A Conversation with an Atheist

I typically avoid conversations about race, politics, and religion, especially with people I barely know. Those conversations never go well, and neither person rarely changes their mind; both parties leave frustrated and upset.
Unfortunately, I had this one co-worker who loved talking about all three! He was Republican and Atheist and seemed to really enjoy the fact that

I’m a black Muslim woman. You could see the joy on his face starting a controversial conversation. For the most part, I ignored him and enjoyed watching my other co-worker go back and forth with him, who happened to be a devout Christian. Occasionally I’d chime in and remind them both to calm down and how it’s an inappropriate conversation for the workplace.

One day and one very ignorant comment got under my skin. I usually don’t let his words get to me. I definitely never wanted to give him the satisfaction of reacting to them. Still, on this day, I just had enough. He starts with his typical commentary about God not existing and religious people being stupid, but this time he adds, “I hate when Muslim Women call themselves feminists.” It was like he saw my face, and in his head, he said bingo! He goes on to elaborate, saying comments along the lines of you can’t claim to care about women’s equality if you support an oppressive religion. Pissed was an understatement of how I felt; it wasn’t a surprise that he felt that way, but I was fed up with all the comments.

I gave him a brief lesson on Islam and how he sounded beyond ignorant and offensive. I tried to keep it short. My main objective was for him to know that no one cares about his small-minded opinion and that he didn’t have the right to dictate who is or isn’t a feminist.

One thing I found interesting about him, he always complained about religious people trying to convert him. Still, in reality, he was doing the exact same thing. He never respected a different perspective or belief. It seemed like he was trying to convince us all to be atheists, and then we’ll have this utopian world.


  1. I found it ironic that he’s a Republican and an atheist. I thought most Republicans pride themselves on their devout love of a white washed Jesus and champion the cause of “Right to Life”, until it’s the lives of Black and Brown people.

    I wholeheartedly agree and learned that your policy of disengagement is best. You’re right those types of conversations rarely if ever changes one’s philosophical beliefs about race, religion or politics. But then again, giving the current climate, who knows. Your co-worker will hopefully grow and mature and learn the value of disengagement. He should at least try to give the illusion that he’s a professional valuing a noncombatant, unbiased conducive work environment for all. Anything short of that he may learn his antagonistic approach to his coworkers will one day come back to bite him, e.g. claims of a hostile work environment , or other types of workplace harassment claims.

    Your post reminded me of past work place encounters and how much I’ve learned and grown from them. I wish I was as wise as you when I was your age. Great post Afro Muslimah!

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