how can I get my coworker to stop talking about God?

A reader writes:

I have a coworker, let’s call her Cersei, who constantly talks about God and religion. Every day, at least twice, the conversation turns to God. From the casual (“I have plans with my church group tonight”) to the strange (I told her how my cat woke me up at 3 a.m. and she told me I should get up and pray because apparently 3 a.m. is God’s hour?), Cersei can turn any conversation into one about religion.

It’s getting to the point where it is making me uncomfortable. When she talks to me about it to me, I try to end the conversation quickly or mumble something noncommittal but she has found an audience with a few people in the office and remotely who are willing to participate in the spiritual chats. Cersei will get on the phone with one of our remote employees (every day!) and chat about “God’s will” for upwards of 40 minutes. I try to ignore it but she sometimes sounds completely insane to me (a prophet gave her permission to marry her husband after they had only known each other for three months). She also gave our other coworker a children’s bible to give to her son, and now the two talk about bible stories and how to explain to children why God killed so many people, or how “we” know God even exists.

I’m trying not to judge but these conversations seem really unprofessional to me and I’d really like them to stop, but I don’t know if I can say anything since she isn’t actually talking to me about them. Am I overreacting? Should I just put headphones in and deal with it?

At a minimum, you can and should tell her to stop talking about religion with you. It sounds like you haven’t done that directly yet, and since she’s ignoring your hints, you’re going to need to be more direct in order to get her to stop.

The next time she brings God into a conversation with you (not just “I went to a church picnic,” but actual discussion of religion), tell her that you’d like her to stop. Sample language:
* “I’d rather not talk about anything religious at work.”
* “Oh, I definitely don’t want to talk about God in the office.”
* “I’m not really comfortable discussing religion with coworkers — thanks for understanding.”

If she does it again after that, remind her that you asked her to stop: “Hey, like I mentioned before, I’m not up for discussing religion at work.”

If you feel uncomfortable being that direct, think of it as you actually doing her a favor: If she’s a decent person, she’d want to know that her behavior is making you uncomfortable so that she can stop it.

And if continues after that, then at that point we’re getting into harassment territory. Your workplace actually has a legal obligation to prevent employees from harassing other employees about religion, so at that point you should escalate it either to her manager or to your HR department. Say something to them like, “I’ve asked Cersei repeatedly to stop proselytizing to me about religion, but it’s continuing. I know there’s potentially legal liability for the company, so I wanted to let you know and ask that you get her to stop.”

The part about her having religious discussions with other people within your earshot is trickier. Your employer can’t prohibit voluntary, welcome religious discussions among employees during times when they’d be allowed to discuss other non-work issues — and that’s true even if you’re overhearing them. However, I imagine her manager would be interested to know that she’s having 40-minute-long social conversations every day when she’s supposed to be working, and you could approach it from that angle — as well as from the distraction angle. For example, you could say something like this to her manager: “Cersei is spending a lot of work time talking to other employees about religion. She talks to Bob about God for upwards of 40 minutes every day, and has long conversations about religion with other people as well. I figured you didn’t know how much work time she’s spending on this — and frankly, I’d prefer not to have to listen to constant religious talk, and it’s a distraction when I’m trying to concentrate. Can you ask her to rein it in?”

{ 716 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please keep comments focused on solutions for the letter-writer — I’m going to remove any debates about religion or unkind comments about religious people (which is a separate thing from criticism of this particular coworker’s behavior). Thanks!

  2. Andrea*

    This seems like one of those posts that should have a warning / note about derailments attached.

  3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Eww, gosh — OP, you have my sympathy. Even as a very religious person, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of that kind of work dynamic!

    I really don’t have much to add advice-wise — Alison really hit the nail on the head! But I hope Cersei will be receptive to you declining these conversations in the future.

    1. Snark*

      And this is the thing: it’s not about whether you’re religious or not. Someone who was endlessly discussing atheism at work would be equally – if not, in my experience with my own ideological bedfellows, more – tedious than someone discussing Christianity. Or politics. Or finances.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Who was it that said the definition of a fanatic is someone who can’t change their mind and won’t change the subject?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is why it’s “I can’t come to bed, neverjaunty is being WRONG on the internet!” If they’re WRONG, then if you type or orate long enough then they will see the error of their ways as to which is the best My Little Pony.

          1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

            Twilight Sparkle. Duh.

            Either way, someone needs a few tips from Princess Good Optics, the Alicorn of Appropriate Workplace Conduct. Maybe there’ll be a musical number, who knows?

        2. Casuan*

          Love it!!

          For co text, OP, a Christian [which I assume by your wording] who is really following their faith will should totally understand that their behaviour is making others uncomfortable & be willing to adjust accordingly.

          Mentioning a church group in passing is much different than telling someone what they should be doing at 3am.
          For me, the litmus test is if I’d be just as bothered if [in this case] “God” was another subject. Cat? Partner? Kids? Hobby?
          Any topic discussed as you describe would get on my nerves, too.
          All of this during work hours… just no. [A 40min call?!?]
          Sorry you have to deal with this.

          1. Casuan*


            …who is really following their faith will should totally understand that their behaviour is making others uncomfortable & be willing to adjust accordingly.

            Actually, this comment isn’t restricted to one demographic.

            *Any* conscientious person should understand & be willing to adjust accordingly.

          2. Specialk9*

            My family member is utterly delighted with his religion, and doesn’t read body language so has ZERO idea he’s making many people squirm with discomfort and actively avoid him. (And gets verbal encouragement the 16% of the time he’s talking to a fellow delighted-religious person of any faith — so he thinks everyone is like him.)

            I had to make an outright rule with him – “no more than 20% religion talk please, and please nothing about demons that weirds me out totally”. He followed it! It was really cool, actually. It worked because he cared. (It wouldn’t work if someone didn’t care.)

            Another family member is exactly as religious, but socially adept, so she gets to have those affirming moments with fellow believers, without making us heathens squirm.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep, exactly. And quite honestly, I think any kind of lifestyle advice would be problematic — that this is religious adds an extra layer of discomfort, but if we were talking about “3am? That’s the best time to do Crossfit!” this would ultimately be more or less the same letter.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            And quite possibly vegans.
            Not hating on vegans, hating on those who need to let you know at all times.

              1. Seespotbitejane*

                Hey, the only time I ever talk about not watching GoT is when multiple people want to talk to me about what just happened on GoT.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  When I was actually reading ASOIAF, it was hard to get me to shut up if you got me started on it — severe love-hate relationship there! But I mostly confined my ranting to online posts that my friends could easily mute if they weren’t following along with Boochie Angrily Reads Books.

                2. Matilda Jefferies*

                  @CBF, I would totally follow along with Boochie Angrily Reads Books. I do the same!

                3. Can't think of a username*

                  Same! I really hate GoT, so most of the time I just block it from memory, but then a new season comes out and the entire internet is talking non-stop about it and I’m reminded why I hate it so much. I dream of the day we get a popular fantasy series that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks to take off. In the meantime, at least Yuri On Ice gives me hope good writing can get popular.

                1. DizzyFog*

                  @CBF – Can you start a Boochie Angrily Reads Books bookclub? Totally there for that. :D

              2. Lissa*

                HA! People who don’t like popular things and reaaaally want everyone to know it are super rampant in my nerd friendgroup so this speaks to me. See also hating things like Twilight or the Kardashians. Yes those things get a ton of hate, it’s not that unique…

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yeah. Like, I can go on a whole comedy routine about the time I was given the choice between reading Twilight or watching Sarah Palin get interviewed on Fox — it’s like the anti-Sophie’s Choice, really. But I’m not under the illusion it makes me special.

                2. Just Employed Here*

                  I don’t like a lot of popular things and got endless comments by my boss (!) back in the days when the Harry Potter books were coming out and everyone in the office was reading them. I wasn’t the one making a thing about me not reading them, I just politely declined to borrow them, and somehow that seems to have offended her. I’m sure she thought I was trying to be unique or something, but can’t a person be allowed to choose for themselves what they read?

              1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

                I don’t think anyone is making fun of vegans or cross fitters. These are lifestyles that are prone to having people who are so passionate about it that they will endlessly talk about it, regardless of the interest level of the person they’re speaking with. I have a vegan friend who can’t seem to stop reminding me that I am “part of the problem” when I decide to order a burger while we’re out. I have a cross fitter friend who looks great, feels great and will only talk about how she does it when asked. It’s about the person, not the interest.

              2. Pollygrammer*

                I would generalize to unprompted, unwanted and insistent health talk.

                And I’ve been in that office—fat shaming, smugly superior and seemingly contagious obsessions with weight were really uncomfortable for several people in the office (who were quite reasonably not particularly eager to disclose why).

                1. HS Teacher*

                  I have a coworker who ONLY talks about his workout regime and body fat. It’s freaking exhausting trying to be personable to someone who only wants to talk about things nobody else in the office cares about. And heaven forbid we have a potluck or something. He has to comment on everything he can’t eat because of his diet.

              3. Yams*

                I am super into crossfit, but I have friends whose only discussions are, in this order, : Crossfit, body fat %, crossfit, their diet, crossfit, crossfit, their new personal record, and crossfit! They proselytize about crossfit to literally everyone. So, I can certainly understand how it would be annoying to other people. I usually just ignore them lol.

            1. Julia the Survivor*

              As comedian DeAnne Smith said, “I became vegan. I traded food that tastes good for self-righteousness and gas.” :D

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            I swear I don’t do this (but yes, the first rule of CrossFit is always talk about CrossFit)

          3. mrs__peel*

            HMMMM, would I rather be lectured at length about religion or Crossfit in the office? That’s a real Sophie’s choice…..

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              Solution: RELIGIOUS CROSSFIT! “He died on the Cross so you could Fit into those pants!”

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                I’m so glad I wasn’t drinking anything!

                (Alternatively, that one crazy ripped statue I’ve seen going around labeled “He died for our GAINZ”)

                1. Temperance*

                  Christoga is a thing. It’s a Christian alternative to yoga, which apparently invites evil spirits/demons into the body. lol

                2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

                  Oh, one of my nephew’s reposted the crossfit Jesus. With a shout out to his god mother. Yup, present.

                3. Specialk9*

                  My rabbi held a regular yoga service. We all wore workout gear, sang the Hebrew prayer songs, and did yoga poses. It was a wildly popular service.

              2. Annabelle*

                There’s a Christian-based CrossFit box in my town and I could totally see some of the people who work out there saying that.

              3. Emilia Bedelia*

                You laugh, but I actually am part of a religious Crossfit group (ie, we do a workout and a Bible study together)

                I’m also a vegan, and a cat owner, so naturally all I talk about at work is the weather. :)

                1. motherofdragons*

                  I actually think this is really cool! (But also totally snort-laughed at BenAdminGeek’s joke above)

                2. Elizabeth H.*

                  That’s really awesome! I don’t do crossfit but I think a combination Bible study and other activity group sounds fun. I’d love that type of opportunity to incorporate religion more into my everyday life. I live in a very liberal university-surrounded area and despite the fact that I can LITERALLY SEE a synagogue, an Islamic mosque, and five various Christian churches from different windows of my apartment, the culture among people in my age group is really secular. I’m happy to go to church with people of various ages and backgrounds – that’s part of what I like about it – but it’s not like in college when the people I met who had similar religious perspectives were largely my peers.

              4. Middle School Teacher*

                I read this during a meeting and had to fake a coughing fit!!! You win :)

        1. an infinite number of monkeys*

          I have a coworker who behaves almost the same way with cats. If I told her my cat woke me up at 3 AM, I have no doubt my coworker would tell me I needed to get up and feed him because clearly that’s the cat’s time.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Good lord, if I fed my cat every time she begged for it, I wouldn’t have a cat anymore, I’d have a couch cushion!

            1. AKchic*

              You mean cats aren’t supposed to be furry couch cushions?

              My purring couch cushion will be so disappointed to find this out.

            2. BenAdminGeek*

              Yup, that’s how I got a diabetic cat… turns out cats can’t always be trusted to know when they’ve eaten enough.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Mine took the adjustment from free-fed dry food to scheduled wet food very hard. AN EMPTY FOOD BOWL IS AN IMMEDIATE CRISIS, MOM!

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  My cat makes an empty food bowl EVERYONE’s problem. She WHACKS the bowl as hard as she can and sets up a racket with the whacking and yowling.

                2. BenAdminGeek*

                  Yeah, it’s 5 years later, and he still brings plastic bags to rustle in our bedroom, bangs his head against the radiator (not at all terrifying at 1 am!), and hops on the bed to express our failings as owners.

                3. JessaB*

                  It’s not an empty bowl, it’s a full bowl where they can make a tiny spot where you can see the bottom of the bowl. Human there is a missing kib worth of kibble, I am starving, you are starving me, stop starving me, feed me now. I should have named my cat Veruca Salt.

            3. Hera Syndulla*

              Lol, yes. Same here.

              Einstein (our ginger cat) always begs for food and acts like he has never seen food or that he was experiencing extreme famine. Yet when he gets his food, he takes two bites and goes about his business. Or he takes 2-3 bites, decides he has enough, goes to his basket to rest but then decides to go back for one more bite and then goes to his basket to take a nap.

              Aah, cats. Love them :-)

          2. Delphine*

            Hoo, boy, there is a fine line with cat/pet stories, and I say that as someone who adores cats.

          3. Workaholic*

            Haha if your coworker said that about cats he/she knows nothing about cats :D it’s always “their time” and if I fed my car as often as she thought she needed… She’d go through a bag of food a day.

        2. Observer*

          I agree. And if the OP does need to go to their manager and / or HR about this, then giving it a bit of this flavor would probably be useful. It is DEFINITELY ok for the OP to not want specifically religious advice, but depending on the culture of the office, this just makes them sound more “reasonable”.

        3. Simonthegreywarden*

          Right? Everyone knows 3am is the time to load up DragonAge Inquisition and start a new play through.

      3. Janice in Accounting*

        Oh, for sure. Although, the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion definitely adds to what makes situations like this so fraught.

      4. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        Exactly! I once had a co-worker who loved the show Breaking Bad. I literally could have written the letter above using that as her subject. She was actually let go after she kept a patient (she was a pharmacist) on the phone for nearly an hour talking about the show. It was the last straw in a year full of behavior that really centered on how much she loved that show. I’m not a fan of the show and she knew this but thought she could convert me. That is literally how she said it. So yeah…endless discussions about any subject can be equally tedious and upsetting.

        1. Hellanon*

          Yep. I have a friend who can always find a way to change the subject to the Titanic (the actual ship & its passengers, not the movie, fwiw. But still.)

          I, erm, was known for doing the same thing with Buffy, though…

          1. I Love Thrawn*

            For me it was Thorin, King of Dwarves, from the Hobbit movies. I talked to my sister about him so much, she banned me from ever mentioning his name again to her. My co workers.. well… let’s just say they were good naturedly long suffering about it. But I wasn’t trying to convert anyone, just expressing my feelings. :)

            1. Lissa*

              OMG, if it’s not too personal I need to ask what you liked so much about Thorin! Is there a big fandom around him?

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Seeing your username, I need someone to delightedly scream with about how there’s going to be another Thrawn book!

              … On the open post, of course.

          2. Nea*

            I think I gave one of my coworkers more of an education about figure skating during the Olympics than he ever wanted to have.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I’m trying to think of something so important that I wouldn’t have hung up about 15 minutes in.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          This is a good example. There aren’t many (if any?) conversation topics that literally everyone around you wants to talk about all the darn time. I can come up with soo many examples – but mostly less extreme ones where if Person X manages to turn a conversation to Y, I mentally roll my eyes because OF COURSE X brought up Y. Again.

          Religion is just an especially uncomfortable/inappropriate one!

          1. Former Employee*

            Way back when, I had extensive conversations about Y2K and possible impact with various types of clients/client reps. Of course, I was in financial services (not banking, so less of an excuse).

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ugh, why can’t people just like things quietly to themselves? Or at least learn to recognize a mutual conversational interest instead of just claiming captive audiences.

          1. eplawyer*

            Well with the LW, she FOUND someone with a mutual interest. Now she spends 40 minutes a day chatting with that person. Instead of working.

            Why can’t people be reasonable. You don’t have to talk about your favorite topic every minute of every day. Even if someone does want to hear about it.

            1. Lala*

              See, I’m just waiting for the AAM question that goes

              “Dear AAM, I share a mild interest in religion with another coworker, but she calls me every day to talk about it for 40 minutes. I know she’s alienated other coworkers with her repeated discussions of religion and probably just enjoyes having an outlet, so at first I didn’t think it was a big deal, but she keeps taking up more and more of my work time. I really need her input/to get along with her, and am afraid of rocking the boat by telling her I just can’t talk about this for so long or so frequently. What do I do?”

        4. Gadget Hackwrench*

          I have ADHD and my husband and half my friends have ASD, so pretty much everyone has at least one Special Interest (TM). We have a term for that in our social group: “wonking.” As in “Can I wonk at you about [special interest] for a bit?” Ask before you wonk is pretty much an understood etiquette. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing it, but if someone says “Hey can we change the subject, you’ve been wonking for 40 minutes now,” take it graciously and talk about something else. It seems to me that more people need to adopt this kind of “wonking manners.”

          1. Jane*

            Great idea! I also have ADHD and I wish there was an easy way to share this with my friends (and my family… both my dad and brother wonk a LOT without asking). I would feel less awkward about wonking and could actively apologize when I do so…

      5. Lora*

        The nastiest screaming fights I ever saw about religion at work were between two extremely religious people who happened to belong to different denominations of Protestant Christianity. It was a Seventh Day Adventist vs. Southern Baptist. The Southern Baptist ended up quitting rather than listen to the Seventh Day Adventist talk religion at work.

        1. Xarcady*

          I had to have a manager step in when a co-worker who practiced one type of Christianity started to try to covert me, who practices a different type of Christianity, to her religion. Apparently she was taught that people like me are doomed to the Bad Place because we aren’t really Christian or something.

          Her defense was that she was only trying to help me learn the truth about my religion and how bad, awful, and terrible it was. Fortunately, this did not go over well with the powers that be and she was ordered to stop. This resulted in her ignoring me. Which was okay by me.

          (Usually I never mention religion at work. But this woman kept asking me, and asking me, and asking me to go to church with her, and I finally told her I already had a church to go to, thinking it would get her to stop.)

          1. Samata*

            I have found that saying “I have my own [insert literally anything here]” only eggs on a relentless converter.

            “I already have a brand of ice cream I buy”…”Oh, that? Here’s why my brand is superior.”
            “I already have a favorite toothbrush”…”what, and I bet you have more cavities than I do”
            “I already have a cat litter that kills odors”….”well, if your not potty training your cat you are killing yourself slowly every day”

            1. RB*

              It works for some people. Also you can tweak it by adding “I’m not interested” somewhere in your response, or something to that effect.

              1. mrs__peel*

                Maybe the standard telemarketing response would work here. “Please remove me from your list”.

            2. Anion*

              I was always able to get proselytizers to shuit it down by politely telling them I’m Catholic, actually. The way their faces fell and they just dropped the subject was pretty funny.

              (I’m an extremely lapsed Catholic, but they don’t need to know that.)

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                Doesn’t work with Jehovah’s Witnesses; they just say, ‘Ah, so you believe in God, then?’ Or at least, they did when I tried it.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Oh man, I’ve gotten the “well you’re not really Christian” thing too. Just because I’m not mainline Protestant doesn’t mean I don’t believe in Jesus, yo!

            1. Ugh*

              I have a coworker who made some not-great comments about the type of Christianity I was raised in (without knowing it was what I practiced) not long after I started here. We’ve since had some good conversations about that (during breaks, when it is more appropriate to have personal conversations) and we’re good now but the degree to which some Christians think it’s okay to tell other Christians that they’re Christian-ing WRONG is flabbergasting to me.

              To say nothing of telling anyone their beliefs are wrong at work.

            2. Plague of frogs*

              I had a friend who went to Casey Treat’s church. He finally had to stop going because every Sunday, as soon as he walked through the door, volunteers would take him into a little room and try to convert him to Christianity. He would protest that he was already a Christian, and point out that he was trying to go to church. They would gently tell him that he just thought he was a Christian, and needed to become a real one.

