Should you Facebook your atheism?

17 09 2008

PC World reports that employers admit to checking out applicants’ Facebook and MySpace profiles before deciding whether to hire them:

Increasing numbers of employers are checking out potential staff’s social networking profiles, says [. . .] The research also revealed that while 24 percent of employers had hired a member of staff based on their social-networking profile, 33 percent had also decided not to make a job offer after reviewing the content on a profile. Use of drugs or drinking and the posting of photographs deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘provocative’ were identified as the most popular reasons why employers eliminated a candidate after viewing their social networking profile. advises job hunters to either regularly edit their social-networking pages to ensure there is no negative content available or make them ‘private’ to avoid would-be employers snooping at their personal life.

The fact that a potential employee likes to enjoy a few beers on the weekend is a pretty stupid reason to excise them from the shortlist, not to mention hypocritical, given office Xmas parties, farewell and end-of-year dos, and so on. What concerns me are some of the other tidbits of information, not addressed in the study, that might also give some employers reason to reject a potential applicant. The applicant’s political affiliations, or the books he or she reads, or the groups of which he or she is a member, for instance. Or his or her religious affiliation, or lack thereof.

Can outing yourself as an atheist on Facebook jeopardise your career?

Certainly there are some professions in which being out about one’s atheism would likely be detrimental to one’s employment prospects. Private religious schools are allowed to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of religious affiliation. In Australia, they can do this, and still be eligible for government funding. This is state-sponsored religious bigotry (the “good” bigotry), and it’s fucked up. But it’s a sobering thought for any teacher who is labouring under the misapprehension that they are as free to be as open about their atheism as any Christian teacher is regarding his or her Christianity. In an employment market in which a sizeable proportion is made up of religious schools, hide the “A” away if you want to maximise your job prospects.

But do you think your atheism is likely to scare off any other employers?

Let a thousand atheist flowers bloom . . .

3 02 2008

The MySpace debacle ironically appears to be breathing new life into the formation of online atheist communities. At OzAtheist, Bruce plugged a new Adelaide-based atheist MySpace group. And (thanks to Protium for the hat-tip and the invite) I’d like plug a new Perth-based Atheists Meet-Up group.

Although I’m from Perth myself, the fact that I am based in Japan for the next year-and-a-half probably rules me out as a member, but if it is still operating when I get back home, I may consider attending. I say may, because I work in the education industry, and as you know, a large proportion of schools in Australia are in the independent sector. Which means they are allowed to discriminate against atheists. Wait . . . let me rephrase that. They’re partially taxpayer-funded, which means they are allowed to discriminate against me because of my atheism even though they benefit from my tax contributions. In any case, the reality of the situation is that, in a so-called liberal democracy, I have to keep mum about my lack of religious beliefs if I want to secure employment in many schools in the independent sector–even though my specialty, English teaching, has nothing to do with religion (at least, nothing to do with religious indoctrination). And the need to keep mum, unfortunately, may preclude me from joining communities such as the Perth Atheists Meet-Up.

But it won’t stop me from plugging it here, in the hope that other Perth-based readers may be encouraged to join.

MySpace bans atheists . . . a few thoughts

1 02 2008

(Originally posted in the comments at OzAtheist)

There is an extremely twisted logic to all of this, you know. From a certain (paranoid, mindless, irrational) perspective, atheism is much more of an affront to Christianity than Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism–and it has nothing to do with Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.

You see, at least Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews–whatever their theological differences–can agree on the idea that faith (magical thinking, belief without evidence, belief in the supernatural) is a good thing. Atheists, on the other hand, don’t see the necessity of faith at all (I’m not counting the Straussian view that faith might be necessary to keep the hoi-polloi in line). I can see how from a certain point of view, when I say “I am an atheist,” what they hear is “This ‘faith’ you have–it’s pointless, a waste of time and energy, a joke. Because if it wasn’t, then we’d all have faith.” In short, atheists are mean and offensive purely by virtue of the fact that they are atheists.

Obviously I’m not claiming that all theists think this way about atheists. But evidently some do, and I think this MySpace discrimination issue is symptomatic.

A final thought. If I was a Christian and ill-disposed towards atheists, I wouldn’t necessarily see the MySpace discrimination against atheists–which gives atheists the moral high ground–as a good thing.

Perhaps some theists need to be pointed in the direction of this article.