One Nation, Under Bob

I crept out the big front door and down the steps of my kids’ school recently, laughing at the conversation I was overhearing about the newly added Pledge of Allegiance to the morning routine. Evidently one family in the community was upset that it hadn’t been institutionalized school-wide, and so…now it is.

One mom was uncomfortable with it because she teaches her children not to pledge to flags. Another was an expat, and felt conflicted about teaching her kids to pledge to the flag of their temporary home. A father quipped that there should be a way to pledge to the idea of country and democracy, but not to wars or illegal occupations.

(You have to love Brooklyn sometimes.)

I jumped in, sheepishly admitting that I taught my daughter to say “Under Bob,” and lots of heads nodded in sympathy.

I do not take for granted how lucky I am being a progressive, secular, liberal Atheist Jew (PSLAJ), in this particular city, during this particular time in history, which allows for such things. I love that I can have a conversation with a random neighbor about “under God” being added to the Pledge in 1954 in opposition to the Communist scare, without anyone looking at me like I’m some immoral heathen. In a few months, we’ll be saying Merry Christmas! and Happy Chanukkah! and Happy Holidays! with equal gusto. Whatever it is that people celebrate, it’s all good.

The teachers even ask at the beginning of each school year to let them know if you have a child who doesn’t celebrate anything at all, so they can distract them during the cupcake parties.

I often forget that the rest of the country does not operate this way.

This week I got an email pitch that was somewhat interesting on its own, but the signature made it even more so–it quoted a psalm. One that told me to “put your faith in the LORD.”

As someone who does not put my faith in the LORD any more than I put my faith in DIANA, GODDESS OF THE HUNT or CLOONEY WHO IS A GOD AMONG MEN IN THAT METAPHORICAL WAY it made me wildly uncomfortable to be told to do so.

(Notice I Haven’t used the word “offended” It takes a lot to offend me. If she had said “put your faith in the COWBOYS” however, I know for a fact that Nate would be offended. That’s totally different.)

Part of my issue was that it wasn’t an inspirational psalm like “there is no fear in love” or even a personal statement like “the lord is my shepherd.” This particular quote is intended to encourage a change or renewed commitment to a particular faith. It was evangelical in nature.

I’ve said before that I hate when people sign business emails with “blessings” and Amy did a good job describing why it annoys her too. Especially when neither the email writer’s business nor mine have anything remotely to do with faith. But I guess I feel like a proselytizing quote crosses a line from mere annoyance into “whoa there missy, do we have to talk?’

I considered responding.

But first I asked, Twitter, my own Dr. Phil (only much smarter), and a decent discussion ensued; or as good as one you can have on a complex subject in a crappy 140 characters.  Wow, were there different opinions.

Scattered Mom, who’s not a Christian, worried that it “might affect things” in their business relationship.  Mary in Ottowa suggested that she would think of the business as somehow more moral or ethical because of the tie. Schmutzie said if Christianity had no actual tie to the product–i.e. the pitch was not for bedazzled Christening dresses– it made her question the sender’s motives. (She also added that she’s “not interested in a PR person’s faith or talking deeper life questions. Just toaster ovens or what have you.” Which is why I love Schmutzie.)

In all this, Journey Mama, a woman of faith herself, gave me the perspective I was lacking. She reminded me that in some cultures, like India where she lives, religion is pervasive and a part of everything. In other words, she probably wouldn’t have thought twice about a religious quote in a signature, whether Buddhist, Hindi or otherwise.

That’s a far cry from a nation in which we debate the merits of two words in a flag pledge.

In the end, I decided to bite my tongue and ignore the email.

I also didn’t give into my second instinct, which was to write back, having edited her own quote below to read “put your faith in LORD FAUNTLEROY.” Just to see if she’d notice.

How do you feel when you see religious sentiment in otherwise secular emails?


105 thoughts on “One Nation, Under Bob”

  1. If someone wants me to do something on Sunday away from my family I’m going to go with “God rested on the 7th day and so shall I.”

    Other than that? I keep my Godliness to my self-iness.

    (Mormons! We’re just like you!)

    1. Also, now that Peyton Manning is out for the season…Indy’s going to have to find a new deity to close prayers out with. Poor Indy.

  2. I love Brooklyn, but sometimes I wonder if it’s completely distorting how I look at the rest of the world. Every time I visit my relatives in Kansas, every meal is started with a prayer, everyone holding hands, and yet most of them don’t go to church regularly – it’s more cultural for a lot of them, it’s how they were brought up. So I shift my practices to respect theirs: I hold hands and bow my head. I try to catch myself before exclaiming Oh My GOD! about anything. And I think that’s what bothers me so much about the email signatures: they are lacking in respect for what the other person might believe. And in a business email? Unless you’re selling bibles that is just totally inappropriate.

    1. This is such a great distinction – in someone’s home, you respect their traditions. In my mom’s home we also say a little word of thanks before a meal, but not to God. (Mostly to my mom, since she did the cooking and not God.)

      When you email me, it’s like you’re coming to my home. Especially consider how much time I spend there.

  3. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable as I’m an Athiest too. I also don’t like the presumption that a spiritual or religious person is more moral or ethical than an Athiest, but maybe that’s an argument for a different day.