              He never figured out exactly what it was about, but he thought it might be his waist-length hair. But the volunteers never actually said that, so he wasn’t sure.

            3. Penny Lane*

              And so what if you weren’t really Christian, anyway? What sort of loser thinks that being Christian is “better” than being any other religion?

            4. Hope*

              Ah yes, the classic “Assholes for Christ” approach is what I call it. It blew my mind the first time I encountered the “you’re doing Christianity wrong” thing when I was younger.

            5. Gadget Hackwrench*

              I was raised Catholic. (Now Atheist) I once had a friend who wanted to write a Catholic character. She was under some WEIRD impressions, not the least of which was that Catholics aren’t Christians. I’ve heard the whole “it’s polytheism” thing because of saints or the whole “works not faith” thing, but she took it to new levels. She belived that there was a lot of equipment necessary for everything. She thought you needed a certain object for each prayer and things like that, and that they all had to be formulaic in nature, and ritualized and you can’t just be all “God if you’re listening, I could use a hand here…” She wanted me to teach her the right “spells and incantations.” Uh… honey… that’s witchery. Nothing wrong with witchery… it’s just definitely not Catholicism.

          3. Queen Esmerelda*

            Ah, this reminds me of an Emo Philips joke:”
            Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

            He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

            He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

            Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

            1. Ellen*

              My favorite Emo Philips joke of all time!! Unfortunately I can never remember the details past Northern v. Southern Baptist, so thanks for the retelling.

          4. Julia the Survivor*

            I think the only thing that works with someone like that is “I’m not interested in your religion and if you keep hassling me I will file a complaint.”
            I grew up with people like that. They’re relentless and have zero respect. It’s how they’re raised/trained…

          1. mrs__peel*

            “Flavors of Lutherans” sounds like the worst ice cream shop, where they have selections like lutefisk.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Same thing at a department I worked in. One Southern Baptist was so happy to have another Christian person start working there with her and thought they were going to be each other’s touchstone amongst all the non-religious people in the office. He was the same denomination, but they each had a different take on what that meant, apparently, so they ended up fighting all the time and couldn’t stand each other.

      6. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        I worked with a couple of guys that talked about the stock market non-stop throughout the day. They did get their work done, but it was an open office plan and it drove all of us nuts. Headphones were not allowed. The manager did finally get them to stop but they had to have several warnings.

        1. HS Teacher*

          I had to deal with that with Fantasy Football playing coworkers. I am a football fan, and I couldn’t stand all the fantasy football talk; it was so obnoxious.

          1. mrs__peel*

            I had a blissful few years working in a federal office, where all Fantasy Football talk (and all sports betting in general) was strictly banned under the Hatch Act.

              1. mrs__peel*

                I think that was also the excuse they used to stop people from selling their kids’ wrapping paper at work.

                1. InfoSec SemiPro*

                  Is it terrible of me that I see this as an all purpose way to make a civilized office?

                  Wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions? Banned by the Hatch Act. (Girl Scout cookies have a dispensation.)
                  Football, exercise or role playing discussion? Banned by the Hatch Act.
                  Fish in the microwave? Hatch Act, one of the later subsections.
                  Thermostat wars? Covered in the Hatch Act, my hands are tied.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  So long as you leave in the Girl Scout cookie exemption, I see this catching on.

          2. Liz*

            I worked in an office full of Turks and Brazilians. They were all die-hard soccer fans. One had actually played professionally in Turkey. The World Cup was a HUGE deal.

        2. Windchime*

          We have the Bitcoin guys in my office. Hours and hours of long discussions about Bitcoin. They will occasionally switch to talking about their retirement plans in excruciating detail.

          1. Kelly O*

            Oh. Em. Gee.

            Seriously y’all the Bitcoin conversation kills me. “No thank you, I’m not interested.”
            I don’t know when that stopped being enough to end the questions, but I say it all the time. I just keep repeating the same thing like a broken record in the hopes that eventually it will get through. Kind of like how if I tell my seven-year-old to take a bath enough times eventually she’ll do it.

      7. Special Snowflake*

        It really doesn’t matter whether she is talking about God, Satan, or the internal mysteries of the combustion engine. The point is, regardless of the subject matter,she is doing it in work time, and not only is she not concentrating on her own work but is preventing others from doing theirs. That is more relevant to the company. She is being paid for wasting work time, regardless of how many souls she may be saving whilst doing it. If I were her boss, I would want it stopped.

      8. Ange*

        True….i work with someone like this and they also talk about God and finances and all kinds of stuff I consider personal. It’s so irritating! I’m open to friends and family about so much but I tend to not overshare at work, and am very selective of who I’m friends with on Facebook (2 people total). These people are the type that are adding all work people as friends online and say “love you!” To people they barely know at work. Lol. That’s fine for them but doesn’t mean everyone is like that .

    2. Lady Olenna Tyrell*

      We had a co-worker who hosted Bible study once a week before school (yes, a public school) which was totally fine until he started emailing out a list of non-participants each week, like he was taking attendance. He was dealt with swiftly from our boss after the third warning from the underboss.

      Anyway, my point is that AAM’s advice is spot-on and my main objection is that Cersei isn’t doing her work if she has time to have 40-minute long conversations on the phone, regardless of subject. Although she sounds like a peach to work with (and if I wrote a novel, I’d combine her behaviors with the co-worker who combed her hair with a fork and took her teeth out at her desk to create my antagonist.)

        1. hiptobesquared*

          We had that at my workplace as well – the co worker refused to remove people from the list for the bible study even after they asked. I was very firm, and was the only one one to actually get removed.

          It’s interesting having this dynamic in a very religious area, because HR doesn’t want to hurt feelings.

      1. mrs__peel*

        We had a LOT of those cases when I was working at the ACLU a few years ago (e.g., one public school teacher who had students read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in class and raise their hands if they’d been saved).

        Fortunately, in most cases, all we had to do was send a “knock it off” letter and it was pretty quickly resolved by the district.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          That’s a lot less fun than my high school experience of Sinners, that’s for sure!

        2. boo*

          Wow, I read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in school, but it was in a history class, because we were studying the Great Awakening… If you’re looking for child converts, that’s pretty extreme for an introductory text!

          1. Evan Þ*

            Reminds me of when my high school American History teacher spent one whole class period lecturing about Puritan theology and its effects on their lives. It fit!

        3. Biff*

          WHAT ON EARTH. That’s a very important bit of … literature(? I’m unclear here) for understanding early American lit and history, but …. wtf. NOOOOO.

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            It’s fascism. Christian fascists use fear to keep their followers in line. The younger the better!
            If you’re interested, the book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America explains all this.

            1. Anion*

              Fascists of all stripes use fear to keep their followers in line, or try to force others to follow them.

        4. Anion*

          A teacher at my daughter’s school in England showed the children (11-12 yr olds) the big walking-to-the-cross and crucifixion scene from The Passion of the Christ.

          We complained about that one. Religion is a regular part of school in England and we didn’t mind that, but showing them that was a couple of steps too far. (We were not the only parents who spoke up, either.)

          1. Media Monkey*

            my daughter came back from a (non religious) UK school at the age of 5 at Easter and said “Jesus died on the cross for our sins mummy”. much biting of tongues happened.

        5. Lala*

          Wow. That’s…special.

          I just asked my students to choose an example of figurative language from the speech, explain what kind it was, and illustrate it to the best of their ability. I got the BEST drawings from that.

        6. PersephoneUnderground*

          OMG, my high school English teacher was the best- he dressed up as the preacher who wrote it and read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in character- it was awesome! We then discussed its historical significance as a text etc., like normal class, it wasn’t a religious thing.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            My AP History teacher bellowed selected excerpts at the top of his lungs while shaking a He-Man figure in one fist as a visual aid.

      2. Murphy*

        My taught worked at a public school and participated in a bible study before work. I thought it was a bit odd, but I don’t think the guy running it went to that extreme. (Although maybe it’s the same school!)

        1. mrs__peel*

          Legally speaking, religious student clubs are allowed to use public school spaces (outside of normal school hours) in a lot of circumstances. It’s mainly teachers pushing religion in the classroom that violates the Establishment Clause.

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            Yep, I think the idea is that it’s fine as long as no religion is favored. So if you want After School Bible Study, you also have to allow the After School Satan Club (the satanists are hilarious).

      3. Kimberly*

        Was this for staff only? Because staff cannot do this with students in a public school. Students can organize a group, and be required to have a staff member present but the staff member can’t participate. Public school staff needs to remember that we are the State, so bound by the establishment clause during work hours.

        I had a problem with a volunteer turned employee who claimed I was violating her religious rights when I
        1. Stopped her from praying with my students after a lockdown (We weren’t in danger there was a domestic violence situation just the other side of the fence.)
        2. Told her to stop telling me that my food allergy would be cured if I just worshipped at her church
        3. Stopped her and her son from trying to save a student who was Buddist. The other parents refused to file a complaint because they were scared of the woman.

        She was finally dismissed for stealing from the school.

        A debate at my school about cross walls stopped after a couple of us pointed out that the Staff is the State and the religious decorations violated the establishment clause.

    3. CocoB*

      It does seem that the comments and discussion are too frequent and long. I, too, am very religious and my work actually deals with ministry, but I would not want to listen to those conversations all day, every day. Ick! Keep in mind Cersei’s comments about attending Bible study tonight are no different and should be no more offensive than someone’s comments about going to the bar and getting drunk or sleeping with their girlfriend would be expected to be to Cersei. It’s that individual’s life. The real issue is the time spent talking, distracting others during work time and religiously advising OP. Allison’s suggestion of a direct request to not be preached to or proselytized during work is reasonable to all parties.

      1. Temperance*

        I actually think it’s super inappropriate to tell coworkers that you’re going to have sex or get drunk.

        1. de Pizan*

          At one healthcare clinic I worked at, one of the previous employees before me apparently lacked any kind of filter. She worked the front desk, and our clinic space was fairly small, so you could basically hear conversations happening at the desk/lobby area from anywhere in the clinic if people weren’t keeping their voices down. And she did not. Her favorite topics were 1-the side-job she had as a stripper complete with detailed stories about what she did onstage or the men who came in to watch, and 2-most days she talked about what a bad hangover she had from getting wasted the night before. Both topics inappropriate at any conventional workplace in front of patients/clients, but the second especially so at a clinic where the doctors had a big focus on healthy lifestyles and diets. She didn’t last too long.

      2. Specialk9*

        “Keep in mind Cersei’s comments about attending Bible study tonight are no different and should be no more offensive than someone’s comments about going to the bar and getting drunk or sleeping with their girlfriend would be expected to be to Cersei. ”

        What the ever loving Mike. Uh no, those are all textbook inappropriate workplace behaviors. Except that religious harassment is discriminatory, and can result in a lawsuit. The other two are tacky and immature and career-inhibiting.

    4. Kelly O*

      I agree with you. I am a religious person (well, I like to think I’m a Christian more than “religious, but it’s a huge part of my life and who I am) but I would be frustrated by that.

      It may very well be the type of church Cersei attends. Depending on where you’re located geographically, and I’d honestly be interested to know that, she may not see anything wrong with it. I’m not saying that makes it right, but I know some people, particularly from “back home” who think it’s just part of life.

      Just speak honestly to her. And if she still talks to the remote worker, at least from my perspective, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that, unless you want to run up the flag that they’re having long, non-work-related conversations and it’s distracting or something like that.

      I hope that Cersei will take your comments well and that when you have the conversation you can be to the point but kind. Again, depending on the greater community and culture the conversation may be different, but it should be positive.

  4. Hills to Die on*

    The one thing I think is okay is mentioning that she has plans at a church event. Assuming it was mentioned in passing and not going into detail about church things.

    Yikes, though! Throttle back, Cersei!

    1. Jilly*

      Yeah. I’m a UU so I’m not “religious” in the traditional sense and don’t really want to hear about it at work, but if we’re talking about weekend plans, I’m likely to make a factual statement along the lines of “Ugh, I have to get up for the early church service rather than the later one because I need to run X errands after.”

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Hello fellow UU! Totally with you that mentioning church (or temple or synagogue) in passing when talking about weekend plans. No different than “Oh yeah, I’m going to see a movie this weekend” or whatever.

      2. Al*

        Don’t have anything productive to add, but I wanted to join the UU sound-off! Hey, y’all!

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Ditto! I think there’s a difference between talking about religion as a fact of your life that impacts XYZ topic of discussion (like the above example, or mentioning that I’m going to a game night at church this weekend), but beyond that, it’s wise to tread v lightly.

        1. carrieblizz*

          If it’s okay for my coworkers to mention going to church on Sunday, it’s okay for me to mention my weeklong vacation is at a pagan “conference” of sorts! And I’m bringing my atheist hubby.

        2. Plague of frogs*

          I am Christian and I would totally want to hear about that! (But not for 40 minutes a day, of course).

    2. McWhadden*

      Yeah, I work with a few people active in their church. And they’ll mention activities. Or gossip about how awful everyone else there is (ha). But it’s really no different from me talking about a writing class I am taking or anything else. They aren’t preaching just mentioning their hobbies/venting.

      I did get one church invite but only because my co-worker’s daughter was singing in the choir and had a solo. She doesn’t care about my soul she was just proud of her daughter.

      But they don’t do any of the other stuff Cersei does. When it is mentioning an activity I just respond like I would to someone saying they have a card game that night. “Sounds good! Enjoy!” But the other stuff definitely needs more.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        Yes, this. My coworker is active in her church, and I’m an atheist. Church activities are just discussed like any other activities that we talk about. I respect her belief and she respects my non-belief and we just talk about our separate interests. I think the only thing we’ve actively disagreed on is horizontal vs. vertical blinds.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            I did, for the same reason that That guy listed below. Horizontal blinds are absolutely destroyed by pets, and I also find them very hard to clean. Vertical blinds are much easier to clean and can stand up to cats knocking them out of the way.

        1. That guy*

          Vertical blinds are great if you have cats! So many broken horizontal blinds have littered my past.

          1. JessaB*

            This, I had no idea til our apartment complex put in verticles but OMG how much easier it is with the cat.

      2. Samata*

        This made me smile She doesn’t care about my soul she was just proud of her daughter. Mainly because this is how religion should be handled IMO.

        1. Kelly O*

          I’ve shared with coworkers about my daughter’s choir things; like this commenter, I’m not doing it to convert anyone. I’m doing it because my kid is stinking adorable and her elementary school doesn’t have a choir, so this is the only chance she gets to sing.

          Don’t worry, I’ll also probably over-share about her science fair project after presentations this evening too. I’m an equal-opportunity mom. (And to be clear, it’s not all the time, and only with a few coworkers with whom I share personal stuff.)

    3. Anon Accountant*

      I agree with this and think this is where Cersei needs to draw the line. My thoughts are “I’m baking pies for my church dinner” is acceptable to say. Beyond that it’s too much religious talk. Unless asked “please don’t discuss church stuff” then that should absolutely be respected.

    4. Mike C.*

      I think if the rest of the stuff weren’t being discussed, the church activities thing wouldn’t be an issue at all. In the context of everything else, it becomes part of the problem.

      1. Eye of the Hedgehog*

        I think it’s kind of a BEC thing. The church dinner mention wouldn’t even bother LW without the rest of it, I suspect.

    5. Delta Delta*

      That was my impression, too. Someone mentioning they have a church event seems pretty benign. When it shifts over into the other things OP mentioned, I think I’d also be uncomfortable and speak up with one of Allison’s suggestions.

    6. sfigato*

      Agreed. Talking about going to church or a church event? 100% fine. Constantly talking about your religious views at work? not so fine. I have a bunch of good friends who are all christian, and all of our religious views totally clash with one another’s – hard core catholic, evangelical, liberal protestant, non-practicing, non-believing catholic, etc. If we ever got deep into matters of faith, it would get ugly quick because our views on the matter, even though we are all “christian,” don’t jibe. So we don’t talk about it and we are fine, because our beliefs in what supernatural power is or isn’t guiding the universe, and what does or does not happen to you in the after life, and whether or how to worship religious figures from the past are not things that we need to agree on.

      1. Snark*

        My wife is a non-practicing Jew who likes Buddhism, with a family full of Latinx Catholics on one side and argumentative Israelis on the other. She’s gotten reaaaaal good at the artful dodge-and-subject change.

    7. CTT*

      Yeah, I was going to say that as well. If it gets to a point where OP has to discuss it with higher-ups, I’d leave this out (unless it becomes pestering about OP joining the church group) because that’s more on the level of “Co-worker who is active in their bowling league/trivia team/other hobby” than the active proselytizing which is a bigger problem. No need to confuse the issues.

      1. Anony*

        Yep. Lumping in discussions about social plans at church with talk about how God is calling at 3 AM will weaken her argument.

    8. Thlayli*

      Yeah the shouldn’t have to hide the fact that she went to a hutch event. Where I think it crosses the line is:
      1 telling OP that she “should” pray when she wakes at 3am – that’s like trying to convert people and should not be happening in the workplace
      2 talking on the phone for 40 minutes every day about something other than work.

      Talking to other coworkers about a topic they both enjoy is fine and nothing whatsoever to do with OP, so long as they are not using hate speech. Talking about a kids bible and their shared concerns about spiritual education of their kids is fine and none of OPs business, any more than if they were talking about shared concerns of encouraging their kids into sports, and OP disliked sports.

      1. Kittyfish 76*

        Totally agree with this. I meant the same thing in comments, below. You phrased it much better than I.

    9. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think the OP getting irked by the bible study and picnics illustrates that coworker has moved into BEC territory.
      I imagine at this point, even if coworker said she went to Chik Fil A, LW hackles would be raised, because at this point LW sees everything coworker does as proselytizing.
      I’m not saying it’s right, or wrong, it’s just gone on too long for LW’s comfort.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I’m of the same thought. LW might fear –rightfully or not– that the mention of church is the cue to talk about religion.

        It’s also possible that, for all we know, it’s something LW’s coworker has done in the past (“I’m going to church on Sunday. You know how important saving my soul is. Did I tell you that God told me…..”), or something that allows her to find an audience, so to speak, in which case it’s a lot more justifiable.

        1. LNZ*

          I can see that.
          My roommate has a dog currently living with her parents and she never shuts up about, ever, it’s the best dog that ever lived and is amazing and blah blah blah.
          So nay mention of pets around or from her gets my hackles up cause it means she might start preaching about her dog again.

    10. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I was coming here to say the same. The OP needs to be careful that they aren’t so annoyed by the religious chatter that they lose perspective on what’s normal office chat (going to “whatever” this weekend) vs. actually have a religious discussion. It’s not fair to the religious coworker to tell her that she can’t say she has choir practice or is dreading all the setup work for a church event when saying the same thing about a secular event would be fine.

    11. Woahh*

      This gets so interesting as a Jew. Like, the ethno-religious part really trips people up and gets hard to navigate, since I’m talking partially about culture, you know? It gets really annoying when something like oh I can’t, I have a Bat Mitzvah that dat get turned into a long diatribe about how Sunday is really the Sabbath. Like Jews of all level of religiosity (orthodox to not) have considered Friday to Saturday our Shabbat, its when certain things take place, I’m not lecturing you, this is just my cultural calendar.

  5. neverjaunty*

    AAM is a wiser person than I, because (assuming this co-worker is a Christian) I’d bring up some rather pointed Biblical admonishments about hypocrites and show-offs who flaunt their faith for their own ego.

    Regarding the phone calls, I wonder if it would be better to present these to the manager as “loud personal conversations’ and downplay the subject matter? Managers sometimes get it into their heads that they have to let people be stupid at work if a “protected class” is supposedly involved.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Would be so tempted :)

      I’m religious, and most I mention is if on Ash Wednesday it’s kind of noticable and will give the one-sentence summary, or mentioning in passing about what doing at weekend if something special on… but yeah, that’s too much.

