Friday, September 17, 2010

There Are No Secular Workplaces in the South

Secular HumanismAt work, I am surrounded by people who have advanced graduate degrees, function as scientists much of the time, and who are Christian enough that it seems to come up more than I think it should. Having an advanced degree does not mean that one is necessarily smart. But if one's degree is from a reputable program at a decent university, it probably means that one is at least somewhat intelligent and knows how to apply oneself. We know that level of education is inversely related to religious belief (i.e., the more formal education completed, the less likely one is to be religious). But there is no question that many people with doctorates and other advanced degrees are indeed religious. What are we to make of this?

The obvious answer is compartmentalization. Many people can maintain contradictory beliefs through compartmentalization. For example, one could function as a skilled scientist at work and a committed Christian at home. The dissonance we would expect holding contradictory positions to cause can be avoided or at least minimized through compartmentalization.

And yet, this explanation seems incomplete at best. My co-workers seem more likely to consider Christianity part of who they are and science as merely what they do. Many are perfectly willing to introduce their religious beliefs into conversations in the workplace. And whenever I question this, the answer is always the same:

This is the South. What do you expect?
I do not think I will ever find that an acceptable answer. I realize this where I am, but I have no interest in accepting the status quo.

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