Can I out myself as a non-believer without hurting my co-worker’s feelings?

Dear Aunty B,

I really hope you can help me with this one because I am at my wits’ end.

One of my employees is very religious and it is really getting to me. She tells me things happen for a reason when I can’t see any reason at all. She also calls things miracles – like anything she can’t explain is a miracle and when I point out that there are probably lots of reasons why something might have happened she gets all wide-eyed and astonished and asks me to prove it wasn’t a miracle when I think she should prove it is a miracle.

But I am so bored at this point I end up agreeing with her just to shut her up. And it has got to the point where she has taken my politeness for agreement with her beliefs because she told someone the other day that I was religious.

The trouble is Aunty B I am not only not religious, I am a card-carrying atheist and think the church is a tax-dodging cult. So far I haven’t told her my thoughts because my one belief is that she can think what she likes and the same courtesy should be afforded to me, and we can all work side by side and believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden if we want, as long as we focus on the business and behave professionally towards each other.

But why is she free to voice her own opinions in the workplace and I have to shut up because I am the godless nonbeliever? Is it time I outed myself and how do I do so without offending her?

Godless and proud,

Dear Godless and proud,

I admire your restraint. Of course you can out yourself. What do you think social media is? One big outing! All at once! By everyone in the world. Terrifying!

Besides, the business world is full of people outing themselves as something: gay, Christian, atheist, bankrupt… So next time she raises it, very politely point out that you are a non-believer and you would rather she didn’t talk religion with you. Point out that you would consider it rude to talk about being an atheist and you don’t want to offend her as you are in the workplace and you want to act professionally around her.

Then be very friendly and remark on how lots of people believe so many things and isn’t the world better off because of it. And then ask her for a progress report on her biggest project.

She will get the message and you will be glad you have put the subject to bed. And if she doesn’t? Do a deal with her. Tell her you won’t try to convert her if she doesn’t try to convert you.

Be smart,
Your Aunty B

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