      1. Kelly*

        Horrifying moment in this Pagan’s life; the Ash Wednesday that just happened? I mentioned to a colleague in a meeting that she had something on her forehead. I seriously did not know it was a holy day. She looked at me like I was an idiot.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Yeah, I looked at a coworker, paused, and then said “Oh, right – it is Ash Wednesday.” We both kind of laughed, and went on with our days.

          Mostly I’m not too open about being a Pagan in the workplace, although there are a few coworkers who know. I kind of use being a geek as “cover,” in some ways. It works surprisingly well.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          She was rude! I just say “thanks! it’s ok… it’s ash wednesday; it’s deliberate!” or something along those lines, and expand if anyone asks.

          But seriously, I know this… others don’t. No biggie.

        3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

          I wouldn’t worry about it (she sounds grumpy). My part of the midwest had Catholicism as a minority, so Ash Wednesday wasn’t something I paid attention to. Most people just went, “I know–Ash Wednesday” or something like it and I went, “oh, ok”. :D

        4. Jadelyn*

          I genuinely don’t get why there would be any expectation that you would inherently be familiar with that practice though? I grew up United Methodist, we never did the Ash Wednesday thing at that particular church (we mentioned it but nobody was putting ash on each others faces), and not until I had a Catholic coworker did I ever hear of Ash Wednesday being A Thing like that. It’s not nearly so universal as, for example, Christmas or Easter. Like, if someone asked “Why would you go to church on the 25th, it’s a day off!” that would be a bit odd because culturally we all know Something Is Up on that date even if you never went to church yourself. Ash Wednesday isn’t that universal or widespread though, so unless you’re personally connected to the church you wouldn’t necessarily have ever heard of it.

          1. Diamond*

            I’m a Christian myself (but not Catholic) and even I wouldn’t realise what the ash was. I’ve never known anyone that did that.

        5. Brunch with Sylvia*

          Non-pagan here: I once washed the ashes off of a patient’s forehead not realizing the significance until I arrived at my next patient’s room, saw the ashes on HIS forehead and realized what I had done. The priest was unamused by the time I caught up with him on another wing.

          1. Arjay*

            This isn’t a problem. Many people receive ashes and then remove them before going to work or on with their daily lives. I’m sure you wanted to be respectful of the patient’s desires, but really it shouldn’t have been a big deal.

          2. Anion*

            The priest should have gotten over it, and over himself. If walking to another wing/building to re-bless a sick person is such a problem for him, he should find another line of work, because that is literally his job.


        6. Oranges*

          I was confused why everyone had an injury on the same part of their face. Until I remembered that ash wednesday was a thing and it wasn’t a scab, it was ashes.

        7. Mad Baggins*

          Could be worse… when I was young, a classmate asked another student what was on their forehead, and misheard “ashes” for “someone’s ashes”… it did not go well :(

    2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      The long personal calls can be called out. “The weekly TPS isn’t ready. Can I ask Cersei to cut her personal calls short so she can work on them?”

    3. sparty*

      I’d also be tempted to begin discussions of the Flying Spaghetti Monster if she didn’t stop talking to me about things and throw on a colander some day. But I also like to occasional stir the pot.

          1. AKchic*

            As a fellow 907-ian, you and I would do well together. May our pasta be plentiful and our bread basket never be empty. R’amen.


      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        This is what I’d do as well – convert to either FSM or Satanism and respond to every single religious comment with one of my own.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Please don’t represent Satanism that way.

          The Satanic Temple is doing some good social advocacy work trying maintain women’s reproductive health rights and stopping teachers from hitting kids in school (yes, that’s still legal in some places), we don’t need people co-opting the name just to play “I’ll show you mine” with casual fanatics who’ve drank way too damn much communion wine. :(

          1. Gadget Hackwrench*

            Yeah stick to FSM for that kind of thing. That’s pretty much what FSM is about.

          2. Ali*

            Even the Satanic Temple admit they’re just atheists who picked that particular symbolism to stir Christians and expose hypocrisy while doing social justice work, so I don’t think they’d object at all to being lumped in with FSM. They do do great things, but they’re in no way a serious religion.

      2. Specialk9*

        Why stop there? Just go straight to Satanism, start leaving leaflets…

        /Don’t actually do that.
        //Bless the Satanists for fighting so many good fights lately.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Are you referring to Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”?

      I wouldn’t bring it up, but if ever asked for my favorite bible verse at work…

      1. Alli525*

        Love that one, and love deploying it when I need to. My mother won’t let up on religion (she’s still salty that I converted from various-Protestant to Catholic… 14 years ago…) and I finally flat out told her I will NEVER discuss any aspect of my religious life (or my physical appearance, also a problem) with her. Ever. She still tries but I keep it locked down.

        I might be devout, but I keep it private unless someone is genuinely curious about it.

      2. paul*

        One of our board members is pushy church-wise. He’s also a higher up at a bank. It is *always* a struggle to not bring up that bit from, IIRC, John where the money lenders got lit up.

      3. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        It seems to be the guiding verse for the modest Lutheranism I grew up with!

      4. Plague of frogs*

        That one always reminds me of Tebow.

        Another applicable one would be, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” I.e., how about doing your job instead of spending 40 minutes in a private conversation.

      5. Rachel*

        I am WAAAYYY behind the times here, but that particular verse quoted by Trout ‘Waver is, in fact, the reading for the Ash Wednesday service in every Catholic church I have ever attended. Go figure.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Anything that touches off a longer discussion is really not appropriate in the workplace. This covers whatever topic people might delve into, politics, diet, medical stuff, football etc. The focus is on the work. I remember one place everyone stood around talking about football while I ran my butt off doing my job and filling in their gaps. To this day, when someone mentions football, I still think of those folks just standing there doing nothing. I was never a fan of football and this incident really helped to me to be even less interested.

      I work with church going folks, I am one, also. We almost never mention anything of a religious church nature during our work day. And most certainly, the very few times something is said, we make sure no one else is within earshot. In the last six years,I think there have been about 3 times where we said something to each other. There just is NO need for this.

      I will say. A while back I worked with one person who was very religious and not shy about demonstrating that.
      This went on for a while and I ended up in discussions of what to do. One person commented that the person involved could have difficulties because talking about religion was how she got through her day. Take that away from her and her coping strategy would be gone-gone-gone.

      Never really resolved the situation. However, I did speak to the person directly. In my case, other people commented, “Don’t tell me what a rotten person I am and that I will burn in hell. I already know I am a poor excuse for a human being and I do not need to expand on that point.” I took this type of comment and said to her that her religious talk was making people feel bad about themselves, instead of reaching them she was pushing them even further away. She did not realize this was happening. LUCKILY, she kind of listened to me on this point and she did dial it back a noticeable amount.

      YMMV, but maybe there is a way she can be told how others feel and once she realizes that she will understand the need to change what she is doing. Conversely, if you tell her how you feel maybe that will at least cover your conversations with her.

    6. McWhadden*

      That would be incredibly mean spirited. And there is no indication that the woman is just trying to boost her own ego.

  6. Lemondrop*

    “I have plans with my church group tonight” doesn’t seem so bad to me. I’m not sure you can respond to that with, “I don’t want to talk about religion at work.”

    “You should get up and pray at 3 a.m.” sounds like proselytizing. I’d be on the lookout for things specifically in this vein if you’re going to bring it up with your manager.

    1. strawberries and raspberries*

      Eh. Last week in an all-staff meeting one of our Directors asked how everyone’s weekend was and then she said, “Church people, how was church?” and the church people started talking about how great it was, and like, 1) not everyone goes to church, 2) I don’t want to hear about church, and 3) clearly in the case of someone like Cersei it’s a gateway to other stuff like she’s been doing. It’s very reasonable for people not to want to hear about your church when we’re all trying to get work done.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        If that is the only one I’d agree but if church people was one of a few groups I think this goes into the category of not all social chitchat will ever be directly relevant to you. For example- “church people how was church? Movie people anything good out? Football people did you go to the game?” Probably okay. Church people as the only one is sketchier.

            1. strawberries and raspberries*

              You keep bringing up examples of things that are clearly hobbies and not religion and trying to say that not everything will be relevant to everyone. You’re not saying it directly, but you are minimizing the clear discomfort non-Christians may have with having to listen to social chitchat about your goddamn church all the time.

              1. Ainomiaka*

                I am actively not Christian, so thanks for assuming I have a church to talk about. I have absolutely had the bad experience with Christian churches, that’s why I’m not. You assumed wrong, but I’ll engage with you. Religion is one possible identity. I talk about doing stuff related to my identity, they talk about theirs. As long as it’s “I did this/am doing this” is an equal conversation about sharing. . .my identity is not categorically better than theirs.

                1. strawberries and raspberries*

                  It’s not about “better,” it’s about what gets mentioned and applauded and what doesn’t. I’m glad you’re not as affected by it as I am. I’m going to stop talking about it before I get too far afield of the topic at hand, as Alison requested.

                2. LBK*

                  I think the difference is that religion has an ideology behind it that liking movies or football doesn’t (and I’m pretty sure that conversely, devout religious people would also not appreciate you comparing their beliefs to a hobby).

              2. sunny-dee*

                That’s … really extreme. I’ve been through infertility treatments for 2.5 years, following a miscarriage. I hear (even in passing) a TON of talk about pregnancies, babies, PTA and school events, grandkids, Mother’s Day. It’s easy to take that really personally, but the fact is, that stuff is fairly superficial. It’s normal, every-day stuff for most people, and their lives don’t revolve around my personal issues. That’s not to say my issues aren’t real and meaningful, but at some point, you just learn to let go and accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you. (Or you spend a lot of time hiding in a bathroom. I’ve done both.)

                1. LBK*

                  As a gay man, I get uncomfortable hearing about religion not because I have an issue with it but because it tends to have an issue with me, and that’s not a line I want to have to walk at work.

                2. Ainomiaka*

                  Yes! This x1000. And yeah. Infertility sympathy. But I don’t go around telling people never to talk about their kids or pregnancies. That just be an overstep.

                3. EvanMax*

                  Not all religions/churches have a problem with you, LBK. I absolutely understand why you’d feel uncomfortable at first, but pre-supposing that someone is against you isn’t fair to them either.

                  And let’s not forget the irony that it is NOT okay to say of gay people “I don’t care what they do behind closed doors, I just don’t want to hear them talking about it at work” in reference for why it is wrong for a man to talk about going out to dinner with his husband/boyfriend, etc.

                  If some one is talking about anti-Gay event/fundraiser at their church, then I’m totally with you, but it they’re talking about something that isn’t bigoted like that, I don’t think it’s fair to declare them to be bigots just because some other religious people are.

                4. Blue Anne*

                  Yeah, I have the same concerns, LBK. I’ve never come out at my current workplace because there are a lot of loud church folks. The only person who knows I’m queer is my boss, because I’ve gone to him with my discomfort about the homophobia that gets spouted sometimes. I know plenty of religious people who are fine with it (including, er, myself) but… when it can impact you professionally… ugh.

                5. LBK*

                  My issue isn’t working with someone who’s religious, it’s with someone being religious at work, to the extent that you’re suggesting a coworker should pray. That’s definitely going to make me question how much your religious beliefs are influencing your ability to do your job – and for me personally, it’s going to make me wonder if you’d treat me differently because of my sexuality. Obviously not all religious people are bigots (my mom couldn’t care less about my sexuality and she’s gone to church every Sunday since she was born) but there is certainly a correlation between devoutness and homophobic beliefs that would make me uncomfortable to be around someone who feels so strongly about their religion that they can’t keep religious discussions out of the office.

                6. Annabelle*

                  A lot of people, self included, are uncomfortable with religious conversations at work because some variations of popular religions think we’re subhuman. To me, that is very different than trying to navigate sensitive personal issues.

                  It’s the same reason I don’t wanna hear about politics in the office. If I know Brenda from Accounting thinks I’m a deviant who’s going to hell, I’m not going to feel comfortable speaking to or working with her.

                7. Temperance*

                  @EvanMax: what you’re doing here is called #NotAllChristians by those of us who aren’t of your faith. Many people have been hurt by societal Christianity and Christians, and it’s okay for people who have been victimized by Christians/Christianity to be wary. It’s okay to want to protect yourself from discrimination or worse. We live in a country where folks have been abused and even killed for being gay, and at least some of that hatred has been fueled by religion.

                  There is also a massive difference between expecting gay people not to exist in public and not wanting to be preached to without consent.

                8. LBK*

                  It’s the same reason I don’t wanna hear about politics in the office. If I know Brenda from Accounting thinks I’m a deviant who’s going to hell, I’m not going to feel comfortable speaking to or working with her.

                  Exactly. I’m a huge movie buff but I’m not going to treat my coworker differently just because they loved Three Billboards and I hated it. Hobbies don’t prescribe values the way religion does.

                9. EvanMax*

                  @Temperance: I’m not a Christian, and never have been.

                  This is kind of my point about assuming.

                10. EvanMax*

                  LBK, there is a difference bertween actively preaching and mentioning a religious activity. One of my co-workers is very involved in his church. His stories about his weekend generally involve something that he did with a church group, or a cook-out at his house that he held for church members, or some other similar thing that tangentially touches his church life.

                  Never once has he told me I should be going to his (or any) church, or pushed any beliefs on me, or asked why I don’t believe the same things as him, or any sort of preaching. He is just sharing the details of his life, just like I share mine when I talk about my daughter or my new car or whatever else I have going on.

                  In comparison, when I worked retail, I had a regular customer who would come in and ask me about my relationship with her savior on a pretty regular basis. I would shut that down quickly, and then generally afterwards go right to my manager and tell him (not ask him) that a customer was proselytizing to me so I shut her down, in case a complaint came in. I’m all for drawing a hard line against both bigotry and proselytizing in the workplace (which are two separate issues.)

                  Making assumptions about people isn’t cool, though. I hear someone saying “all Christians are bigots” and I hear the same thing as “all gay men are immoral”. Both of those concepts offend me, even though I belong to neither of those groups.

                  That said, one of my pet peeves is being told to “have a blessed day”, because the one saying it almost invariably doesn’t believe in the same blessings as I do.

                  The distinction here is whether a statement inserts the speaker’s religion into the workplace (“you should pray”, etc.) versus just informing you that the speaker has a particular religion (mentioning their church group or having been to weekend services.)

                11. LBK*

                  Okay, so…you’re responding to things I didn’t say in my comment, then bringing up situations that are completely unrelated to what’s happening in the letter? Do you want to have a conversation or do you want to just equivocate about random things no one is saying?

                12. EvanMax*

                  If by “hearing about religion” you mean only preaching/proselyting, and you don’t care if some one talks about the church bake sale, then you and I are on the same page.

                  Otherwise, if I’m misunderstanding a third thing that you are saying, feel free to set me straight.

                13. LBK*

                  As I said:

                  My issue isn’t working with someone who’s religious, it’s with someone being religious at work.

                  Being so deeply into religion that you can’t hold a casual conversation about the weather without bringing up your beliefs is a problem (see OP’s update below). As I also said, it’s not the same as someone who’s obsessed with football or movies because while that would be annoying, it doesn’t also come with a set of values that would dictate their actions. I don’t believe that someone who’s so devout that it spills over into their regular work conversation is going to be able to act neutrally if some element of their job interacts with those beliefs. Unless you’re a football referee, having strong opinions about football teams is not going to affect your ability to do your job the way that having strong religious beliefs is likely to.

                14. EvanMax*

                  “I don’t believe that someone who’s so devout that it spills over into their regular work conversation is going to be able to act neutrally if some element of their job interacts with those beliefs.”

                  That is your prejudice, and it is the point I am taking issue with.

                  If someone is incapable of performing their job duties properly, that is an issue, but assuming that their religion automatically makes them incapable is wrong. I understand why being the target of some members of a religion would make you wary of other members of that religion, but that still doesn’t make pre-judgement different from prejudice. You can be pro-actively cautious without equating extremists with all members of a faith, or all members of all faiths.

                15. LBK*

                  I’m not equating all members of the faith with extremists. I’m equating extremists with extremists. Someone who says in casual office conversation that the volatile weather is simply because of the coming apocalypse but fortunately she’ll be saved is a extremist to me. Surely you’re not suggesting that is a typical level of devotion?

                16. LBK*

                  And I’m not assuming that she won’t be able to turn if off when necessary. She is already actively showing that she can’t turn it off by the fact that she continues to bring it up constantly in completely inappropriate ways. I’m not pre-judging anything, I am judging based on what she is already doing. I don’t have to assume anything.

                17. EvanMax*

                  I feel that you are ignoring the context of the thread that we are both responding to. I hope that you are not doing this actively, because that would be pretty disingenuous (and to prove what?)

                  There is a difference between a person whose religion is the center of their identity and a person who actively proselytizes. There is overlap, to be sure, but it is wrong to assume that one necessitates the other.

                  Asking a group of employees that you know regularly attend church how their service was is different from attributing weather events to divine providence. Hell, buying a “children’s bible” for a co-worker whom you know is also religious is different from buying the exact same gift for a co-worker who you don’t know their religious affiliation.

                  If a co-worker had given me anything christian for my daughter when she was born I would have been very upset. But, if a christian co-worker gives something religious to another christian co-worker, tat’s none of my business because no-one is being pushed not anything they don’t want.

                  There is a line between identifying yourself and imposing your beliefs on others. It is wrong to assume that religious people are incapable of recognizing that line (but totally appropriate to hold them accountable if they cross it.)

                18. mrs__peel*


                  Nobody here is talking about “all Christians” being bigoted. They’re talking about “that subset of Christians who’ve already SHOWN that they have poor boundaries and judgment around what’s appropriate at work”.

                  It’s perfectly reasonable and understandable for LGBT folks to be nervous or wary around people who fall into the latter category.

                19. EvanMax*


                  To be clear, the statement that I responded to was “As a gay man, I get uncomfortable hearing about religion not because I have an issue with it but because it tends to have an issue with me, and that’s not a line I want to have to walk at work.” from LBK.

                  My response was that not all religions/churches (which was used as a catch-all for synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.) have a problem with gay men.

                  If we’re re-defining “religion” as a euphemism for specific sects of Christianity which are known specifically to preach extremist hatred, then my response about the general clearly doesn’t apply to the specific.

                  Plenty of my cohort have been murdered by “devout” christians in the past. You don’t have to tell me that extremist groups exist; I’ve been keeping a cautious eye on their ranks rising up again lately. I do so by judging bigots on their bigotry and listening for the dogwhistles, not just assuming anyone who likes the same things as them must be one of them. Doign the latter is unfortunately a great way to help them camouflage themselves, in my opinon.

                20. LBK*

                  I haven’t ever said that I think all religious people are bigots and if you’re going to continue to say that I did, then this discussion is pointless. There’s no reason for me to sit here and read a conversation between yourself and your version of my words.

                  In fact, it’s specifically because religion doesn’t 100% indicate homophobia that it puts me in a precarious situation – it would almost be easier if I could just be sure how someone was going to react and then I could just avoid them entirely. Being gay, especially at work, requires feeling out how people will react and tailoring your behavior accordingly, and I don’t think it’s something a straight person can ever fully understand.

                  If I’m open about my sexuality and it turns out someone isn’t okay with it, that cat doesn’t go back in the bag, so I have to use whatever information I can to try to gauge reactions. Someone being that openly devout at work doesn’t mean I’m going to immediately assume they’re a bigot, but it is a piece of information that I add to my overall read on the situation.

                21. Specialk9*

                  LBK, you said that “religion” tends to have a problem with you. That’s not a problem I’ve seen in Reform Judaism – in fact most of my synagogues have had several LGBTQ clergy, and our governing body recently unanimously passed a resolution on transgender rights and inclusion.

                  I believe that Unitarians have a similar thing, though I don’t know personally. And I think Buddhists. I’m sure there are lots more.

                  I guess my point is that some religions and religious aren’t supportive of you, and some of us really really really are. We think you’re wonderful as you are.

                22. LBK*

                  I appreciate the sentiment but I’m certainly not looking for affirmations from religions; I’m fully aware of my validity as a human being and possessed of my own self-worth. If I need that confirmed for me I can look to my own community to be reminded that we are deserving of the happiness that we’ve worked to find for ourselves, irrespective of any external group’s approval.

