Is it OK to pretend not to be atheist for five years?

I didn't know you took Dear Abby questions, but here's mine. I'm a recent graduate in a "helping profession." I have a new job and everyone is a Christian. There's a local skeptic meet-up group that I'd like to be involved with, but I feel like if I come out as agnostic now I will never be promoted and my career will stagnate. But if I wait 5 years or so then come out, I will be in a better place to help the movement. Does that make sense or am I rationalizing cowardice? -- K. G.

Read my answer here:

What do you guys think? Is KG being paranoid? Is it ever ok to pretend for five years?

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I like the answer that was given.

"Remember that coming out in your private life doesn't mean you have to come out at work.  The workplace isn't an appropriate place for religion OR atheism.  If they're constantly flaunting their Christianity, they're in the wrong, and you don't have to flaunt your atheism to counteract their gaffe.  Keep your nose down at work, and do your job so well that nobody will think of giving you less than an excellent rating.  Don't comment on religion one way or the other.  But in your private life, don't be afraid to make non-believer friends, or to hang out with them in public.  As long as you're not seen as an active threat to Christians at work, they're unlikely to cause you any trouble."

Given the lousy economy, how hard it is to find work, and how prejudiced people can be in the workplace, it's reasonable to be a blank slate when it comes to religion. Or anything else.

I've experienced discrimination, and it's a hard row to hoe. In the workplace I prefer to be closed about non-work topics. People still push the envelope, they are nosy and can be aggressive, especially if they think there is something juicy there. Over time, people figure things out anyway - one person learns something "interesting" and it can spread instantly.

A cover story can be helpful. "I don't like to bring my personal beliefs into the workplace" might be useful but can be isolating, as can "I don't follow formal religion". If pressed, I tell people I treat everyone equally and I don't think that religion should be discussed at work. All of which is 100% true.

In the long run, finding a more accepting workplace is a reasonable goal. As others state, I would build up a record of excellent work performance, being a good coworker and team-player, and keep your mind searching for other places. That may mean moving to a different place as well.

In my own experience in a health care setting, even when you do that you can be ganged up on for a variety of reasons. Depends on what you do. I've seen nurses destroy careers based on who they don't like. Keeping a stellar record can literally save you but it doesn't always make work pleasant. At some point you will probably need to change jobs.

Good one...I'll use THAT one.   If you say "I'm not a member of a church" you're likely to get INVITED.   Personally, I just stay vague and neutral.  The opposite of militant.  I see no reason to get into this sort of thing in the workplace...I don't think the opportunity will even come up because I'm too busy pretending to be WORKING>ha.

Sentient Biped -- that is a great response.  People love to gossip in the workplace and can make your job miserable if they learn something "interesting" to tell.  I agree that you should be closed about non-work topics.  Lots of wisdom in your response here.
You're right, Sentient.  In the health care profession, patients may bring up religion on their own.  I have no advice there other than just to listen and if it's offensive, let it  go in one ear and out the other.
Can you come out as a Humanist? You can leave off the secular and honestly say it is based on service to others if anyone asks. The churchy folks might think of it as religion. If they are smart enough to find out, you might get some company or find closeted brethren. I have said things like "I grew up Catholic" in order to fit in certain places that I did not really want to fit in but did it to make life easier.

Good luck, 5 years is a long time in an environment like that!
Don't come out until it's safe.  There may not be any reason to come out in the workplace, anyway, it's a personal matter on your own time.  Coming out in your private life may be satisfying enough.
Don't tell them anything. It's none of their business. Your personal religious beliefs (or lack of them) are your private affair. There's nothing cowardly about that. The workplace is no place for religion.

I look at it like others have commented: Gossip.  We don't need more gossip in the workplace.  I have a hard enough time juggling all the drama (and work stress) on a day-to-day basis...I don't want to be ADDING to the drama. 


But maybe I'm predicting that there would be some sort of huge reaction to my 'coming out at work'....maybe the response would be like crickets in the audience...'so what's the big deal'! ha  If somebody asked me directly (and I cared about their opinion of me), I would give a direct answer: I don't believe in any gods.  (I like the term 'freethinker' too, because it's vague and kind of new-agey sounding.  Like I'm a hippy or something. That's a safe role to assume.)




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