What is behind this dissonance — fewer religious Americans, more Americans complaining? In part, it comes from the fact that recent waves of immigrants have brought with them many more kinds of religions, and these immigrants are settling in places beyond big, diverse cities. “We’re in a period of time right now when there are more religions in the workplace than there ever were,” says Gregg. “People used to live in clumps, but now are living all over the place. A lot of new groups are moving into areas they weren’t in before. There were no Muslims in Cheboygan. There are areas where there were no Muslims at all, and now they are building a mosque. We have one the largest Buddhist groups in a rural area in the country.”
In addition, Gregg adds, “we are in a period of time when people are insisting on being people of faith, and a growing number of people don’t want to have faith inflicted upon them. They want to be people of faith, but not your faith.” At the same time, he says, some people who are religious are now more likely to adhere to more orthodox strains.
Friedman puts it this way: “People are less identified with organized religion, and there is a more strident fundamentalist movement.” Why the extremes? “It seems we are living in a more uncertain world, and for many people that is frightening. We are more conscious through the Internet of the horrible things in the world, so seeking asylum and comfort in a proscribed path for living kind of makes sense.”
The solution: everybody should become an SWPL.
Making religion and the workplace comfortable bedfellows comes down to making a distinction between religion and spirituality for Wharton’s Friedman. Religion divides people. Spirituality, on the other hand, embraces many of the same virtuous qualities any employer wants to see take hold: “The notion of having a spiritual consciousness, being rooted in values such as loving kindness and the connection of all humans as one family, treating others as you wish to be treated, karma, taking care of the planet we share — these are all very useful values for any organizational setting,” he points out.Only when the Boomers are dead will this nonsense go away.
Rothbard says it’s not about bringing your authentic self to work. “I call it bringing your best self to work,” she says. “Bring your best self to work and talk about aspects of religious identity in a way that might be different, but is hopefully respectful of others’ identities.”