                  I’ll reiterate that obviously not all religions or religious people have a problem with gay people, but people that do have a problem with gay people do generally come about it because of their religious beliefs. It’s a square/rectangle situation, so you can excuse me for being a little wary when someone tells me they’ve got four sides and four right angles.

              3. Anion*

                “Church people” does not necessarily mean “Christian people,” fyi. Do you think other religions don’t exist, or that they don’t have churches/places of worship? Or are you simply not offended by any other religions being mentioned–is it okay to mention attending synagogue or temple or mosque?

                The point that not everything will be valid to you is a perfectly legitimate one; other people are under no obligation to never let slip that they attended church because it might offend you.

                And unless someone is speaking directly to you, their conversation isn’t your business, anyway, so stop eavesdropping.

            2. Temperance*

              You’re comparing neutral activities that are hobbies to religion. You’ve made this comparison repeatedly, saying that it would be just as wrong for Cersei to harp on about football as it is Jesus. It’s not really comparable.

              1. Tardigrade*

                I’m trying to understand why you’re saying “Jairo won’t leave me alone about Capoeira” and “Karen won’t leave me alone about Jesus” aren’t comparable situations. They both seem like things I’d want the person to shut up about, so… ?

                1. Temperance*

                  We don’t live in a society where most people are hardcore into Capoeira. People who aren’t into Capoeira aren’t discriminated against for not liking the activity. There’s no First Amendment rights tied to Capoeira.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Because religion is a very personal topic for a lot of people and there is also a lot of judgment built into it.

                3. Tardigrade*

                  OK, I think we definitely agree that religion is a more nuanced and problematic issue (and I have experienced this myself, for what it’s worth). Maybe politics would have been a better comparison, as above.

              2. Ainomiaka*

                Why not? I’m really honestly trying to understand why “I went to church” is really that different than “I went to a football game. ” I mention in another comment that there is a definite distinction between having a discussion of plans and a discussion of faith. As a non Christian with a lot of proselytizing family members I have a hard line on that one. But to get back to Alison’s request that advice be helpful to the OP- this is going to be a helpful line in dealing with Cersei.

                1. LBK*

                  As I said above, it’s because liking football doesn’t come with an ideology that defines how you live your life and judge others. Saying you went to church is fine. Talking about the pastor’s sermon or having a religious conversation about god’s will or suggesting that your coworker pray are way over the line. No one suggests that if you wake up at 3am you should check your fantasy football league or has a philosophical debate about Roger Goodell’s benevolence on humanity.

                2. Annabelle*

                  I don’t think anyone is saying that no one should ever be allowed to offhandedly mention going to church in their spare time. That would be silly. The issue is that constantly talking about religious stuff is bound to make people uncomfortable because religion is inherently both very personal and very political.

                  Football fans can get heated, but you’re probably not going to make your coworkers feel alienated or uncomfortable by talking about your love for the Steelers or whatever.

          1. Millennial Lawyer*

            Maybe religion is not, but there are plenty of religious-based activities that are hobbies and being part of a church group could be one of them.

            1. Temperance*

              Sure, but to compare a neutral hobby and talking about it all the damn time to someone harping on about Jesus and to say both are equally wrong is disingenuous.

              1. Millennial Lawyer*

                I just draw a distinction between someone talking about their church group constantly and someone talking about *religion* (i.e. my church group and I made cookies the other day yadda yadda yadda) unless, of course, it’s a pretext of discussing religion (what church group do you belong to? oh you don’t?).

      2. Temperance*

        WHOA. That’s disgusting. What a great way to alienate non-Christian coworkers, and to provide an Old Boys Club sort of atmosphere for the Christians.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          Yeah, I was pretty annoyed. I’m the only Jewish person in the office and no one has ever asked me how my holidays were or if I went to temple over the weekend.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Wait, for real? That’s weird. I’m Christian, but several of my work-friends are Jewish, and honestly we have really nice conversations about their holidays and what’s going on at their temple (one was serving on an admin board which was entertainingly dysfunctional), and they ask me about my church activities. When I went through my miscarriage, they were so quick to offer to pray for me, and it was lovely and kind.

            I’m sorry you don’t have that.

            1. Specialk9*

              I bring in mini cheesecakes for Shavuot, the (minor) holiday marked by eating sweet dairy foods like blintzes. I print up a little explanation at the top and hand out to my work buddies. It helps remind them in a positive way that I’m Jewish, and helps me deal positively with all the Christmas stuff – somehow getting the Christians to celebrate my holiday makes me less annoyed with them all assuming I celebrate theirs. And, I mean, cheesecake!

          2. Meh*

            That’s when you pull out the good ol’ passive aggressive. After everyone wraps up about how great church was, say that “Shabbat services were pretty good too. Lots of booze and food!” and stir in the awkwardness for a moment. Okay, don’t really do that but I have been tempted once or twice in similar (but not as bad) scenarios.

          3. Pollygrammer*

            Really? I get interrogated about Judaism at work. I work with a young and liberal crowd, and especially when they find out I grew up Orthodox the questions are endless. (So many rules!) It’s out of open-minded curiosity, but I still try to shut it down, because talking about religion at work, even prompted, is awko-taco to me.

        2. Ainomiaka*

          Was this specific to my comment? If so, well, as someone who isn’t really religious and DEFINITELY isn’t Christian I . . .wholeheartedly disagree that pointing out that religion is just one identity among others is disgusting or more likely to alienate me than only asking about religion, but ymmv I suppose.

          1. Alton*

            I think there’s an element of power in a manager specifically singling out a particular group of employees in a noticeable way. This could even be true of non-religious hobbies, such as if the manager very noticeably was more talkative toward employees who shared their favorite hobby. But it’s especially an issue when protected classes are involved. Imagine if a manager went out of their way to address only the men in a mixed-gender group, for example. The issue isn’t that there’s something wrong with referencing religion in general–it’s the perception of a boss interacting with people differently based on their religion.

              1. mrs__peel*

                “Splendidly, I’m really coming along with my flower-arranging”. (supportive high fives all around)

            1. Ainomiaka*

              This is pretty much exactly the reasoning behind my earlier comment that if they’re going to do it they need to include enough that one group isn’t special.

          2. Temperance*

            It was a response to the director calling out church folks and giving them a chummy atmosphere/leg up at work is wrong. I do find it disgusting to make non-religious or non-Christian folks feel uncomfortable, especially in this society.

          3. sam*

            It’s kind of fascinating, isn’t it? Majority groups so often just think that their “normal” is the normal for everyone, and that because it’s “normal”, then it can’t be offensive.

            I still recall the time, in law school, when I (jewish) and a hindu classmate had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to our classmates in a class on the first amendment that no, a CRECHE was not an innocuous “practically secular” holiday display.

            1. Sleepy teacher*

              Today I learnt that “crèche” is another word for a nativity scene… I’m European and I’ve never heard the word used like that before.

              1. sam*

                to be fair, I’m pretty sure I only know it because I…took an entire class on the religion clause of the first amendment (there’s so much going on in 1A law that my school splits it up into two classes – one on the religion side and one on the speech/assembly/press side).

              2. Elizabeth H.*

                As an American, it sounds so weird to have the word “crèche” used to describe what we would call daycare (as it is in Europe). It sounds like people are talking about sending their kids to a piece of furniture.

                1. AsItIs*

                  LOL! That’s what happens when a society takes words from another language and uses those words in a completely different way. Think “entree”, “pepperoni”… It’s funny to watch Americans in Italy ordering a “peperoni pizza” and getting a pizza with peppers on it!

            2. Jadelyn*

              A…a literal depiction of a literal religious origin story (more or less), is “practically secular” somehow? Good lord, I’m almost scared to ask what they’d consider to be an overtly religious display.

              1. sam*

                Yep. we had to spend a lot of time explaining that the ubiquity of a patently religious thing does not somehow make that thing less religious. And, in fact, for those of us who do not share in that…ubiquitous…religious tradition, the overwhelming presence of such religious displays does not make them “secular holiday background noise”, but actually serves to make the entire holiday season overwhelmingly oppressive.

                You would also be amazed at the number of people who simply do not understand that, no, I have never had a christmas tree in my life (although I personally begrudge those less because they’re…trees…with sparkly lights…and the winter is too freaking depressing already without a lot of sparkling lights).

      3. Lemondrop*

        That is totally weird. But just one coworker to another, asking, “How was your weekend” and the response is “Oh, I went to the movies on Saturday and church on Sunday” doesn’t raise my hackles at all.

      4. Snark*

        I’d just reply, blandly, “I….don’t go to church. But my hike down a canyon under the blue sky was lovely.”

        Except, as I read that sentence, I think maybe that’s subtly self-contradictory….

        1. Junior Dev*

          Yep! My “church” is a weekly brunch with friends, then volunteering at a homeless shelter.

      5. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah, that’s not ok… but “wbat are you doing this weekend?””oh, church picnic” or whatever is fine.

        Also we try to mark most main holidays… had fairy lights & sweets for diwali, that kind of thing… but it’s not ok to single people out in a meeting.

      6. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I still think that’s different than a casual, offhand mention of “I have plans with my church group”.

        Plans is vague and could mean something religious like a bible study OR it could mean the church group is going bowling. It isn’t inherently about religion.

      7. CheeryO*

        I used to get grilled about the weekly homily at one of my first jobs (a very small family business). I still get the heebie-jeebies when people try to discuss religion at work in any substantial way.

    2. CityMouse*

      Agreed. It is one thing to discuss plans, another to say “you should get up and do X at 3AM”.

      The other conversations (the kids stuff and God’s will stuff) sound consensual so the focus should really be on the fact that a 40 minute personal call isn’t appropriate, not the subject matter (although if a 3rd party was affected by the event, I can see that as insensitive).

    3. Antilles*

      “I have plans with my church group tonight” doesn’t seem so bad to me. I’m not sure you can respond to that with, “I don’t want to talk about religion at work.”
      If that’s *all* it is, then no, you absolutely shouldn’t respond with “no religion at work”, because really, that’s just discussing plans – no different than if she’d said she was going to the basketball game or watching Netflix or whatever. If her plans interest you, you can follow up with a related comment of your own to show interest and turn it into a real discussion; if not, you just nod politely and let it pass.
      That said, I’m guessing that it isn’t simply an offhand “here’s what I’m doing tonight” and instead turns into a proselytizing talk where she tries to explain the whole thing even if OP clearly isn’t interested.

    4. Ainomiaka*

      These are both good points. If you’re talking about night plans, a church group is just as allowed as a knitting group or pet rescue or feminist group or fandom meetup etc. I guess you could say you don’t want to talk about social plans at work, but then it should apply to all social plans, not just ones you don’t approve of (and the disapproval is pretty clear from the lw’s tone).
      Going beyond that is where I’d draw the line. It’s not her place to tell you to pray, and if 40 min conversations are okay I’d be surprised.

    5. K.*

      Yes, I agree. If you ask someone what they’re doing over the weekend and the answer is “My church is having a picnic,” I think that’s fine to mention and I don’t think admonishing them not to talk about religion is appropriate in that instance.

      1. ThisIshRightHere*

        Agree. I have a coworker who is unmarried and very bitter about her singleness. And I’ve noticed that whenever I should bring up my husband in passing, she gets irrationally offended. She’ll ask how my weekend was, I’ll reply “oh, thanks for asking. Fergus and I went to a vineyard on Saturday. It was cool; you should go sometime!” and her response involves heavy eye-rolling and a comment along the lines of “ughhh, nobody wants to hear about your marriage all the time.” Once she invited me out for drinks on what happened to be my wedding anniversary. At first I just said I “can’t make it” and tried to keep it vague. She kept pressing and finally I told her I would be celebrating my anniversary and she came down on me for flaunting my marriage. I’m like, dude…YOU asked!

    6. Snark*

      I agree that bringing that up is not necessarily the best example of what’s going on, except insofar as it’s part of a neverending stream of religious logorrhea and an opportunity to open a conversation about those plans and religious practices and beliefs.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      I think the difference is the focus… “I am doing an activity over weekend” vs “so this is what thr activity is all about and why it’s so important…”

    8. No Mas Pantalones*

      re: “Get up and pray at 3am…” This is where I think I’m probably a more subversive jerk than most of y’all here. My first instinct would be to reply “I don’t think my coven sisters would appreciate a call at that hour to come over and cast a circle.”

      1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

        That would be mine as well so probably not so subversive jerk. Also “I can’t pray to Bast because that would be interfering with the Goddess communing with my cat”.

    9. oranges & lemons*

      In general, I don’t think there’s any problem with casually mentioning church-related activities at work, but in the context of this coworker’s fixation on talking about religion, I might assume it was an attempt to shoehorn religion into the conversation or to make a point about her superior religiousness.

  7. TheNotoriousMCG*

    I might replace ‘religion’ in the second script with ‘extended social talks’ just because specifying that it’s the religious aspect of it as opposed to the distraction aspect that bothers OP may cause the boss to overcorrect and try to ban all religious talk, even short, welcome mentions between people

      1. sunny-dee*

        I was going to agree and then someone mentioned Crossfit. Crossfit is in a tie for worst with “chick who sells Scentsy.”

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Ooh, no! Alternative healing! You know, crystals, toxin-removals, essential oils, etc.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This is a good angle. And honestly, 40-minute conversations about anything that isn’t work related are probably going to be disruptive and problematic, whether it’s religion or movies or what-have-you.

      1. Antilles*

        Exactly. I don’t care if it’s your religion, your favorite movies, or your love for NBA basketball, I don’t want to hear about it in every single conversation and I certainly don’t want you trying to persuade me to your point of view.

      2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        I’m a knitter and I worked with another knitter and almost all of our conversations were about knitting. I’m pretty sure eyes glazed over when we talked about wool vs acrylic blend.

        1. LNZ*

          Me and a few other coworkers play DnD together and this happens to us all the time. You can see the people in the same room with us zoning out when it comes up

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or conversely, the manager might decide “I can’t tell her not to be religious, so that means I can’t address her 40-minute discussions about religion.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Hopefully, the manager has some backbone. It would be fine to say that “It is not okay to be involved in non-work conversations for 40 minutes at a clip. You are being paid to focus on company matters. If you cannot do that, then you can be written up.”

        I tend to agree that if she says the employee cannot talk about religion she will dilute her own point, as the focus will be on talking about religion as opposed to stealing time from the company by not actually working during paid hours.

    3. Lil Fidget*

      Yes, I think if your goal is mostly to get Cersei to stop blathering on long phone calls within your earshot, leaving the religious aspect out of it might be beneficial. In approaching your boss, the best approach would be to point to specific things you weren’t able to accomplish because Cersei couldn’t get them back to you on time because she was otherwise distracted – and if you don’t have any examples like this, you might be in MYOB territory, unfortunately. There are many coworkers at my office who make annoying personal calls throughout the day, but my boss would think it was a little weird if I brought that up to him. YMMV.

      1. TheNotoriousMCG*

        I figured out IANAL from context clues, but I still haven’t been able to figure out YMMV. What does this one mean?

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Oh sorry. Meaning, “people may have different experiences than what I’m reporting, but this is what I’ve generally found.”

          1. Snark*

            I don’t know whether I’m madder at you for saying that or myself for thinking it was safe to drink coffee.

            I will never unsee IANAL as I Am Now A Llama.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Someone mentions I am Now A Llama a while ago and I cannot get it out of my head. Every time I see IANAL I think of llamas.

            2. Jadelyn*

              At least that’s better than reading it as “I anal” because that’s what my brain keeps doing and I have to mentally poke myself with a stick to recalibrate to the actual meaning every time. *sigh*

              *Love* “your Mazda makes vrooms” though. I have a Hyundai now but I had a Mazda for 10 years before that and hell yeah we made many vrooms. Nyoom!

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Nooo, I intentionally read it as “I anal” because it always makes the pseudo-legal advice that follows so much more interesting. :)

          2. Future Homesteader*

            My Mazda *does* make vrooms, it even says “zoom zoom” on the dash when I start the engine. It’s the best part of the Mazda. /not really a car person, but kinda converted to one by the V6.

            1. Snark*

              I owned (and raced!) a Miata for a while, and my wife’s CX-5 is surprisingly delightful to drive for a family crossover. I have such a soft spot for Mazda.

              Oooooof topic we go!

                1. periwinkle*

                  I could totally spend 40 minutes a day at work talking about our CX-5 and Miata. But that would violate the spirit of our diverse workforce; we have people who drive many makes and models here. Even… Hummers.

                  (actually, sometimes it seems like a Mazda dealership here – I’ve had difficulty finding my red CX-5 with roof rails among the 5 or 6 identical CX-5s in the lot)

              1. Future Homesteader*

                I actually drive a Mazda6 (but with the V6 engine) and…it really is just fun to drive, even though it’s also a super comfortable and quite practical mid-size sedan (okay it doesn’t *need* the V6, but we bought it used and our options were limited…I swear).

              2. Jadelyn*

                They last forever, too, or at least the old ones do. I had a 94 Protege with almost 250k miles on it, and she was still holding up and keeping up with my (a wee bit aggressive) driving until I finally retired her in 2016.

            2. paul*

              wait, does it for real? How the hell did you do that?

              I never knew I wanted my car to say “vroom vroom” until now but it’s just become irrationally important to me that it does.

          3. Parenthetically*

            Thank God I didn’t read this while I was rocking the baby to sleep just now, I swear, Countess!! Crying.

    4. Tardigrade*

      I agree, although I was thinking the boss might interpret it as, “OP just doesn’t like religion.” But I also think it might be easier for OP to remain factual about it if she doesn’t include the topic.

    5. MLB*

      True, but I also think she needs to make it clear that religious talk makes her uncomfortable. IMO religion and politics should be kept out of the office. I’m not one of those “everything offends me” people, but I don’t want people preaching their beliefs at me. It’s one thing in a social setting, but nobody should have to deal with that at their job.

      1. TheNotoriousMCG*

        Yeah, I was referring just to the second script which was just about the convos happening around her. The ones to her she absolutely should directly address as ‘I don’t feel comfortable discussing religion at work’

  8. Lil Fidget*

    The only thought I have is, it’s not clear to me how often Cersei is proselytizing versus just talking about her own stuff – but the times that she is, like telling the OP to pray in the middle of the night, for example – those would seem to be the clearest opportunity to shut this down from the top. You can definitely take that to a manager and expect that to be respected. Try to separate that from her mentioning she’s going to church after work or whatever, which isn’t relevant.

    1. Snark*

      I think it becomes relevant in the sense that it fits a pattern of relentlessly engaging people in a discussion of a divisive non-work topic. But I would advocate a focus more on the impact on OP’s concentration than on the topic, in any case.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, I would agree. It’s okay to say you’re doing stuff with your church group or your kid is at Vacation Bible School; it’s when you start making God a significant figure in the conversation or telling other people what *they* should do that it’s a problem. (Frankly, telling people what they should do, whether it’s religious or not, is almost always a problem.)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I almost said “amen to that”, but in context, I’ve decided to go with a hearty “YES”. “You should do X” is a massive pet peeve of mine.

        1. ThisIshRightHere*

          AvonLady Barksdale, your screenname doubled me over with laughter. That’s pretty much all I came to say.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You should go get acupuncture with your colleagues! You should try this amazing meal replacement shake and at home workout!

  9. Someone*

    I would find this so, so annoying. Especially because her beliefs aren’t very mainstream- it feels similar to having to not react when someone tells you they talk to ghosts, or something, but they are a coworker so you can’t just act like they are crazy.
    Even shutting it down doesn’t solve the problem for me, because having to listen to it constantly would be nearly as irritating. In general, offices should be religion and politics free- and I wish that more managers would cultivate that sort of environment. Thanksgiving dinner conversation rules should apply (so your conservative uncle, liberal cousin, atheist sister, and pearl-clutching grandma can all survive)!
    I’ve dealt with issues like this by getting some headphones and listening to music- if you can’t hear it, it is easier to ignore.

