In professional environments, I have heard statements comparing believing in God to believing in the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. For me, this dismissiveness of faith is on a par with the man in the street telling you that you are going to hell for not believing in their religion. You can be religious and progressive at the same time – the two things are not mutually exclusive.
Blanket statements about religion can be extremely demeaning, even when they are meant in jest, and as a result people often feel pressurised to hide their faith in the workplace due to fear of being labelled as radical or having a backward mindset. The need to conceal major parts of their identity can lead people of faith to feel displaced. To promote a sense of belonging, companies must create supportive spaces where employees can express their faith. During an interview with Bill Maher, Barack Obama stated: ‘We should foster a culture in which people’s religious beliefs including atheists and agnostics are respected’. He explained that issues arise when people take extreme stances and try to force others to believe what they do.
The article here provides information about how offices can be more inclusive of religion with a focus on social events and workplace discrimination
What do you consider an important part of your identity? Your heritage, sexuality, gender? Maybe it’s where you were born or even your job title? On the path to parenthood, I have been asked to consider my own identity a lot. As a future parent of an adopted child, it will be important that I can honour, respect and celebrate my child’s identity, much of which will be formed by their birth family. This got me thinking about their family’s religion. Now that could be tricky. My partner and I don’t practise a religion. In fact, we don’t know much about the worlds of faith and worship. What if our child comes from a religion that actively discriminates against the LGBTQA+ community? Eek! Ok, so that’s unlikely, but it’s still something that plays on my mind. Growing up, religion was always used in a divisive way – ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!’ Eyes roll. I think for any member of the queer community, religion can be a trigger, but as a future parent, my point of view needs to change. It’s time I lean into religion and start to learn. This is what led me to Benjamin Carlton’s TED Talk, ‘I’m black, I’m a minister and I’m gay, who are you to judge?’ In their talk, Benjamin talks about how we are all controlled by a phobia that is based on a narrative, often a false narrative. Benjamin goes on to highlight some assumptions we have all become accustomed to and how in order for us to progress, we’re going to have to start shifting those narratives. What’s my hope moving forward? That we all remove the powerful false narratives that we have been fed since childhood and move forward with a willingness to learn.
When we close our eyes and imagine a Muslim woman, we often see a Middle Eastern-looking woman wearing a hijab. But the reality is that there is significant diversity among Muslims across the globe. The binary thinking of Islam being violent or Islam being a religion of peace is something that doesn’t lead to the nuanced view that Islam is full of people who are complex and practise their religion and faith differently. This beautiful talk explores the multi-faceted constructions of Islam without absolutism and really eloquently explains what I try to express as a Muslim person every time I see the expressions of non-Muslim Westerners when they realise I am Muslim.
I really enjoyed this article in i-D based on a new study of the religious behaviours of 10,000 American 13–25-year-olds. While the term ‘spirituality’ has been watered down over time by brands and media platforms keen to reflect Gen Z as ethereal, Tarot-loving amateur astrologists, this study sheds light on the complexities of their faith. While 71% considered themselves at least slightly religious, they had little trust or interest in engaging with religious institutions. Hence, a shift in language towards spirituality – for example, those who practise Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-Christian faiths were more likely to call themselves ‘spiritual’ than ‘religious’. It’s a good reminder to move away from simplistic definitions of religion and spirituality, and to consider these nuances when discussing faith at the workplace and in our content.
There are a variety of visual indicators to someone’s religion or faith. For Christians, it may be wearing a cross, Muslim women can opt to wear a hijab and many Sikh men choose to put on a turban. For Sikhs across the globe, the journey to corporate acceptance continues to be difficult, with Sikh doctors to this day being fired for refusing to cut their hair. Here is a wonderful article which explains the history of Sikh people in the workplace, detailing the plights of openly practising religious employees.
Traditionally, The Future Laboratory has always granted its team members an additional fixed four days’ annual leave to take over the Christmas period. The extra holiday gives team members more time off during the festive period, stretching from Christmas Eve to the Gregorian calendar’s New Year. For many people, including some who are not religious and don’t observe Christmas, this period signals a ritualistic ending to one year and the beginning of a new one.
What this system didn’t consider was that not all faith and religion works to the Christian timeline, and so in 2021 we updated this policy to allow people of different faiths and religions to take these four days at different times during the year so that they too may observe their own religious holidays without having to take it from their annual leave. This is a significant culture shift that allows us to be more inclusive of faith intersections.
This article is part of our Diversity & Inclusion work at The Future Laboratory. Explore our work on D&I on our blog and discover what steps we are taking to make a better tomorrow happen.
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