    Also, I will henceforth be singing the Canadian National Anthem as “Bob keep our land, glorious and free!!”

    1. I always loved Christopher Hitchens’ story about how he answers the Atheist/morality question. He’s asked religious leaders, if faith is our only source of morality, name one thing that a person of faith might do morally, but an Atheist would not do.

      He has yet to receive an answer.

      1. I know at least one religion that does not teach that faith is the only source of morality. There’s only one REality, and everything in it works together (which is why I think the evangelical Christians who disbelieve all the evidence of evolutionary science have it so wrong. Science and Religion should agree! There’s only one Truth!). Anyway, so the “natural law” that one could argue constitutes atheist morality certainly also informs religious morality.

        And honestly, one answer could actually be proselytizing, the thing you arguing against here. It’s just that the atheist considers that not to be a moral obligation.

  4. I’ve talked about this before….I consider those things a warning flag. I worked in a print shop where I did sales and was also responsible for collections on my sales. In the 4 years I worked there, I had exactly five people screw me – that is, not pay at all (I had others who were late, who made arrangements, who arranged payment in kind – people who had financial troubles but who acted like adults and worked out their problems) and ALL FIVE had Christian symbols or bible quotes printed on their stationery, business cards, flyers, etc.

    I know it is a small sample size but I find it a bit remarkable that it was 100% people who loudly proclaimed their faith, then felt it ok to walk away from a debt without making any attempt to settle it.

    I consider that a lesson, and since then I have avoided becoming involved in any way with those who tell me right up front how they are “all about the Lord”. I have met plenty of people whose religion is revealed gradually, naturally, in the course of a relationship and they are generally fine.

    I’ve been prejudiced by my experiences, I admit.

    1. Yup. A friend who worked in credit said that it was often those waaaay behind on their bills whose answering machines would proclaim, “Go in the Name of Jesus!” and other such things – probably as a distraction so that collectors would somehow take pity on them.

      Alas, I have personal experience with this as well, as those who have screwed me financially or otherwise have been dishonest/not trustworthy are the same ones who post “Jesus Quotes Daily” and other such crud on their Facebook pages: “Aw, don’t you know Jesus teaches us to forgive, so you should forgive all the shit I’ve done to you!” It is an excuse rather than a moral code.

      (I know plenty of fabulous people who happen to be religious, but it is the most vocal ones – and certainly the ones that bring it public – that are those who aren’t practicing what Jesus preached.)

      1. I’d just like to add for the record, it’s not just Christians. I’ve known “devout” people of many religions who behaved unethically in myriad ways.

  5. Yup. Makes me uncomfortable. I consider myself a PSLSJ (swap in spiritual, for your atheist). I grew up in a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic (Brazil), with a growing Evangelical population, and maybe overt religious statements bring back the feeling of being an absolute minority. I just don’t feel comfortable with one group of people stating that their belief is better than someone else’s. As a naturalized American, it took me years to even be able to say the pledge without feeling like a fraud. Now that I have the passport to prove my qualifications, I still overthink the words. Glad it’s not just me.

  6. You already know what I think. I think I want to move back to the NYC metro area where I only have to put up with this type of shit while reading email.

    1. I feel the same way about moving back to Los Angeles. Denver area is often a bit too religious for me.

  7. That would make me uncomfortable as well. As would a “don’t forget to floss between meals!” sign off on an email.

    Plus, in a business setting, it’s just bad form. Everyone knows you don’t bring up religion, politics, sex or dental hygiene to the table.

    1. Maybe we just have authority issues. I also don’t like those “think before printing this email” signatures. I know it’s well-intended but shut up.

      1. I don’t know what happened to me in my past that makes me so resistant to authority, but EVERY TIME I see that on an email my finger gets itchy for the print button.

        1. To be fair, it doesn’t specify what we should think about. I usually think about what I’ll be having for dinner as I print the email and wallpaper my apartment with it.

      2. Ha! The only person I know who uses that “think before printing” signature drives a freaking Expedition. I want to print a “think before driving” sign and put it on her windshield.

        On the main topic, I generally dislike when people assume that their religion is also mine, regardless of the religion. So I don’t like religious signatures on emails, and a bunch of religious stuff on a product will actually make me choose another product if possible.

  8. I read something once about the way atheists and theists see each other. Atheists regard theists as having an unreasonable belief about there being one (or more, in the case of polytheistic religions) extra being in the universe, which seems silly, but in the grand scheme of things, what’s one extra being? No reason to make a big fuss on either side of the debate. Plus, there’s no harm in letting people pretend there’s a wise old man in the sky. Live and let live.

    Theists, on the other hand, believe that that “one extra being” lends a whole layer of meaning, truth, and beauty to the universe. EVERYTHING is affected by the existence of that one extra being. For any religious person, their faith is “pervasive and a part of everything.”

    Sometimes it is hard in our PC culture to remember that to any individual person of faith, they do not believe “your other religion (or lack thereof) is just as good as mine.” They think that they are right, and you are wrong–just as you think yourself right, and them wrong. However, they may also think that they are morally obligated to try to show you the truth, even though it is hard and scary to take that step, because people do get very offended.

