While secularism works implicitly to keep religion out of mainstream culture in the West, there are more specific measures in place to keep it out of the work place. The Equal Opportunity Act prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion and disability. This is a noble effort to ensure fairness and fight prejudice as people work to eke out a living. The Equal Opportunity Act helps keep questions surrounding these topics out of interviews. They become taboo topics on the job thereafter. The other side of the coin is that taboos such as this can bury issues and make discrimination implicit instead of stamping it out.
My place of employment seems to be somewhat of an exception in regards to the religion component. On my first day my boss walked me around the office. He talked about what great people the other employees were. He told me there was something for everyone here. The employees had a bunch of different passions. Some were family guys (a few having as many as 5 children), some were into video games or fitness, some were working to finish school. My boss said two guys, a set of brothers, were really into church. He said they were faithful people and active in their church community. I guess my boss’ point was that my company employs a variety of people, and that no matter what, I would find a place there. To me it signaled that the topic of religion was not taboo here like in other places I’ve worked. While we don’t pray at work or sing praises (which I appreciate), it is okay to acknowledge and share your spiritual life at work, though it still largely takes place outside of work. For example, I am not afraid to include church activities when people ask about my weekend plans. And come Monday I’m not afraid to tell my colleagues how much I enjoyed them.
Perhaps because of my openness in this area is why my boss, one day out of the blue, asked my interpretation of a bible quote. Apparently the topic had come up at his breakfast meeting that morning. He and his fellow diner had some differing opinions and now my boss was looking for another viewpoint. I did feel that I had been put on the spot a bit, probably because nothing remotely like this had ever happened before. But I gave him my interpretation, explaining the best I could. There was no judgement, only curiosity. It feels good to not have to live with religion as a taboo at work. There spirituality is not proclaimed, but it isn’t cloistered either. This is the original goal of secularism: to create enough separation to provide freedom of belief and expression for all. Instead it seems it has become a reason to keep things hush-hush and swept under the rug, allowing issues to fester rather than preventing or eradicating them.