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Prayer at a working lunch? - Comments

chunkimunki's Avatar Comment 1 by chunkimunki

I would have been inclined to tell him to go ahead, if that's what he wanted, then ignored it and just got on with eating.

If he questioned why I started eating before he finished his little magic spell, I'd just have said "Oh, I'm an Atheist, but I don't mind you saying a prayer if you feel you need to."

The resulting conversation might have been interesting.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 15:55:47 UTC | #948616

chunkimunki's Avatar Comment 2 by chunkimunki

Comment Removed by Author

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 15:56:14 UTC | #948617

jimbobjim's Avatar Comment 3 by jimbobjim

I think it depends who how much you really wanted to do business with this guy.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:00:47 UTC | #948618

chunkimunki's Avatar Comment 4 by chunkimunki

On second thoughts - it would have been better to tell him to go ahead but did he mind if I just got on with eating whilst he prayed as I am an Atheist and don't personally feel it's necessary but I don't mind if he wants to...

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:14:34 UTC | #948619

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 5 by Red Dog

It might be possible to ask him not to discuss issues of faith without outing yourself as an atheist. Some companies, especially larger ones, have HR guidelines that discourage or prohibit trying to convert people or do things like say public prayers at work. I know that's not exactly relevant here though since he is a potential supplier, although since he wants to sell to you, you have the leverage I would think. Have you checked with your HR people about what if any policies they have about this? That could provide an easy out:

"I'm sorry Mr. Christain but our company thinks faith is a private matter and its against our policy to discuss religion in a business meeting"

If the HR people provide no help I think I would say something similar:

"I appreciate that your faith is important to you Mr. Christian my spiritual life is important to me as well but its so important I like to keep that part of my life private and not mix it with business."

Saying it like that gets around admitting to be an atheist but I personally would be comfortable with those words as true for me, and I've been an atheist since I was 12. Richard had an interesting dicussion a while back on how atheists should re-claim the word "spiritual" and I agree, not in the sense of supernatural but in the sense of a feeling of wonder and awe at the beauty of the natural world and of things like art and music.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:52:03 UTC | #948622

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 6 by Mr DArcy

Liebore, you probably handled it about right. Let the guy spout his nonsense, (cringe quietly), and then get on with the business. We've all been offended at some time or other. Try not to let it bother you, and if it happens again, have a quiet laugh at the guy's ideas. You could always pull the "Fine but I have to meet another supplier in x minutes time so get on with it" line.

I wonder how a Jewish or Muslim potential supplier would have handled it? Probably with a lot more discretion.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 17:40:57 UTC | #948629

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 7 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 17:57:35 UTC | #948630

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 8 by Anonymous

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Thu, 05 Jul 2012 18:10:41 UTC | #948632

Matrix7's Avatar Comment 9 by Matrix7

I've been to business meetings in certain Caribbean and Bahamaian islands which the Chairman started with a prayer. Culturally it's a huge faux pas to scoff and you'll simply insult the people you're trying to do business with if you do.

However, socially they well know that I'm an Atheist, though it was a shock to them to start with. Since they found out we've had many lively but good humoured debates.

However, it's not appropriate in a business context, so don't complain.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 18:36:25 UTC | #948635

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 8 by Red Dog :

You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to understand that someone doesn't want to mess up their work environment by introducing an un-necessary conflict. And when confronted with a surprising and uncomfortable situation, staying silent and thinking through what if anything to say is a very rational response.

Yes, exactly.

I think we all know how annoying open displays of religiosity like that can be, especially in the workplace. But before you respond LIEBORE, you need to think carefully about the wider implications of your actions. I think it was PZ Myers who said: “never underestimate how sensitive religious people can be”?

To illustrate this, here is a little “religion in the workplace” story of my own. I work for a UK company that does a lot of business in South Africa (which is a much more religious country than the UK). Many of the emails I see coming from South Africa have footers containing religious messages; things like “Trust in the Lord and You Shall Want for Nothing”, and other such nonsense. One day, I was dealing with an email which ended with the following:

Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

I was completely fed up with seeing perfectly good bandwidth wasted like this, so before I sent the email on, I decided to “improve it”, and so I changed the footer to:

Seven days with prayer makes one weak-minded.

