a vendor pushed religion at a work dinner

A reader writes:

I’m still Monday morning quarterbacking my response to this one in my head, I’d love your opinion.

This past week, a colleague (let’s call him Sam) and I traveled to visit a vendor out of state. The first night, the vender’s (super enthusiastic and talkative) head of sales, Bill, took the two of us out for dinner. After we had ordered, the conversation shifted to out-of-work activities/interests, and Bill talked about some faith-based career coaching he does, which led into a conversation about how he attends a “bible-believing Christian church.” He then asked “Are you a man of faith, Sam?” Sam enthusiastically agreed, and they spoke briefly about the church he attends.

Bill then turned to me and asked “Are you a woman of faith?”

I am not, in somewhat of a shift from where I’ve been at in the past, for a lot of deeply personal reasons that aren’t anyone’s business but mine.

I managed to spit out, “Um, questioning” in a pretty stern tone of voice. Bill said, “That’s what I’m here for!” and I changed the subject (I think I brought up my new puppy!).

There were a few more church/bible/religion-based topics of conversation throughout the rest of the night, but more general as far as involvement in church/church activities, and I didn’t hear another word from Bill about religion for the rest of my two day visit, which was a relief. I felt like my answer, while it did end that conversational track, still revealed more then I’m comfortable with sharing about my faith or lack thereof with a vendor and a colleague.

How would you have responded in my situation? It may or may not matter, but I am a 30something woman. I am the one who manages the budget that determines if and how much we work with this vendor. I plan to continue working with them, but a) I’d love to know what else I could have said in the moment that would have been less personal and b) what I could say in the future if this does come up as we continue to work together.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

  1. Boolie*

    Oof…I would have liked to say, “as a matter of fact, that’s not what you’re here for at all.” As a person of faith I will never understand such insular thinking.

    1. Jessica*

      “That’s what I’m here for!” Really? Because I was here for a work meeting. Sounds like one of us is at the wrong table!

      Also, maybe he can’t help because his religion isn’t the one you have “questions” about, has he considered that? (Of course not.)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, even as a Catholic, I would be pretty uncomfortable, because I have a suspicion he may be one of those people who believes Catholics aren’t “real” Christians. And I suspect he is even less likely to have considered any religion other than Christianity.

        1. Artworks*

          Ding ding ding! (Can you tell I’ve run into this issue?)
          I don’t really even like discussing my Catholicism with other Catholics, let alone anyone else.
          Keep that shit between you and your God, Bill!!!!

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            I agree, and he would probably say that “All Catholics are going to hell”. (former evangelical, now Catholic)

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I always think about The Simpsons episode with the boring Protestant heaven & the fun, colorful RC heaven. And think if that baptism holds, I get to go to the fun heaven.

              (I’m actually a lapsed Catholic, but raised in the social justice tradition. If there is a heaven, I believe it welcomes people who were good humans, regardless of religion.)

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  If it’s not the heaven with the puppies in it I don’t want it.

                  Unlike real puppies, heaven puppies are never crappy little teething gremlins who get you up at 5am and then have an overtired tantrum.

              1. Jackalope*

                Fellow social justice lapsed Irish Catholic here. I was raised amongst Catholic Workers who plastered the walls with photos of hunger strikers and believed, basically, in Marxism. We exist!!

          2. RVA Cat*

            Just this Easter I was reading through the differences between the four gospels on things like Jesus’s arrest and the women finding the empty tomb. The Bible is not journalism.

            1. Single Parent Barbie*

              I used to tell people it wasn’t God’s word I have a problem with, its his editors

            2. Stinky Socks*

              Thank you.

              It’s not journalism, and it’s not a science textbook either.

              –sincerely, practicing Catholic who reads the Bible really

        2. curio*

          Yeah, when folks describe their church as a “Bible-believing Christian church” the implication is that other churches *don’t* believe in the Bible (or don’t believe in it the RIGHT way).

          Having to deal with Pentecostal Bible studies while growing up Catholic was…fun.

          1. Noblepower*

            I’m in Spain, there’s a Catholic church practically every block. In an expat Facebook group a new arrival asked if anyone knew of any Christian churches here…

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              Reminds me of the woman my family knew who was talking about her mission trip to Russia. Like I get that maybe you’re concerned that people don’t go to church, lady, but uh…..there’s kind of a BIG Orthodox tradition there. Like…just a bit.

              1. Dr Sarah*

                I’m wondering whether maybe she hasn’t quite caught up with the fact that it’s not the USSR any more and not a case of trying to convert the eeeevil commies?

                1. Anon for this*

                  (source – knew people who went on ‘mission trips to Russia’ as a kid) No, they definitely know it’s not the USSR anymore, they just don’t think Orthodox are Christians.

            2. Jamoche*

              When I was growing up in the US Bible Belt, if you were part of a denomination you’d always describe yourself by it: Methodist, Lutheran, etc. Only fundamentalists used Christian with no modifier. This caused some confusion when I moved to California and met some British friends, where fundamentalists are rare and people of all denominations use Christian by itself – I was complaining that I hadn’t realized my long-distance and soon-to-be-ex Texas boyfriend was “a Christian”, meaning fundamentalist, and my British friends took that entirely the wrong way. But we did straighten it out quickly.

        3. Drago Cucina*

          As a Catholic (worse a convert to Catholicism!) I admit to inwardly cackling sometimes when I encounter these folks. They get really uncomfortable when they push and I answer. Being raised in an “all Catholics are going to Hades” denomination sometimes comes in handy.

        4. Alan*

          And “Christianity” is not monolithic. My experience is that such people aren’t even aware of Orthodox Christianity for example. They’re evangelicals, and sometimes don’t even recognize other *evangelicals* as Christians. Many are severely uneducated about the various flavors (and history) of Christianity.

        5. Chirpy*

          Yeah, reminds me of the point in college where the Catholic girl and I, as the two traditional denomination people in a churchy group of mostly fundamentalist evangelicals, had to explain that, yes, in fact, we did “know Jesus”…

          Luckily these were friends and they mostly did actually listen (many had never thought about the possibility that older denominations still had merit before) but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.

          1. Alan*

            A number of years ago I attended a class at a local Episcopal church and one of the books we read was “Christianity, the first 3000 years”. It was an amazing introduction to the philosophical bases underlying Christianity, i.e., up to 1000 years pre-Jesus, as well as the many, many, many forms Christianity has taken through history. I considered myself fairly well-read on Christianity and I had no idea that there had been so many different forms, many of which still exist today, especially outside the U.S. This is not stuff I’ve ever heard in my decades in church.

            1. Chirpy*

              That sounds really interesting! I was lucky enough to grow up in a church that encouraged studying church history and it’s origins (and we did partner with multiple other denominations and occasionally the local synagogue on things), but it would be fascinating to learn more.

              One of the things I found interesting about my evangelical friends churches was that they all floundered with their music choices post 9/11. All the “praise music” of the ’90s/2000s was upbeat (and often vapid, honestly), they had zero sad songs, and few even contemplative songs. It was so interesting that some of them had absolutely never considered the fabulous amount of traditional Lent songs actually have a purpose.

            2. MM*

              This reality is one of the less important reasons that U.S. Evangelicals using their “concern for Middle Eastern Christians” as a political club is so offensive to me. They wouldn’t know a Melkite or an Assyrian or a Maronite if they tripped over one, and once introduced they wouldn’t consider them Christians.

              1. Chirpy*

                This. Many Middle Eastern Christians are Palestinian and speak Arabic, which seems to short out a lot of Evangelical brains if you point that out.

          2. londonedit*

            This is all mind-blowing to me, as a British atheist raised in the woolly vaguely C of E tradition we have in this country. To me, Catholics are like the super religious ones with Very Serious Church Services and whatnot, unlike the Church of England where it’s more ‘come along and have a cup of tea and sing some hymns’. The idea that people think Catholics aren’t proper Christians is bizarre to me.

            1. Candy Morningstar*

              Oh yeah, Catholics and Church of England are basically the same thing when you start comparing them to U.S. Evangelicals.

        6. Jamjari*

          See, I assumed that by “bible believing church” he meant “not one of those woke liberal churches”

          1. Kevin Sours*

            He means any church that disagrees with my specific interpretation of the bible based on narrow parsing of specific word choices (typically in a language other than the one those passages were actually written in). This includes all of the other “bible believing” churches.

            1. whingedrinking*

              And will also likely insist that his church’s interpretation of the Bible is the commonsense, obvious one that any honest seeker-after-faith would take from it…with no explanation for why, if that’s true, nobody else interpreted it the same way until 1965.

        7. Gadfly*

          I’m an “other” but grew up surrounded by the LDS (Mormons), who somehow manage to be both sides of this…

        8. Fishsticks*

          “Bible believing” is usually code for a very particular kind of fundamentalist Christianity that, you are correct, definitely views Catholics with suspicion at best and as idol-worshiping bad guys at worst.

  2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I do consider myself religious, but I would find this conversation so inappropriate it would make me question Sam’s judgment and certainly put me off engaging Bill.

    I think though that there’s a culture clash at play here because in the UK people just don’t talk about their religion in this way unless they’re at a deliberately religious event.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Oh, to live in one of those areas!

        There are some parts of the US where it is not uncommon to be asked “What church do you go to?” as you are still moving furniture in.

        1. southern interloper*

          When we moved to Dallas (15 years ag0) that was the second question we got, after “DO you work?” (which was quite jarring coming out of the very opportunistic “what-is-your-job-and-can-it-benefit-me” DC environment). When I (white) said “my husband [also white] is Catholic,” the reaction was a bit taken aback and then sometimes a response of “I think my gardener [Hispanic] is Catholic…” My hairdresser finally told me to say that I’m Jewish (which was actually half true), and sure enough, that shut everyone up immediately…

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          When I lived in the south for a few years I got a lot of those questions. Your friends were only to be made at church, apparently. Since I went to the Church of Fun (very limited congregation) I didn’t have a built in friend group.