    Which is all to say, As far as proselytizing goes, an email signature is not such a bold step that I would be concerned. They probably put it there with an intention along the lines of, “If anyone wants to have a conversation about Christianity, I’m open to that, but otherwise feel free to ignore.” I’m sure it was not meant to be a judgment or a command, even if it was phrased that way.

    1. As an atheist (of the friendly variety, as they say), I disagree with your overly simplistic characterizations: “No harm in letting people pretend there’s a wise old man in the sky. Live and let live.”

      Tell that to the audiences of Tea Party debates who cheer the idea of people dying due to lack of health insurance. Tell that to my neighbors who look down upon us for our lack of belief.

      There’s a great deal more insidiousness to religion than simply believing in a wise old man in the sky.

      1. As far as the Tea Party goes: cheering for a lack of health insurance has a lot more to do with political conservatism than religiousness, although those two things are frequently found together. I don’t know any religions with a teaching on whether governments should be involved in healthcare. (I know a lot that say people should help take care of each other, though!)

        The other problem here is that of course, just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they are perfect. They are subject to the errors of pride and selfishness and self-righteousness just as much as atheists are who look down on Christians.

        1. Hm, I know of many churches that take a political stance. (Temples and Mosques too, no doubt.) The religion itself may not take a stance on policy, but individual religious leaders sure do.

          Overall, when any group–particularly a majority–claims to have the moral high ground over any other group, that’s when bad shit happens. Time and again.

      2. I have to agree with this. Religion has been the source of many of our major world conflicts over time. That belief in the “old man in the sky” informs our major politicians and the decisions they make. I respect the right for each us to have our own belief systems and am not so arrogant as to think that what I believe to be true is actually the undeniable truth. That said, religion isn’t even remotely innocuous.

        I see the distinction the author made between a generic religious quote and one that seems to be preaching a certain belief system. It would have irked me as well, and it’s simply not appropriate, especially in a situation where you are emailing complete strangers on behalf of a company or product. I wouldn’t have said anything in that circumstance because I believe that being tolerant includes coping with people who simply don’t understand generally accepted professional behavior.

    2. I don’t think this is about political correctness. I think it’s about respect. If someone thinks their beliefs are better or more important than mine, that’s their prerogative. If they think their obligation to spread the word of God trumps their obligation to try and get their client’s product on my blog, I can’t change that.

      But it’s a pretty lousy way to start a business relationship.

      1. Fair enough. I agree that work email probably isn’t the best place for these; quotations at all in email signatures, secular or religious, strike me mostly as immature. I don’t use religious quotations in my work emails–and I even work with a lot of nuns.

    3. “No harm in believing in a wise old man in the sky”? Tell that to everyone who has died or suffered because of a war started because of religion.

      1. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that line a lot over the last day. I do agree it’s incorrect to assume that all non-believers think that religion is benign.

  9. Okay, here goes, as a woman of faith who really does believe in the Bible and attempts to utilize it as a kind of road map for my life, this is my take:

    A lot of people put inspirational quotes in emails and most people just read right over them anyway – no matter what the source of the quote. So overall, I think inspirational quotes in emails are rather ineffective. However, if you’re going to utilize an inspirational quote from the Bible in a business email, you should be just as open to utilizing one from other religious traditions as well. Would an inspirational quote from the Koran be okay? If you answer no, then perhaps you shouldn’t be using the quote in the first place – unless you know your audience will connect with it.

    In the end it’s a question of audience. Clearly the PR person didn’t do their homework overall, in my opinion. A Biblical quote in a business email isn’t going to win over Mom-101, whereas another blogger may actually appreciate it. (Like I said, not necessarily me, because I read over them anyway…)

    1. That’s a really interesting point Lisa! That’s what Journey Mama asked me too-would I have been okay if the quote were Buddhist?

      I had to think about it. That’s when I realized my issue wasn’t the fact it was inspirational (which is just cheesy) but that it was trying to convert me.

      And you’re right. If you’re just going to go with what inspires you, all sorts of scriptures are filled with good tidbits. But maybe we’re better off sticking with Shakespeare.

      1. I can see where you would take that verse as an attempt proselytize, and I completely understand your aversion to that. However, if that verse lands in someone’s email box who’s of the same persuasion, it probably doesn’t come off as an attempt to “convert” at all. It is instead most likely viewed as encouraging or inspiring. So I still say it all comes down to knowing your audience. If the pitch is well researched and it is hitting a specific market who would resonate with that particular Bible verse, I think using it is okay. The tricky part is knowing your audience; however, that’s going to take a heck of lot more time than most PR people have for (in my opinion) a pretty ineffective tag at best.

        Anyway, it leads into all kinds of branding issues as well. So, were it my company, I’d say only “company approved” inspirational quotes allowed – no matter what the source, i.e. DON’T MESS WITH MY BRAND 🙂

    2. Lisa, this is EXACTLY how I feel.

      However, I will say this: If a person sending me a pitch had a quote at the bottom of their email that made me go, Hmmmm, e.g., “God is dead. ~Nietzche” I would STILL hear that person out, if the pitch itself were interesting to me. I feel strongly that I need to look at a whole person, regardless of their faith or lack there of, and treat them as I want to be treated.