  10. LouseM*

    I know we’re supposed to take OP at her word, but casually mentioning having plans with your church group =/= talking about religion inappropriately, and it’s a little ridiculous to equate it with proselytizing (and I say this as a member of a religious minority that does not proselytize and is very sensitive about this). When that’s the first example you give, it makes me wonder if you’re exaggerating to yourself the amount that Cercei actually talks inappropriately about religion. The book also doesn’t seem inappropriate–while I personally would be deeply offended and livid if a coworker gave me a book like that for my daughter, it sounds like that is not the case for your coworker.

    If you want to talk to your boss about this, I think Allison’s script about her spending 40 minutes on the phone every day is the way to go. But maybe you can try to reframe some of the other stuff, OP.

    1. Temperance*

      I have a hunch that LW has (reasonably) reached BEC status with Cersei, and she’s at the point where any mention of Jesus is making her want to run for the hills. I totally get it!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, I could definitely see even an otherwise benign comment now being the “oh good lord, here we go again…” trigger.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I dunno, I left the church when I was 15, am a Luciferian witch these days, and I still say “good lord” and other similar variants. It’s just a cultural habit.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Alternately, we could take the OP at her word, rather than saying “that one example doesn’t fit the greater pattern, so clearly you’re wrong that the pattern exists”.

      1. Antilles*

        True, but it’s worth noting that if OP is trying to actually get others on her side, bringing up THAT as an example actually hurts the argument.
        I mean, just look at the posts here: As of the time I’m writing this, there are 49 comments on the topic (ignoring the first two replies about “please avoid derails”). By my count, 18 of them (threads started by Hills to Die On, Lemondrop, and this one) are discussing the mention of “plans with a church group”. That’s over a third of the replies focused on that issue!
        OP mentioning that as part of her discussion has a chance of derailing the discussion into “wait, that doesn’t seem so bad”, so it’s probably best for her to just edit that out in her mind and focus on the other stuff.

      2. LouiseM*

        No need to be put words in my mouth, neverjaunty. I never said I thought a pattern doesn’t exist–clearly, if this person is on the phone for 40 minutes per day discussing a personal matter, that’s a pattern. But just because a pattern exists doesn’t mean that everything fits the pattern, see what I’m getting at?

        1. Tassie Tiger*

          Neverjaunty may be responding to this part of your post:

          “When that’s the first example you give, it makes me wonder if you’re exaggerating to yourself the amount that Cercei actually talks inappropriately about religion”

          I, too, interpreted what you were saying there as, “I don’t think the pattern is as strong as OP says.”

      3. Observer*

        Well, she does give that as the FIRST example. And she also doesn’t give a lot of truly concrete examples, so this example is significant.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      She did specify that as the casual end, with the 3am wtfery at the other. That’s reasonable.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Yeah, that’s how I took it, that the OP was saying: “Here’s my description of behavior that starts at the benign end (so I’m being fair to Cersei that it’s not all unreasonable) and continues to the unacceptable end.” No reason why the OP should be penalized for that with questions about the validity of their description.

        1. Observer*

          But, it is NOT reasonable because it is not at all “talking about religion”. And that’s why it’s catching so much attention. It’s not just “not so bad”, it’s totally “Huh?” territory. Now, if she’s at BEC stage with her co-worker then she needs to realize and separate out what is legitimate and what is not.

        2. Mad Baggins*

          Yeah, I’m kind of confused why when OP said “I have a problem, the scale goes from 1-10” and people are responding “Well, 1 isn’t that bad! Are you sure it’s a real problem?”

          It’s fair to say “Hey OP you should focus on the 10” but minimizing OP’s experience and interpretation is pretty unfair.

    4. Alton*

      She mentioned that that was a milder example. It sounds like the co-worker’s behavior has increased over time as she’s found people who are willing to listen to her.

      Also, I think it’s understandable that when someone is going overboard, you might become hyper-aware of everything. I trust that the OP wouldn’t notice the occasional mentions of church activities as much if that was all it was.

  11. Temperance*

    My hunch is that Cersei belongs to a sect of Christianity that “requires” adherents to talk about their faith and to witness (proselytize). She doesn’t see anything wrong with what she’s doing.

    I would probably chat with my own boss before saying anything to Cersei, depending on how reasonable she is in other interactions. If she’s honestly otherwise fine and non-judgmental and reasonable, I might follow AAM’s advice. If she’s not, and if she’s given off a scent of persecution complex, I might just jump to speaking to my own boss and asking for advice on how to deal.

    Here’s an example of reasonable vs. unreasonable: I work with a JW who occasionally mentions attending conferences and Kingdom Hall. That’s fine! He’s never asked anyone to go along, has never witnessed, and doesn’t bring The Watchtower to work. Those things are not fine!

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I think as long as OP uses “I” statements–as in “I prefer not to discuss religion at work”–it’s perfectly fine to try that tactic.

    2. But you don't have an accent...*

      Her saying a “prophet” approved her marriage really stood out about this, tbh.

          1. JDusek*

            My cats were named after Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis. This was done long before there was another context for Isis.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Oof, I feel this. A distant, Arabic-speaking relative of mine named her cat Osama back in the late 90s, because it means ‘Lion’ and she thought it was cute. And then 2001 hit…. well, that cat was quickly renamed!

            2. Gadget Hackwrench*

              My BFF’s cat is Isis, same problem. (Prevision Cats included, Loki, Ra, Artemis and Ares.)

            1. But you don't have an accent...*

              That blame falls solely on the Ancient Egyptians for worshiping them haha :)

        1. hbc*

          I might actually convert if there was a force on earth that had the power to make cats do what S/He wanted. But I thought it was assumed that any allegiance cats have to a biblical figure is more in the fiery pit direction.

      1. Thlayli*

        Yeah is the prophet thing even a Christian thing? As far as I know Jews believe in a number of prophets, all of whom predated Jesus, Christians believe in the Jewish prophets and that Jesus was the last prophet, and Muslims believe in the Jewish and Christian prophets and that Mohammed as the last prophet. Believing in modern day prophets seems like the opposite of Christianity to me. But maybe she means an Old Testament prophet came to her in a dream or something? Weird.

        1. AKchic*

          Or she could be part of something more modern (relatively speaking) and has met some new-age prophet for her denomination/sect, or even went on a retreat and met some new-age spiritualist calling him/herself a prophet (who knows when she started getting into this particular brand of religion).

        2. Evan Þ*

          Most denominations don’t, but some do. They point to a couple verses about a spiritual gift of prophecy; we point to how a lot of their modern-day “prophets” give predictions that turn out to be wrong.

        3. Buffy Summers*

          Doesn’t the LDS church believe in modern day prophets? Maybe that’s just the more extreme fundamentalist outliers.
          I really don’t know for sure, but that’s what I thought of when LW mentioned coworker saying a prophet had approved her marriage to a particular man.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Yes, Mormons believe the president of the LDS church is a prophet, but judging from other context clues, I doubt this coworker is Mormon. For one thing, the prophet doesn’t approve people’s marriages– with a membership of 14.8 million, he doesn’t do a whole lot of one-on-one spiritual advising. And marrying someone after knowing them only 3 months is not at all uncommon in the LDS church (my uncle went on his first date with his wife at the end of August, were engaged two weeks later, got married at the end of November, and have been married 22 years and counting), and doesn’t require anyone’s permission. Now, if she’d said she got a personal revelation that she was supposed to marry her husband, that’d be Mormon-speak for sure. Could be a fundamentalist offshoot, I suppose, but they tend to use the same lingo.

            Other context clues– a children’s Bible instead of a children’s Book of Mormon (the latter would be way more common), using “God” instead of “Heavenly Father” (latter much more common usage), etc.

        4. puzzld*

          Presidents of the LDS church are considered prophets by the faithful, also FLDS have their own prophet.

        5. Observer*

          Why does it matter, though? I mean, I get that it’s pretty weird to people. But that doesn’t really change whether it’s appropriate or not in the workplace. Telling people that they need to listen to her prophet – NO WAY. Mentioning what she did in the context of an otherwise appropriate conversation? No problem (unless she doesn’t want to be seen as a weirdo…)

        6. Parenthetically*

          Loads of Christian denominations believe in the ongoing gift of prophecy and a minority believe that the office/role of prophet continues today — these are going to be predominately pentecostal/charismatic type denominations, which scans with talking about praying when the cat wakes you up at 3 am, since those groups tend to be really big on “promptings” from God, so they’d see anything out of the ordinary as a sign or prompting from God to pray for a particular thing, usually whatever happened to cross your mind at that moment. I grew up kind of on the fringes of a lot of these groups and this lady would fit right in.

      2. Insisted we eat swine*

        Holy shit yes.

        3am feline prayer calls are just silly,

        While “prophet” stinks of Cult.

      3. Observer*

        Why? If she’s telling the OP that they need to get the approval of a prophet in order to get married that’s a MAJOR problem. If she’s telling people that her way is THE BEST way to choose your spouse, that’s a problem. If she’s swapping “How I met my spouse” stories with a co-worker, it’s really not the OP’s business.

        1. But you don’t have an accent...*

          I meant it more in line with Temperance’s comment about the coworker belonging to a sect requiring proselytizing. “Prophet” is honestly only something I’ve heard talked about in a similar manner (like approving marriages, not just existing) as it comes to FLDS and The Kingston Group, so it stuck out to me as part of the letter. But I agree, it’s not a problem if she just said that about her marriage.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      Ahhh…The Watchtower! It periodically appears in our breakroom (which is a federal govt office).My efforts to locate the person who brings it (for my own amusement/curiosity) have been unsuccessful. It usually disappears in a couple days. No idea if it gets thrown away or someone takes it, thus prompting them to bring in some more.

      1. shep*

        A former co-worker used to bring in The Watchtower. He wouldn’t share it around or slip it into the communal magazine rotation or anything, but he could often be found on lunch break wrapped in a snuggie and reading either it or the Bible in his office.

        While also keeping one keen eye on celebrity news/gossip channels.

        Wide range of interests, that one.

  12. Emi.*

    Shouldn’t the conversations with other people come under “People do annoying things but if they’re not having an impact on work, MYOB”? Obviously they might be, but it’s not really clear here, and “I imagine her manager would be interested to know that she’s having 40-minute-long social conversations every day when she’s supposed to be working” sounds like the kind of involvement in other people’s work that AAM usually advises against.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      This always depends on context to me. Does the coworker wasting time – for whatever reason – affect OP’s work, whether because it’s a distraction or because there are unfinished tasks falling on OP’s desk or because the perception of the department is being affected? These are legitimate things to bring to a manager. Certainly if the coworker has a different manager and the issue isn’t really affecting you, you can look kind of petty bringing it to the level of management. And either way, it’s always the right step to try addressing it yourself clearly once.

    2. ContentWrangler*

      I think it’s different in this case because the daily 40-minute calls are distracting the LW from their work. So in addition to neglecting her own work for these long phone calls, the coworker is also preventing LW from doing their best work. Plus, the person they are talking to on the phone is apparently another worker so that’s 3 workers being hindered by these conversations.

    3. J.*

      Having loud 40-minute non-work conversations *is* affecting other people’s work here, though, regardless of what those conversations are about. The fact that it’s religious content in the workplace is another layer of inappropriate, but it’s distracting to the OP and keeping her from being able to do her own work.

    4. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      As irritated as I would personally be with the situation, too, I had the same thought. Generally, Allison’s advice is, if it’s not directly affecting your ability to get work done, MYOB. It feels like tattling to me to complain to the supervisor about the calls. However, I’m with the folks who’ve suggested that if OP can bring up the ways that this has negatively impacted her ability to work, then yes, absolutely go for it!

      And I also think that reminding Cersei that OP is not interested in talking about religion is a great (and necessary) way to address it in the moment. Because if it continues after that, then she is 100% justified in reporting it up the food chain as harassment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think some topics are more distracting than others. If it was constant political talk all day long, I’d think that was fair game to raise too. It raises the blood pressure / distracts in a different way than more mundane topics.

        1. Vin Packer*

          Yeah, the specific examples here include discussions of “why God kills people,” which I could see being viscerally upsetting to overhear in a way that 40-min conversations about other things wouldn’t. If the conversation turns to the gruesome inevitable smiting and hellfire of nonbelievers, and “nonbelievers” includes the OP (and this person seems to be pretty extreme, so it sounds like that’s at least sometimes the tenor of the conversations), that’s hella unpleasant on top of annoying and distracting.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, that’s some pretty messed-up stuff.

            Honestly, even if it’s the milder “God gathered this person back to Himself early” kind of thing you sometimes hear when someone passes on, that’s still running a high risk of being upsetting to someone else in the office, and not appropriate.

            1. Temperance*

              FWIW, I honestly don’t even consider that to be mild. Someone levied a similar sentiment to me after my aunt was slaughtered by a drunk driver, and I nearly ripped their head off.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I am sorry this happened to you both. Nothing is a greater turn off. Those types of things, if said AT ALL, should only be said to people who would be receptive.
                  I have a personal dislike for those statements and I believe them to be totally unhelpful. And as you show here, in some instances causes the recipient more upset on top of the upset they already have. In my opinion, THINKING people do not say these things period.
                  Again, very sorry, for your losses and very sorry to hear people were so cruelly thoughtless.

              1. EddieSherbert*

                +1 Yeah, when my brother passed I had a lot of mental mantras along the lines of “they meant well even if they said something that upsets me” (only I thought ruder things than “that upsets me”!).

              2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                I don’t really either! I was only putting it as ‘milder’ in relation to what Vin said above about “If the conversation turns to the gruesome inevitable smiting and hellfire of nonbelievers, and “nonbelievers”

                1. Temperance*

                  FWIW, I find it even worse than people telling me that I’ll burn in Hell for all eternity. It’s belittling grief and loss, and is often a big slap in the face, because I’m open about my atheism.

          2. Thlayli*

            I think that was being discussed in the context of a conversation with another coworker who had a young child and how to teach the child about God. The Old Testament has a lot of “God killed xxx” in it so it is a concern of parents in Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions how to explain that to their kids. Like Noah’s ark and the flood for example. Of course we weren’t there but there’s a big difference between “how do I exlain to Cersei junior why God flooded the world a long time ago” and “all unbelievers must be murdered, including OP”.

          3. Roja*

            Seriously though. Even as a religious person myself, and someone who is a theology nerd and will have hours-long discussions on it outside of work, listening to that at work would absolutely make me blow me top. It’s a massively controversial topic inside religion as well as out. Why would you discuss that at work? Why??

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Am chuckling, this exactly. Church people argue with each other over some of this stuff. This is a huge topic and the workplace is not the venue for such a discussion.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yes. Same. “Discussions about mass slaughter in the Old Testament” has to be really very high on the list of Topics Not To Discuss At Work, For Fergus’ Sake.

        2. Alton*

          I agree. It’s hard to enforce sometimes because it’s easy to be unfairly biased, but I think that on a social and professional level, it’s good for people to be considerate. Some topics are very personal, controversial, or likely to make people feel excluded in the workplace, and religion is one. I think at the very least, Cersei should be considerate of the feelings of coworkers who don’t share her beliefs but may have to listen to these very personal discussions.

  13. She Who Must Be Obeyed (formerly Laura)*

    Yeah, I used to work with a Jehovah’s Witness. Even after growing up with Mormons, it was a bit much. She was a really good friend, though, so I just inwardly rolled my eyes and put up with it–as long as she stayed away from the “Mormons are evil” track. I *did* put my foot down when she wanted to visit the Witness Halls in London, though. That was *too much*!

    You could always tell your coworker that you’re going to talk about Trump (pro or con, just the one she doesn’t agree with) or porn or something else she detests every time she brings up religion…but I’d only do that if Alison’s suggestions fail.

    1. hbc*

      “Every time I hear you talking about religion at work, I’m keeping a tally and donating that amount in dollars to Islamic Relief USA.”

      Probably only in my fantasies for a coworker, but I did once use it on the stranger who kept accidentally using my email address to buy confederate flag patches and such.

  14. dr_silverware*

    Some of this will have to involve some “put your headphones in and your head down” kinds of strategies. As Alison says, it may not–and shouldn’t be–possible to get her to stop talking about religion with voluntary participants who aren’t you.

    One option for dealing with this is headphones, for sure. You could also ask them to head to the break room since you’re trying to concentrate. Also, you can just acknowledge to yourself that you don’t particularly like Cersei, AND that she’s being a bit of a jerk, AND that you two have a pretty deep cultural divide between you two.

    It may also help to think of this overhearing problem a different way. Not as trying to get her to stop, but treating it like a coworker’s annoying laugh you can’t help but overhear. You can’t tell someone to stop laughing, but you can tune it out or work on integrating it so it doesn’t stand out in the soundscape of your office.

  15. animaniactoo*

    I think the advice to basically tattle on the amount of time that’s being used for these social discussions is pretty out of step with the usual advice of “Unless this is actively interfering with (completing) your work, this is not something that you should say something about.”

    They could be talking about reality tv or museum art exhibits or football at the same volume, and if those tripped OP’s trigger, I suspect the advice would have been geared more towards “Ignore it, it’s not harming you. Decline to participate in the conversations and find a way to block it out if possible (with some potential solutions advice).”

    Yes, it’s irritating to the OP. But I think the limit of saying anything to her manager should be “Cersei is having frequent conversations about religion with others. I was wondering if you could ask her to rein it in some? I know she and others have the right to talk about whatever they want, but she seems to be the one who initiates the conversations, and it’s the amount of it that is uncomfortable.”

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Thinking about this more, I guess it’s because there’s protection from religious discrimination in the workplace? OP’s rights as someone who doesn’t want to talk about Christianity all day could arguably being infringed on. I know in a parallel situation, coworkers creating a sexist environment is still an issue even if they’re not doing it *at* you, they’re just doing it withing your earshot. I wonder if that’s why this raises to a special level of concern.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Right, I don’t think it’s an issue to say “this topic of conversation is frequent” on that basis. The thing that sets me back is the advice to be detailed and explicit about how much time Cersei is spending with an “I thought you’d want to know” slant to it. That seems to me to be very contrary to the usual advice about handling annoying issues that aren’t actually impacting your work (outside of annoying you).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I talked about this above — there are some topics (politics is another) that are distracting and blood-pressure-raising in a way that others aren’t. I’d give the same advice if it were politics.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        Agree–the difference between constant exposure to conversations about TV/sports/art/etc. and constant exposure to conversations about religion or offensive topics is that one makes me feel uncomfortable (or possibly even discriminated against) and the other doesn’t.

    2. dr_silverware*

      Yeah–I would be enormously hesitant to go talk with a manager about a coworker’s volume of social time. Even if I were absolutely sure they were chatting instead of specifically working on some task I urgently needed from them, I’d talk to the manager about the task, not the chatting.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      I just made a similar comment before seeing yours. I agree. She doesn’t seem inflammatory at all, just kooky. I’d let her be.

      1. Temperance*

        Do you honestly think someone having lengthy conversations about why God kills people is just “kooky”?

        1. Not Today Satan*

          According the the letter, she’s discussing people being killed in wars demanded by God in the Old Testament. Which is actually a normal thing to discuss for Christians.

          1. mrs__peel*

            I don’t know, I think it’s pretty unusual for someone to be discussing death and killing in this way in the office (within earshot of other employees). It would give me pause for possible psychiatric issues or workplace safety reasons.

          2. Temperance*

            It is so not a normal conversation topic for Christians, outside of a church setting. I know many Christians who are normal and don’t talk in detail about weird trivia related to their faith.

          3. Annabelle*

            I was raised in a very religious home and I genuinely don’t think anyone in my family would bring something like that up outside of church or bible study or something. Biblical violence isn’t like, water cooler talk.

          4. Mad Baggins*

            I have to conclude that you’re eavesdropping on a bible study and drawing conclusions about what Christians are like in their natural habitat.

            1. Not Today Satan*

              Just because you or your friends don’t do something doesn’t mean no one does. Some Christians do discuss heavy theological concepts outside of church contexts.

      2. AKchic*

        No, this is inflammatory.