      2. AnonPi*

        Eh, not so much in the south. When I first moved here one of the things I was asked numerous times was if I’d found a church yet. Everyone just assumes you believe in some form of Christianity. When pushed I’ve said I consider myself spiritual but not religious, they think it means I’m Christian but don’t go to church. I don’t bother to correct them because it would just go downhill from there.

        Often I just say that I consider that private and don’t discuss in public/at work/outside friends/family.

        1. Tinkerbell*

          Yep, that’s definitely the expectation. It’s not necessarily even an attempt to get you to come to the speaker’s church, either (although they’re usually happy to extend an invitation if you are even vaguely interested) – I think partly it’s because there are SO MANY FLAVORS of Christianity around here (I’m in Alabama) and they don’t necessarily all say what they are on the tin. The Presbyterian church down the street from me may be super-liberal and the one two blocks over may be super-conservative and if you don’t know the secret code words, you may not know what you’d be walking into.

          (Funny anecdote: some friends of mine used to go to a liberal Baptist church. “Liberal,” here, means some of the congregation were at wildly different points on the spectrum than others and the pastor pointedly didn’t bring up politics in his sermons. My friend was on the committee to refine the church’s mission statement. One of the other committee members wanted to include the language “an open and affirming congregation,” which is very much in vogue among some churches right now. My friend: “Errr, I’m all for that, but you know that’s code for ‘we accept gay people,’ right?” Yeah, dead silence. The lady who had suggested it did not, in fact, know, and there was a lot of frantic backpedaling. My friends no longer go to that church.)

          1. Leslie from the Back*

            Completely unsurprised by your “Christian in Alabama” account. I have family in Dothan. The local credit union (which has the absolutely terrible name of All-In) still considers “where do you go to church?” a valid thing to ask when determining if you’re trustworthy enough to be granted a loan. And the “wrong” (usually non-Protestant) answer definitely counts against you. Just cemented to me that I should never ever live in that awful state again. The time I spend there for family visits is bad enough. I witness or experience more racism, sexism, and good ol’ boy corruption during my annual two weeks in Alabama than I do all year at home.

            1. Lee*

              I take it you’ve never been to Boston. I have family there and whrn I visit from Alabama, the casual racism is shocking.

              1. Alabama Sucks*

                Bigots are everywhere. It’s not a competition.

                That said, the open and casual bigotry in Alabama shocks me every time I go back, and I was raised there. Still shocking even as I now live in a different southern state that turns more red every day.

      3. datamuse*

        I’ve really found this to vary regionally in the U.S., as other commenters noted. I work for a church-affiliated university–but it’s in the coastal Pacific Northwest and the question just doesn’t come up most of the time even at work! (It’s not one that has a faith requirement; that too varies considerably.)

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I’ve lived in 5 states and the only one religion came up in was Indiana. Now in coastal CA it has not been asked of me in a small talk way even once in my 20+ years here.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            I grew up in CA, it just wasn’t really a thing that people talked about. It was sort of a non-issue. Unless someone was in a cult… but that’s a whole different conversation.

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I wonder whether LW and Bill were from different regions/cities in that case.

      5. Starbuck*

        Yup, definitely varies. As someone who grew up and lives in suburban then urban PNW, I cannot recall ever in my life being asked if I’m religious or what church I go to. It’s definitely come up eventually in conversations with people I’ve known, but never asked outright as a getting-to-know-you intro question!

    1. Vio*

      Most don’t, but we do still get the occasional person who takes it upon themselves to be head of marketing for their religion and thinks they’re qualified to and that it’s appropriate to Q&A in any situation with anyone. Thankfully they are very, very much the minority. We also don’t have so many outspokenly angry atheists trying to convert all the religious people either…
      Faith does still come up in conversation at times but usually in a much more laid back way the same as asking if somebody shares a hobby and most people are more likely to find it interesting than offensive to discover their friend has a different faith. That’s not to say it’s a utopia here, but I think a lot of our discrimination issues are a lot more subtle and beneath the surface.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      (I should correct myself: in Great Britain we don’t do this; Northern Ireland has a different religious landscape with which I am insufficiently familiar to comment helpfully)

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve not worked in Northern Ireland but I’ve worked with a company based there and none of the Northern Irish people have ever raised religion or tried to discuss it over dinner. So I don’t think this type of thing is common there either.

        Certainly not common in GB and when I worked in Germany and Belgium it wasn’t common there either.

        1. MM*

          I don’t know for sure, but in places like Northern Ireland, where religious denomination has become a vector for political conflict and violence, people usually don’t ask or say outright–they have ways of feeling it out indirectly, like asking where someone’s from, their last name, whether they’re related to so-and-so.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Religion in Northern Ireland is at least partly a shorthand for ethnicity and political view anyway (There’s a joke that goes, “I’m an atheist.” “Ah, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist.”) so surname would probably make it fairly clear. Generally, in Northern Ireland, Catholic means descended from the native Irish (and likely to support the idea of a united Ireland and to have an Irish passport and to vote Sinn Féin or the SDLP) whereas Protestant likely means descended from the Scottish or English settlers who colonised the province (and like to support the idea of Northern Ireland remaining in the UK and to have a British passport and to vote DUP or UUP). So an Irish surname would indicate Catholic/nationalist community whereas an English or Scottish one would indicate Protestant/unionist.

            My guess (and I’m in the Republic and haven’t lived or worked in Northern Ireland either, so I’m going on rather second hand information and I would have more familiarity with the nationalist community than the unionist or loyalist ones) is that they wouldn’t be that interested in the religion of people outside the province anyway. In Britain, the odds would be that most people regardless of religion, would have a British identity anyway.

        2. Palestinian-American*

          In the Middle East, it is very common to be asked your religion on official forms (e.g., where we would ask for “date of birth” and “marital status”)

    3. allathian*

      Oh yes, absolutely. I’m in Finland and religion is rarely discussed at work. The general assumption is that religious belief, or lack thereof, is a completely personal matter. At least it is in the metropolitan area where I’ve lived for most of my adult life. In some rural areas the situation is undoubtedly different.

      I wonder how Bill’s employers would feel. The LW holds all the power here. Unless it’s a very small vendor, she could probably request to do business with another sales representative in future. The vendor will honor that request if they have any interest in continuing to do business with the LW’s company. The amount of power the LW has obviously depends on her own employer, some wouldn’t hesitate to drop a vendor if their rep was being unprofessional like Bill, even if their product was both good quality and reasonably priced.

  3. ENFP in Texas*

    I’ve been following a pagan path for the past 25+ years, and it has taken me time to be comfortable acknowledging it in a work setting. If I had been asked “are you a woman of faith?” in this same situation, I’d have said “Yep” and not expounded on it unless asked. Because I am a woman of faith – just not the same faith as his. And if the vendor did ask for more info, I’d like to think I’d respond “I’m pagan, not Christian, but our religious beliefs aren’t an appropriate topic for a work dinner, don’t you agree?”

    1. Artemesia*

      That is how I deflected this as a freethinker doing my career in the south. ‘Do you know where you are spending eternity?’ Why yes I do. ‘Are you a woman of faith?’ Why yes, yes I am. And then any follow up was ‘I think faith is very personal; it isn’t something I am comfortable discussing casually (or at work.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m an atheist who has not yet made concrete post-death plans (burial, cremation, donation, etc.):

        “Do you know where you are spending eternity?”

        “I haven’t decided yet.”

        1. Still not picked a username*

          This made me laugh, one of my mulled over favourite options is being cremated and the ashes scattered from the pirate ship that does boat tours round my favourite bay

        2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

          Love “I haven’t decided yet.”

          Or, in a similar vein,”You’re asking the wrong person. Try Gabriel.”

        3. Vio*

          Sadly they never word it that way with me, or I’d have a response of “So long as it’s not with you,” ready, if I felt confident enough to use it. I don’t encounter a lot of pushers but they’re most often the passive aggressive assuming that of course you have the exact same beliefs as they do because all right thinking people surely must and you don’t seem like one of those evil, devil worshipping atheists (yes that is an oxymoron, I tried to explain while also trying not to laugh, wasn’t successful on either point).

      2. Stacy*

        “Do you know where you are spending eternity?”

        “At this dinner table, so it would seem.”

    2. sundae funday*

      I’m Christian, although the progressive kind, and even answering “yes I’m Christian” to people like this isn’t enough! I was unlucky enough to be “evangelized to” by my airplane seat mate (when I had HEADPHONES IN!!!) from a notoriously conservative megachurch in my city.

      Just saying “yep I’m Christian” wasn’t enough. She wanted to make sure I was her particular brand of Christian, which I most certainly am not.

      Worst flight ever.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Pretty sure I sat next to this woman on my flight to Minnesota for a college interview.

      2. Ultra Anon*

        I’m ELCA Lutheran and rediscovering my faith. I don’t mind light conversation around religion or the quirks thereof (most progressive religious people have a healthy sense of humor around their faith). However, I certainly would not want to spend a lengthy amount of time discussing it in a group just because it’s such a mine field and can exclude others. This dude is just rude and thankfully he took your response as a queue to not push (some evangelicals don’t).

      3. Alan*

        My daughter encountered someone like this. You need to understand that my daughter is very confrontation averse, very sweet. But somehow this person trapped her on the street and tried to evangelize her and my daughter screamed “Leave me the f alone.” As much as I myself hate confrontation, I think I might convey the same idea to my seatmate on the plane, perhaps using politer language. Flying sucks enough without being trapped like that.