  10. A few years ago I had an employee who was Born Again Christian, and he wanted everyone to know how devout he was. Fine. Personally, I didn’t feel it was appropriate in the workplace, but it didn’t seem to be hurting anyone so I tried to ignore it.

    Then one day he and I had a pretty big dispute about him repeatedly missing his deadlines. There was some back and forth and I told him he needed to have his assignment on my desk in the morning or it was time to write him up. He told me I was being unreasonable and called me a horrible boss and told me…wait for it…that he’d pray for me.

    Honestly, I almost smacked his sanctimonious face. But he would have just turned the other cheek…

    1. Yup – I’ve definitely had experiences like this where religious people have tried to get away with MORE simply because of the whole “Jesus Forgives” situation. After all, if Jesus will forgive him, then it doesn’t matter what his boss thinks of him. Somehow the bits of the Bible about conducting one’s life in a moral, ethical way are glossed over (unless it is to finger-point at someone else’s perceived shortcomings in this area.)

  11. I am extremely uncomfortable with religion finding its way in to the business world. I am almost as uncomfortable with confrontation about it. I once had to express my dissatisfaction at the admin on my floor leaving some sort of of Christian propaganda in our lunchroom. It was hard, but I feel that unless your workplace is specifically related to religion, there is no place for it there. Since you cannot trust others to not judge you based on your personal faith, the safest thing for everyone is to leave it out of the equation. I know, as an atheist, the danger of judging someone based on their perceived faith (or lack there of). I am a victim of it regularly, and I do my best to not return the favor.
    I like the “Under Bob” thing. Totally using that for my girls. I’m with Julie too. I miss Brooklyn.

  12. I got halfway through this very mature post and got distracted by the idea of pledging to be under George instead.

  13. I do think geography influences us about this. Having spent several years in Texas and Georgia it was not that unusual to see a business openly proclaiming themselves as Christian. (Also, while I was an attorney, the prosecutor’s office in my county prayed every day.)

    These things weird me out. Though I suspect I would be equally weirded out by openly Atheist businesses. I do try to make exceptions for businesses who sell Christian, Jewish or Islamic items or foods. But otherwise, yeah, kinda weird. Seeing it more often didn’t make it more acceptable to me, but it made me more likely to refrain from rolling my eyes or ending my business with them.

  14. I have my youngest on video saying the Pledge and he says “one nation, on your guide”. Later he refers to “libbity”, so in general I think it’s hilarious to have kids memorize shit that means absolutely nothing to them.

    Last year we had our lawn mower repaired and when it was finished they dropped it off with our invoice attached. In big bold letters across the bottom it said “Jesus Is Lord”. Also not offended (we even went back this year for a tune up) because it struck me as so laughably absurd. Not only really super bossy, but really out of place for a small engine repair shop. On all their invoices. Thank Jesus for riding lawnmowers I guess.

  15. Oh Liz, I could write an entire dissertation on this subject. I’ll summarize to say that I am a Catholic, and I DEVOUTLY believe in the separation of church and state. I agree with Amelia Sprout that there is no place for religion in the business arena.

    Like Mo, I supervised a sanctimonious Catholic employee. He used to sign all of his e-mails (even the quick yes/no e-mails), “God bless.” It was ALWAYS irrelevant, and it always made me uncomfortable.

  16. You know, I’m okay with somebody saying, “God bless you” or “peace be with you” whatever, that’s fine. But I really hate when people try to ram their religious/spiritual beliefs down my throat. For instance, people who come door to door. If you have to CONVINCE me to believe in your faith than I guess I don’t really believe it, now do I? I believe faith is something you either have or you don’t. I do have religious beliefs and a strong faith. I don’t like it when people tell me what I believe is wrong. Because I don’t like how that feels, I will never tell somebody what they believe is wrong, just because it differs from what I believe. So long as you’re not pushy or violent I will respect whatever it is you believe in. All I’d like in return is that same respect.

  17. Oh, I’d just like to add that recently our city hall in my little corner of Canada has decided that they will no longer recite “The Lord’s Prayer” before their meetings. I think this is wonderful, because I too am a firm believer in separation of church and state.

  18. I’m a Christian (though not a practicing one) and the religious sign-offs make me uncomfortable too, regardless of setting – business or personal. I feel like religion is a personal thing first, community (with like-minded individuals) second – and only on a voluntary basis.

    Another fun analogy: It’s sort of like me putting,”Root for the Cardinals tonight!” in my email signature and sending it to a Yankees fan. (Which may be annoying to some – offensive to others.)

    Still, I get that they mean well and in some denominations are told to proudly display their faith and reach out to others, but it has no place in a business setting unless like someone else said – you’re selling bibles. Still, there are much more annoying issues in my inbox than that on any given day so I typically just ignore it and move onto the more offensive email senders.

