but I've noticed my agnostic friend bowing his head, and I get amused by it. I really don't care, because you can't fix stupid, and making a big deal out of it makes you look like a dick. So, all in all, I just let the unfortunate people that need that sorta thing have their little moments, so I can be amused.

I can relate somewhat.  I work in the American Southeast, and at the company christmas party, the guest speaker was a pastor that talked about the 'reason for the season'.  We also have a pastor on payroll, and he holds optional bible studies once a week in the company breakroom, and at company lunches, which happen every couple of months, gives thanks where everyone clasps hands and bows their heads.

I'm always respectful and sit quietly but I most certainly do not bow my head, and out of 400 employees I can pick out a few others doing the same.  I'm not sure about your situation exactly, but I'd imagine a similar strategy may work for you.  With everyone bowing (and with the most devout closing their eyes), it goes pretty unnoticed that you aren't actively participating, but you get the satisfaction of not lying to yourself.

What the CEO did was absolutely repulsive. There is no way anyone can justify forcing someone else to accept their own religious faith and its associated practices. Furthermore, to say that one needs to accept God in order to be successful or, at least, happy in life is condescending. As an atheist, I am perfectly happy with my life without God. I personally do not find any evidence to believe in the existence of a God and neither do I need to invoke God to justify why I should live morally or be charitable (note: I do not believe that living morally and being charitable are mutually exclusive, but that's besides the point).

In fact, I would argue that such an act is unethical. The 18th Century German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said that one should "act according to the maxim that one can, at the same time, will it to be universal law." It seems to me that forcibly imposing one's religious views and practices on another cannot be willed to be universal law because if it can, then the CEO must also accept a Buddhist telling him to go vegan, for example.




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