        1. allathian*

          How old was your daughter when that happened? Regardless of her age, I can’t help but admire her response. Those evangelizing creeps don’t deserve a polite one when they keep pushing.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      That’s “when he asked, not if”. The dude was obviously looking for any excuse to give a sales pitch for his church. Unless you are looking to engage (and these dudes do need to get some pushback so if you are have at it) then a response that invites further inquiry is not the way to go.

    4. a trans person*

      As a Jewish-raised Pagan, I have a somewhat different view. I am a *religious* person. I worship my Gods in the ways appropriate to my traditions and path. But “faith” isn’t really a relevant construct, either in my childhood religion or my current one. Centering faith and belief as the quintessential expressions of religious devotion is a very Christian move, and one I reject — which is another reason this would have been a very uncomfortable conversation for me!

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        Interesting! I always interpreted it as “I have faith that my gods exist”, so I never had an issue with that term.

          1. Clisby*

            I once saw someone online describe this as, “Jews believe there is, at most, one god.”

            1. Philosophia*

              Hah. I’ve heard that joke only about Unitarians. As Cyndi noted, Judaism does not have a credo, although in the twelfth century, the sage Maimonides propounded one. Even rabbis are permitted to doubt the existence of God!

              1. La Triviata*

                One of the standard jokes is that if you have a Unitarian delivering the opening prayer, they should start off with, “to whom it may concern.”

        1. Avery*

          Even that’s on the iffy side. Some people are Jewish but aren’t sure about the Jewish God’s actual existence. And of course there are belief systems like Buddhism where gods aren’t even a factor.
          It’s definitely interesting growing up Jewish in a Christian-centered society. Judaism is big on argument, interpretation, etc.

          1. DataSci*

            As a Unitarian I hadn’t heard that one! (And I’m not sure it’s true, though it is funny. Probably some more pagan-leaning UU believe in multiple gods. It’s not like we ask.)

        2. TomatoSoup*

          You can be a Jewish atheist and still be a “good” Jew. Centering belief in a specific deity as a prerequisite for membership in a religious community is a very Christian approach.

          1. Jessica Ganschen*

            There’s even a joke about two rabbis arguing about the existence of G-d, up one side and down the other, late into the night, pulling out every citation they can find, and coming to the conclusion that G-d does not exist. The next day, one of the rabbis is surprised to see the other walking into synagogue for morning services. “I thought we agreed that there is no G-d.” The other rabbi replied, “Of course, but what does that have to do with it?”

      2. PPP*

        A close friend was also a (secular, activist) Jewish-raised Pagan, and was once accosted at work by an overly enthusiastic evangelical who asked her if she wanted to be sure she was going to heaven. She looked up from her work and pleasantly asked him if people [insert casual profanity here describing adult expression of affection] in your heaven? He replied, shocked, “Of course not!” So she gave him a beaming smile and said, “Sorry, not interested!”

    5. Dasein*

      Your response, “I’m pagan, not Christian, but our religious beliefs aren’t an appropriate topic for a work dinner, don’t you agree?” would drive him up a wall because he’d be itching to evangelize to you but you just cut that off.

      The part of me that still resents the evangelical climate in which I was raised would find that delicious.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I just tell people I’m shaping a Buddhist practice — it’s not a lie. That usually shuts the evangelizing down because they don’t know enough about it to argue with me (most of the time).

      In OldMidsizeBibleBeltCity, it was the second question out of everyone’s mouth after “What do you do?” I don’t know what NewBigProgressiveCity will be like in terms of religious talk. It’s strongly Catholic, and Catholics don’t evangelize. NewJob is also very focused on DEI, so I doubt that kind of thing is tolerated much.

    7. There You Are*

      For me, I have answered that question in the same tone of voice and with the same facial expression as if they were a customer service rep asking me at the end of the call if there’s anything else they can do for me, with a cheery, “Nope.”

      “Are you a woman of faith?”

      Hell, I think I’ve even thrown in the habitual, “I’m all set!” after the Nope.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I don’t know if I’d be clever enough to elaborate or shut the conversation down, but I am sure I’d have automatically responded “nope!” out of sheer honesty.

  4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    I was at a work conference in January and while the speaker didn’t say anything overtly religious, it definitely flirted with that line. As now agnostic who grew up in the Evangelical church, I know the hallmarks and trigger words of a hipster youth pastor when I see it.

    Even if you aren’t being as specific as Bill, don’t use terms that read like a sermon by just taking out the words like god, church, faith, etc in any work context. It’s still obvious and uncomfortable.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    I feel like we all need to have a new puppy, our own or a family member’s, to divert awkward conversational tracks.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Slightly OT, but did anyone else misread Bill’s hypothetical activity as “he’s involved in rescuing baby geese that he loves to cook”? Because I was horrified for a second there.

  6. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    I wish I could remember what my mother used to say to people who came to the door. I think something like “I’m comfortable with my beliefs.” in a cool tone. OP you could say something like that. You could also add if someone pushes back. “I believe that if an extremely personal topic and I do not want to talk further about this.”

    1. ferrina*

      Last time I had someone come to the door, I said, “I’m not an expert, but my sister is! Did you want to talk to her and learn more?”
      My sister has an MDiv, studies faith/inclusivity and faith/environmentalism intersectionalism, and writes extensively about this. She also studies history and occasionally linguistics in order to better understand the original text. She doesn’t really talk about it unless asked, but if you try to debate her, she does not mess around.
      I think my house was taken off the proselytization list after that.

      1. Cyndi*

        My cousin achieved this similarly, by keeping a stack of printed leaflets about Wicca by the door and offering to trade sales pitches.

        1. There You Are*

          I do the same thing as your cousin, but my stack of literature is from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

          “You want to talk about a god who was born of a virgin, and/or died on a cross, and/or was risen a few days later? Hang on, I’ve got a pamphlet for that. Let’s see, did you mean Mithra, Attis, Krishna, Quexalcote, Horus, Adonis, or maybe Indra?”

        2. rewind*

          Lol, we used to do something similar in university. We had people forever coming up to read to us from their book and my roommate and I said, sure! We’ll start! and kept a pile of polisci texts by the door.

      2. PhyllisB*

        A friend of mine had a Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon missionaries show up at her door at the exact same moment. She invited them all in and let them have at it. She said they almost came to blows before it was all over, and that no one ever came to her door again.

      3. steliafidelis*

        We once had a Baptist knock on our door to ~share the good news~ and my Jewish sibling answered. The opening question was something like “do you have a church” and their answer was just a flat, “I’m Jewish.” The poor young man clearly hadn’t anticipated encountering a Jewish person in the wild and didn’t know how to continue the script.

        (I was very sad that I was not home that day and missed seeing this in person)

        1. littlehope*

          We get Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door ocassionally, and recently little baby Mormons have started showing up. My preferred method is to say sweetly, “Oh, well, I’m Jewish and my wife’s a Catholic, so we’re pretty much at capacity for religion in this house!”
          It works beautifully, and has the benefit of being a) true, b) friendly, and c) just contains so much information (Jews! Catholics! A gay interfaith marriage!) that it just sort of overloads their circuits and they go away.

      4. Chinookwind*

        We had a parish priest who was late for mass one day for just this reason. When he apologized and explained that 2 people showed up to his door (his home was not near the church) to find out of he wanted to here the good news. He, of course, invited them in to hear what they had to say and was now confident that the entire neighborhood has been struck off that list. I should mention that he was also a Roman Catholic canon lawyer and I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?

      5. Jam on Toast*

        My dad was a great social chatter, with an affable nature, that disguised the fact that he was a ruthlessly successful debater and trained trial lawyer. One of my favourite memories was him debating a pair of door-to-door proselytizers. What religion, I can’t remember. But I do remember the increasing desperation on their faces, as five minutes turned to fifteen, turned to thirty and my Dad just kept rebutting their canned theological arguments and grinding them down. If foxes wore bowties and short sleeved shirts, they’d have the same expression on their faces as they chewed their own foot off to escape as these too unwitting souls did.

        1. Lynn*

          My grandmother used to invite them in and would offer them ‘equal time.’ But they had to let her go first. Those poor, unsuspecting fools. She could, and would, argue with them for hours-and often had a firmer grounding in their religion than they did. I think they eventually put her on a “don’t knock here” list in her later years. Probably a good thing-inviting them in was never the best idea anyway.

          1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

            I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad idea. I’ve invited Jehovah’s Witnesses in for tea on two separate occasions. I am still an agnostic atheist. Unknown if they are still Jehovah’s Witnesses.

            1. Lynn*

              I didn’t have a problem with her inviting them into her house because of their religion-but just because they were strangers and I didn’t think inviting strangers in was a great idea in general.

              I do have to wonder if she changed anyone’s mind during those conversations. I don’t think her baked goods and lemonade would have done it on their own-baking was not her best skill.

      6. L'étrangère*

        My house was taken off the list when I hung out the window and screamed at the top of my lungs that child labor is illegal, and that if I ever saw them dragging that poor kid along with them to do their dirty work again I’d be calling the cops. And funny enough, after that episode the neighbors got distinctly friendlier too..

      7. Stinky Socks*

        Science fiction author Tim Staples tells a hysterical story about JW missionaries who showed up at his door. Staples went out on the porch to chat with them when they wanted to show him something in their particular bible. Staples is visually impaired, so he pulled out his trusty magnifying glass in order to read the text. And unintentionally focused the sunlight, LIGHTING THE PAGE ON FIRE.

        They left and never returned.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yep — I have a sign on my door that says, roughly, “We’re all set with our windows, roof, internet provider, landscaping, religion, and politics, so if you want to talk about any of those things, please move on and save us all some time.”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Haha, the whole spiel actually ends with “In short, unless you are under 15 and selling cookies, no soliciting.” (Around here, the scouts all set up at the hardware or big box stores anyway.)

