I found out the hard way why bringing up your religion in the workplace is a terrible idea. I’m agnostic, but I try to be thoughtful when other people tell me about their beliefs. I know there are a lot of great ideas in the religious texts of the world and I have found inspiration in them from time to time. But, I don’t really suffer from any death anxiety; and I think my morality is firmly rooted in secular humanism, and my good will and cheer is inspired by the hope of collective prosperity through scientific means. I would never begrudge someone their beliefs, especially if it gave them a sense of purpose, or drove them to do good deeds or eased their fear of the unknown. But, when I encounter people who believe exclusively and literally in one version of one sect of a religion, I can have a difficult time containing my disdain.
Which is what happened yesterday. We were having a team meeting. I’m the company’s go-to business-to-business guy. I sell mainly downtown. Rachel, a coworker, is great at winning over smaller and medium size businesses in the satellite neighborhoods of the greater metropolitan area. We’re in the “Bible Belt”, so it helps to share the faith with your clientele. We have these meetings at least once a month. Yes, they’re as horrible as they sound. Our boss is asking us to share “sales-boosting” ideas.
Rachel spoke first. She’s in her mid-forties, as sweet as a peach; would give you her last dollar and the shirt off her back if you needed it. But she always looks a bit dated: the kind of woman who wears long denim skirts and still feathers her bangs. Her only adornment was a tastefully small and subtle gold cross pendant on a gold chain. I could just imagine her knitting Bible cozies at night. She talks about Jesus every chance she gets, and in our neighborhood, it actually benefits her sales.
“Well,” she cooed. “I have found this new way of getting inspired every single night, and, it’s just really helping me out in every part of my life right now, including sales!” She smiled at the group and folded her hands neatly in her lap. “What I do is, I take my Bible, and I find a quiet spot, and I just talk to Jesus and I tell him, you know, ‘Lord, I am needing a pick-me-up right now.’ or ‘Jesus, can you help me with this problem I am having?’ I ask specific questions and then I take my Bible and I close my eyes and I flip through the pages and just put my finger down and read whatever verse my finger lands on. And, you know? The Lord just guides my hand to exactly what it is I need that day. And I have been feeling really blessed.”
Unfortunately, I have this imp inside of me that demands satisfaction and makes me do the wrong thing sometimes. So, as soon as she finished giving voice to this absurd recommendation, I flung my head back and let out a hearty belly laugh, followed by a snort. I tried to compose myself but I sniggered silently in my chair for another minute or two until tears of joy were squeezing through my eyelids. I finally got up and went out into the hallway to compose myself. But I’m pretty sure some of my big, bellowing cackles drifted back into the meeting room.
Once the imp was consoled, I walked back to the conference room and apologized to the group for interrupting. I stole a glance at Rachel and her eyes were red and watery. It killed any lingering amusement. I hadn’t meant to belittle her in front of the group like that. It was shitty of me to laugh at something that made her feel good about herself. I resolved to make it up to her later.