At work, I have two bosses. One is Catholic. The other is Agnostic, Pagan-ish but not practicing. They are great friends, and of course, business partners. They are wonderful! I love them both. I do not name their religions for any sort of commentary on their religious identities, merely to identify them apart from one another and give you a basic idea of where they're coming from in that regard.
My co-worker told me shortly after we met and started working together that she is also Pagan, though not practicing and very new to identifying as Pagan at all. She told me this because, she said, she could tell that I was Pagan. I don't know how she could tell this--the only discussions we'd had that were at all relevant were about tasseomancy and tarot, but whatever the reason, she knew and shared this with me.
Eventually, my co-worker told our Catholic boss that we were both Pagan.
The negative reaction from our boss startled my co-worker, who is not out of the broom closet at all and has never experienced the prejudice or discrimination that sometimes comes with being open about a minority identity such as religion.
Right before Halloween, I overheard my bosses discussing religion and why Pagans celebrate Halloween and Christmas, and why they call it Christmas if Christmas is about Christ. This is when I heard my Agnostic boss say that she is not a practicing Pagan and usually just considers herself Agnostic. I took the opportunity to offer some of my views on why Pagans celebrate Christmas (with our Christian families, usually), and to explain the Winter Solstice/Yule and its difference from and similarity to Christmas, and so on. So we've had some discussions at work about religion. Though our Catholic boss was clearly under-informed or misinformed about some things, I was really happy that she was willing to listen and ask questions. So many people will not even do that. I am grateful for those opportunities.
Today, my co-worker said something about her old teacher, who happens to go to my church, as we learned recently. Our Catholic boss looked very confused. I didn't notice this, but my co-worker asked her what was wrong, and our boss asked, "Pagans go to church now?" I laughed and said "Oh, yeah, I go to a Unitarian Universalist church. It's for everyone. You can believe anything. There are several Pagans at my church, and people of many other faiths." The following conversation ensued:
Catholic Boss: "I don't understand. Pagans go to church? I thought you don't believe in God, but now you go to church, okay."
Agnostic Boss: "Pagans believe in God."
Me: "I believe in God--"
Co-worker: *raises hand* "I believe in God!"
ABoss: "They're not Atheists."
Me: "Actually, Atheists go to my church, too." *mimes mind being blown*
ABoss: "Pagans do believe in God in different ways, it's just not, like, Jesus."
CBoss: "Yeah, I don't understand this. I thought Pagan was like devil-worship."
Me: *laughs* "No, Paganism is a large variety of things."
ABoss: "Cara does not worship the devil."
Co-worker: "Yeah, that's Satanists. Well, SOME Satanists!"
Me: "Right." [I had talked to her recently about how not all Satanists actually worship Satan. Proud moment.]
CBoss: "So there are more Pagans than just Satanists, but Satanists are like Pagan."
Me: "Well, yeah, you could say that. There is some debate over whether Satanists should be considered Pagan, because Satan comes from a Christian framework and other Pagans don't believe in or recognize Satan at all. But I sort of think of them as Pagan, though not all Pagans are Satanists, correct."
CBoss: *shrugging* "Okay, so Pagans go to church, I learned something today."
Me: "Well, not all of them do, but yeah, we can. I'll explain more sometime when we have more time."
So the subject was dropped as we got to work cleaning up and putting things away. Then a few minutes later, I was alone with my Agnostic Boss in the next room when she turned to me and asked, "Doesn't it really bother you when people are so ignorant of things? How do you not go crazy? Doesn't it really BUG you when people ask if you worship the devil over and over? How do you not go insane, it's ridiculous."
She's asked me about this before. Back at Halloween, and a week ago when someone left me a Christian tract on my table, she asked me then, too. She always has a smile on her face and is laughing at the situation, and she asks me, "Doesn't it drive you crazy?!" Once, I think it was, "How do you stay so calm about stuff like this?" My answer is usually to smile and nod knowingly, and explain, "I've been dealing with this openly for about a decade now. It's not that I'm any more okay with it now, but I've gotten used to hearing it and know how to react better now."
I do tend to keep my cool when faced with things like this. I can think of three major instances that I've vlogged about. It's not that I don't think the things people say are crazy, or ignorant, or annoying. It's not that I think it's okay that people still think this way. It's just that, unlike my co-worker, I've heard these things before. I know the arguments, and now I know how to answer them. I think it's incredibly empowering to be able to keep your head and answer the questions as they come, rather than just getting angry at the person. If I think I can get even an ounce of real information into someone's head, I take that opportunity. It's hard to do that if you're just angry at them for not knowing or refusing to learn. So I try. I try to teach. And as I told ABoss today, I'm so glad that BOTH of my bosses are open-minded enough to listen, and care about me enough to ask.