          1. Clisby*

            Yeah, it’s been years since I’ve had a Girl Scout come by. I just ask on my neighborhood FB group who has a GS selling, and my dealer always comes through.

            1. Some words*

              In recent years I’ve seen them set up at tables at the local grocery store. Super convenient & probably much easier for the scouts.

          2. Merrie*

            A neighbor of mine has a sign that says something like “No soliciting unless you’re selling Thin Mints”.

      1. Orora*

        My friend has one like that, but also adds: “If you still want to engage with us, we will charge a $50/minute listening fee, payable immediately. Your ringing this doorbell is your agreement to pay this fee.”

        It’s brilliant.

      2. Maxie's Mommy*

        That’s what my husband says when he opens the door: “we’re all set here”, and shuts the door.

      3. GiantKitty*

        I’ve long contemplated putting a sign by our front door that simply says “we rent”.

        The rose thorn pentacle my husband hung on our screen takes care of all the proselytizers.

    3. Kyrielle*

      The last time someone came to our door for this sort of thing, they were greeted by the whole family down to the kids eagerly crowding the door only to see all of our faces fall as we took them in. And before they could say anything, I said, “Sorry, we thought you were our lunch delivery!”

      They still tried, and I said no thank you, but they definitely were off-balance after that greeting. (And our lunch showed up not long after.)

    4. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I wasn’t as polite as that. The few words I spoke to such people would include the word “proselytize”.

    5. Single Parent Barbie*

      My father (born and raised Catholic) would tell the story of his father (also born and raised Catholic) .

      When someone came to the door asking my grandfather if he had “found Jesus” my grandfather would yell for my grandmother “Ruth! Get your shoes on! Jesus is lost again!”

    6. Ultra Anon*

      I’m ELCA Lutheran and technically one of our favorite saying around Easter is to “Spread the Good News.” Most ELCA’s don’t take this to mean that we should go around knocking on doors or shoe-horning it into every conversation. I typically like the approach my church encourages: to model Christ and his teachings of acceptance and love rather than bringing up whether or not a person is a believer to strangers.

    7. zuzu*

      A guy I worked with long ago used to draw himself up to his full height and boom, “We’re communists in this house!” and then slam the door. He said it was the only thing that kept them from knocking again or coming back.

    8. STG*

      My response is typically “No, thank you.” and I close the door immediately. No chance for rebuttal.

      I think that’s more for my sanity though. Gay with religious trauma…I just want the situation to end before I start getting rude or lose my cool.

      1. Nina*

        Also gay with religious trauma (still religious though, oddly enough), I kind of enjoy door-to-door proselytizers because they’re never prepared to hear that someone who looks like me is a) gay b) already religious and c) fully up to speed on how their religion works.
        Also because they started it I feel I get a free pass to be as impersonally rude as I want.

  7. AMW*

    I’m shy and go-along-to-get-along most of the time. There are few things one could say to me to make the gloves come off, but proselytizing, especially in a work setting, is one of them. I’m glad OP had a cooler head, despite their surprise.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Since it was a vendor meeting, I’m guess it was Bill that footed the bill for the dinner. I would have been tempted to order every expensive item on the menu.

  8. Astrid Infinitum*

    My industry is informally very Christian and there are prayers said before meetings and meals at our annual meetings and in general. It’s very frustrating for my agnostic self. I tend to do a lot of eye rolling

    However, my boss is very personally religious, but has never ever made it an issue and actually asked me when I started about my religious stances. When I said that I’m not an active practicer of any faith, she told the rest of the team that we would no longer be having prayer at team meetings. One of my colleagues was upset about this and tried to evangelize to me, but they no longer works here.

    1. Alan*

      Wow that’s awesome, and honestly, much more attractive to his faith than force-feeding you religious stuff would be.

  9. KHB*

    My standard script is “I don’t discuss politics or religion with people I’ve just met.” That might not work here (where LW plans to continue working with Sam in the future, so eventually they’ll reach a point where they haven’t “just met”) but “I don’t discuss religion at work” might. That’s a little firmer than Alison’s scripts (“I’d rather not…” leaves the door open for arguing about it, where as “I don’t…” just says “I’m not going to answer your question.”)

      1. LM*

        “Are you a woman of faith?”
        (light and brisk tone) “I’m a woman who keeps really personal stuff like faith out of the workplace. But I’d love to hear more about [vendor’s business/products/services]!”

    1. MarsJenkar*

      I’d probably have to modify it for myself, saying “I don’t discuss politics or religion, especially not with people I’ve just met.”

  10. Panicked*

    I’m an Athiest in Texas, so I come across this frequently. My go-to is always “I don’t discuss things that personal at work, I’m sure you understand” and quickly defer to another topic. For those who continue to push, I get a bit more firm. “I’ve already stated that I don’t discuss that at work, I’ll ask you not to bring it up again.” I’ve never had it go past that!

    1. lilsheba*

      I’m an atheist, and me being me I would just say that I am an atheist and leave it at that. Anything further would have me saying “stop talking about this I am not discussing it anymore”. I like being direct.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I see your point. But I also see the value of deflection. I generally don’t discuss my (lack of) religious belief at work. I don’t think there’s anything inherently dishonest about allowing people to think you agree, or at least don’t vehemently disagree with them, especially if they’re the kind of obnoxious proselytizers that Bill apparently is.

  11. Kevin Sours*

    I don’t like Alison’s responses here. Too many words. The more you make it sound like a conversation, the more you invite further replies. And this dude is absolutely going to hear what he wants to hear in terms of how open OP is to further discussion.

    I’d go with “That’s personal”. Starting out a matter of fact and repeated as necessary in a tone dropping to single digit Kelvin.

  12. Peanut Hamper*

    “Why yes, Bill, I am a person of faith. Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior Cthulhu?”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      “I have faith that my cats will wake me up 30 minutes early by chewing on plastic.”

    2. Ultra Anon*

      You could quote “Fletch” by responding: “I believe in a God that doesn’t require heavy financing.”

  13. Hiring Mgr*

    Going to a church is one thing, but bible believing church is another matter altogether and does not belong in the work place

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      That in itself is a highly judgmental comment from Bill. Perhaps he forgot the “judge not” line?

      1. Dancing Otter*

        For a faith whose universal every day prayer includes “forgive us … as we forgive” others, it’s sad how unforgiving and judgmental so many fundamentalists are.

    2. nonprofiteer*

      What does bible believing mean? In my head it means fundamentalist/conservative/narrowly interpreting certain lines in the bible and weaponizing those against marginalized communities, but maybe I am wrong?

      1. Willow*

        Yep, as well as implying that any church with different teachings doesn’t really follow the bible.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The premise is that reading (not “interpreting”) the Bible is easy. You were taught to read in elementary school for the specific purpose of equipping you with all you need to read the Bible. (This is, by the way, more or less historically accurate, to a first approximation.) You don’t need fancy degrees to do this. You simply read the Bible, believe what it says, and that is good enough for you. This is what “Bible believing” means.

        The most readily apparent flaw with this line of thinking is that two different “Bible believing” churches a block apart might end up in very different places. This is unsurprising to anyone who has given the topic any thought. The Bible is an anthology of from widely divergent times and cultures, with the various texts often in dialogue (dare we say “argument”) with one another. None of these times and cultures are at all close to our own. Reading a snippet and running with whatever pops into your head is not good exegesis. It is barely even bad exegesis.

        There are many churches that understand this perfectly well, supporting scholarly traditions, often with fruitful discussions between traditions. This is not what people use use “Bible believing” mean. Those people are likely to dismiss these churches as (if they know the word) “apostate.”

        Back in the day, the various “Bible believing” churches generally hated each other. This is why you can find a string of closely spaced Baptist churches stretched down the road. Nowadays the various culture war issues take priority. They generally agree on these, and voting the right way is all that matters. They even tentatively accept conservative Catholics, at least for the moment.

        1. Random Bystander*

          “Reading a snippet and running with whatever pops into your head is not good exegesis. It is barely even bad exegesis.”

          There’s even a word for what it *is*: eisegesis.

      3. Ultra Anon*

        Per Wikipedia: It’s a self-descriptor by conservative Christians to differentiate their teachings from other who they see as placing non-biblical or extra-biblical tradition as higher or equal in authority to the Bible. It’s mostly organizations that believe the protestant bible is true and without error or contradiction. It’s super fun to call them out for wearing mixed fibers and divorce when they crab about LGBT issues.

        1. Nina*

          (am gay Christian from one of these denominations) – here to tell you that the ‘mixed fibers’ line, much less the ‘shellfish’ one, has a really, really easy out for these people, in the book of Acts, later expanded upon in the Pauline epistles (they loooooove Paul). Divorce is a way better gotcha issue to contrast to treatment of LGBTQ+ people.
          Just for your tactical/strategic assistance :)

      4. She of Many Hats*

        Then you have to get into the details of WHICH bible: KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, Good News version, the Common English Bible, Catholic Bible…….

          1. Random Bystander*

            It’s the KJV-only crowd that can be *really* fun (especially the ones who believe that it *is* the original language, not that heathen Hebrew and Greek and that the red letters are part of the original manuscript).

      5. Rainy*

        Hahah no you are absolutely correct, although the degree of awfulness of the person and/or their group can very from “somewhat awful” through “horrifically, terribly awful”.

  14. Kevin Sours*

    I’d keep the response as short and too the point as I could. Don’t give a dude hell bent on hearing what he wants to hear anything to work with.

    “That’s personal”. Repeated as necessary with the temperature rapidly dropping to single digit kelvin.

  15. One HR Opinion*

    I think the response that you are “questioning” mentally left the door open for him to provide the answers. I think you need to consider if you’d like to say, “I only discuss religion with friends and family” and leave it at that or tack on “but I don’t mind if others do” if that is actually the case.