        I don’t go to work to have religion vomited upon me. If I want religion, I’ll go to a religious community center of some sort. Not a non-religious office where religion is not the focus or export.
        The entire point of this coworker’s conversation is to get people discussing her religion and her religious viewpoints so she can continue witnessing to them and hopefully convert them (or get them to come to her church). This is not what she is *paid* by her employer to do, therefore it should not be done on company time or on company grounds. I, as an employee, have every right not to be harassed, directly or indirectly about religion. I, as a citizen, have the right not to have my freedom of (and from) religion trampled all over just because someone else is exercising their self-same freedom.

        However, because LW has not outright said that she does not want to hear any of this talk, the coworker can claim ignorance of the matter, which is why Alison’s scripts should be followed. I would certainly bring it up with management because Cersei may try to cry foul and persecution depending on her own denomination/church’s teachings and tactics. It’s best to give management a head’s up that you’re asserting your rights and are going to be asking directly that she stop, just in case something happens. Unfortunately, sometimes management doesn’t care, or worse, actively encourages these types.

      3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        “Kooky” is a word usually used to decscribe people/behaviors that are various shades of harmlessly odd. Controversial religious discussions are not harmlessly odd, they are intrusive, disrespectful, inappropriate for work, as well as inflammatory. IMO deliberately so, since most people don’t get to adulthood without hearing some version of “religion & politics: just DON’T”, and deciding that that common social rule does not apply to special snowflake you is a deliberate choice.

        Hearing people at work – Christian or otherwise- discuss god’s “justified” reasons for mass murder of innocent human beings would upset/anger me for exactly the same reasons that it would upset/anger me to hear people at work having casual theoretical discussions about the acts of any murderous psychopath or genocidal dictator or slaughtering serial killer or mass murdering warlord etc in a way that both justified the atrocities and showed admiration of the perpetrator/s. It would evoke *exactly*the*same* kind of visceral emotional response. And it would be EXTREMELY difficult for me not to respond in a manner just as inappropriate for work as the original conversation.

        Theoretical discussions on murder, bloodshed, war, brutality, and death are not appropriate subjects for the workplace.
        Theoretical discussions about (any aspect) of (any) religion are not appropriate subjects for the workplace.

        Combining the two doesn’t make them LESS inflammatory.

    4. hbc*

      Hmm. I think the difficulty here is probably that any one factor is small enough to be ignored, but the combination is the problem. Those problems being 1) time-wasting, distracting personal conversations, 2) single-minded focus on one topic, and 3) talking about/advocating for religion. The last one being the most problematic, of course, but a few “3:00 is God’s hour”s and kids’ bible discussions are more tolerable if they’re only once or twice a month rather than a constant daily drip.

      So maybe OP just needs to go to the boss with the whole pile and acknowledge that looking at any solo piece of it will seem like it’s not too bad, but the whole picture makes it pretty intolerable.

  16. Anita-ita*

    As a non-believer, this would make me so uncomfortable. Super awkward no matter what religion/non-religion you’re talking about. Any topic that is mildly controversial should be left out of the office.

    If it were me, I would skip the direct convo with your coworker and go to HR and let them handle it.

    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      I’m LOLing at the idea that religion is a ‘mildly controversial subject’ and not a powder keg soaked in gasoline sitting next to an arc welder in a firework factory, but I get what you meant X-D

  17. Yikes McGee*

    Oof. This resonates with me because I am currently surrounded by people who sound EXACTLY like this woman (I’ll be extricating myself soon), and I can pretty much guarantee that she will only view direct requests to stop discussing it at work as affirmation that she’s doing the right thing and that negative supernatural powers are trying to inhibit her virtuous mission. Any pushback could be construed as “restless spirits of the flesh” that she must help others overcome. I really hope that management’s intervention will bring it down a few notches, but a person with this kind of worldview is very difficult to reason with :/

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      I live in the south. You’re spot on. Being direct in the “no, please” sense does no good in my experience. However, deadpan heathen responses almost always yield the satisfactory result of subsequent Thumper Avoidance. The 3am prayer thing: “My coven sisters wouldn’t appreciate the early wake up for circle casting.” For me, simply wearing a pentagram* necklace front and center tends to shut ’em down quick. For those who question it, I’ve always replied, “You have your thing, I have mine” and that’s about it.

      *It’s a 5 pointed star inside a circle. It doesn’t have to mean you’re Pagan. It can simply be that you like stars and this particular one was in a circle. (Like the TX lone star.)

      1. Yikes McGee*

        Ha! I love that deadpan heathen response idea. I resign myself to noncommital “okays” and silent frowns, but that’s way too similar to “Please, tell me MORE!” apparently…

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          The really hardcore thumpers see noncommital as an invitation. It means you’re still ripe for the conversion pickins.

      2. AKchic*

        I have a pentagram tattooed on my left breast. It tends to shut a lot of people up, or get people squawking. The squawkers don’t appreciate my direct approach to their attempts at “saving” me.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I was thinking if that ever happens again, OP could say, “I will call you at 3 am and YOU can pray. I will go back to sleep.”

      4. Markethill*

        I would really urge caution before in effect impersonating an adherent of a stigmatized religious minority in order to antagonize Christians, even annoying ones. The Satanic Panic wasn’t so long ago. There’s still a lot of harmful misinformation out there about Wicca and other Pagan faith traditions, misinformation that you may end up spreading or reinforcing without meaning to. Even just the idea that Pagans have it out for Christians can be harmful and contribute to dangerous circumstances and persecution.

        For similar reasons, I would not suggest that non-Muslim women wear hijab to pick fights with/fend off preachy Christian co-workers. The potential for collateral damage is high, and there are other, more honest ways to set boundaries.

        1. Markethill*

          I get the sense that you -are- Wiccan, No Mas, and good for you if you want to be out and proud about it. I’m responding to the (possibly flippant) suggestion that people who don’t already know what a pentacle/pentagram is start wearing one to deal with pushy Christians. I’d be really upset if anyone did something similar with the symbols specific to my own Pagan path.

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            I’m in Texas. Everyone here is all about the lone star. It’s a five point star in a circle, head up. That’s where I was coming from with that. However,

            Personally, I bought my pentacle when I was 18 (I’m more than twice that now). While I wore it daily for years and years, I no longer do as it doesn’t always fit with my clothing or desire to engage with people (but mostly the outfits). I don’t necessarily circle up much anymore, but the roots are strongly planted. (Pagan, not Wiccan. You do your trad, I’ll do mine.) I’m well aware of the stigma, of my penty being equated with a goat’s head, being asked about my latest sacrifice. I’m able to laugh about it because I own my sh*t and don’t give a damn. If someone wants to come at me about it, come at me bro. I can hold my own.

            Of course, it’s about discretion. That said, picking out the overly-preachy is as easy as it is the fluffy bunnies after a while.

    1. strawberries and raspberries*

      I also did that once in a way that was clearly joking and I clearly upset all the Christians, and one person even said to me that I was “crossing a line,” even as I clarified that Satanism is actually a religion too. So ridiculous.

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        Are you OP? Because if so, it sounds like it’s not just this woman crossing a line but an office culture problem where Christianity is specifically referenced often and treated as default and you’re uncomfortable with it (as a Jewish person I would be too).

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          I’m not OP. The culture in my office isn’t overtly hostile to me, but there definitely is a tacit assumption of Christianity both in the office and in the community we serve, and I’m sick of it. Indeed, part of the criteria for my next job is “less Christians.” (And I say this in no way to belittle anyone’s actual beliefs or personal relationship with God, but like, keep it to yourself. God has more important things to worry about than how much you like pancakes or how tough your personal decisions are or how many coworkers you’ve antagonized today.)

            1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

              For Shrove Tuesday this year I bought my waffle maker into the office and we had a massive waffle party for morning tea, so I sure hope he’s pro waffle!

              1. No Mas Pantalones*

                I’m Team Waffle (especially with chopped bacon in the batter) and I want to work in your office.

                Wait– OMG, our cafe has chicken and waffles today. What the hell kind of awesome is this?! Hooray, Friday Eve!

      2. Tina*

        That’s absurd! I have one coworker who talks about religion a fair bit at the office but we’re buddies and she doesn’t get mad when I say things like “Satan is my personal lord and savior.” It’s possible to have a sense of humor about these things!

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          My coworkers will be in for a giant surprise when their children become Wiccans.

      3. mrs__peel*

        I upset a few coworkers one year by wearing some red plastic devil horns and a tail, which my mother had sent me because my birthday that year was on 6/6/06.

        1. Typhon Worker Bee*

          I once deeply offended someone online by referring to a religious belief as an opinion, as in “well we have a difference of opinion on that”. I still don’t understand what was so “deeply offensive” about that phrasing tbh (it was definitely the word “opinion” that caused the offense, rather than my opposing opinion itself).

          1. LNZ*

            People like that think they are speaking the word of god directly and anything differing from what they say is WRONG. They got offended when you called it an opinion because they implies their are acceptable alternatives to their views (when to them there isn’t).
            Also they see their views/interpretations of the bible as fact, so to them you calling it an opinion would be like telling someone it’s just their opinion the sky is blue. Only more offensive because people like that stake their self identity off being RIGHT.

            1. Typhon Worker Bee*

              I guess… This was someone I’d talked to a few times before, and who seemed to be a very reasonable “live and let live” person in general when it came to acknowledging other faiths and political opinions and whatnot. Oh well.

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Ramp it up a notch! Tell them that Romans called Christians atheists – they did! – because they didn’t believe in anyone *else’s* gods. (Romans were all about religious tolerance, which is to say that they’d happily adopt the gods of conquered peoples into their own pantheons. Everyone in Rome picked a god to worship and there were lots to choose among.)

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Also because later Romans started blurring the line between “Emperor” and “God” and the Chrstian minority was Not Having That.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t want to hear proselytizing or theological talk from a Christian, and I wouldn’t want to hear from a Satanist saying things designed to provoke that person.

        And I definitely wouldn’t want to hear the ensuing argument between the two.

        1. Lissa*

          Ok, tbh I kind of would. It would spice up an otherwise boring workday. but that does NOT mean it’s a good idea in any way shape or form just because I’d be thinking “wow, got a doozy of a work story to bring home today…”

  18. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I don’t care if it’s religion, politics, My Little Pony or cheesy biscuits. Anyone talking nonstop about a subject and constantly wrangling the conversation to their preferred subject matter would set my hair on fire.

    Hopefully since she’s found a willing audience, she’ll leave you alone once you tell her to stop. If she doesn’t, definitely go to your manager. I can all but guarantee you’re not the only one who feels this way.

    1. Merci Dee*

      Although, it would be pretty awesome if someone was talking about how Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were their favorite My Little Pony characters because they’re always eating cheesy biscuits while Princess Celestia and Princess Luna discuss politics at a religious meeting with Star Swirl the Bearded.

      Oh, geez. I watch way too much MLP with my daughter on the weekends.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Totally agree. I am the same way in my day-to-day living. If something is a constant point of discussion or something needs my constant attention, it annoys me. I have thrown things out because I had to tweak or do a minor repair on them daily. I don’t have a lot of patience with heavy repetition of any sort. I tend to think that time can be better spent in other ways.

  19. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    My go to line for years has been, “I only discuss religion or politics with my partner/spouse.” Repeat as needed.

    1. Rae*

      I use “My grandfather always told me to never talk about religion, money, or politics at work or the dinner table.” Which happens to be true.

      1. Snark*

        Eeeeeeeennnnnnngh. There’s a certain “I was raised well by wise people, pity you weren’t” condescension that can be imputed to that statement that I would personally steer clear of. Not saying you’re intending to be condescending, but a statment like that can be taken that way, especially as it’s a rebuke.

        1. Tassie Tiger*

          I suppose one could play it off a bit, with a self-conscious smile and a slight shake of the head, giving the air of, “Good ol’ grampa, he would say that so often it just got in my mind and now I can’t get it out!”

        2. Penny Lane*

          Well, but that’s exactly what I would want to be connoting – that indeed you are kind of tacky, clueless and unsophisticated to discuss religion in these ways and to assume that everyone should care about your religious beliefs and be open to your proselytizing. It makes me think someone’s a hick from the sticks, tbh.

          (Of course, I’m not talking about innocuous “I went to a church group picnic” type of comment.)

          1. Snark*

            I mean, yeah, that’s what it connotes, but assuming you have to continue grooming llamas with the person you’re dropping that line on….

    2. Pollygrammer*

      “Soooo…how about that sportsball team?” =My usual line for conversation topics I’m not a fan of. It ain’t subtle, but it’s not mean either.

        1. Penny Lane*

          No, it doesn’t. “Soon … what about the Cubs / Bears / Sox / Yankees / whatever” is a shorthand social code for “this is getting uncomfortable, let’s change the subject.” It can be met with an actual discussion of “yeah, Player X really is on fire this season” or it can be met with a “good call, let’s get back to working on the TPS reports.” It really has nothing to do with assuming the participants care about or wish to talk sports.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I like “So, how about those Yankees, eh?”

        (Note that I do not live near where Yankees play. That’s NYC, right? I have never lived where there were Yankees. I’m not even sure which sport they do. Baseball? I think this line must have been a catch-phrase when I was growing up. Or in the cartoons, or something.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Don’t use it in Boston. (I type this as someone who cares about sportsball only if my own personal children are playing in a game.)

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Maybe Bugs Bunny? I do it too, but I say the Dodgers (I have no clue about sports, either.)

  20. Bend & Snap*

    A lot of this is about intent IMO.

    I’m an atheist but am currently dealing with a family health crisis, and a couple of my coworkers have said they’ll pray for me, and I say thank you. They may also mention church group plans or whatever. It’s part of their lives just like not going to church is part of mine, and that’s fine, and I appreciate the intent behind their comments.

    But cornering people to talk about one very personal, sensitive topic on a daily basis is quite another thing. It seems goal-oriented to me. Like…does she have some kind of goal about talking about God all the time? Is she trying to convert people? Is she showing off? Or is she just completely clueless as to social and professional norms? And that’s what makes it distracting and annoying.

    NOBODY likes a one-note Nancy, and it’s even worse when the note is something potentially controversial and exclusionary.

  21. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I was raised in an extremely fundamentalist home – heck, some of my family were snake handlers. I am done with relentless proselytizing and witnessing, and I don’t take kindly to those who refuse to drop the subject once I politely ask them to.

    Thankfully, no one has pressed their beliefs on me at work yet, nor have they been obviously devout in the way the OP describes. A few say silent prayers at lunch, and I respect that. But if someone at work told me I should pray or some such thing, I’d tell them the same thing I tell everyone else: my beliefs are not the same as theirs, I’m not open to discussing them at work, and we need to drop the subject for good. Further attempts will result in a meeting with their boss.

    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      My mom grew up in 1930s rural Texas and when we were very small children, once told my brother & I, in a tone of mixed wonder & horror, that this tiny, adorable, stone & wood Southern Baptist church on a street corner near our house that we always curious about was full of “holy rollers”. We thought that was *hysterical* (our mental visions were…imaginative, to say the least) but had no idea what she actually meant by it until years later.
      My family was not religious, but my parents occasionally attended church for social reasons. I got exposed to a wide variety of flavors of Christianity, including Catholicism, without being expected to believe in anything more specific than “God exists, the Bible has some important lessons, follow the golden rule”, basic their-era non-specific social belief in God type stuff. I feel like I got so damn lucky in this respect.

  22. Millennial Lawyer*

    One time in my former office a woman showed up to work in a shirt that said “Hang with Jesus, He Hung Out for You!” I was pretty offended but didn’t say anything because she was a kind older woman and I was just a temp, and I was never personally addressed re: religion.

    This situation sounds a little more dicey because it seems like it’s not just this woman but an office culture issue… I agree with Allison’s advice, but want to know if you think your supervisor would be sympathetic to addressing the bigger culture problem, or if she/he is part of it.

    1. LawBee*

      … that shirt is HORRIBLE, and I say that as a woman of faith. What a way to diminish the sacrifice.

      1. Karo*

        I’m not religious but I’m right there with you. Regardless of whether you believe that Jesus was the son of God, he still died for his beliefs, and to say that crucifixion is equally to “hanging out” is just…gross.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Even if religion is 100% Fairytale this is horrible, because it’s being aimed at and worn by people who profess to wholeheartedly believe in the religion/religious figure/deity it is mocking & trivializing!
          Like Ego Chamber said, who would actually wear this un-ironically?

          (I mean maybe a Christian metalhead ex-Hells Angel horror fan biker with a wicked sense of humor would wear it but really…)

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I laugh at dead baby jokes (and am an atheist) and I was still shocked by this!

      2. Parenthetically*

        There’s an incredible range of tacky, usually copyright infringing T-shirts out there — “This Blood’s For You” and “Body Piercing Saved My Life” that make me viscerally angry. Utterly trivializing and stupid.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Ikr. Whenever I see someone wearing one of those, I’m super tempted to go over to them and start telling Jesus jokes. “What do you mean it’s not funny? But … your shirt. You’re—you’re not wearing such an offensive shirt unironically … are you?” O_o

      3. Bea*

        Right? These things must be made by the same trashy folks who have scrotums hanging from their hinges and Calvin peeing on everything. Ick.

    2. Typhon Worker Bee*

      At the last Canadian federal election, I was volunteering at a polling station that happened to be in the basement of a church (which… don’t get me started on why it’s a bad idea to make people enter a religious building in order to vote, especially in a very diverse riding with one of the highest national percentages of immigrants voting for the first time, in a dense urban environment with an abundance of secular alternative locations within a couple of blocks). A lot of the polling station staff and volunteers were from that church, and one of them had a t-shirt with a huge picture of a realistic-looking cross on it and the logo “TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE”. This bothered me in a way that someone wearing a cross or star of David necklace, a hijab, or any other symbol of personal faith (emphasis on personal) would never do. It just seemed pretty aggressively proselytizing. I actually put in a complaint to Elections Canada the next day, but they said it didn’t actually break any rules. I think they need new rules…

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        Funny – my story was in a work environment that has very much to do with local elections :) It wasn’t a church, but I suppose it draws all kinds!

  23. Irene Adler*

    Praying at 3 am? How can I be sure I won’t wake up the Lord? Maybe He wants to sleep in. I sure would.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      You made me think of ‘Deep Thoughts’ by Jack Handey:

      If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting!

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        That reminds me of my youth pastor! When she would take some of us teenagers out to eat, she wouldn’t have us pray publicly (Lutherans are modest and shy in that way), but before eating would say, “and may this food SOMEHOW nourish our bodies!”

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          The first time I had dinner with my BF’s family I had a mouthful of food in before I realized that everyone held hands and had a quick prayer before eating. They had a great sense of humour about it.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            When I lived at home before 18, my family used to have a dinner prayer we would sing. My mom also hosted her German colleagues when she did student exchanges as part of teaching, and my family has had exchange students.

            So about 10% of the time we had an extremely baffled German trying to follow along! Didn’t help that my brother and I ran through it as quickly as we could so we could eat.

    2. Snark*

      Right? The only thing I do at 3am is stare at the cieling and worry about the future. I don’t want to wake up someone who’s omnescient, because I’m sure homeboy has a lot more to worry about than me.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      TelevisionWithoutPity had a go-to line for people who prayed too ostentatiously in competitions: “Would you get your mom out of the tub for this? No? Well, God is in the tub.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like that. I don’t mind contestants who pray for the strength to endure or persevere, but don’t ask God to fix the contest.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Makes perfect sense that the advice to pray at three am came from a cat. Cats never care if anyone wants to sleep in or not!

  24. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I do sometimes mention religious activities, and I don’t believe it’s proselytizing or annoying to say “I don’t have to make dinner tonight- going to church!” similar when discussing plans.

    Also, my church is part of a faith based social justice org (ISAIAH), that was instrumental in lobbying for and getting paid time off for all city employees, and wipes out “lunch debt” for kids and runs a food backpack program. So if people discuss the new PTO law I might say that I like it and my church helped it get passed, or that I know XYZ about the law from those efforts; it’s honestly such a great development.

    But seriously? Who tries to convert people at work? I’ve been explicitly told not to by pastors, if the person is already some religion. Something about stealing sheep, IIRC.