  19. This is a dangerous time, because many frightened people want us to become a fundamentalist country. They want to confuse us with politics. But notice what’s happened when Republicans gain control of state legislatures and observe the laws they enact (hint: it’s not about jobs). We are a very young country, and if you can live another 150 or so years you’ll see us grow into teenagers. As my own mother might have said: “We should live and be well.”
    In the meantime, I’ve often used the Pledge in Socratic dialogues. At the NY School for the Deaf the teachers were up in arms when the headmaster demanded that they sign “God is watching over you.” And a fourth grader on Long Island mused: “Isn’t it amazing that when we were little kids we had to say it but didn’t know what it meant. Now that we’re older (!) we don’t have to say it, but now we know what it means. Yay! for American education. May it keep it keep our kids in the dark forever!

  20. Just last night, as I was being discharged from the hospital for pre-term labor (baby is still inside, and will hopefully stay there for the 3 weeks she needs to hit term), my nurse went into this whole “god bless, etc” spiel. I smiled, sort of of, and nodded, and repelled the urge to beg her to stop or cover her ears.

    My mom also told me within the last two daysthat when my elder daughter was hospitalized she had several churches praying for her and that’s why she got better (instead of the top notch care, hard core antibiotics and her strength of character/spirit).

    Both of these are fairly uncharacteristic brushes with religiosity that we’ve otherwise managed to avoid.

    On one hand, I don’t want to be an asshole.

    I know religion brings deep comfort to many and that in many instances (like my daughter’s illness) prayer is the only way that many can feel as if they’re helping. And because it brings them comfort, I don’t really mind that they’re doing it…I’m even touched that they care so much. Which is not to say that I want it in my face, or in my hospital room. When the the hospital ignored our very clear statement that we didn’t want the chaplain (regardless of how “non-denominational” she was) within 50 feet of us or our daughter’s room, and sent her anyways, it just sent me into hysterics because SERIOUSLY…MY KID MAY BE DYING, I DON’T WANT TO DEBATE MY LACK OF RELIGION WITH YOU, YOU’RE NOT HELPING, GET THE FUCK OUT.

    So I guess knowing it’s out there, or even that close friends/family may be praying for us/or praying in general is fine.

    But when it comes into my room and gets in my face, I just feel…uncomfortable. Like you, not offended (although the chaplain thing totally DID offend me because it ignored a specific request and shoved religious assumptions that we could receive comfort from something we don’t believe in at a crisis point) but uncomfortable.

    In emails, though? I tend to ignore it.

    When/if we move back to the US, though, I will need to have a chat with my daughter’s teachers. I’m not okay with the Pledge. They can sit quietly, but they won’t be saying it.

    1. Wow C, thanks so much for sharing this. I know it can be hard to say nothing, especially when you know the intentions are only the very best. They generally are.

      Wishing you luck with that baby. 3 more weeks, whoo!

  21. Our Texas elementary school not only says the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but also the Pledge to the State of Texas–both of which use the word “God.” Then comes the “moment of silence” in which some of the parents and teachers silently pray while I hum to myself and check out their outfits.

    Regarding your question, when I wrote copy for a bank in Waco, their “get to know our management” literature included everyone’s church affiliations. I was stunned, but nobody else seemed to think it was weird.

  22. See, I’d probably give in to temptation and list myself as a Jedi, and then I’d get fired, and then I’d sue, and I’d probably end up in front of the Supreme Court, with lawyers debating my right to be a smart ass.

  23. I dislike evangelizing of any sort – political, religious, secular, philosophical, educational, or commercial. I dislike anyone saying “My way is better/best/correct and take it on some sort of faith or trust in your (real or implied or money-changing) personal relationship with me.”

    But my reaction to all – whether liberal political evangelizing or religious conservative or any advertisement for any product every made – is to become increasingly cynical that even people who purport to be enlightened and/or good can say things that assume the other person doesn’t have equal-capacity brain function. I think that’s Bad and Unhealthy.

    That said, I’ll take all the blessings I can get when they are extensions of unconditional love. I don’t begrudge people any of the goodness of their culture, no matter how flawed it might be otherwise.

  24. Jumping into this conversation 45 ‘shards of brilliance’ in, but still felt the need to give my take. Why do people feel the need to infuse their love or lack of love for GOD into all they do? I mean – why? To me the only thing that mentioning GOD does is impose some type of judgement on the receiving end’s behalf.

    As if I do not have the FAITH like you do, then I am DAMNED. I think it is just another way of bragging, bullying, one-upping.

    As a Jew, who only does what feels right and keeps those choices totally to myself, married to a Jew who is an atheist like you – We often hear from our community that we need to do more of this or more of that (unfortunately, we do not live in Brooklyn, but my dad grew up there so maybe he infused some of it in me?).

    I do not tell people that they need to do practice less or believe less or dare ask for a non-kosher meal at a kosher event! So, stop asking me to be more of a believer.

    As a funny side note – I was recently invited to a Christian Women in Business Conference. I do not even have the time to describe my feelings on that…Rachel

  25. As the aforementioned husband, what can I say? Am I surprised to be defined (PSLAJ) by mom 101? no…

      1. yes – I claim him fully! obviously an inexperienced commenter but a fan of yours nonetheless.
        p.s. he has NEVER commented on my blog?!??!?