    1. Alanna*

      I agree — “I’m questioning my faith” is a fairly personal thing to disclose at a work dinner, though I understand being off-balance when Sam brought it up! “Oh, I’d rather not talk about that [right now/in a work setting/with a business associate]” is a much safer and more neutral response going forward.

  16. LifeBeforeCorona*

    “Are you a woman of faith?”
    You have to define what exactly that means for you and then I’ll answer your question. Maybe.

    1. Nina*

      That just prolongs the conversation and lets him know she is okay with discussing religion.

  17. Fluffy Fish*

    I have a stock phrase. “Oh I don’t discuss (insert here) in work related settings.”

    works for:
    personal things of all sorts

    Said with varying degrees or warmth depending on who is asking and how much of a glassbowl they are being.

  18. Student*

    “Questioning” was the worst possible answer you could give, given the rest of the information you provided.

    Bill is signaling that he evangelizes his religion, and looking for further opportunity to do so. If you say “questioning,” then it makes it sound like you are open to persuasion and further discussion on the topic. If you say that you’re “a woman of faith”, you’re signaling part of a group that it doesn’t sound like you want to be considered part of (even if that just means you’re not evangelical specifically, or not part of this specific guy’s religious philosophy, but may belong to a bigger-umbrella religious tradition in common).

    If you want to shut down the conversation, the traditional go-to is: “Oh, I don’t mix religion and business.” That keeps all your religious cards close and should You can add “I’m deeply religious/spiritual” if you feel that’s true and important, as a way to firmly show you aren’t open to considering a change of religion or a shift in religious faction.

    It’s okay to just say “yes” and keep quiet, if you think that serves your interests best, even if it’s not true.

    I just say, “Oh, no – I’m an Atheist.” And then you accept that you may get a wide range of reactions, and deal with them as they come. Doesn’t sound like you’re in that boat, though.

    If I want to hear more about their religion, I will ask a polite question to keep the conversation flowing and let them feel heard. I’m not going to be converting, though, and I try to signal that clearly early in any such conversation. Adding something like, “…but I’m always interested in learning a bit more about other religions so that I can relate better to my colleagues,” has been pretty effective and gives them a chance to get their sales pitch over with while keeping their expectations low.

    If I don’t want to continue on the religious discussion, I offer up a different conversation subject, as you did. If I don’t mind listening but don’t want to participate, I might say, “…but don’t let me slow down your conversation – I don’t know enough about your religion to participate, but I don’t mind listening to you chat about it!”

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This. The idealized version of this conversation for them follows a script. This rarely works out, but “questioning” places one firmly within that script. It is pretty much the response they dream of. The goal should be to quickly and firmly go off script.

    2. Some words*

      “Oh no, I’m not a believer.” For some reason it always takes a few seconds for people to figure out what that means, which has always effectively led to a topic change.
      In the past I’ve said “I’m one of those godless heathens you’ve heard tell about” to co-workers. I save this one for people who are pretty familiar with me at work.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I’m so surprised to hear that this works! I would have expecting saying that you are an atheist or nonbeliever to the vendor in question would have led to him trying to change that. I’ve always been hesitant to disclose that I’m not religious because I don’t want people to try and “save” me.

        1. Me (I think)*

          That’s when I tell people that I’m an “evangelical atheist” and that I’m here to give them the good news about sleeping in on Sunday morning. Because at that point I have had it up to here….

        2. Student*

          That’ll happen with younger evangelists. They have the normal over-exuberance of youth and seem to want to convert everyone they meet, especially the “difficult cases” like an Atheist such as myself. They’ll act a bit like a telemarketer, forcing you to hang up on them – literally or figuratively – to end the discussion.

          With evangelists who have a bit more experience, they are more looking to check the box that they tried – their duty fulfilled for the day – rather than to succeed. I’d guess the over-exuberance tapers off around 30ish. They get used to rejection, as you would with any sales-type activity, and I am sure that a polite and firm no is probably easier than some responses they get. I get the impression that delivering any form of abbreviated sales pitch fulfills their duty to try, so if you can let them get out the elevator pitch, then reject it by saying that you’re not willing to convert, everyone can move on quickly and they don’t tend to linger over a firm but kind no.

          I think you’ll get more people trying to “save” you who are closer to you than from people who are as distant as a vendor. It’s not impossible, but that kind of stuff is just as fraught for the vendor as it is for you. People tend to fear the unknown of strangers when they should generally fear people they’re in contact with more. Your co-workers, family members, maybe neighbors are more of a risk for harassing you or attacking you due to your nonbeliever religion.

          I’ve never had a stranger get aggressive with me for being an atheist. Sometimes they find it off-putting, or are curious, or open that they disapprove. No, they are a minor annoyance. The person who tried to poison me for my “evil” non-believing ways was a friend of mine for years before she tried to kill me. I was on a first-name basis with her mother and father, and casual friends with her brother.

      2. SadieMae*

        Yes, as an agnostic, I’ve had some success with a pleasant, “Oh, I’m not a believer.” I usually say a slight variation on this: “Oh, I’m not a churchgoer.” What I really mean is “I’m not a Christian” – because the only people who ask me this are evangelicals, so what they’re really asking is whether I’m a Christian (and their type of Christian at that) – but “I’m not a Christian” tends to land like an H-bomb, because many people assume it means you’re anti-Christianity, not just for yourself but for everybody. Somehow the “churchgoer” thing doesn’t have that effect, although some evangelicals will forever afterward look at you like you have horns. Sigh.

  19. Wine for cats*

    My favorite answer comes from a goofy Dungeons & Dragons podcast – just simply “I’m already affiliated” and “thanks, but I’m affiliated”. (I am…affiliated with not being affiliated lol)

  20. Greenfordanger*

    I used to have to travel into the States on business sometimes – I worked for a territorial government – and this type of discussion would sometimes arise. When I was asked if I accepted Jesus as my Lord or what church I attended, I would always answer, “Oh, I’m Canadian.” For whatever reason, this was always accepted. Sometimes people would simply nod perhaps assuming, “Godless Canucks” but sometimes it would lead to discussion about the different role of religion in the public sphere – including work – in Canada and the segue into a broader discussion of what other things were different and what were alike (the majority).

    1. Silver Robin*

      With how intertwined religion and nationality can get in the US (God-fearing American and all that jazz) I am not surprised but certainly amused that “Oh, I’m Canadian” gets them off your back. Or maybe it is enough of a non-sequitur that it throws them for too big a loop and that conversation track fades. Either way, brilliant!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      My guess is that “I’m Canadian” is taken to mean “I am from a distant and strange land whose ways are beyond your ken.” In reality, the Canadian religious landscape is very similar to that in the United States, but it is a pretty good bet that the other person hasn’t a clue about this.

      1. Greenfordanger*

        I actually think that there may be a bigger difference than you think. The per centage of the population that describe themselves as adherents of a particular religion may be pretty similar between the two countries but the per centage of people who identify as attending group religious activities such as church is definitely smaller in Canada. And it’s definitely not a topic that you would discuss in a business setting. I worked in government for 32 years no one ever mentioned their religious beliefs; no one ever said they were blessed. We would open meetings with First Nations with a prayer to the Creator but that was it. Christian beliefs were raised at least half a dozen times at meetings I attended in the States and church seemed to constitute a greater part of peoples’ social life. Definitely there are many religious Canadians of all faiths but religion does seem to be baked into American society to a greater degree.

        1. Seashell*

          I expect that sort of thing would vary considerably by location in the US. Saying “I’m blessed” sounds rather Southern to me. I live in an area with religious diversity, so it would be rare for anyone to assume everyone is Christian and wanted to hear about Christianity.

        1. Ultra Anon*

          We said it a lot when we went to France in 2001. We would usually say we were from Alberta to avoid the question that we could speak french

          1. Chinookwind*

            I am heartbroken, but not surprised, to learn that no one knows we had thriving French communities here, complete with a francophone school system and francophone university. My cousins all graduated with degrees not in English (I didn’t because mom married an Irish immigrant, but there were family discussions when the French school opened in town). Then again, I lived in Ottawa and no one believed me about my long French roots there either (especially since I was taught to speak a version of the Parisienne dialect and not whatever it is the Quebecois speak).

            1. Nina*

              I used to work in a place that had a lot of French-Canadian engineers, a lot of English-Canadian engineers (who spoke a little French but not much – enough to find the bathroom), a couple French-speakers from Mozambique and Madagascar, me who learned French from a French Samoan family, and one guy who was French-French from Paris. We almost finished him.

      1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        I hearby name you an honourary Canadian. If anyone asks what your beliefs are, you can say something like “the best maple syrup comes in a can,” or, “Put whatever you want on your French fries, but to call it poutine two of those ingredients must be 1. squeaky cheese (le skouik en français) and b.i. purist: poutine gravy ii. non-purist: brown gravy.”

        1. Chinookwind*

          And the answer to “where are your sled dogs” is always that they are parked at the border, next to the local igloo.

    3. cee*

      I tried this in response to someone asking if I was a “believer.” I said “nope, Im just a New Yorker.” I’m an atheist ( reasonably devoted to her state) but it was clear they thought that New Yorker was code for Jewish.

    4. StellaDoodle*

      I can see how that would work! I’m Canadian, and have lived in several places across the country, from large city to small town. Never in my 54 years on this planet has anyone ever asked me about my religion. It’s just not something I’ve ever seen discussed here, especially at work. I’m very much not religious, and would be completely stunned if someone ever asked me that in a work setting. And after the initial shock wore off, would probably say I worship Satan, just to put a stop to any and all religious discussion.

  21. Kate*

    I’m an atheist, a line manager, and about to go through a serious operation which I’m nervous about, with a long recovery time.

