I wanted to bounce this dilemma off some like-minded individuals and see if I could get some advice. I work in a small office with only a few other people two of whom are VERY religious (fundamentalist Christian) one of these people is my immediate supervisor the other, let’s call her Jean, in addition to being religious also believes she has psychic abilities and can commune with the dead, predict the future, etc. Jean will periodically make matter of fact statements about the presence of ghosts or spirits in the building, relate communications she has had with dead people and talk about the direct influence of a god or spirits on her daily life. My supervisor has had conversations with Jean, within my earshot, about topics such as non-Christians burning in hell, etc. he has also, on one occasion, brought creationist literature into the office and encouraged me to read it. At this point I should mention that I enjoy my job and consider myself to be friendly with, if not friends with all my co-workers despite our different outlooks on the universe. The type of work I do also requires a a high level of mutual respect, trust and reliance which is hard to overstate. Because of my generally friendly relationship with these people, the intimate setting of our office and the nature of my work I have let all these episodes pass by usually with no comment at all in order to keep the peace. I was spurred on to write this post because yesterday Jean started talking about a ghost that dwells in the sub-basement of our building, she spoke about him with no equivocation just as if she was speaking of the person in the next office, I badly wanted to refute her claim but again kept quiet so as not to stir controversy. So my question and my dilemma is, as a responsible skeptic do I have a duty to refute ridiculous claims when they come up or I’m I better off keeping the peace because I am outnumbered and I have to see and work with these people everyday? Thanks for any advice.
I think you shouldn’t say anything. Since you have to work with them it’s better to not start trouble.
I think you’re talking about two different things. No, you do not have the responsibility to refute claims of the paranormal if it’s only going to stir up trouble. If they’re born-again Christians, you probably won’t budge their minds anyway. BUT… if they’re getting in your face about it, you do have the responsibility to stand up for yourself. Try to keep it light. When they talk about ghosts, make a joke about it. Don’t challenge them directly, but make it clear that you don’t take it as seriously as they do. You might also consider taking your supervisor aside as ask him, politely and in a non-threatening manner, if he would mind going easy on the preaching. Make it clear that you don’t have anything against their beliefs, but you personally don’t share them. I realize this may be difficult to do. It’s a tightrope you’ll have to walk, but if it bothers you that much, you don’t have to put up with it. Is there a Human Resources representative above him in the company that you might be able to talk to and ask for advice?
If all of your facts are accurate, you undoubtedly have a harassment case, on the basis of religion. Unfortunately, being right may be a shallow victory. You have a co-worker who has the support of their supervisor, so you would have to start two steps up to even get the ball rolling. The trouble with harassment cases is you have to hold your cards tight until you know what the environment can offer. HR/personnel is usually best, unless of course they also support the two you mentioned. If you go there in confidence, but then find out they all play bridge on Thursday nights, your screwed.
There’s so many things to think about. I wouldn’t suggest going it alone. Get an anti-harassment group started]
There’s also these guys. Dan Barker and his team are awesome]
I agree with Lausten in reference to FFRF but like you I have to work with hard core Xtians who are also long term friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Although it is unspoken by me, they know how I feel by my body language and what I don’t say e.g. “I’ll pray for you” or “praise Jesus”. When a religious conversation begins I remain silent or change the subject. As to religious literature in the workplace being handed to you by a supervisor, that’s crossing the line. Prosylitizing in the workplace shouldn’t be tolerated. Your co-workers have the right to worship the sacred pork chop if they want but you can’t be compelled to take a bite and that’s your right. Also, engaging your ghost loving colleague in a debate by challenging her “belief” will do you no good because like Bigfoot hunters, she’s self delusional and won’t be swayed by an unbeliever. Besides, it gives her a certain prestige with the supervisor, a familiarity with a fellow believer. You have several choices but two come to mind, avoid her or when she talks to you about her dead pals just shrug it off and tell her you aren’t a believer.
Start looking for another job. Nothing good will come of this.
Start looking for another job. Nothing good will come of this. LoisNothing personal Lois, but I hate that answer. It assumes that there is some vast marketplace jobs that are easily vetted and can a match can be found for your skills as well as your personality. If that were true, an entire genre within comedy would not exist, there would be less alcoholism and less of a market for products to reduce stress. It leaves the real problem un-addressed.
Does anyone else find Fundy Jean’s claims to psychic powers and ghost encounters as amusing as I do? You’d think she’d succumb to some fort of irony-fueled spontaneous combustion.
Anyway, have you tried approaching them and respectfully asking them to please keep their views to themselves? Or at least to tone it down?
Does anyone else find Fundy Jean's claims to psychic powers and ghost encounters as amusing as I do? You'd think she'd succumb to some fort of irony-fueled spontaneous combustion. Anyway, have you tried approaching them and respectfully asking them to please keep their views to themselves? Or at least to tone it down?That's what you're supposed to do in these situations. And you really don't have much choice since HR will probably ask you if you did that first. But, I would do it with someone else in the room, someone you trust, because if they are offended by whatever you say, they will turn the focus on you and make you look like the harasser.
Jean, the office atmosphere is controlled by management. And you’re outnumbered. Unfortunately there may not be much you can do that may not have consequences. But you can look for the item that reverses your desire to refute the controversy. Example, every time this happens, take a ten minute brake. Then when it doesn’t happen for a few days, you might wish it would so you could take another break.
Start looking for another job. Nothing good will come of this. LoisNothing personal Lois, but I hate that answer. It assumes that there is some vast marketplace jobs that are easily vetted and can a match can be found for your skills as well as your personality. If that were true, an entire genre within comedy would not exist, there would be less alcoholism and less of a market for products to reduce stress. It leaves the real problem un-addressed. I didn't mean he should leave without having another job. I still think he should be looking. This situation will not get better. People do manage to improve their careers with a job change. I did it twice for different reasons and they were the best moves I could have made. Being forced to make a break can be positive. Believe me, in my case there was no vast marketplace of jobs that were easily vetted and that were a match for my skills and personality. Sometimes you just have to do it. Lois
Thank you to all who replied and offered support/advice, I have decided to take no action for the moment except to start listening to CFI podcasts at my desk in the hopes they will overhear. I’m glad some found, as I often do, amusement at Jean’s supposed psychic abilities. I wanted to share an amusing attempt she made at “cold reading” an article from a deceased person, it’s classic stuff. The person who gave her the article had personal knowledge about the circumstances surrounding the owner of the article’s death, let’s call him Stu. Here’s how it played out:
Stu hands Jean the article
Jean: “was this a homicide?”
Stu: “No, suicide.”
Jean: I Knew it!" (turns a miss into a hit)
Jean: Did she jump off a building?"
Stu: “No, shot herself”.
Jean: “Was she at work when she did it?”
Stu:“No, she was in a park sitting under a tree.”
Me: (in my head): “zero for three amazing!”