I thought (silly me) that this was just a bit of harmless fun, but you can guess what happened next. The original sender found out somehow, and he complained about how his email had been “vandalised” and how he had “felt personally violated by this” (I know, groan).

I ended up being told off, and forbidden from doing anything like that again, which could have been much worse I suppose. You LIEBORE, of course, risk far more than that where you live. Rising to religious stupidity might make you feel better at the time, but it can come back to haunt you, so I hope that you will be very careful.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 20:57:43 UTC | #948653

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 11 by Red Dog

Comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic :

Comment 8 by Red Dog :

You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to understand that someone doesn't want to mess up their work environment by introducing an un-necessary conflict. And when confronted with a surprising and uncomfortable situation, staying silent and thinking through what if anything to say is a very rational response.

Yes, exactly.

I think we all know how annoying open displays of religiosity like that can be, especially in the workplace. But before you respond LIEBORE, you need to think carefully about the wider implications of your actions. I think it was PZ Myers who said: “never underestimate how sensitive religious people can be”?

To illustrate this, here is a little “religion in the workplace” story of my own. I work for a UK company that does a lot of business in South Africa (which is a much more religious country than the UK). Many of the emails I see coming from South Africa have footers containing religious messages; things like “Trust in the Lord and You Shall Want for Nothing”, and other such nonsense. One day, I was dealing with an email which ended with the following:

Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

I was completely fed up with seeing perfectly good bandwidth wasted like this, so before I sent the email on, I decided to “improve it”, and so I changed the footer to:

Seven days with prayer makes one weak-minded.

I thought (silly me) that this was just a bit of harmless fun, but you can guess what happened next. The original sender found out somehow, and he complained about how his email had been “vandalised” and how he had “felt personally violated by this” (I know, groan).

I ended up being told off, and forbidden from doing anything like that again, which could have been much worse I suppose. You LIEBORE, of course, risk far more than that where you live. Rising to religious stupidity might make you feel better at the time, but it can come back to haunt you, so I hope that you will be very careful.

Why did you take such an indirect and disrespectful approach? You could have gone to your boss or contacted the person directly and told them you were uncomfortable with the footer.

If your default response to thests is to just ridicule them then yes, nothing good will come of it for sure, in the workplace or elsewhere. You certainly won't change anyone's mind and you will just reinforce the incorrect stereotype that atheists can't tolerate people with views contrary to their own.

I've always been honest in my work place about my atheism and as far as I know it never caused a problem. Part of the reason is that I work in Information Technology where people tend to be more educated and open minded. But I think another reason is that I always try to treat people with respect, even when I disagree with them.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 21:33:28 UTC | #948659

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 12 by QuestioningKat

It is quite odd that someone trying to gain business said a prayer at a business lunch. With that said, I think the appropriate response would be to ignore him the same way you would ignore someone's crucifix necklace. Maybe next time say "yes, It would be fine if you said a prayer in silence."

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 22:09:39 UTC | #948660

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 13 by rrh1306

I guess if your intent on not "outing" yourself then next time he trys to bless your food or something just tell him that you appreciate the gesture but talking religion at work makes you uncomfortable. If he asks you about your religions beliefs tell him that you have your own ideas about religion and again don't feel comfortable discussing them at work.

I nonchalantly tell anyone who asks that I'm atheist and I've never had a problem with it but I don't know your situation so you've got to do what you think is right. Good luck.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 22:22:58 UTC | #948661

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 14 by The Jersey Devil

One thing I learned in life is that 'Yes' and 'No' are by themselves complete sentences. For example:

Q. Do you mind if I say a blessing?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you join me in prayer?

A. No.

Q. Would you like to go have a drink with me?

A. No.

Well, you get the idea.

It takes practice but once you get the hang of it it often works well. Clear and to the point. If I feel it was taken as rude - and I don't want to be rude - I simply change the subject quickly.

Of course, there are times you may want to expand on your answer. That is a judgement call.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 23:27:28 UTC | #948665

kidchicago's Avatar Comment 15 by kidchicago

I think you showed a great deal of class and politeness in your restraint, as did he for initially soliciting your approval of the idea. Ordinary common contextual sense dictates that a constructive business lunch is not the proper venue for much else than talk of the business at hand, or at most, some trivial non-business stuff. That's why here in the USA, you can still deduct 50% of the cost of a business lunch, even if you are self-employed!!!