  26. I dislike the introduction of evangelism where it’s just not relevant to the conversation. I agree with your friend, just tell me about the toaster and be done with it. If you want to talk about the lord, there’s a time and place for that, where other like-minded people gather to do just that. I think it’s usually on Sunday mornings. But what do I know, I was raised agnostic, converted to Judaism for marriage, and now we’re somewhere between Jewish and agnostic. I’d probably just let it go though, I’m like you in that it takes a lot to actually offend me. I’d be uncomfortable, but not offended (frankly I’m uncomfortable during a bar mitzvah service though, so that’s not saying much). So I see no reason to comment on it and offend the sender. I have bigger problems in my life, like how to explain things like death and where babies come from to my kid. If you ask me, these religious types have it easy in that department (God has a plan. End of story!).

  27. In Belgium it is considered bad taste when you bring up religion in a business environment.
    And we do not salute our flag or learn the national hyme at school. With the whole Flemish against Walloons kerfluffle it is a wee bit of touchy subject.

  28. Oh, New York. What a lovely place that must be to be a liberal parent. In my role as a volunteer school librarian in Missouri, I recently had the following unfortunately too familiar conversation with other parent volunteers at my son’s school (which, by the way, is a secular school but is funded by a Jewish charitable foundation):

    AGNOSTIC, NON-JEWISH, LIBERAL ME: I’ve been making a list of holiday-related books we can read to the kids throughout the year, and I realized, we have more than twenty books about Christmas, but only have one book about Hanukkah! How is that even possible? I think I should buy some Hanukkah books and donate them.

    OTHER MOTHER: Oh, but there are hardly even any Jewish kids at this school! How many are there, like, two? I don’t know them, anyway.

    ME: But there are more than —

    OTHER OTHER MOTHER: Yeah, just because the school is run by a Jewish foundation doesn’t mean it’s a Jewish school or anything. Why would the kids need to learn about Hanukkah at Christmas?


    (I am buying the books. Maybe one on the Solstice, too. Maybe one with Diana. Is there a George Clooneymas, Liz? Can we start one?)

    1. So they wouldn’t want their kids learning about other holidays at all? Wow. Mind-broadening.

      I’m into Clooneymas. How do we celebrate?

  29. Perhaps The Pledge should go like this:
    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under BOB, indivisible, with liberty and justice for SOME.

    1. I like the idealism of liberty and justice for all. Even if we don’t achieve it–let’s aspire up and pledge to do better, right?

  30. While I had a fairly religious upbringing, I’m not particularly religious anymore (such that my son asked the other day: “What are churches for anyway? Voting?” Because our polling place is at a church.). And I don’t like the idea of other people telling me what I should believe or how or when or why. I’ve always thought of my religious beliefs as private, personal — I might share them, but I would not impose them, nor do I want someone else’s beliefs imposed on me. I think about my grandparents, who were fairly religious but were more apt to quietly demonstrate this fact through the way they lived their lives (or at least that’s how I remember them). I appreciated that.

    And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care much for any quotes in email signatures. Most of them, on some level, seem to be telling me to do this or that or think or feel a certain way. The only quote I can recall ever liking in an email signature was a quote from Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” That one always made me smile.

    1. If there was really a god, Douglas Adams would have lived to be 100 and written more books than Nora Roberts! The world is a poorer place without him in it. 🙁

  31. I do have a great deal of faith in the Lord, but I don’t believe that statement has any place on my business emails. I don’t make it a secret that I’m a Christian, but it’s just not professional to sign off my emails with a Scripture or leave religious materials in the break room. It’s crossing a line, I think–and I’ve lived in the South all my life where as other commenters have noted, that type of thing is fairly common.

    I don’t think words are worth very much, anyway. I can tell you I’m a Christian every day and say “God bless you” and put a Scripture on my emails but unless you see me living like Christ, what good is it? I believe that God loves every single person on this planet, and the best way I know to convey that belief is not to say it but to show love to others–without qualifications, without reservation–because if no one sees love in me, why should they believe in a loving God?

  32. I’m Catholic, as in the whole doctrine, not the cafeteria kind. But I feel like I’m more of the “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” type. I just can’t get behind the idea of beating someone with a Jesus stick. I don’t know where this comes from. I’m all about freely discussing faith and philosophy, and I admit to finding atheism fascinating to an almost irritating degree- according to atheist friends who would like me to talk about other stuff. But, in the end I hate the idea that someone should hide their normal behavior to get along in the world. If you want to sign something “yours in Darwinism” it won’t ruffle me. But I have to tell you, I had no idea that a blessing couldn’t be completely secular, like good luck. Learning everyday!

    1. Thanks for the comment Babs. I had never heard the “if necessary…” bit. I like that.

      I don’t think this is about hiding normal behavior though or pretending you’re someone you’re not. Rather, I think I’m talking about understanding what constitutes “normal behavior” in a particular situation in the first place. You can be a Christian and not have to advertise it in your email signature, right?

      1. Yes, I just try to accept that the person might think they are totally ‘normal’. That’s how I try to receive it. But, I agree that’s it’s not really fair to be inconsiderate of your audience. After all, that closing only is a positive if you never act like an asshole…which I could never claim.

  33. I roll my eyes hard. It’s so presumptuous and, I think, rude to sign emails, etc. quoting scripture and such. I want to tell the person, “You don’t know me or my (non) religious views. Keep that stuff to yourself.”

