That's essentially why I wrote that post to begin with -- I'm trying to figure out which one I am. In my case, if someone asks my religion, I do not hesitate: I'm an atheist who was raised Mormon. But it seems like I've been practicing a bit of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy...
You be the judge. Here's my professional history in a nutshell:
- In college, attending BYU, I was completely in the closet about my disbelief. Frankly, I didn't want to be expelled and have BYU refuse to transfer my credits. Long before it happened to Chad Hardy, it was no secret that that was the policy.
- In grad school -- as I explained in how I came to sympathize with the Mormons -- the first question after “What’s your name?” is “Where’d you get your undergraduate degree?” In the Math department (at Rutgers), they posted a list of all the new grad students along with the name of the university each came from. So I was obliged to explain to everybody. “Yes, I went to BYU. No, I didn’t want to go there. Yes, I was raised Mormon. No, I don’t believe in it.” That was cool!!! I had an excuse to tell everyone all my funny stories about growing up Mormon without ever being the one who was impolite enough to bring it up. One Christian guy displayed a pamphlet called "A Christian's Response to Homosexuality" in on his desk in view of his out-Lesbian office-mate, and everybody talked about the appropriateness (or not) of that.
- At my first real job (as a programmer in NJ), a Muslim colleague gave me a card inviting me to her Sunni Muslim center, which I politely declined. Another Muslim colleague was shocked by anecdotes that involved social drinking. An Orthodox Jewish colleague refused to shake my hand. A Lutheran Colleague didn't have any peculiar restrictions but managed to bring up his Lutheranism pretty frequently anyway. I was the junior member of the team and said nothing about the subject.
- My second job was at a little dot-com startup back when all you needed to get investors on board were an idea and a few slides (before the dot-com bust of 2000). All of my colleagues were from India. They were from all over India, and was curious to hear about all of the cultural differences among the different areas. Many of them were vegetarian and/or did strange fasts like eating only fruits and nuts one day per week. At my request, they brought me along to a Hindi movie and (on another occasion) to their Diwali service. It was really quite fascinating. Belief in God (or gods) per se didn't really come up much except when I was talking about France (being engaged to a Frenchman and all). When I mentioned that the French almost never go to church, a Hindu colleague asked, "But when do they pray?" My reply: "They don't."
- My third job was almost entirely telecommuting, so I had very little casual contact with my colleagues. This actually presented real problems for communication and collaboriation on projects, so I've tried to avoid excessive telecommuting since then.
- At my fourth job, I'd started getting involved with Mormon-related discussions online, so I kind of wanted to talk to my colleagues about it, but still I didn't bring it up. As far as I could tell, nobody in the whole company (of a few hundred people) was religious at all. The closest thing to a display of ideology was one guy in another department who put up a rainbow flag in his personal work area. One colleague told me how shocked he was when he saw a documentary about G.W.B. and how much he brought God into public policy. Said my colleague, "Here in France, we have a tradition of separation of church and state..." I sadly replied, "We used to have that too!" On another occasion, a colleague was telling someone a funny story, and I caught just the end bit where he recounted saying to someone "Écoute, dieu n'existe pas [Listen, God does not exist]". I caught his eye and smiled, but didn't say anything (because he was talking to someone else).
- My fifth job was fairly brief (I had to quit when I moved to Switzerland), but I got in one conversation about religion. My family took a trip to Lourdes -- the #1 world Catholic pilgrimage spot -- so I was careful to explain that it wasn't a pilgrimage, it's just that my husband's aunt is a nun. A colleague told me his story of visiting Lourdes when he was a kid, in Catechism. The healthy push the sick (in special wheelchairs of Lourdes) to the healing waters to bathe. An endless procession of the dreadfully ill marinate in the miraculous pool from morning until night. Then it's your turn to get in. "That you don't get sick from it -- that's the miracle!" he said.
- And that brings me up to my present job. One colleague volunteered that he'd voted in favor of gay marriage when it came up in a Swiss referendum. This came up because another colleague was planning to visit some gay married friends on vacation. (Both of these colleagues are straight guys.) I've hinted about being atheist-friendly, and one colleague has hinted back. He lent me his disc of Randy Newman's Faust, and pointed out specifically that Randy Newman (who wrote it and plays the devil) is an atheist. I'm listening to it now -- not bad. :D
So what do you think?
It would be fun if some of you -- atheist or not -- would take this as a meme! I'm curious about how my real-life "out at work" experience compares to others.