That being said, however, I'd probably have been tempted to wink at his request, and say "Go ahead--My family's views aren't very religious----but my wife is such a bad cook, we pray AFTER we eat!!!"

(A little humor can go a long way sometimes!!!!!!)

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 04:34:11 UTC | #948670

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 16 by ZenDruid

My habit when eating out is to discreetly thank the servers with a decent gratuity instead of loudly thanking someone or something which had absolutely nothing to do with my meal.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 05:14:15 UTC | #948671

DaisyD's Avatar Comment 17 by DaisyD

Good job on not stooping down to his level. He shouldn't be talking about religion during a business lunch and outing yourself as an atheist would be like adding fuel to the fire. You don't always have to ignore the religious comments; you have every right to remind someone that you're in a professional setting and if he really means business, he'd stop with the religious nonsense.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 09:11:37 UTC | #948678

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 18 by xmaseveeve

When the prayer started, I would have smiled and said, 'Oh. Silently, please', and when the god-talk started, I'd have said, 'Whatever. Time is money'. But then, I am a terrible businesswoman. If he still didn't shut up, I'd move to Zen's table and take my champagne with me.

Ha ha Kid; with my wife's cooking, we pray after we eat! Love it.

We could cut to the chase, and, when a person says, 'Do you mind if I pray?' simply ask, 'Do you mind if I fart on your food?' It's outrageous to use a business meeting as a soul-fishing opportunity. This guy knew he had a captive audience and this imposition was nothing short of blackmail. Mentioning personal matters such as religion is considered bad manners in the UK, especially combined with the unspoken code of not mixing business and displeasure (also known as religious joy).

I think that when people insist on cheerfully telling you that they believe ridiculous things, it's deeply embarrassing. When you think about it though, these people are playing on our sympathy. They humble themselves before an imaginary being, which is just fine until they want us to do the same. What a world.

I think that you did the best thing. If you hadn't sort-of gone along with it, the guy could have spread the word to his fellow god-botherers and ruined your business opportunities for the future. ('Filths savour but themselves'.) You don't want the fury of a Christian scorned. He was playing on that. He deserved to be strung along until you got the contract, and then treated to a secularist lecture. You listened to him, after all... I hope you took along your extra-strength indigestion tablets.

Comment 15, Kid,

(A little humor can go a long way sometimes!!!!!!)

Not with religious fanatics, as poor Red Dog's story proves. It reminded me of the Pope email and the 'weasel' in Glasgow. (I debated gay adoption with that odious cauldron of resentment. I had him stuttering, spitting mad. It was fun.) These people don't do wit. They are no better than the bearded cartoon-ragers.

Oh for the luxury of saying, 'Excuse me, do you see 'God' on this menu? Did I order Him?'

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 15:43:42 UTC | #948688

Fujikoma's Avatar Comment 19 by Fujikoma

I see this sort of thing at work all the time. I just don't participate and start eating. I could care less if someone prays over their food and if they really do this normally, then I wouldn't stress over it. Now, if they asked you to participate or got upset that you were eating during their prayer, that's something different. Just tell them that you don't pray over your food. Most may be stunned, but they won't pursue it and the few that won't let it go deserve a verbal lashing about respecting others rights (that not everyone feels the need to pray over their food, regardless of the reason why).

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 16:32:27 UTC | #948690

Geoff 21's Avatar Comment 20 by Geoff 21

Comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic

Seven days without prayer makes one weak

and fourteen makes a fortnight,

if prompt invoice payment's are what you seek,

get the punchlines of your jokes right

...not really...but tempting

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 17:24:13 UTC | #948692

adiroth's Avatar Comment 21 by adiroth

Look, the guy asked out of courtesy & you gave him the permission. You don't have any right to complain because you forfeited that right already. Be an adult, if his prayers bothers you so much, just politely mention it to him the next time.

