My fiance and I are both atheists. Recently, he had a discussion at work about religion, and admitted he was an atheist. Most of his coworkers are okay with it, one is teasing him about it (they're friends; it's what they do), but the last one is being an absolute arsehole.


For the last two full days, this kid (he's 19) has been harassing my fiance about his religion. "Why don't you believe in god?", "How do you not believe in god?", "If you dropped a wallet with $5000 in it, and it was still where you left it the next day, who would you thank?" That sort of bullshit. My fiance answered him every time, very politely and respectfully, just as I thought he would do. Sometimes he teased the kid a bit, but nothing mean. For example, when Nitwit asked, "When was the last time you went to church?", my fiance responded, "December, but I got paid to be there." My fiance played the flute for his mother's church's Christmas service, and he explained that to the kid afterward, but the kid didn't believe him.


Then Nitwit started to take a turn for the sinister. "You believe in hell, right?", "Aren't you afraid you'll go to hell?", "You know you're going to burn forever.", and other things that imply that my fiance is an awful person for not believing in an imaginary psychopathic sky fairy. But again, my fiance told me he could handle it. He said that he wasn't too bothered. Nitwit was being annoying, but my fiance answered him the best he could and told Nitwit to leave him alone.


Oh, but then, I went to pick my fiance up from work today. I was early so I visited him as a little surprise. When my fiance had stepped away for a second, Nitwit came up to me and said, "Do you know your boyfriend doesn't believe in god?"


Whoa. Hold the fuck on, I thought. You have no business trying to get my fiance in trouble with me. His religion and our relationship are none of your fucking business. 


This was an attempt to get me to yell at my fiance about his atheism, as if we hadn't talked about it. This was an attempt to sabotage our relationship for religion. This was, in short, an attempt to get me to convert my fiance, as if he's the only atheist in the world and I was going to pressure him into trying to do something he can't do.


I wanted to beat Nitwit's head in with the Clue Stick, but instead I smiled and in a bright, cheerful voice I said, "I know! I don't either!" At which point he narrowed his eyes, put his hands up in front of him as if warding me off, and walked away in disgust.


I honestly have no idea what to do here. This arsehole needs to be taught a lesson. He needs to get in trouble with his bosses for harassment, or be otherwise humiliated for being a jerk. He needs to be taken down several pegs, the arrogant twit. Annoy my fiance, fine. Annoy me, fine. We're big people, we can handle ourselves. But try to fuck with my relationship? You have got to be either suicidal or too stupid to live. We're both fiercely protective of "us" as a concept. We have had several people try to ruin what we have from the moment we started dating. I have no interest in dealing with anyone else's attempt to ruin what is good.


And the thing is? He's BARELY RELIGIOUS. He says he's muslim, but he pronounces "Arabic" as "Arboric," and doesn't pray at any of the required times, AND doesn't celebrate any of the holidays. He's the least committed muslim I've ever seen, less committed than Chreaster christians.


My thought was to have my fiance talk to his boss if Nitwit tries to say anything else to him about his religion or lack thereof. I thought he could say to his boss that he's being harassed for his religious beliefs and not necessarily be specific. It's not like a christian would have to qualify that they're being harassed for christianity, rather than any other religion. But I'm not sure, and I'm feeling vengeful.


What should we do? Should my fiance tell his boss? Should we talk to Nitwit ourselves? Should my fiance just ignore him? The last one seems like an awful option, because it enables Nitwit to keep doing exactly what he's doing, and if he doesn't see a private relationship as reason enough not to say anything, he could feel entitled to do worse. That's what I'm worried about.


I'm not paranoid, whatever people have been saying about me, but I'm scared about this and don't know what to do. Thanks very much.

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Comment by Earther on June 30, 2011 at 11:20am
Law and Order;  If you feel harassed you need to take the correct course of action which is to have your husband talk to your boss.  Also know that when you tell your personal stories at work people have the right to respond, not harass.  Your husband or any person has no need to explain anything about their personal lives to an employer or employee.  His boss needs to know that it was a mistake to tell that person so the boss feels confident your husband will not also harass himself.  In the case of how American society is, it is quite clear to me that we as a society have no boundaries.  It seems that everyone feels they have a right to know another person's personal business.
Comment by Shane Cooper on June 29, 2011 at 8:21pm

As an atheist, my first reaction is to punch the idiot in the face with strong verbal response using pointed questions about his faith, reality and why he feels obligated to berate, question and act in such a manor. In fact, as Atheist, we should know how to respond to such verbal questions with rational, controlled responses as, "I understand your concerns, but how did you come to your beliefs, convictions and viewpoint about a deity? Why do you believe in this deity and viewpoint? How did you prove that belief? What proof do you offer that would suggest that your view is a truth? And... what criteria of skepticism did you use to rule out all other beliefs to choose the one you hold dear?" If compelled, these usually help throw them off guard, if they have limited knowledge or their religion is on the fridges.


However, as an employer, manager and one who has to deal with my employees who may find themselves in this situation, know this: it is "illegal" in the eyes of the law to harras a co-worker because of his/her religious views. So, I would advise you to have your fiance respectfully discuss his concerns with his supervisor/manager. Companies are liable for hostility in the workplace, which includes religious hostility, not just sexual hostility. His manager/supervisor is obligated to honor his position/concerns. The EEOC has strict policies, rules and laws that dictate what employers "have" to do in these situations.


How the manager deals with this may be another story. But, as an employee trying to have a respectful environment in which to work, the company/employer has obligations. You/he and all employees who work in a company with more than 15 employees have rights. Exercise them. 8-)

Comment by Dana Severance on June 29, 2011 at 7:32pm

I'd like to say that I'd take Micah's advice, I'm more likely to go the route Glen suggested... with one exception. I'd likely call him a snake-oil salesman attempting to spread lies. Unless, of course, he had empirical evidence to back his claim that his invisible friend were real. It's too bad we don't have easy tickets we can mark check-boxes on for the most common fallacious arguments.

That said, I think the adult (and non-confrontational) route would be to ask him politely again to stop, and failing that, report him to your respective bosses or the HR department (whichever the company's policy dictates).

Comment by Jim DePaulo on June 29, 2011 at 3:12pm
I could tolerate that bullshit for a while.  First I would ignore him then I would use ridicule and if he persisted I would ask him to visualize his nose in another part of his face.  I'm an Atheist not necessarily a pacifist.
Comment by Micah Oliver on June 29, 2011 at 4:34am
Act as if...  When asked, pretend your position is the norm. 'Do people still believe in hell? Gods? Wow, I thought that was ancient mythology. Nah, I don't believe in any of that crap.' You get the idea, hopefully despite my weak example. Just an idea, probably not the best one. :)
Comment by Sean Lloyd McGuire on June 29, 2011 at 1:03am
I agree, Glen. Engage him and he may have to confront his ignorance.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on June 28, 2011 at 11:23pm

Why not challenge the nitwit to a debate?

He is undoubtedly stupid and opinionated. Probably the nitwit knows next to nothing of the history of religion or his own religion. Islam makes a ready target. One good turn deserves another. You do not have to turn the other cheek.



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