    1. Temperance*

      FWIW, I do a lot of social justice style work, and I have been on the receiving end of people assuming that I was opening the door for them to talk about Jesus (or worse, that Jesus is the reason we personally do X, Y, and Z). I’m always on the lookout for covert witnessing attempts, though, so my guard is often up.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I mean, everyone should be able to eat and not be shamed! My church has really got into the PTO and food for kids issues, since they’re issues with broad support, and helping kids helps parents and vice versa- a parent with paid time off won’t worry or force their kid to school sick, and food backpacks for weekends often provide some items for the family.

  25. Master Bean Counter*

    I always trot out the line, “Mama told me not to talk about politics or religion in polite company.”
    The key is to fill the void directly after with some else like, “Hey, have you finished that report I need for the X project?”

  26. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    Oh my goodness, I relate to this letter so much! I have a coworker who I am friends with who constantly pulls a religious bait-and-switch. She knows I’m an atheist-leaning agnostic, but also I try to be super respectful of others’ religious views. My coworker will ask me if I’ve seen such-and-such film, and when I say no, she’ll launch into what an amazing film it is…only to get around to it being a heavily religious film about finding Jesus, etc. Or she’ll start telling me about some new art she purchased and how I should come see it sometime, the colors are great!…And she’s got almost all of the stations of the cross!

    It’s very frustrating because at the outset these conversations don’t seem like religious topics, but they inevitably are. She’s also very senior to me, and we are friends, so I don’t feel comfortable asking her to cut it out directly. Ugh.

    1. Karo*

      I think the fact that you are friends gives you more standing to address it. If I was making my friend that uncomfortable, especially in a friendship that I wanted to maintain, I’d absolutely want to know. Because honestly for me, the other option would be ghosting her to avoid all the religious talk.

    2. anonagain*

      I wonder if it would work to act like she really is just recommending a movie or whatever. Something like, “Hm, religious movies aren’t my thing. Sci-fi is my genre. Have you seen [insert movie here]? If you like interesting cinematography, you might really like that!”

      I don’t know. That sounds so frustrating. I have people do this to me with books all the time when they see me reading, but it’s different people, which makes it much easier to ignore.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Honestly, same.

        It reminds me of pushy guys trying to find sneaky ways to hit on women.

        It’s boundary violating, and that’s why it’s so icky.

  27. Observer*

    I know that we generally take LW’s at their word and accept their descriptions, but there are two things here that jump out at me. One is that the LW seems really judgemental about this, which is going to make any conversation on the matter much more difficult.

    The other thing is that the LW may wind up with a bit of a credibility problem. They say that Cersei talks a lot about god and religion, giving an example of Cersei mentioning that she has plans with her work group. But, that is NOT talking about god or religion! Now, it does seem clear that at least some of the conversations ARE actually about religion (telling the OP to pray because they woke up at 3:00am falls into that category, for sure), but the question is how much. Are Cersei’s chats with the remote co-worker really about G-d’s Will, or is it about other (possibly even work related) stuff where Cersei is saying things like “G-d willing” this will happen or things like that? There is a huge difference, and LW’s standing to say anything about this really depends on which one it is.

    1. LawBee*

      I think that when someone talks about anything all the time, it gets hard for the person being talked at to distinguish the appropriate from the inappropriate – it all falls under “Cersei’s talking about religion YET AGAIN.”
      I didn’t get a judgmental vibe from the letter, FWIW. A really tired and kind of exasperated one for sure, but I didn’t see where LW was judging Cersei for being religious – just the professionalism of some of the conversations.

      1. Observer*

        Calling what Cersei says unprofessional and insane certainly seem pretty judgemental to me.

    2. paul*

      I read that as BEC more than anything–and after a few 40 minute theological monologues I’d be there myself so I can sympathize. But it is still *very* important that OP picks and chooses her examples well, and the she’s reasonable about what she expects to happen.

      Exhortations to prayer and long phone calls about church stuff can reasonably be expected to stop, but the coworker is asked a question about weekend plans she should feel able to answer honestly that she’s going to a church group or w/e.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      In this particular context though, her church activities seem to be one more device to use to segue into talking about church/bible/God. As a stand alone comment, it’s fairly benign. “I am going to church, then maybe the car wash and we gotta go see my folks.” But with the surrounding context of talking about religion all day, it’s just one more opportunity to work religion into a conversation. Not every conversation has to involve church/God/etc. However, this woman seems to think that it does.

    4. Annabelle*

      I didn’t really get a judgmental vibe from the LW. I agree that mentioning church activities in passing is fine, but the LW was specifically using that as a mild example. She also mentions that her coworker is talking about why God killed people, and that is most assuredly not okay to talk about at work. That alone rises to the issue of saying something about it, IMO.

    5. Mad Baggins*

      Maybe I tend to skew more secular than is common in the US(? where this story maybe takes place?) but I would feel kind of weird if a coworker was throwing around “God willing I get this filing done today” “Lord give me strength to make it till 5” SNL’s skits about Tebow come to mind. I also think it would be weird if someone said “Beer me that coffee” or “By the power of Grayskull, I shall finish this report”… Each workplace is different but that culture would put me off.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        So, as I meant to add, even just talking about religion a lot can still be disruptive. This lady is a gallon of sriracha when the situation wants a hint of flavor.

      2. Observer*

        I can see why you would be put off by that culture. But, it’s not something you can reasonably forbid. And it’s not “talking about god”.

  28. Anya*

    Good luck getting someone like that to not discuss religion, though. There are some people who seem to think it’s their duty to convert (or more insultingly, save) everyone around them.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I don’t mean to label believers but, for the most part, those folks are the very definition of Evangelical. They believe they are tasked with winning souls for the Lord. Mark 16:15 commands believers to preach the gospel to every creature, and there’s some letter from Paul that commands the faithful to bring fruit to God in the form of souls. Can’t remember which one. I heard Proverbs 11:30 a LOT in my life, too.

      The Evangelicals I know personally are appropriate with their witnessing. Well, they don’t witness to me anymore. But there are some aggressive soul-winners out there, to be sure. If they see someone who needs saving, they commence with the saving.

  29. Super Duper Anon*

    As a former Catholic turned atheist I have the best line to wiggle out of the awkward religion conversations, especially when they ask me where I go to church (because that always ends up leading to someone invited me to church if I say I don’t go anywhere):

    “I was raised Catholic.” Shuts it down because people still feel weird about Catholics here in the South. It’s basically like saying I’m Jewish.

    Sure I should be more up front about my non-religion, but easier said than done in Kentucky. I had one workplace where I was already looked down on for my Obama bumper sticker when I rolled up day one. There’s no way I could have gone to my boss to complain about proselytizing because he’d be one of the ones doing it.

    1. Anya*

      I have done this too- but the reaction I usually get is that then they think it’s an invitation to talk about all of the ills of Catholicism. Which I’m not cool with either, despite no longer being one.

      1. ElleKat*

        Agree. I’m also raised Catholic-turned-atheist, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear often-misinformed criticisms of the faith. Anti-Catholic discrimination and violence isn’t too far away in U.S. history, and any discussion of that makes me SUPER uncomfortable.

        1. voyager1*

          Serious question. Does that actually work if you are in New Orleans or well frankly anywhere in LA? I could see it working pretty much anywhere else in the deep south though. I have encountered quite a bit of anti catholic views in the south. I am personally an atheist and I don’t out myself about it.

      2. Annabelle*

        I generally identify as a lapsed Catholic/culturally Catholic and that’s been my experience too. And like, I don’t think hearing someone proclaim that my family is in a cult of abuse and idolatry is necessarily better than hearing them say I’m a godless heathen.

    2. Important Moi*

      Me too.

      I also have discovered saying “I don’t proselytize because I think religion is personal and everyone is on their own journey” shuts down conversation.

      Only one person has ever responded to that. He said “Don’t you think that telling people would make you a better Catholic or Christian?” I responded “I try to be a good person and hope my behavior says enough about me that if anyone is curious, they’ll ASK ME.” That shut him up.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh my yes. My friend met three people on separate occasions. She noticed that all three of them were extraordinary in some manner. She asked each one what they were doing. She found that they all went to the same church. She decided to try that church because people seemed to be happy and flourishing there. What caught her attention is that each of the three people waited until they were asked before they said anything.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        “I try to be a good person and hope my behavior says enough about me that if anyone is curious, they’ll ASK ME.”


    3. Former Govt Contractor*

      Hello fellow “raised Catholic turned atheist” AND fellow Kentuckian!

      Ceresi would drive me bananas. I don’t have to defend my lack of belief but I do engage, because I don’t want folks going around thinking atheists are extensions of the Devil himself. I explain that I actually really envy those who have faith and/or religion in their lives, because it offers the support of a church community and a sense of peace that “He” has your back. I can’t force myself to believe in God, even if I wanted to, but I have nothing against those who do as long as they leave me out of it!

    4. Penny Lane*

      Do these people not realize that in normal parts of the country, being Catholic and being Jewish are commonplace? Do they seriously not understand how completely backwards it is to think that everyone is evangelical Protestant?

      1. Annabelle*

        The Deep South is a weird place. The cultural zeitgeist here is generally a bit behind the rest of the nation and a lot of the more conversation subcultures tend to be kind insular. The city I live in is actually pretty diverse, but you’d be shocked at the number of people who have somehow never met a Jewish person in their lives.

      2. SCanonibrarian*

        They absolutely do not. And in this sort of area, lots of the proposed ‘cute’ or ‘snappy’ comebacks such as claiming to be a Satanist or talking openly about a coven, or even admitting to being an atheist will absolutely get a person fired or demoted. Coincidentally, of course. Even the lack of a ‘ church home’ is considered suspect, and a temple or mosque or fellowship hall or parish absolutely do not count.

        That is where I live and work, and it is incredibly demoralizing and tiring to constantly be reminded that many of the people you live and work with think of you as deviant and unclean and destined for hell by way of corrupting their children.

        So yes, I feel for the OP, and think that all the people who describe this as inoffensive or ‘kooky’ have perhaps not spent enough time being a discriminated-against and silenced minority.

        1. Anya*

          Yeah, I’m not sure some people understand how incredibly intense and in your face religion is in parts of the US. Like how some people will ask you in the first five minutes of being introduced which church you go to, etc. So yeah, some people have had really bad experiences with very religious people who seem to always be on the look out for people who are Not Like Us.

          1. Penny Lane*

            No, we understand quite well that there are still backwards parts of the country in which you are asked in the first five minutes what church you go to and that religious beliefs are in your face. (Cue Deliverance theme.)

            The question is – why is it that people in normal areas of the country seem to understand what goes on in these areas, yet the people in those areas seem not to have a clue that their behavior is completely out of touch with mainstream America, and is one of the reasons they get looked down upon and made fun of? Are they that non-self-aware? Don’t you have a responsibility if you are from an unusual subculture to at least educate yourself that not everyone is like you and that in the rest of the country, the wear-your-churchgoing-on-your-sleeve is not thought of well?

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              “No, we understand quite well that there are still backwards parts of the country in which you are asked in the first five minutes what church you go to and that religious beliefs are in your face. (Cue Deliverance theme.)”

              This is really disrespectful and unnecessary.

            2. Temperance*

              I grew up in one of these religions. They don’t see themselves as an “unusual subculture”, they see themselves as uniquely possessing the Truth. They think that they’re looked down upon because of their Christian beliefs – I’m sure you’ve heard one of them say that Jesus told them they would be mocked for their beliefs, or something similar.

              They’re 100% non self-aware. I mean, FFS, I’m an atheist who always found the whole thing wacky, even as a child, but I didn’t even realize how outside of the mainstream it was until I watched “Jesus Camp”.

            3. Anya*

              Please stop saying “normal” areas of the country. The South is just ONE flavor of the ridiculousness of this country.

            4. Marthooh*

              “Are they that non-self-aware?”

              I just… I mean… I can’t…

              Yes, Penny Lane, some people *are* that non-self-aware.

        2. Lissa*

          Could we please not go down the “If you don’t have the same reaction as me to this incident, you haven’t experienced X” road? It is very often completely untrue, not to mention can be pretty hurtful. People have a wide, wide range to experiencing just about everything, and it isn’t always to find things like this more offensive.

          1. Annabelle*

            I get that everyone processes things differently, but I do tend to think that people who dismiss extreme religiosity as “kooky” probably aren’t the targets of said extremely religious folks.

            That’s not to say those people haven’t experienced other types of oppression, but you’d be hard pressed to find, say, a queer person from the Bible Belt who wouldn’t see Cersei’s behavior as really worrisome.

      3. a different Vicki*

        I’m a native New Yorker now living in Massachusetts, but can we not refer to places like I live as “normal parts of the country” in contrast to Kentucky, please. (I don’t like it when people talk as though New York City isn’t really American, and this is no better.)

  30. Kittyfish 76*

    I think Alison’s advice is good. I understand you not wanting to have conversations between yourself and her. It is your right, and I respect that. I have not read the other comments yet so maybe this has been mentioned already, but would you feel this way if she were talking upwards of 40 minutes to others about her pet, or her kids, current events or the nice vacation she had, or is it just religion that bothers you? Because I think that makes a difference if you want to get management involved. I don’t know if I would mention the conversations are specifically about “religion” as I would mention that it is not work related conversations that are taking a lot of time. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I reported someone who went into great detail about how the toilet seat at his camp was too small for his butt. He left nothing to the imagination. No, I do not need a 40 minute discussion on this matter.

      It may just be a hunch but I think a sporadic mention of church or religion would not bother OP enough to write Alison. I think the problem is that the conversation never stops.

  31. MuseumChick*

    Adding to the voices saying that anyone talking to much about any topic is super annoying. If it was just she happened to be heavily involved with her particular church so every question like “So what did you do this weekend Cersei?” Was answered with “My church group and I did X!” Or “I helped out with my church Sunday school because the regular teach was sick.” Is one thing, but it sounds like she is taking it waaaaay to far.

    Do all of what Alison says. But, let me share this story, I work with something kind of like this . No exactly as extreme but close, she also happens to belong to a religion that is not LGBT friendly. The only way I got it to stop was by bringing up my sister, her kids, and her wife. It took a couple of sentences to explain to religious co-worker that yes, my sister is married to woman, yes they have 3 kids. To be clear I brought it up in a context that made 100% sense (We were talking about weddings and so I mentioned that my sister had a small wedding because people had to travel to it. She asked why my sister choose to have destination wedding. I said “Well, at the time there were only a few states she could get married in.”)

    She hasn’t brought up religion to me directly since.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Old co-worker and I had an unspoken rule because of a circumstance like this. I mentioned going to a friends wedding one weekend and she pressed for details. Later it came out (because of the questions) that it was a same-sex marriage. To her credit, she kept her mouth shut and that was the end of the conversation. But after that, I didn’t talk about things that would make her uncomfortable (unless asked), and she didn’t talk about uber religious things that make me uncomfortable, unless asked :)

  32. Not Today Satan*

    I agree with the advice here except for the last paragraph. At lots of work places it’s a reality that some people take social breaks. I don’t think it’s fair to single someone out and tell on them just because the topic of the conversations seems crazy to you.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I agree with you there. I wouldn’t get into the amount of time the employee is spending chatting about this. I think that’s really her manager’s territory and if the manager isn’t aware of it or not smart enough to put 2 and 2 together, that’s on them. And perhaps the nature of her position is that she can chat about this stuff and still get all of her work done? I’d instead focus on the fact that it has the potential to be offensive to some and distracting to others and perhaps emphasize that it occurs very frequently. I think that that should paint an accurate picture for the manager.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Social breaks – absolutely, but not 40+ min, and especially if it might be on TOP of your other breaks/lunch.

    3. CM*

      I agree it sounds a bit like tattling to say that Cersei spends a lot of time talking about non-work stuff. I would focus on being both uncomfortable and distracted by the constant religious talk. While I agree with many of the comments saying that this behavior is unacceptable no matter what the subject, religion is so fraught and potentially divisive that it’s more important to address it being constantly brought into the workplace.

    4. Alton*

      I think even if someone is off the clock, it can still be an issue if they’re discussing overly personal things within earshot of people who are trying to work and can’t just get up to leave. It’d also be awkward if Cersei was using her breaks to have audible, detailed phone conversations about her health problems or something. I don’t think that taking a break is an excuse to do distracting or uncomfortable things in the office in front of co-workers. I don’t make any personal calls in earshot of my co-workers if I can avoid it, unless it’s brief and not overly personal. But also, it’s not clear if Cersei is actually taking a break when she has these long conversations.

      1. mrs__peel*

        I once had a coworker who would spend several hours a day on the phone, making personal calls about lawsuits she had going against multiple former employers. AWKWARD in the extreme. I sat right near her and couldn’t leave.

        (She was also the worst employee I’ve ever encountered in any workplace– amongst other things, she used to watch soap operas on a tiny TV in her open cube).

  33. ChaoticGood*

    Quick reminder that HR may be unlikely to help you, no matter the subject matter.

    HR’s role is to protect the company by preventing it from being involved in lawsuits (and, often, bad publicity.) They are not arbiters of justice or fairness or professional behavior, although they have presented themselves as such for so long that I think lots of people believe them.

    If you make noise about this, and Cersei is of a mind to bark loudly about being oppressed, and *especially* if Cersei found footing with others at the company with this behavior, and the management at this place are on her side… then who is HR more likely to politely get rid of? The “troublemaker”, of course, i.e. you.

    I promise I’m trying to be realistic, but not expecting HR to have your back here is pretty realistic.

    1. fposte*

      Though it’s also possible that HR will be concerned that an employee is at risk of exposing the company to liability by engaging in religious harassment. They can be looking out for the company and still consider Cersei the problem that she is.

  34. Former Retail Manager*

    OP….do you work in my office? I swear this sounds like one of our employees. The nature of her position is that her workload is hectic at certain times and dead at others giving her plenty of time for these religious discussions. There is no additional work to assign her. It’s just the way it is. But that’s neither here nor there. This woman has conversations very similar to the ones you mention and I hear them all the time, although she seems to know that although we share the same religion, I am not quite as “into it” as she is and she keeps it to a minimum. An employee who also shared our religion did mention to her that she may want to reign it in because it could be offensive to someone of a different religion and they’d likely have a valid complaint if they were to take it to management due to the level and frequency of her discussions. That got her to tone it down and it hasn’t been an issue since. She still has lengthy discussions with the people whose views closely align with her own, but since I’m not her manager, I really don’t care how she spends her time. Not my concern. And she keeps it down for the most part so again, I’m okay with that. Good luck. I think Alison’s responses are great. Even as someone whose overall views align with hers, I found it exhausting to have to overhear it all the time, so you have my sympathies.

    1. periwinkle*

      She might have dead time to fill with chat, but does it always coincide with her audience’s dead time?

      I’d be worried that the OP’s other co-workers are not all enthusiastic about being engaged in long religious discussions. Maybe some of them feel trapped in the conversation and don’t know how to disengage without being rude. Maybe the religious person is senior to them and they feel they have to play along to get along.

      Honestly, I don’t care if she’s talking about religion, Crossfit, baby bodily waste output, or Instant Pot recipes – being a distraction is being a distraction.

  35. ElleKat*

    Religious-related or no, when anyone presses me about something too personal, I say in a sing-songy, casual-to-offhanded way, “Oh, I don’t know if that’s anyone’s business” and then changing the subject. Polite, casual, not making it a thing, but also setting a boundary. Good luck!

  36. Augusta Sugarbean*

    All I can think of here is the country music singer who, in his award acceptance speech, said “I thank God because he’s done a hell of a lot for me!” That was at least ten years ago and it still makes me laugh.

  37. FCJ*

    I work and study at a seminary and this would be way too much even for us. I like the suggestions about telling her something about yourself that would put her off (Super Duper Anon says, “I’m Catholic,” etc.), but you also risk having her decide you need to be converted. For that to work you’d need to feel out how evangelistic she is, or if she just assumes that everyone agrees with her. Depending on your rapport with her otherwise and your company culture you could try dry levity: Coworker: “Your cat wants you to pray at 3AM because that’s God’s hour!” You: “Seriously? No wonder I stopped talking to him…” But your mileage may really, really vary on that.

