Monday, December 28, 2009

Don’t push religion, or the lack it

I read an article in the Telegraph on providing ‘quiet rooms’ rather than prayer rooms so that Atheists can use them too. It left me scratching my head. What the hell is going on in the UK?

The Employers Forum on Belief says it is important that the room can be used by workers of all religions and none.

However its advice sheet is almost entirely devoted to accommodating Muslims, telling employers to provide screens for single-sex prayer; sinks for ritual washing; and racks for worshippers to take off their shoes.

Do employers in the UK really provide special rooms so that their religious employees can pray? I cannot fathom that happening here in the USA. In fact, the thought seems to fly in the face of some important American tradition. Namely, when at work, work, and keep your and personal and work lives separate.

The Employers Forum on Belief  recommends extending the privilege to atheists so that we can have some quiet time (but no napping) while at work. Do we really need quiet time?

The guide also suggests formalizing faith in the workplace through forming a “multi-faith committee".

The guide suggests setting up a “users’ group”, a “multi-faith committee”, a comments book and “some formal way of monitoring use of the room to ensure it remains inclusive and is treated with respect”.

Whoa… slowdown there employers. There is no need to give religious employee special privileges and extending those same privileges to atheist are thinly veiled attempts at work place political correctness. Don’t do it, there is a better way. Ignore it! If religious employees need space, simply allow any employee or group to schedule meeting rooms as needed on their personal time. The only provision being that business comes first. Other than that, offer the faithful no special privileges. It’s simple and it works.

As for social interactions, ignore religion there too. I recently participated in a secular holiday potluck. We all brought a dish, I brought pork (Lechon) and Chicken (adobo). Before the meal I pointed out the pork dish so that my Muslim friends could avoid it. We all talked and ate in good spirits without evoking any gods or religion. It was great fun and a healthy interaction.

As for holiday greetings, I exchange them in good cheer. Mine is simple, happy holidays. If somebody says merry Christmas, I respond with happy holidays and keep it secular. It’s all good because we don’t force the religious part of the holiday. People can celebrate what they want. Creating special groups to accommodate religious needs encourages exclusive behavior which leads to resentment over special treatment and creates the expectation that every group needs special recognition. Let me put this as simply as I can. We don’t need a quiet room so that atheists feel included. We need NO rooms.

The best holiday greeting I had this year came by way of IM from a friend at work. He is a devout Muslim and a honest and decent human being. He typed,

“Joe, thanks for all the hard work this year. I hope you and your family enjoy your holiday. I know you don’t celebrate Christmas, neither do I. But this time of year is when I like to say thanks to my friends in my own way. So thanks Joe. See you next year.”

Perfect, right?