Atheism / Personal · July 8, 2008

Out at work

I was reading about the hostile workplaces that some Atheists have to endure and realized that I have it pretty good where I work.

I’ve never mentioned the name of the company that I work for, only that I am an electrical engineer and that I work with embedded control systems. We’re a big local company, part of a world-wide company with thousands of employees. It was a small company when I arrived 12 years ago.

I’ve always worked in the Engineering department at this company. And due to our company’s location in California, and due to the nature of engineering, our engineers have always been very diverse people. We have representatives of every major world faith in our department, and quite a few minor faiths too. My coworkers, and friends, are Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu. Some are more devout than others. I know of at least one other Atheist and one Agnostic. I know one or two who are questioning religion, who are leaning toward non-belief.

I haven’t found a blatant example of the “Salem Hypothesis” here at work. However, I’ve encountered a few very Christian people who are Creationists, but not engineers. They usually work as administrative assistants, workers on the factory floor, or (something I find fascinating) they work in Marketing.

I’m definitely out at work. I don’t talk about my Atheism unless asked directly, but I have an evolve fish on my cube wall. I also have a “get out of Hell free” card, and a photo of a crop circle that says “Skeptic” on my wall too. None have drawn particular comment or attention.

This is pretty good – Fresno, the city I live in, is noted for being both religious and intolerant – we’re the religious conservative heart of California. The non-religious and the liberals live along the coasts and in the big cities while the farmland is pure God country. It’s nice to have a little oasis of diversity here at work.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the break area to get some coffee. Two Christian engineers were talking to a Hindu engineer. Apparently the topic had wandered into what this engineer was allowed to eat as a Hindu.

“No, I’m allowed to eat pork,” said the Hindu engineer. “I just don’t eat it because I don’t think it is good for me. But I’m not restricted from eating it. I can also eat chicken, or fish; eggs or milk. I just can’t eat cows!”

“Why not? Are they forbidden?”

“It’s not that they are forbidden – Cows are sacred to Hindus! You wouldn’t eat something that’s sacred, would you?”

I couldn’t help myself. I broke into the conversation. “Why not? Christians do.”

The conversation stopped. The two Christians looked at me, and one almost protested. And while his mouth was half-opened this LOOK came over his face and he shut his mouth.

They all looked at each other. One of them said, “Huh.” I took my coffee and went back to my cube.

I love working here.