    My team members keep telling me they’re praying for me, in three different faith traditions (I’m in London so multi-cultural backgrounds are normal here).

    I’m trying to tread the line carefully as being their manager means I have to be careful not to be dismissive of their faith, and I need to keep a positive and warm relationship with all of them. Mostly I say things like “thank you for your concern” or “everyone’s being very kind”.

    But one of them told me today that she’d convert me eventually, which did make me uncomfortable. I think I just changed the subject.

    I’m not going to do anything or say anything as being the manager means I’m not being unfairly pressurised, but it’s definitely a tricky situation

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Something to think about. You have to tread the line of not being dismissive of peoples’ faiths. But while you might not be unfairly pressured if they are willing to try to pressure you as the manager, what are they doing to their peers when you aren’t looking?

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I would definitely be worried that she is trying to convert others, though.

      I do hope everything goes well for you.

    3. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      One appropriate response would be to call them out on what they’re doing: “It sounds you’re trying to take advantage of my illness as a weak point into proselytizing me.”

      They will deny it, and you’ve sent a strong signal.

      Best of luck with your procedure!

          1. Kate*

            I’m not going to go straight to the nuclear option over one sentence

            If it happens again I’ll say I’d rather not talk about it

            1. allathian*

              You migh simply ask “Would you be comfortable saying that to a coworker in a similar position?”

              Even managers are allowed to put a stop to boundary-crossing behavior, which this is. Focus on changing behavior rather than hearts and minds.

              You are also in London, and firing requires more work than it does in at-will environments like the US. You also won’t be denying anyone access to healthcare even if you did fire them.

              Proselytizing at work isn’t acceptable in most places, and even if this person meant it as a joke, you have a right to shut it down as unprofessional behavior.

              Good luck with your procedure!

        1. Lunar Caustic*

          She is engaging in behavior that warrants a severe reprimand. If she is willing to do this to a manager, I shudder to think what she might be saying to her coworkers. You may want to be ready to launch an investigation once you’re back at work.

    4. Michelle Smith*

      How to handle this situation would make a great AAM letter. I am an atheist, but I actively ask people (friends and family NOT coworkers!) to pray for me, send positive vibes, etc. depending on what their religion and comfort level is. My thought process is that it allows them to feel included and respected while having no real downside for me (they know where I stand). If someone tried to tell me though that they were going to convert me, I would be deeply offended. If it happened at work? My next call would be to HR.

      1. ThoughtsNotPrayersPlease*

        I’m Jewish and being told I’ll pray for you, even when clearly well intentioned, makes me extremely uncomfortable. I usually say thank you and change the topic as fast as I can, but ick. I think it’s leftover from my childhood dealing with extreme antisemitism but it comes across as having their religion imposed on me.

    5. Godless Heathen*

      I am an atheist, a manager and have been working in the same organization in Indiana for 20 years. I started there when I was right out of college.

      Needless to say, we all know where each other stands on religion, church, etc through direct and indirect conversations over the years.

      I remember a few years ago one woman who is “born again” told me she’d convert me and I just laughed and said “No, you won’t. I’ve been an atheist in some form since I was 10 and I’ve put a lot of thought into this. You can try, but you won’t be able to change my mind. I’m okay with you believing what you believe and I think you should be okay with me believing what I believe. ”

      She never brought it up again.

  22. Olive*

    At my previous job, I was leading an engineering training course and one of the attendees, whom I already knew professionally, told me that he wanted to give me a little gift after class. “It’s a compass,” he said. It was a Bible. “It will always guide you the right way”.

    I said something like – oh thank you, that’s very kind of you. I didn’t mention it again and kept teaching the course per usual. I think I left it in my hotel room.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      That’s just…icky.

      And it strikes me as somewhat deceptive. I will take all the real compasses you want to give me, but this seems like a real bait-and-switch to me.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        I would be so disappointed! Ironically, I have a history of losing compasses. So I’d be thrilled to get one as a gift.

    2. I have RBF*

      Oh, ugh. I’ve read the bible. It would have a person going in circles as a compass.

      But this would feel very… slimy. Like “all up in my business” slimy.

  23. Spearmint*

    I’d be sorely tempted to say, “Yes, I have deep faith in the good word of his lord Satan”.

    (Probably a bad idea to actually sit his in most situations though, in reality)

  24. Richard Hershberger*

    This is where being a pastor’s kid and a nerd can pay off. “Bible believing”–OK, I can work with that. How do we define “Bible?”

    The deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are the low hanging fruit. We can go far more exotic from there. Want to discuss the Mek’abiyan, which are included in the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church? (I am bluffing: I have nothing substantive to say about them, but Evangelical Guy knows even less, so it is a fair bet.) Or, going in a different direction (and where I am slightly above the “bluffing” level) we can talk about the various lines of the Greek manuscript traditions of the New Testament, and how they are reflected in modern translations. (One common response is to declare the King James Version to be inspired, God hitting the reset button. Even most Evangelicals consider this crazy. The slightly more sophisticated replace the KJV with the Textus Receptus, making Erasmus the direct conduit for communication between God and man. This is not a serious argument, and is only made to show off that this person has heard of the Textus Receptus.)

    In any case, I can deflect the conversation endlessly, taking it far from the script my interlocutor has memorized. Good times.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I would be very tempted to do this sort of thing and then casually drop in references to the Gospel of Derek to see if Bill actually noticed.

  25. NerdyKris*

    There’s some vendor who keeps emailing me with the intro “Hi Christian” and I don’t know which is worse. That he thinks my name is “Christian” despite my first initial in the email address being K (for Kris) or that he thinks greeting everyone as a member of a specific group of religions is in any way appropriate in a work context.

    One of these days I want to ask him that. But for now I just mentally note that I will never, ever use his company.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It would be quite a leap, even apart from the first letter of your name, to go straight to “Christian,” blowing right past the more common “Christopher.”

      1. NerdyKris*

        Yup, which is why the “Oh my god is he using it in the religious sense?” thought crossed my mind.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I worked with a someone named Christian a couple jobs ago, and he actually had people who refused to address him by name. One simply addressed him by his last name rather than his first, and a couple coworkers insisted on shortening his name to Chris (which he’d never gone by) because they felt it was “blasphemous” to use his full name. I kind of wonder how they felt about our coworker called Messiah, but didn’t want to open up that can of worms and ask.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        I’ve worked with multiple Jesuses and always kinda giggled to myself about it. It also only registers with me if I’m speaking English, despite speaking other languages quite well. Same with swears. Except for some really creative Russian curses, other languages don’t pack the same emotional punch for me.

        1. allathian*

          When I was an intern in Spain, I had a coworker called Jesús María José, or Jesus Mary Joseph, and he used all three names (Marie/Maria/María are common men’s middle names in some Catholic countries). He wasn’t particularly religious, at least he never talked about it at work, but his parents probably were…

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        This is weird. I have heard this objection to “Jesus,” combining religious cluelessness with a hearty dollop of ethnic bigotry. But this is the first time I have heard of it applied to “Christian,” a bog standard White European given name since (to a first approximation) forever. It doesn’t make sense even on its own terms, though (fun fact coming!) in the 19th century it was often abbreviated “Christ.” I can understand the objection to that, I guess.

        1. Tau*

          My class in school had three Christians. It is a super common name here in Germany (and also doesn’t have the extra meaning it does in English – for us, it’s the same category of vaguely-derived-from-Christ given name as Christopher or Christine). Those with moral objections would run into problems.

  26. Dancing Otter*

    I would be so tempted to say that I follow Jesus’ admonition against making a show of public prayer.
    He really does not seem to have been a fan of self-righteousness.
    Can you tell I’m not an evangelical?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t find that people like Bill are seriously considering WWJD, they’re doing what they want and proclaiming it the will of their god.

      1. Gracely*

        Yeeeep. Pretty much every encounter I’ve had with someone who says they come from a “bible-believing” church is someone who doesn’t even do much bible-reading. They just get their “bible beliefs” from what their fundamentalist pastors are telling them is in there.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Matthew 6:5, if you want to have chapter and verse handy. For real fun, cite Acts 2:44-45, where we learn that the earliest Christian churches were communists. Seriously.

      1. Nina*

        I am having the best time indulging my lefty leanings towards mutual aid networks by leaning on my church to take that passage of Acts more seriously.
        ‘Gary, you need a trailer. I have a trailer. Sure you can borrow it. Mary needs a lawnmower next weekend, can she use yours?’

  27. NotAnotherManager!*

    I cannot stand proselytizing, in general, and to have to deal with it at work would probably be the one that that landed me in an HR meeting for using unprofessional language.

    One of the only good things about having family members that belong to (different) religions well-known for proselytizing is that I can generally get other people to leave me alone by saying, “Oh, my sister is [insert door-knocking group here].”, and most of them will let whatever relative take the responsibility/credit for saving my soul. (It does make for some interesting holidays when you have multiple people that belong to one-true-faiths all trying not to tell the everyone else they’re wrong/part of a cult/going to hell out of politeness to the host.)

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      (It does make for some interesting holidays when you have multiple people that belong to one-true-faiths all trying not to tell the everyone else they’re wrong/part of a cult/going to hell out of politeness to the host.)

      How, oh how, do you get through holiday celebrations without cracking a beer or conspicuously eating popcorn?

  28. badger*

    When I was in law school (at a public university in a fairly progressive city), for some reason one day every year the Gideon Bible folks would stand on the public sidewalks at every single entrance to the main part of campus and try to hand out their wares.

    My go-to was always “I don’t like being handed things.” Worked great. Not so effective when it’s conversation as in LW’s case but helpful for folks who try to hand out pamphlets, etc.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      The guys in my dorm had a contest one year to see how many of those they could collect. I think the winner had something like 23 of them.