  34. i like so much your PSLAJ-attitude! it is a really problematic thing nowadays, the radical religious thought are getting stronger. it isnt a wrong thing at all, the words “God” and “Christmas” are the parts of our culture, but they already lost their sacral meaning. but i know, sometimes it can lead to conflicts. but a real PSLAJ can handle these situations, so you did;)

  35. Interesting post. Personally, I feel uncomfortable too, mostly because I’m Jewish and people going all Christian on me always makes me question whether they’re trying to “save” me, but as long as it’s not that I’ll happily ignore it and brush it off as just they think that’s normal, same way as I think it’s truly bizarre. I truly don’t even think it occurs to some of these people if could offend someone. We do forget in NY that for many people in the country this is just normal for them. So I shrug it off. For what it’s worth, I don’t think writing a whole post about it counts as “ignoring it” though 🙂

  36. I recently moved from Philly to West Virginina (don’t ask) and it seems like religion is as important to people as just about anything. Where do you (or your husband, eyeroll) work and where do you go to church are the most often asked questions. When I say we don’t go to church, it’s like saying I sacrifice babies. I ignore it when I can, but around here people dress their kids with scripture printed on their clothes, so it’s tough. It’s a lot easier to ignore an email than your three year old neighbor who’s playing dress-up with your daughter. Life is HARD! 🙂

    1. Wow Amy Jo. And that’s why I really like it hear in NYC. Mostly you’re just judged on how much money you make (ha).

  37. A Nation is mixed up of people with different cultures and beliefs. As long as there is RESPECT for one’s belief, ALL is WELL!

  38. Oh my goodness I’d like to take all these people out for drinks and have this conversation in person. And I would like to point out that pledging to live “under George” may, in fact, NOT be at all historical but veeerrrry contemporclooney. Which makes it a sex joke, not a history joke. I’m now living in a place where I hear the call to prayer 5 times a day and there are mosques pretty much on every other corner, so religion (which is not to say god) is all around me. And that’s fine–and kind of beautiful in many ways–because no one is telling me that I should put my faith in Mohammed or read the Q’ran. Or maybe they are, but they’re doing it in Arabic and I don’t understand them. Which is to say that in a biz email about bizness, God seems out of place. What about that whole Pharisees in the temple thing? God is not a capitalist and the question of where I place my faith (or you yours) seems utterly irrelevant to the proceedings. Actually, I have the same reaction to any endnote-quote thing, whether it’s Buddhist, Xian, Kurt Cobain, or Yanni. (Unless you say I should put my faith in Schmutzie, which I kind of do anyway).

  39. How funny. I don’t think I’ve ever taken an email signature this way…The body of the email is directed to me personally. The signature is just a rubber stamp.

    I think I would take a signature quoting scripture as a head’s up about the sender, just like I take it as a head’s up when people sign with goofy or over-inflated job titles. Signatures convey information about the sender, just like bumper stickers do. I never imagined they were actually intended to convert or rebuke anyone.

    1. Well look at it this way – the information that I get from the sender is that she does not think very highly of me or my beliefs. Is that the right message to put out there?

  40. Listen, I hold the Mormons personally responsible for the fact that I couldn’t have an orgasm until I was 27 so I might be the wrong person to offer any advice. (Having said that I do shriek the Lord’s name when I reach my pinnacle)

  41. I think it’s high time you got your own version of Wil Wheaton collating paper to handle these sort of future matters.

    May the Wheaton be with you…

  42. I once had a business person offer to go out of their way for me, and when I thanked him for his kindness, he said he was ‘just trying to live his faith in Jesus’. Interesting. I wanted that extra kindness at that moment, so I didn’t go out of my way to tell him that I’m an atheist. Didn’t matter, though, because he ended up forgetting all about the extra kindness and charging me full price to move my dying mother’s things from point a to point b. Somehow, that made me feel better. Because honestly, I’ve never thought that someone who claims religion might be more moral or giving than someone who does not. I think people are how they are, and there are moral religious folks, and moral atheists, and assholes come in every creed under the sun.

  43. Weird. I feel totally weird when that happens. I also feel weird when it happens in person. Much like the above commenter pointed out the weirdness of God in the Marketplace. There’s often an assumption that everyone where I live is not only religious, but Jesus-worshipping-religious. Sometimes it’s a matter of just holding my tongue for convenience sake, and sometimes if it’s out of context I can’t hold my tongue and I don’t feel like I ever say quite what I’m going for. It’s frustrating, but I keep trying. I will be teaching my daughter that a mental substitution of “love” for “God” works well, as does “listen” for “pray,” and that you can “worship” without worshipping a something. That way she can be accepting when it’s called for, but also find a way to make it a little more palatable, or even comfortable, when she finds herself in those Christian-assuming contexts.

  44. It would definitely make me do a double take if someone signed off with “blessings” in a work email. You know, if I wasn’t working for some type of “religious” business. But I wouldn’t be offended, probably since I’m a church-going Christian. But you know, not EVERYONE is. 😉

  45. I don’t like it in email or in person. I would actively avoid dealing with that person/business because it makes me uncomfortable to be addressed that way. It feels invasive of my privacy. It also seems somehow TMI about the sender, too. That’s not the level on which we are interacting so it seems like an abrupt and unwelcome change in our dealings. Sort of like once when I was talking to a client about his loan agreement and he started telling me about his colon. Jarringly off topic.