    Really for me the important bit is how likely she is to decide that you need to be “saved” if you express displeasure with her current way of doing things. That could make things so, so much worse for you (although possibly give you a stronger case to get your higher-ups involved).

  38. Falling Diphthong*

    Middle sleep prayers: these are a thing, in pre-electric societies. It was normal to wake up in the night, and take that as a signal to do stuff. Stuff that didn’t involve light, usually. (To explain the possible background to the cat thing.)

    1. fposte*

      Huh, I knew about the second sleep thing but had no idea there was a whole school of prayers for that time! Thanks for the interesting info.

    2. Never Nicky*

      I still have the mid sleep thing – I’m obviously mediaeval as well as middle-aged. It’s usually my signal to read Twitter or AAM…

  39. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Even as a religious person I find the idea of what Cersei is doing uncomfortable so OP you are well within your rights to tell her to stop, then escalate it if it doesn’t stop. Be as firm and direct as you can – no sugarcoating, but still be kind about it.

  40. Tuna Casserole*

    I read this with great interest, as I have a few chatty religious folk in my office as well. They challenge other co-workers to memorize bible verses or suggest that the solution to any problem is more prayer. It can get very uncomfortable. Mostly I deal with it by exiting the conversation as quickly and politely as possible. “I don’t discuss religion at work, but thanks for the chat!” or “I have to focus on getting this project done.” or “That’s something to think about. Gotta run!” Always with a big smile. Seems to work, mostly. Maybe I should be more direct. I don’t know. I really just wanted to say to the LW that I get it.

    1. Temperance*

      Wow. Does management do anything to nip this in the bud? Challenging people to memorize bible verses like they’re kids in Sunday School is so strange to me.

      1. Tuna Casserole*

        It seemed odd to me too, but management saw it as a fun staff activity and said people could opt out if they wanted. Most of the staff did just that.

  41. OP*

    OP Here-
    I wrote this a while ago and in the interim the remote employee was out on an LOA for a few months so the lengthy conversations stopped. Cercei lost her audience and she actually hasn’t talked about it for a while. If she starts again I’ll certainly use the scripts Alison gave.
    To clear a few things up- No, I was not exaggerating. She was talking about God a few times a day, and not just the casual church group comment which, by itself, is not annoying. And no, I wasn’t just overhearing things like “God willing!” as religious talk. The “Gods will” conversation was Cercei and the remote employee were talking about an injury the remote employee had (causing the LOA) and the conversation turned to God only giving us what we can handle, God has a plan for all of us, etc.
    There were many more examples of more “extreme” conversations, like when she very calmly told me there would be an apocalypse because we had been experiencing a lot of storms recently. (A simple weather conversation turned into Bible talk.) Then she went on to talk about how she would be saved because she is praying for forgiveness.
    In general I tried to block out most of these conversations with headphones but sometimes that is not possible. Most of the time I need one earbud out to hear the phone and if I can hear the phone I can hear her (open offices for ya). It does give me a little extra pleasure to listen to my True Crime or murder podcasts while she is talking about religion.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante (Is Not Always Serious)*

      Bad but fun idea: make a Bingo sheet for her favorite topics.

      “Blah blah blah Jesus blah blah God blah blah… OP, what are you doing?”
      “Listening to you! :D Look, if you could bring up a rain of frogs you’d get me a BINGO!”

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Reading your second and third paragraphs gave me rearview vision.

      Hopefully the conversation lull sticks around. But if it doesn’t, definitely use Alison’s scripts! (And maybe go to your manager anyway…the part about being saved seems borderline to me.)

    3. Temperance*

      I grew up going to a church like the one Cersei attended, and I had a hunch from your post that she was an extremist to the worst degree. I’m really sorry that you have to deal with working with that wackjob.

    4. AKchic*

      *shudder* I feel for you. I worked in a hospital kitchen (briefly, because I obviously didn’t “fit in”) with people like Cersei and it was torture for me. The union got involved it was so bad.

      If management is no help, look into the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or other similar organizations.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Former FFRF member here. I don’t think I’d go to FFRF for tactful, respectful scripts to deal with a proselytizing co-worker. They’re good for snark, their publications, and their fight-the-good-fight lawsuits. But they can have a dismissive or even insulting attitude toward believers, or toward their own supporters who disagree with how snarky they can be. I’d suggest digging know-your-rights materials from ACLU instead.

          1. AKchic*

            Sorry, this was actually my aim, and I had to answer a phone call.

            Yes – the anonymity factor.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If you can pull it off, you might say, “Eh, don’t have to be a religious person to wonder how long the world can continue doing what it is doing now. No one group of people has an exclusive corner on that question. Lots of people think we are looking at end times.”

      I think I would just go point blank, “Please do not turn every discussion we have into a religious discussion.” The next time she does it, “I have asked you before and I am asking you, again. Please stop bringing religion into every conversation with me.”
      She’s a great example of one reason why people want nothing to do with churches. If I got ticked enough, I might catch myself saying that.

    6. Argh!*

      I’ve known a few people who are like this about religion and a few who are like this about other things, like politics. They always turn a conversation around to their obsession.

      Only a few of the religious people I know didn’t back off after a kindly “I’m not part of your religion, please keep the god talk out of our conversations.” Another line that might work is “I don’t want to hear that kind of talk outside of church, please.” That’s good for people who might think you need salvation if you don’t have a church.

      Your manager may not care if there isn’t a cost to productivity, so if you need to go that direction, try documenting some problems that have arisen. … and then there’s the legal side. Things rarely need to go that direction.

      1. Argh!*

        I just remembered what a co-worker does. She’s an atheist & one of our coworkers wouldn’t let up, so she said “If you want to prosletyze to/at me you have to be willing to listen to my response to that.” They actually get into some interesting (and friendly) debates. That same religious co-worker doesn’t bug other people, though. Perhaps that tactic reined her in.

    7. Emi.*

      May I offer you my favorite instant topic derail?

      “Would you like to talk to my prophet about finding a husband?”
      “I’m not focusing on looking for a husband, because in the meantime, every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in North Queensland!”

      1. Tardigrade*

        Every ten seconds, a squirrel commits vehicle-assistant suicide. Please take this pamphlet to learn more.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I forgot the “/s”. My apologies! In all seriousness, yeah this is pretty clearly not appropriate. As others have reocmmended, I would focus on just the things she’s saying to you that are inappropriate or distracting from work.

      Hopeshe gets the message!

  42. MCMonkeyBean*

    Someone started leaving religious pamphlets about “God’s Christmas Gift” in the women’s bathroom every day in the middle of December. If you threw it away they would leave another one. I was irritated but I was like whatever it’s almost Christmas and then it will stop.

    But it didn’t stop. This continued until a couple of weeks ago (I assume they finally ran out of pamphlets?).

    It was so aggravating because I didn’t know what the heck could be done about it! I did eventually email HR but like what are they going to do if they don’t know who is doing it?

    1. LawBee*

      A local megachurch left signs all over our office door (right underneath the clear instruction not to do that) which said “Easter is on a Sunday this year!”

      It’s on a Sunday every year. Instead of making people want to go to their cultish church*, it just made them look like idiots.

      *This megachurch specifically has serious cult vibes. Whether others do is up to the observer.

      1. AKchic*

        I have a local cult (and yes, I am terming it an outright cult, they have ties to two known hate-groups) down the street from me. They send me a newsletter every month because I’m in the neighborhood and flyers to attend their church, and the bigger church that they are an off-shoot of (which is a huge Baptist place, and one I’ve been banned from, and I also deem a cult, with the same hate-group ties).

        I have called and asked them not to mail me their garbage. Told them not to come and plaster my door with flyers. All to no avail. They are currently sponsoring anti-trans bathroom legislation and are working with a few other churches to bring forth new anti-LGBTQIA bills. I’m saving all of their garbage. I am going to enjoy the art installation I put up to scare them off.

  43. The Original Flavored K*

    I’m originally from the southeast (Tennessee, in fact) and so people going on and on about their church stuff just sort of happened. And although I didn’t care that anybody’s husband was a deacon or son was becoming an usher or that they couldn’t stay late because youth group got cancelled and we can’t leave teenagers alone (They Will Get Up To Mischief!), I also didn’t care that they talked about it.

    Until Nicki. Nicki didn’t recognize the boundary, and when one day I chuckled and demurred on church activities, she realized that she was in the presence of a bonafide non-believer. And what Nicki also didn’t understand was that people can know all the stories and theology, but still not believe. Best of all, she was my team lead, so there I was, stuck with a supervisor who kept on trying to tell me about Jesus and asking me if I knew who Moses was.

    These days, I draw the line at discussion of a religion’s tenets or major figures. Your kid has a solo in the Xmas concert? Cool. You wanna talk about Advent or the role of John the Baptist? I am working, and you should be, too.

    1. CM*

      I kept reading that your coworkers’ husbands were demons… that would be kind of interesting.

      But yes, somebody who keeps insisting that you need to know The Truth is not somebody you want to be stuck working with.

    2. Willow Sunstar*

      Omg yes…been there. Went to church school, was confirmed, come from very Lutheran family, etc. My experiences growimg up were very much Not Normal due to a toxic parent. I am Agnostic now.

      It is still amazing to me that anyone in the US can seriously look at at an adult and think we don’t know anything about religion. I know too much…

  44. Lady Phoenix*

    As Commander Shepard would say: “I have to go.”

    Tell her that you don’t discuss religion at work, and then leave the moment she does. If she follows you, traps you, or gets on your grill for not listening to her spiel, then talk to HR.

  45. Goya de la Mancha*

    Since I’m awkward AF and words have a way of getting me into trouble – when someone starts talking to me about stuff that makes me uncomfortable, I generally just shake my head while they’re talking or flat out walk away. This is now how adults handle their professional environment…don’t do this.

    1. De Minimis*

      My wife once had a coworker who would just get up and leave during meetings when he was tired of being there.
      Honestly I find it admirable. Just get up and leave…

  46. Meems*

    I can relate. I have 2 coworkers who have married Jesus. There were weddings and celebrations, the whole shebang. Sadly, I was not invited to attend the festivities. I’m thinking it’s because I rolled my eyes and said “You’re f-ing joking right? You can’t be serious right now” when they shared the news of there nuptials with me.

    1. Emi.*

      Yeah, your rude and dismissive reaction was probably related to their not inviting you, yup.

    2. EvanMax*

      Do you work in a convent?

      Is this a thing? I mean, the first one invented this, and the second one just copied her, right?

      1. Temperance*

        It’s a Catholic thing. I’m betting Meems works with two women who are “consecrated virgins”.

        1. EvanMax*

          Okay, so I wasn’t far off with the nun thing.

          Seems pretty alien to me, but as long as they aren’t trying to recruit new “wives” or whatever, then good for them.

          Honestly, I think it would be pretty crappy to make such a huge life decision and dedication, and then be told that it’s inappropriate to discuss it at work.

              1. Temperance*

                If they’re going to harp on the religious aspect of the ceremony, yes. If you’re going to talk about your wedding like a normal person, no.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            This is no different than the LW who wanted to include running a sex club on his resume or the guy who included leading a purity club. Talking about your personal sex life (or lack thereof) is not appropriate in the workplace.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      this is an actual thing?

      I can’t decide if it’s more or less disturbing than the people who had commitment ceremonies with their guns.

      1. Temperance*

        I grew up near where those people married their guns. lol.

        For more about this, look up “consecrated virgins”. It’s kind of a weird retro Catholic thing.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I grew up Catholic and I don’t remember ever hearing about this. I learn so many interesting things on this site!

      2. Lissa*

        ….commitment ceremonies with their…GUNS? I…what? I think I definitely find that one more disturbing because at least religion is acknowledged to be, for some people, a thing that can be all-consuming in one’s life, one considers it the whole purpose of their life, so it being as serious as a marriage makes some amount of sense. Marrying your gun would be like marrying your car or your Game of Thrones DVDs but more violent (to my mind.)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If you google “commitment ceremony with gun” you can read about it. It’s… special. And ironic, considering these are very likely the same people who argue against marriage equality.

          1. LBK*

            To be clear, they weren’t committing to their guns. It was a renewal of vows for human/human married couples at which they were encouraged to bring guns.

            1. LBK*

              (Which, I should say, is still completely insane and terrifying, but slightly less so than someone actually marrying their gun.)

        2. Temperance*

          It was more of a blessing ceremony. It happened last week in rural Pennsylvania, lol.

      3. Annabelle*

        It’s a thing, though I think it’s mostly (maybe exclusively) a Catholic thing. It was mentioned as an option for particularly devout girls in my middle school’s version of a sex ed class.

    4. Susan*

      Jesus as a bigamist?

      (Signed – a Christmas + Easter Catholic, who believes but also believes more strongly in sleeping in on Sundays)

  47. GreenDoor*

    Were I in the OP’s shoes, I might be inclined to roll my eyes, sigh exaggeratedly, and say in a bored voice, “Hey Cersai, is religion honestly the ONLY thing you can talk about ?? I love the good Lord as much as the next person*, but it’s a topic that gets old you know…”
    *I’d add this preface, if true, to make it clear that I’m not anti-religion, but to get across that even people who are devoted to a topic don’t need to talk endlessly about it.

    Maybe a bit rude, but I think people that get this hopped up on one topic (God, diet, fandom) often don’t realize they talk about it. A slight bit of public embarrassment can do wonders. But yes to escalating to HR/Boss if it really rises to the level of harassment.

    1. Penny Lane*

      I don’t even get why you have to have the disclaimer of “I love the good Lord as much as the next person.” These people need to hear loud and clear that religious beliefs are simply no one’s business. Too bad if that’s what they learned in East Bumble Hollow. There’s a time and a place.

  48. MommyMD*

    No one should be talking about ANYTHING personal to coworkers for 40 minutes a day. If she kept up wasting time, I’d fire her.

  49. DizzyFog*

    I will admit that my tendency is to talk WAY too much about the political happenings of the day. I’m sure my co-worker wishes I would shut it down, but he’s patient with me. It helps that he is my husband! (We both work from home – for different companies – in offices at opposite ends of the house, so he really only has to deal with it once or twice a day when we are both in the kitchen at the same time.)

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      He could be writing in for strategies to handle it on the open threads. ;) (joking)

  50. Teacher Lady*

    I once worked with another teacher who was all about God and Jesus and would tell me that she needed to “save my soul.” I finally told her that I found spirituality to be a deeply private thing and did not want to discuss it with her. She let it go.

    Conversely, I also taught with a hellfire-and-brimstone-I-won’t-vaccinate-my-kids-because-Jesus woman who was insane. She outright insulted anyone who did not drink her Jesus Koolaid and when she was told to stop, she called people “politically correct idiots.” She was fired (a rarity in a public school) because she made some horribly racist comments to students about their faiths. She got another job…teaching for Bob Jones University. But, since they’re racist, it makes sense, I guess?

      1. MoodyMoody*

        “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” is a saying derived from the Jonestown, Guyana, mass murder/suicide in 1978. Jim Jones and his followers took cyanide dissolved in Kool-Aid. It means don’t blindly do everything that someone in authority, especially religious authority, tells you to do.

        1. Temperance*

          Point of correction: Jones ordered his followers to drink the cyanide-infused drink, and it wasn’t actually Kool-Aid, but FlavorAid. Those who didn’t drink were shot, and Jones himself was shot.

        2. Anon for this one*

          I worked with someone who once said that we should all drink the Kool-Aid. He thought there was too much negativity and that we were not being good team players.

          He was unaware of the etymology of the expression. I took the opportunity to educate him and everyone else on it right then and there.

  51. Macedon*

    I’ve found in these kinds of situations, it’s key to work with wording that emphasizes and prioritises your inconvenience: so, more than just AAM’s, ‘I don’t want to talk about God at the office’, I’d go with straight up, ‘I’m not comfortable talking about God at the office’. Or, ‘I respect that you have these views, but it makes me uncomfortable to keep discussing religion at work’. Even ‘I’m sorry, but I’m really not personally keen to keep talking about religion’.

    I think it’s good to emphasise personal impact is because people who overshare a habit or view that dictates their moral principles (religion/politics) will often defend that it’s a personal choice or calling and part of who they are.

    Like AAM, I don’t think there is much you can do about two other adults spending their time talking about religion within earshot, provided it’s not insanely distracting or in any way delaying your work — case in which you can bring it up with your coworker’s manager in the same way you would any bad habit of hers that disrupts your work day.

  52. Tomato Soup*

    i have not worked in an office before but i cannot fathom 40 minutes to just… chat when you got work to do, or other people have their work to do

  53. Elf*

    I’d like opinions about how my instinctual response would be received (professional/not, offensive/called for, etc.) I would be inclined to say “Please don’t talk to me about your imaginary friend.”

    1. Observer*

      If that’s a serious question, I would say that in any functional workplace this would go over very, very poorly.

      It’s fine to refuse to engage in conversations about religion. It’s totally ok to kick complaints about proselytizing up the chain if your coworker won’t back off after a straightforward request (eg “I don’t want to discuss this”) But you’re response is in a different category, and as out of line as the people who tell you how to get into heaven.

  54. This Daydreamer*

    Considering Cercei’s latest actions on Game of Thrones, I had to laugh at the choice of name. I don’t watch the show, but it was hard to not hear about what happened to the church on the show.

    Good luck dealing with your Cercei. That would drive me up the wall.

  55. spinetingler*

    This would be the time that I would pull out all of my black clothes, buy an upside down crucifix pendant, and maybe get a little dark eyeliner. A skull ring would complete the ensemble.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    Late to this, but woof. Aside from the problem of proselytizing at work and the legalities that could ensue, Cersei reminds me of some people who could not stop talking about sports at work. All the time. They had long conversations about it while standing around, and because sports are considered a somewhat neutral topic, of course there were no repercussions.

    But it was problematic none the less. They weren’t working; they were talking loudly, outside other people’s cubes. The one time I politely asked them to keep it down because I couldn’t hear a webinar, they sniffed at me as if I were the one in the wrong. How dare I interrupt their fantasy football musings. Fanatics are fanatics, whatever their stripe.

  57. Annoyed*

    “3AM is god’s time? But I thought the night time belonged to our lord satan.”

    Of course I’m a heathen who is going to hell so…

    Seriously OP shut her down.

  58. Leon*

    We recently hired someone that my boss was friends with outside work, and he constantly steers conversations into the subject of Judaism and its traditions to anyone who is in earshot. I’m an atheist myself so this really annoys me and I know my coworkers (even those who share his beliefs) think he’s over the top.

    I can’t say anything about it because the boss is also Jewish and encourages it. They spend half of their calls and “meetings” analyzing scripture and discussing recent events at their temple. The other day they had an hour long debate about Passover and the appropriate ways to observe it.

    It’s unnecessary at best and inappropriate at worst. I wish I had some ground to ask them to stop discussing religion at work but it doesn’t sound like I do.

  59. Candace*

    I happen to be an atheist whose three closest friends are a) all deeply religious and b) of three different religions (Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish). It’s not an issue for us; we all respect each other and do not try to convert each other. Manners go a long way. Oddly, all three were formerly people I supervised in other jobs. (I am an academic library director). I was careful to accommodate them as well – arranging a leave of absence for my Muslim staff member to go on a pilgrimage with family, ensuring office events always had kosher food for my Jewish staff member, etc. i don’t work with any of them now; these were all former jobs. However, I am always firm about a few things at work. One, no solicitation, religious or otherwise. I had members of a local evangelical church removed as they would not cease coming in and trying to convert other patrons. We do not allow any religious flyers, etc. i was asked to create a “prayer room” at 2 public institutions: I refused, not because I object to people praying in public (and I have allowed it and directed people to quiet places) but because a) we are low on space and need the space for library functions, quite badly, and I do not wish to dedicate soace to anything I feel is not a true library function and b) there are other designated interfaith spaces on campus for this. If I had a staff member behaving like this, they would be getting spoken to immediately, and if it did not change, I’d be starting with a formal reprimand and going from there. She is creating a hostile work environment for anyone who is not precisely in sycn with her.

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