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Religious Beliefs in the Workplace

by Matt Walton, Career Ambassador, ‘22 Sep 13, 2021

In the United States, where we are taught from a young age to separate Church and State and avoid discussing religion over Thanksgiving dinner, it can be hard to navigate religious beliefs in the workplace. Consider how St. Augustine described God in the Confessions as interior intimo meo, which translates to “more interior to me than I am to myself.” In other words, many people of religious faith see these beliefs not as something merely abstract, but central to their identity. Therefore, it is important to discuss how to go about sharing one’s religious beliefs in the workplace.

In the workplace, one should have the ability to identify with a particular religion. Here are three tips on how to embrace religious beliefs in the workplace:

  1. As an employee, it is your choice as to how much or how little you would like to share about what you believe religiously. If you choose to share your beliefs, be sure to do so in a way that is respectful to the environment you are in. In the middle of a meeting on an unrelated topic may not be the proper time, but there are certainly times where sharing this information could benefit the structure of the conversation. If you choose not to share your beliefs, that is okay too! 

  2. Be open to the wide variety of reactions from others. If you share your religious beliefs, it is possible that the person could have a positive or negative reaction due to their own experience with that particular religion. If you are choosing to share these beliefs in the workplace, follow the advice of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio: “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing.” Feel welcome to share your beliefs, but do not do so in a way that forces someone else to lose their free will. 

  3. Be respectful of the religious beliefs of your coworkers. You do not have to agree with everything that they believe, but you do have to respect their decision to subscribe to a particular faith tradition. This is not only a matter of respecting their dignity, but is a matter that is protected by law in the United States. Simply asking a coworker to pray together before a meal, wishing them a happy feast day on an important day in their faith or even just having a conversation during a break can go a long way. 

On a personal note, I wear a crucifix every day around my neck. For me, this presents the perfect “middle ground” between being silent about my faith and making an unjust imposition of it. Those who look at my crucifix know that I am a follower of Christ and this has opened up many dialogues and conversations with those whom I encounter. This small gesture allows the person to approach me on their terms, and I do what I can to make myself available to those who have questions about my faith. 

One of the most popular maxims in the Bible, The Golden Rule, summarizes how we should go about this sometimes difficult topic.

Matthew 7:12 states, “do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Be sure to treat others’ beliefs how you would like your own to be treated and every single one of us can agree that we want our beliefs respected, even if someone doesn’t necessarily agree with everything we say or believe. By doing this, we can promote a culture in which people of different beliefs can dialogue. Quoting Pope Francis, “If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society.” 

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