      I’ve never been sure how just handing things out has ever been even marginally successful at anything, whether it’s Gideon bibles or business cards.

      1. badger*

        All credit due to Tony Stark in the Avengers movie, which came out right before I started school. :D

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      In my undergrad days, it was Brother Jed and Sister Cindy. They were colorful.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Not even close. They got around. Bonding over Brother Jed and Sister Cindy stories is a generational thing, not geographical.

      1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

        When they showed up it was a party. Heckling galore and one year Brother Jed got a pie in the face.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          While I do not, strictly speaking, approve of the pie to the face, they were so deliberately offensive that I cannot work up indignation over it.

  29. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Tell me more about the reason you brought up religion at this meeting.
    Will your decisions about our business relationship be based on yours, mine, or anyone else’s religion?

    And then I would be tempted to ask him the equivalent of “who hurt you” that you are bringing this up in a work meeting?

  30. RVA Cat*

    Kind of wish it would be a thing to respond by loudly covering the 80s George Michael song, complete with the butt-wiggling.

  31. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

    When I was in West Texas I’d get a lot of that. The simple utterance of the word “Jewish” always stopped them cold.

  32. Fuzzball*

    The best response to ANY impertinent question is a calm “Why do you ask?”. That gives the asker a moment to think about what they just said. They will frequently backpedal and hopefully learn from it, while avoiding too much loss of face. If they surge forward, then get into the “I don’t discuss X” spiel.

      1. Nesprin*

        The trick to “why do you ask” is to be so obviously confused and concerned that the speaker gets the hint. Any responses get a “Oh how strange” or “Huh” or another noncommittal response.

        1. mlem*

          This works great when the person has asked an intrusive question out of curiosity.

          It’s a wide-open door if the person has asked an intrusive question as the pretext to preach at you. They’ll be more than happy to tell you exactly why they asked. They won’t imagine there’s some hint for them to get.

  33. Some Dork*

    Since Bill’s your vendor and not your boss or someone else you need to impress, I’d lean into whatever you want to lean into. Yes is a fine answer. Not sure. Questioning. I’m all set, thanks. I honestly don’t know how I’d answer the question, but I feel like if you said “atheist” Bill is the kind of dude who’d want to talk about that and you could just tell him you don’t believe in God but you believe in treating people with respect just like he does or something. Like, no matter what happens you can help guide the conversation–you don’t have to sit there and be preached at by some dork.

    (he’d definitely turn it into a story for his church where he had a great faith convo with an non-believer and they’d all pray for you, but at that point who cares?)

    1. Duchamp*

      Wow, he sent a sermon. O.o

      How great that her contact was understanding. Maintaining vendor relationships is important, and that could have gone poorly if her contact was also an evangelizer.

      1. Rainy*

        Oh, I would go nuclear if someone followed up an intrusive religious question with a [redacted] *sermon*.

    2. Former_Employee*

      He’s one of those dogs – the kind that has that slightly concerned expression that seems to be asking, “Are you ok?”

  34. TomatoSoup*

    I’ve definitely been cornered on airplanes getting this kind of question. Also, being of any background than Evangelical is going to only elicit more pushiness. It has been a while since anyone pestered me, but I have since worked on the ability to belt Cher’s “Believe” just for this purpose.

  35. Mandie*

    I would have said, in a very shocked/appalled tone, “Wow, that is *really* not something I want to discuss in a business setting.”

    I’ve recently deconstructed, so this is a sensitive topic for me too, and I absolutely will not tolerate any efforts to save my soul. In fact, I have such a strong aversion to it that I worry more about my ability to remain polite than I do my ability to stick up for myself.

    1. I have RBF*

      I hear that.

      I’m 40+ years ex-Baptist, and I still have some knee-jerk hostility to proselytutes and eternal life insurance salesmen.

  36. Duchamp*

    “And does he think his company won’t mind him potentially alienating revenue-producing clients?”

    The thing about vendor relationships is that they are a two way street. If you are in the situation where a vendor is getting close to or actually crossing a line, you also have to ask 1) Whether YOUR company would mind potentially alienating THEM 2) How you feel about your company’s stance. Your company may or may not back you on pushing back on this kind of situation, and if they would not back you up, you have to decide how ok you are with that.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      People venturing into illegal territory is not something we should encourage being accepting of.

      An employer not being ok with you firmly and directly pushing back on inappropriate questions is a bad employer.

  37. Tin Cormorant*

    I think my response would be basically the same reaction suggested in other posts when someone asks you about your pregnancy status or reproductive plans. A kind of taken-aback “wow, that’s a really personal question to be asking someone at work!”

    1. H3llifIknow*

      It’s super easy to type that sort of answer in a space like this; but saying it to someone’s face is much harder. In general being rude is just not something that comes naturally to most of us, and although that isn’t necessarily a rude thing to say, it FEELS rude. “I would prefer to stay on the topic at hand” works just as well and is much… softer. Remember this is a business contact, not some stranger off the street.

      1. Duchamp*

        And being rude to vendors can have negative consequences. You really have to play these situations carefully.

  38. CLC*

    Sounds like Bill was more interested in getting religion coaching clients for himself than he was actually selling whatever his company sells. Also let’s point out that Sam should not have indulged him on the topic.

  39. H3llifIknow*

    I have in the past identified as a Deist, but 90% of the time I’d say I’m agnostic if not fully atheist. When the topic comes up (surprisingly often in our little Stepford suburb), my answer is always, “I don’t practice organized religion; I believe that each person’s relationship with the deity of their choice is a personal one.” That has always worked for me, although it still might give away more than the LW wants about her feelings and beliefs. I also think, “I don’t think about it at all” is a perfectly good response.

  40. Reed*

    A few months ago a woman popped up right in front of me as I was walking along the street and asked if I could help her.
    ‘Yes of course!’ said I, because I am a librarian and I have been properly trained by the Guild.
    ‘I need to talk to you about our Lord Jesus!’ she then said, blocking my way forward. Damn it, librarian helpy-face drops me in it again.
    ‘I’m afraid I can’t possibly talk to you about that,’ I found myself saying, as I tried to step round her.
    ‘But why not?’ she persisted, stepping in front of me again.
    ‘God told me not to,’ I cried wildly.

    She was very, very startled.

    When I came back past the other way on the bus, I saw she had stopped bothering people with her leaflets and was sitting on a bench staring at her shoes.

    1. There You Are*

      This is a genius way of shutting it down.

      It’s so sad that these religions send people out to proselytize, telling them that they’re goal is to convert people to the religion; when, in reality, the goal is to make them feel ostracized from the overall community (when they get negative pushback from folks who simply don’t wish to be bothered), which then cements the Us-versus-Them dynamic the religion is hoping to create.

      It’s not about bringing more people into the fold (there are much better ways of getting people to admire and respect your beliefs enough that they willingly want to join), it’s about demonstrating that Everyone Else is evil and degenerate, and therefore the only people you can trust is Our Church. So listen to and obey only Our Church.

  41. Bobber McBobface*

    Bobber: “And are you a woman of faith”
    Me: “Oh yes! I have faith in ‘Nunya'”
    Bobber: “Nunya?”
    Me: “Nunya business”

    But I’m also a middle schooler at heart.

    1. Rainy*

      Me: “I’m a devout follower of Deez.”
      Also me: expression of intense anticipation for the follow-up question

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Parent of middle schoolers and anything that starts with “Deez….”

        Most times I do manage a straight face. I do not know how.

  42. WillowSunstar*

    I would have said I don’t talk about religion and politics outside of my family. There are enough documented cases of discrimination against non-believers in the US, even in large metropolitan areas, that it’s just not worth being honest about in a work situation.

    1. Becky*

      Short of mentioning “oh yeah last weekend I went to a church choir concert” or something just when talking about life things, I don’t talk about religion at work and I’m a member of the dominant religion in my area.

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Years ago, soon after I moved into a new house, I had one of my next-door neighbors ask me, “Are you guys Christian?” It made me so nervous. I didn’t know anyone on the street, felt like I wasn’t a good fit as the only immigrant family on our block at the time, was already not getting along with one of my other neighbors, oh and we were Atheist. I wanted to stay on this neighbor’s good side and had no idea what to tell him. I finally managed “we used to go to a Greek church.” It worked, because my neighbor is not a zealot like Bilbo, just an old Italian Catholic guy who goes to church because he sees members of his community there, celebrates holidays because it’s an occasion to get the kids and grandkids to visit, etc etc. But… yeahhh. Not a great question and likely to scare the beejezus out of a lot of us.

  44. Too Stunned to Speak*

    I know it’s hard to have the “right” answer in the moment when you’re caught off guard, but I wish people would stick to responding “I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss religion at work.” People like this have no problem making others uncomfortable for their own benefit, and they’re not going to stop until we put the spotlight on their behavior.

  45. Essess*

    I have a solid response that I always use whenever someone questions me about religion or politics. “That’s a personal topic that I never discuss at work.” And then simply repeat if the continue to ask me questions.

  46. Book lover*

    This is one of those cases where being clever or soft-peddling is just going to make matters worse. “I don’t discuss religion at work, and we’re going to change the topic now” is the only way to shut this down.

    Proselytizers train to look for any opening that you may give them. You think you’ve got a clever response — they’ve role-played that response in a training already.

    Since there’s an update that mentions he also proselytized to another coworker and because she’s in a position of some power, she should add, “And I expect you to respect that boundary with everyone at our company.” And be prepared to stand up and leave if he keeps going.

  47. nnn*

    As an aside, this is why I love working remotely – these kinds of conversations just don’t come up any more!

  48. OP*

    OP here. I will never forget how taken aback I was in that moment! But it was such a good lesson for me in setting clear boundaries and speaking up for me and my team.

    The puppy is five now. Still a good boy.