I know you don't want to out yourself, but how can anyone seriously be offended by a prayer (the prayer was not about saving your soul from eternal hellfire I presume)? Last time I checked, Atheists are not vampires.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 17:31:25 UTC | #948693

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 22 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 18 by xmaseveeve :

(A little humor can go a long way sometimes!!!!!!)

Not with religious fanatics, as poor Red Dog's story proves. It reminded me of the Pope email and the 'weasel' in Glasgow...

Ahem. It wasn't Red Dog's story. It was mine.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 22:16:20 UTC | #948701

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 23 by Mark Ribbands

It's easy.

Tell him you're a committed atheist, and you'll give him a million dollar order if he denies the Holy Spirit.

It will set up such a conflict in this salesman's head his hair will probably catch fire. It will be entertaining to observe the effects.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 23:38:11 UTC | #948705

Sistanis's Avatar Comment 24 by Sistanis

Look, the guy asked out of courtesy & you gave him the permission. You don't have any right to complain because you forfeited that right already. Be an adult, if his prayers bothers you so much, just politely mention it to him the next time. I know you don't want to out yourself, but how can anyone seriously be offended by a prayer (the prayer was not about saving your soul from eternal hellfire I presume)? Last time I checked, Atheists are not vampires.

I believe he gave permission for him to say grace, not to then spout on about god for the entire meal. I think the only thing I would have done differently would be once he started on about his Christian world views I would have told him I was not comfortable discussing religion at work and would like to stay on business related topics.

There are 7 topics considered to be taboo to discuss in the workplace. Religion is one of them. I don't think it would be rude in a business setting to let people know you're not comfortable discussing religion. As long as it's done politely.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 23:56:16 UTC | #948706

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 25 by QuestioningKat

Comment 16 by ZenDruid :

My habit when eating out is to discreetly thank the servers with a decent gratuity instead of loudly thanking someone or something which had absolutely nothing to do with my meal.

Ugh! Don't you hate that ""Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen." It is so disrespectful of the cow that no longer has a life so it could be my meal. At least the Native Americans thanked the animal for giving its life so that they could eat and live. ...and what about the parents who worked all day and week to earn the money to get the food. Religion really seems to strip away all of people's dignity and efforts and give credit to the church doesn't it?

Next time someone says a prayer maybe add on by giving thanks to everyone who made your meal possible. Everyone you could think of. Everyone!

Thank the people who planted the grapes and cared for them, (be as detailed as possible) thank the people who watered the grapes and kept them fertilized, thank those picked the grapes and sorted the grapes, thank those that fermented them, made wine, put the wine in barrels, stored the barrel, made the bottles and the corks,(let's not forget about the people who made corks possible.) printed the wine labels, made the glasses, the truck drivers that transported my wine, the person that cared so many of the bottles, the grocery store that sold the bottle, the person that put the bottles on the shelf, the cashier that rang up the item or the scanner, which was designed by some computer engineer.

Say this all in one breath quickly, then inhale like Richard when he read his hate mail on Utube, Then say, "now for the butter, I thank the cow..."

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 00:04:00 UTC | #948709

Liebore's Avatar Comment 26 by Liebore

Thanks to everyone for the comments.

RedDog, #5, I used to employ a strategy where I would use the word "spiritual" in a manner similar to what you suggested. I stopped doing it because it left people with the impression that I was religious, and it felt to much like pretending to be something that I am not. The silence option has worked far better for me as it allows me to remain anonymous without compromising my own values.

Kid, #15, I think you're on to something with the humor tact. I'll probably toy around with a few lines to use in case this ever crops up again.

Adiroth, #21, I have to disagree with you. I do not believe it is "courteous" to ask someone if is OK if you openly pray in such a setting. It is presumptive, and forces the other party to either acquiesce or enter into an unnecessary and uncomfortable confrontation (however small, though certainly not guaranteed to be small). I can't help but wonder if he would have made the same request if I had an overtly Jewish or Arabic last name. Furthermore, as I might imagine he would rightfully take offense if I asked him to listen silently while I waxed poetic about how greatful we both were that no god was presiding over our meal or conversation, I feel I am well within my right to find the experience offensive.