    I saw a thing going around facebook a week or so ago that said:

    Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one. It’s fine to be proud of it. But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around. And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my children’s throats.

    I would edit that to reflect that I don’t enjoy it shoved down mine, either.

    (I think there’s a typo above, it would be Hindu, not Hindi)

  46. Offensive? No, not at all. Inappropriate in a business setting and off-putting? Absolutely.

    Many Christians feel it is their duty to wear their religious hearts on their sleeves. It’s in Matthew somewhere: Those who proclaim me publicly, I will also proclaim to my father in Heaven. (I’m paraphrasing.) So I get that they feel called to put a little statement of who they are in their email signature.

    A Red Sox fan might feel similarly called to put a little statement of who she is in her signature. And I’m going to judge both of them a little bit — not for being Red Sox fans or Christians, but for being unable to draw what I consider appropriate boundaries in a business relationship. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s definitely points off.

    I think the person who should have a problem with a religious email signature is not the recipient of the email, but this person’s boss.

  47. Hi there. Well, I don’t much like quotes much in the signature line of e-mails, but when someone specifically writes something heartfelt that they are thinking of me or my family especially during tough time, I find it sweet regardless of faith I actually prefer to end with “Blissings and Blessings” which I think comes out in a rather secular way that clearly infers positive energy again, regardless of the receivers faith base (or lack thereof.) In a business setting, not so appopriate you may say, but when you have a developed a relationship of any kind with a business colleague, I find it appropriate. Just my two cents. -Monica

    1. Thanks so much for your perspective Monica. I have to disagree though; as someone who is not religious, I can assure you that I would not read “blissings and blessings” as secular. Secular people don’t “send blessings.” That said, I have no doubt it comes from love.

  48. I have to admit that I kind of cringe when I see this kind of religious scrawling at the end of emails completely unrelated to anything remotely religious. I often find that it makes the sender appear to be aiming for a “holier than thou”, (or just “holy” at best), image. But, like you’ve stated above, when the person knows that you are incredibly anti-religion, atheist, or agnostic, why in the world do they do it? My entire family knows that my husband and I chose to leave Christianity/Catholicism years ago, yet I still receive holy roller-esqe chain emails. When I politely thanked a distant relative for “thinking of me” but pointed out that this whole churchy/god thing wasn’t exactly my cup of tea- I never heard from her again. (Oh well… nipped those emails in the bud, at least.)

    It must be lovely to live in the land of Brooklyn, where one can discuss hot topics without everyone’s knickers getting into a bunch. Note to self: Add “move to Brooklyn” on the five year plan list.

    I just want to say that I love love love your blog. I’ve been reading it for a long time now, and finally decided to drop in 2 cents and to let you know I think you’re fabulous! I haven’t read anything yet that I haven’t enjoyed. Thank you!

  49. Just saw this…. had to laugh because I often DO sign work e-mails with “Blessings” – but that’s because I work for the Anglican Church (Episcopalian to Americans)! I would never do so if I was working in a different business though. It’s just not professional outside of a religious/denominational context.

    Though I am a practising Christian, I have to agree, people who brand their (otherwise secular) businesses as religious strike me as somewhat suspect. I like what the late author Madeleine L’Engle said: “If your car breaks down, you don’t ask if the mechanic is Episcopalian. You ask if he [sic] can fix your car.” If business owners advertise their religious beliefs I always wonder if their business isn’t good enough to stand on its own, that they feel they need some kind of “in” with their faith. And that turns me off immediately… I can only imagine how someone who doesn’t share their faith would feel.

  50. I just don’t have the energy to tell strangers what they should do with their faith (even if some not so pleasant images come to mind).

    As a lapsed Catholic, agnostic (verging on atheist) whose best friends (oddly) are Born Again Christians, I’ve had many-a-tearful discussion about how I won’t be going to heaven and it pains someone. I’ve also done my share of trying to inject them with my You’re Just Crazy spike.

    On a personal level, I think we have to work those things out in respectful ways. People often hurt each other when they don’t intend to, and forgiveness and restraint are just more effective than ranting and trying to drive home a point. I’m honestly happy my friends’ faith gives them peace and a feeling of security.

    But on a business front? That effort just isn’t going to happen. I think people who inject religion into their sales pitches are either disingenuous or not savvy enough to realize alienating themselves from potential business contacts doesn’t get them closer to god.

  51. First of all, you are one rockin’ writer.
    Second – what you said. (Though had you said Little Lord Fauntleroy I might have decided to put my faith in him)
    As it stands – I think my faith is in you – and in this comment stream.
    Thoughtful, civil discussion about religion?
    How amazing is this blogging community?

  52. Oh, I kind of wish you had edited her original quote and sent it back! Except that it’s a little mean. Ok, it’s good you didn’t. But I love you for thinking about it.

    Also, I love you for always wanting to hear other intelligent opinions, even (and maybe even especially) when they are different from yours.

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