    1. Book lover*

      Good for you for mastering the Puppy Pivot! It’s so hard to know what to say in the moment.

    2. Anne Wentworth*

      Thanks for chiming in!

      I hope you were in a position where you were empowered to ask for a replacement from Bill’s parent company. He was wildly inappropriate and you shouldn’t have had to deal with that.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ahhh, the dog in his prime! At least, mine was at the top of his physical form at that age. Enjoy the runs and hikes with doggo.

      And yeah, I totally get it that when we’re rendered speechless, it’s seldom the best answer that comes out. But the guy totally must’ve interpreted “questioning” as an invitation for him to preach at you.

      If it helps, I gave an answer kind of like this in a social setting once last year. I went out with some new friends and one of them saw an old friend of his when we were out, and introduced me. I was not in quite the right space, having just ended a several-year-long relationship two weeks earlier. So when the new guy asked if I had any single friends in my immigrant community, I totally missed where he was going with that, and said “well I’ve been single as of two weeks ago” – I wanted a shoulder to cry on about a relationship that didn’t work out. He wanted… other things. Spent the next few weeks calling and texting me and bringing me fresh-caught fish (lmao) and inviting me to his house. All because I was caught off guard and gave the wrong answer!

    4. Former_Employee*

      I saw the picture you posted in the follow up. Such a cutie. I could tell what a good boy he is just from that photo.

      And good for you for setting a firm boundary.

      Some people have no filter when it comes to their beliefs.

  49. Spicy Tuna*

    I can’t understand proselytizing. I am an atheist. I was raised atheist by two atheists. I’m 50, so this was definitely not a “thing” when I was young. My husband’s cousin, with whom he is very close, is a Lutheran minister. He knows I am atheist. We do not discuss religion, and if it randomly comes up, it’s always discussed in a very matter of fact way, not in a pushy way. In fact, husband’s other cousin married a woman who was half Jewish and not particularly observant. Lutheran Minister Cousin incorporated some elements of a Jewish wedding ceremony (at the bride’s request) into their ceremony. It’s refreshing when everyone respects each others’ beliefs or lack thereof.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I can because, after being raised atheist, at age 22, my friend and I were converted by the US evangelical missionaries, and I spent a couple of years associating with that crowd. (My friend still is, and things have cooled between us as a result.) There was a massive pressure from our mentors for us to go out and “save” everyone, friends, family, strangers on the street, you name it. I went to two bible study camps(?) that they hosted in Moscow for college students and recent grads. It was a good time to be honest, they put us all up in a nice hotel for two weeks free of charge, three meals a day, lectures in the morning and hanging around Moscow with a group of other young people in the afternoon/evening – we had fun! Then at the end of our second week, we were each given a stack of The Four Spiritual Laws booklets and told to go out in pairs and convert, ahem, save people on the street. (My mentor and I were only able to strike a conversation with one young woman, who took the booklet, was interested, and wanted to meet with us again in my hotel room. My mentor couldn’t make it to the next meeting, so the woman and I had a great chat – I was about to get married and she was newly divorced, and gave me some good marriage advice. Somehow the topics of religion and conversion never came up.)

      They guilt-trip you into saving people. It says in the NT “woe to me if I don’t preach” and our lecturers told us we were rescuing people from burning in literal fire for eternity. I changed to the Orthodox church a couple of years later (and stayed there another 18 years before becoming atheist again) and they have a rule not to proselytize. They also teach that it’s not up to us to determine if anyone is going to hell or heaven, so we wouldn’t be “saving” anyone from anything. My ancestors were Jewish and also have that same rule not to proselytize. I like it better that way :)

    2. NaoNao*

      I was raised in a fundamentalist cult commune. It’s presented as life savingly urgent. Like if you saw someone stepping in front of a speeding bus, you’d run to them, grab their arm, yell, pull them back, etc.

      They honestly do believe that it’s *that* level of urgent–if not more so, because your immortal soul is “in danger” and pleasantries and manners are not a concern at times like that, let alone social mores.

      Many fundamentalists are raised in a very anti-social manner, I know I was. I was told that the manners and mores of the secular world were inherently corrupt and sinful, so why would I care about “not talking about religion”.

      As a final, they’re also taught that the Devil and his minions are hard at work constantly, and part of that work is to create social structures that denigrate, resist, and downplay religion and “the truth” and you and your fellow Christians are “at war” with these evil forces. Again, if you’re “at war” a polite “no thanks” isn’t going to stop you from tackling the civilian to the ground when you see incoming mortar fire, right? Same idea.

  50. Marna Nightingale*

    I can honestly say that the person who taught me that you can reply to practically ANY remark with “No thank you” has changed my life.

    It’s short. It’s perfectly polite and can’t easily be used against you to make you look bad. It offers no conversational handles whatsoever. It’s easy to keep repeating.

    And it does a wonderful job of conveying “I wholeheartedly reject what you just said, the premises you are basing it on, the logic you applied to them to get there, its intrusion into my perfectly nice day, and your apparent conviction that I came here to argue.”

    And you can shift your tone from the one that says “Oh my gosh that is incredibly sweet of you but I already HAVE six puppies and a pantry full of cookies” to “No you may NOT hand me your dirty socks what is WRONG with you?” on a dime, or through many graduated stages, as appropriate.

    And it absolutely does not have to sequite in the least:

    “Are you a woman of faith?”
    “No thank you.”

    1. inksmith*

      “Oh my gosh that is incredibly sweet of you but I already HAVE six puppies and a pantry full of cookies”

      Tea all over my laptop!

  51. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Oof! Never tell an evangelical Christian that you’re questioning.

    My response would’ve been to politely say that I don’t discuss religion or politics at work and suggest a change of subject back to work or other safe topics.

  52. Molly*

    I, fortunately, have never been in this situation in a work setting. Though, in the spirit of total honesty, I will note that one of my closest high school friends fell into the evangelical christianity cult. And it totally destroyed our friendship.
    Knowing me, I suspect I would first give a fairly lengthy, rather blank stare. And then I would say: “How about them Yankees?”

  53. Ach!*

    I don’t know where this happened to OP, but this gave me PTSD-flashbacks to…um, every other week while living in the Deep South. My worst: the car dealer who, after completing the transaction, refused to hand over the keys until telling me the benefits of joining his church (I was new in town). His manager could not have cared less since the employee was merely “exercising his religious freedom.”

    1. Jessica*

      I mean, to be fair, the spiritual practices of many other cultures don’t center “faith” to the degree that Christianity does, or at all. If someone asks me if I’m a “woman of faith,” I know they’re asking if I’m Christian and respond accordingly.

      But when they refer to me as someone “of the Jewish faith,” it throws me for a loop. It’s a culture which includes particular spiritual and religious practices, like all cultures, and an ethnicity, not a “faith.” I’m still Jewish regardless of how much “faith” I have.

  54. Manglement Survivor*

    “Why would you think it was OK to ask me such a personal question during a business dinner?“

  55. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    My stock answer when anyone I barely know asks about my religion or tries to push theirs on me: “My spiritual life is very personal and I don’t discuss it.” End of. Have used it many times over the years.

  56. Sabina*

    “Am I a woman of faith? Well, Bill, thanks for asking. I do have great faith in the Triple Treasure of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And actually, I would love to offer a blessing for this food.” From there I could, without much mental effort, chant appropriate sutras for a good 20 or 30 minutes, in English, Pali, or Japanese. There is a relevant joke that comes to mind: if you’ve ever spent longer chanting over your food than actually eating it, you are probably a Zen Buddhist.

  57. eeeek*

    “Oh? I’m sorry – did I mistake that comment? What DO you mean?”

    “Did I mis-hear you? Because…do you intend that we now talking about our personal religious practice? Because…OBVIOUSLY, that is not, in regard to this meal, a WORK conversation. SO SORRY – perhaps I’m being a bit thick about it, but we DO NOT have any sort of religious litmus testing in play for company/organization-sponsored meals. So THAT LINE OF DIScuSSION is OVER. Now, what are you thinking about….”
    That may* be an actual transcript I used on a site evaluation visit.

    *Yeah, it’s pretty close to actual…and don’t get me started on the notion that this place decided that *I* (cis-het-fem chair of the committee) needed a chaperone when meeting with the other cis-het-mas committee members…who had no place to meet other than in rooms with beds.

  58. Jaid*

    I hope I would have the sense to say that I believed that there were some topics that were not appropriate to discuss during dinner, let alone while doing business and religion was one of them.

  59. Abogado Avocado*

    I live in a part of the country where Christian proselytizing is common, especially when someone has just met you at a social event. Their “tell” is to ask you what religion you belong to. I truthfully respond that I’m Jewish — and add, “And you know what Brother Kinky [Friedman] says: `They don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore.'” That seems to render them speechless for just long enough for me to see someone across the room I know and must say hello to.

  60. JustMe*

    Oh god (pun intended?). I work at a Catholic school and it was 1.5 years before this ever came up at work. A priest asked if I was Catholic, and I just cheerily said, “No” and changed the subject. We’re still friends. Context is different, of course (I’m surrounded by crucifixes, like, every day), but if they ask you don’t need to feel uncomfortable just lightly telling the truth and moving along.

  61. MCMonkeyBean*

    I think if I were trying to keep the conversation light I probably would have said “not particularly,” which feels less aggressive than a straight up “no” (which is the truth for me personally, it sounds like you might be less firm about it) but ideally signals I’m really not interested in talking further.

    I would have found his “that’s what I’m here for” statement to be very concerning, but it’s interesting/surprising that he didn’t follow it up with more. I wonder if perhaps he interpreted your “questioning” response as like “I have questions” and so he was like “oh great, I can answer questions” but then when you changed the topic he managed to pick up on your cues that you did not in fact want to discuss it after all?

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