As a follow up, I have selected his company as the vendor due to their undeniable qualifications. I won't even pretend to wonder if he would have done the same if the roles were reversed.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 02:06:27 UTC | #948712

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 27 by xmaseveeve

Comment 22, hardnosed sceptic,

Oops. Sorry for that. (I was knackered and have been asleep since then.) I enjoyed it, thanks. The culture is different in the UK, although, at least in Scotland, a very funny joke email about the Pope can still get you fired.

Clearly, in the OP, without prayer meant without a prayer of getting a contract. Great story. It's a true 'Nazi grudge informer' story, a living thought experiment. Consensus in idem can have nothing to do with religious faith. This businessman was using 'God' as a way of indulging the power of being the buyer - edit - I got that the wrong way round - but he was still demanding, 'love me, love my dog', and he could have spread the word of your Satanism to other Christian suppliers.

I don't care what people believe as long as they don't harm others. He brought his sullen, unwelcome friend to a business lunch, like a decomposing cuckoo in the nest. My argument would have been with both of them, but then I'm not a businessperson. He might as well have brought Jeremy Bentham, or Harvey the white rabbit, but it's scary when you think that these smug, smiling slimeballs, these arrogant-supplicant carpetbaggers, could systematically drive atheists out of business.

I chuckled when I read my other post, because it sounded as if I'd had the Pope spitting fire. Nah, it was only the Pope email weasel (P.K.) (he's been bad-pennying up on telly lately, to condemn gay marriage). I know I could wind up the Pope though! I seem to be able to go into a calm mode when debating with (the nasty) Christians, and it really angers them. The secret is not to think of any points you wish to make, but to listen.

They are encouraged at first, because they see that you are listening, and it lets you hear the nonsense as though for the first time. Toss in a few innocent questions, and they hang themselves. It's a cognitive pincer movement, and it always makes them furious that the ace up my sleeve is Jesus. Jesus is a gift to atheists. (The fictional character) Jesus wouldn't like these people. To them, that is not good. They are 'Christians', and you've got to trump God with Jesus.

We must work towards discussion of religion in business deals becoming as socially unacceptable as drunk-driving. If it happens, remember that childish people have tantrums when you try to take their toys away from them. I'd say, in a business situation, when the person says, 'Let me introduce you to my friend - have you met?' the most logical answer is, 'How lovely to see you again' (thinking, 'I won't shake your hand, as you don't exist.') Keep smiling!

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 03:39:50 UTC | #948713

mmurray's Avatar Comment 28 by mmurray

I have never understood saying grace. Given that a large number of people in the world are starving what exactly are you saying? "Thanks oh omnibenevolent god for not letting me starve like you let those other guys starve" "Thanks oh ombibenevolent god for being nice to me while you are being horrible to everyone else" ?

Weird.

Michael

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 04:31:45 UTC | #948714

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 29 by xmaseveeve

Comment 25, Kat,

Ugh! Don't you hate that ""Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts,

I know! Do they hate humans? It's like the rescued Chilean miners!

They blessed every meal at the residential library, St. Deiniol's, and whenever I stayed there, I used to pass on the bread basket because they'd said 'God' brought it forth from the earth! I also said so, and most people laughed. (Gladstone stipulated that atheists must be welcomed.)

If the deal is no loss to you, and if you can be bothered, I think Kat's is a brilliant idea, to thank all the real, flesh and blood people who made the meal possible! The wine is a good choice, as we can hold up the glass as we declaim. We could then kneel down to our waiter and 'talk holy' about the Lord of prawn cocktail, or sing a hymn to food...but which one? Any ideas? As we are being ejected from the restaurant, we could give them, 'Always look on the bright side of life...'

It would be like an atheist singing telegraph. Hey, I'm up for that if anyone wants to set up public payback for those who have seriously abused religious freedom. Second thoughts - you'd need a bulletproof vest. And you'd never get past Vatican security.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 04:31:49 UTC | #948715

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 30 by xmaseveeve

Comment 28, Michael,

Exactly. They may as well come out and say, 'I'm alright Jack'. In response to the misfortune of others, they will say, 'there but for the grace of God...' but what does that mean? It means that they are claiming to have God's grace. They are superior beings, blessed for having the right Brownie badges. In Heaven, as an added treat, they get to watch those who got God's great thumsdown burn in Hell. They don't care about anyone.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 04:56:20 UTC | #948716