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Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts on Sharing Religion

Recently, a fellow employee and I were discussing the discount the state provided on marriage licenses when you've undergone a marriage preparation course with a minister. I said that we would probably forgo the discount since Alex is an atheist. This bit of info left him unfazed and prompted him to inquire about my religious beliefs. I hesitated before replying with, "I' spirituality." He nodded in understanding and informed me of his beliefs.

 However, my response wasn't an answer at all. I used the right wording to make it seem like an answer, but in reality it was an evasive maneuver. The truth is, I'm a Pagan. My family and friends all know and for the most part do not judge me for my spiritual choice. After all, passing judgment is very un-Christian-like. Generally, I do not hide this fact from people, but when he asked I became very aware of the fact that I was at work.

In the past, I had worked in businesses that kept a fairly close circle of employees and said employees were intelligent. It was not uncommon to walk into the office and fine a civilized, religious debate going on. I never felt the need to hide my beliefs there. In fact, I felt compelled to share and was rewarded by others' thoughts, insights, and questions, questions that often generated new insights in both others and myself. 

When I took the job I had before I work where I do now, it didn't occur to me that not everyone was so open-minded and intelligent. I didn't think to care that anyone I worked with knew I was Pagan. I didn't go around shouting it, but on occasion I had reading material related to the subject or would give my thoughts on religious inquiries that arose. Not long before I left that job I found out that quite a few people in my department thought I was a devil worshiper. I was rather surprised to find out that this is what the general consensus was. I was surprised for two reasons: (1) it was so completely wrong, and (2) no one had shown any sign that they felt this was accurate. Perhaps they were afraid I would call down the "dark lord" upon them. I don't know. They would smile to my face, then spread malicious inaccuracies behind my back. No one, not one of them, thought to question what they had heard. No one thought to look into what Paganism actually is. It was apparently much more worth their while to judge me on someone else's ignorant misinformation then to just ask me about Paganism.

The fact that such a large group of people all associated Paganism with devil worship was quite an eye-opener. I knew that had been a popular belief in the past, but I thought that had been widely proven false.

Now I work with a company much larger than the last one and interact with many more people on a daily basis. So when the seemingly innocuous question about my beliefs was posed to me, the thought of being referred to as a devil worshiper by so many flashed through my mind. As happy as I am with my religion and as proud as I am to be a Pagan, the ignorance of others tends to cause hurtful situations. Not wanting to deal with that at an already stressful job, I went with the simple statement. While it wasn't particularly the truth, it wasn't really a lie. I am open to hearing and learning about all forms of spirituality (so long as someone is not shoving their choice down my throat). My coworker had nodded to the statement and, as I say about Sevier Life, it goes on...

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