I “fired back” to the god talk around the office!

I want to tell you guys something kind of fun…

I have a lot of religious coworkers and they’re pretty vocal about it. I hear lots of comments about god and Jesus around the office – some said directly to me. I don’t really respond but I do smile and nod because I’m scared. Their conversations are incredibly intimidating and I constantly feel ostracized. 

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new hoodie. I absolutely love it. It has a really cool graphic of an astronaut on it and it says “in science we trust”. I decided to be brave and wear it to work. (I’m the “crazy art teacher” and most of the time I have paint on me so I don’t have to dress up – no business casual for me!) I’ve worn it to work twice so far. I was expecting dirty looks and nasty comments but nada! If they’re thinking bad things they have kept it to themselves. Not only that, I have received a couple of compliments – one from a guy in upper management! Can this really be true?

Here’s a thought — are there other atheists at work? Are they as uncomfortable as I am?

I believe this stunt was a little of my rebellious side coming out. I was feeling really pissed about their god talk so I guess I wanted to fire back – but subtly. 

Success! It’s now my favorite hoodie so I’m going to be wearing it a lot more often!

Being an atheist in the Midwest is difficult and I spend a lot of time feeling uncomfortable but maybe it’s not as bad as it seems? Can I let my guard down a little?

I want to hear from you – especially if you live in the South, Midwest, or anywhere conservative. Have you had similar experiences? How have you “fired back”? 


  1. Bruce Fuentes says

    I live near Duluth, MN, In rural NW WI. I am 60 and have been an atheist since before reaching adulthood. The rest of my family is nominally Christian. My wife does not go to church and our 13-year-old son goes solely for social reasons though is being indoctrinated.
    The last couple years is the first time I have been public about my atheism. I am not loud about it. If it comes up I mention it. I treat it as just a part of me. On social media, I am now just starting to mention I am an atheist.
    I am retired so I do not have that aspect to deal with. Some friends have drifted away, most just ignore it.

  2. says

    I’m the village atheist in a rural Minnesota town. I’ve always been open about it, never had a problem. I think some of the fundies are even intimidated by me.

  3. antaresrichard says

    I live in an immediate eviroment that is thankfully left leaning, but”spirituality” (not necessarily Christian) is the assumed order of the day. The woo can be high. To survive, I have to keep under the radar.


  4. moarscienceplz says

    I think most people really do like Science, even the very religious ones.So probably you were not “firing back” as much as you thought you were. Unfortunately, many people have had pretty poor science teachers so they either think it is too complex for ordinary people like themselves to understand, or they think it is nothing but a collection of dry facts. But that is why a Bill Nye or a Neil Degrasse Tyson can become like a rock star. If someone can tell a good story that shows why scientists get excited about their work, people get excited too.
    Maybe you should run with this science theme. Print out some pictures from the James Webb telescope, hang them on your wall and be prepared to answer questions about them. Or, get some fossils and put them on your desk. You can get some very nice ones for just a few dollars, I recommend Fossilera.com. If you can successfully answer your daughter’s questions about them, you will probably have good conversations with your co-workers about them, and maybe you will intimidate them a little bit and they will hesitate to make declarative statements about religion in front of you (which they know they can’t really back up).

  5. abb3w says

    My own area seems relatively liberal, as do most co-workers.

    With anything less subtle than this, you do face some risks. The “crazy art teacher” role may make it less likely that any particular rebellion on any give occasion will be targeted than if it came from someone in another role, but the chance still seems non-zero.

    I’d suggest before you let your guard down much further that you keep for a while a journal about which coworkers are “vocally religious” at work, noting names/dates/means. From a technical standpoint, emailing a journal entry to a non-work personal email should provide a time stamp (and MIGHT help it be classified as a “present sense impression”, but ask a lawyer) and documentation outside of your employers control. Use of a keyword phrase like “work journal” in the subject line may help sorting these into a separate email folder. In the event that you are challenged, such a record might be helpful for your lawyer (or union rep?) to be able to say “This conduct wasn’t prohibited by a clear and routinely enforced rule, as demonstrated by examples 1 through 867”. However, I am a computer geek and not myself a lawyer; and you might want to check with a lawyer licensed in your state.

  6. lanir says

    I grew up in northern Illinois in a small town. I moved to a Chicago suburb about a dozen years back for a technical job. Because the field involves a lot of contract work I’ve done a lot of job hopping. I was very surprised at one point to realize that I was working with several atheists.

    I generally tend to categorize believers loosely into three groups. There are the barely religious, the churchgoers, and the lifers who actually try to bring their religion into a lot of day to day aspects of their lives.

    That last group, the lifers, I really haven’t had any problems with. They’re also used to being misunderstood so they aren’t the ones that will jump me over anything. When I first settled on getting the hell out of christianity, I had a barely religious friend who in fact had far less interaction with his faith than I did. I asked to avoid the topic because it made me angry and he helpfully did the exact opposite.

    The churchgoers are kind of the weird ones. They can be into it enough to take it pretty seriously but not enough to understand that being a really mean person ignores quite a bit of what they supposedly believe in. Most of them are still fine but I’ve run into people who were quite happy with being snooty and superior or would be the kind of person who’d demand everyone pretend to be just like them. I can’t think of any specific examples my experience with catholic grade school and high school taught me to avoid people like this and so far that hasn’t been hard for me to do. If I run into overly religious people I either slip under their radar or shut them down. And then I GTFO and avoid them.

    The jerks really are the exception in all cases though. I’ve run into plenty of people I’d categorize as churchgoers since then and mostly I think they just want the same thing I do: to have the people around them respect their thoughts and beliefs. Only the really deluded ones think that means forcing everyone to put up with their attempts at indoctrination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *