The point: Middle Eastern nations and The Freemasons are not the same thing…believe it or not.
The rant that goes with it:
As part of my application for a visa to work in “a relatively strict Middle East (ME) nation” (rhymes with “howdy…a labia”), one of the questions that I must answer is “Religion:________” and, according to the guidelines provided by my employer, in order for the visa to be granted…
- I must provide and answer (can’t leave it blank)
- I may only select from the following: M’slim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu.
A very principled friend of mine saw that I had answered “Christian” and had this to say to me in response…
what a hypocrite…don’t let me join freemasons because I need to state that i believe in a ‘supreme being’ yet you put ‘christian’ on your job application!
This apparantly reasonable objection provides great opportunities for considering what are my “principals” and what it means to be a “hypocrite”. My reply to this is in two parts: (1) What I consider to be a well-reasoned argument and (2) the knee-jerk response I replied by email moments after having been challenged…
1. The Mason’s and (said ME nation’s) Requirements are Different
MASONS: You have to actually believe in a supreme being in order to be a Mason, not just say that you do. It is a group of like-minded people and that is a core social principal. I – too – was invited to join the Masons (in 2009 when I was working for SNC) but I declined, in spite of the advantages, on the basis of their rule about belief in a supreme being as a requirement for joining. I continued to refuse even after their agent tried to rationalize (shoe-horn) my position as fitting with theirs (ie – that natural unintelligent forces as the underlying principal of the universe is somehow the same as an intelligent being because they are both “a thing”) because I knew that if I joined under such false pretenses, we would probably not enjoy each other’s company in the long run.
The ME Nation: You have to merely sign a piece of paper saying which of the 5 choices they give you best suit you, which is like answering the question, “which of these numbers is closest to the number of cars you own: 150, 785, 624, 98, 821″. In that case, selecting “98” would not be hypocritical. Also, they are not hiring me for my beliefs but my ability to ensure their project will be built on time, on budget and to high standards of quality. One does not have to abide by one of those religions in order to achieve this. Furthermore, I would argue that if one prays for success rather than work for it, he will likely fail. In fact, the saying “Inshallah” (loosely translated as “you’ll be lucky if it gets done and if it doesn’t, I’m not responsible”) is banned from my meetings to the point that I almost got into a fight with one of our Electrical Engineers over it.
Had I encouraged him to refuse the Masons offer and then I turned around and joined them myself…THAT would make me a hypocrite.
Applying similar standards to two different situations and making different decisions for each because of that does NOT make me a hypocrite.
2. My Initial (knee-jerk & emotional) Response:
- Every person has his price. $200k+/year is higher than most. Would the Masons pay you that much to attend their meetings? I don’t think so!
- I put my family obligations above all other considerations, including such petty issues such as religion. I say “petty” because I think of all that stuff as no more relevant than Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. In spite of my soap-boxing, it’s really all just an intellectual game for me. It is the BELIEVERS that take it seriously. Atheists only take such belief systems seriously when airplanes start flying into buildings or science is prevented from being taught in classrooms – and that is not what is happening here (except that Osama B-L was from you-know-where, of course).
- I’m not going to let someone’s stupid abstract rules stand between me and a money pile. To refuse to sign this and not take their money gives them power and I refuse to give that to them. I am “a reed in the wind, resisting by bending”.
- If there is no supreme being then, even if you are a deist, you cannot possibly offend him and therefore the simple act of signing a piece of paper is meaningless. Notice from the relative anonymity of this post how I am more afraid of my employer seeing this email than I am of eternal damnation?
- Even if there was a supreme being that had any actual power (we are talking theist, not deist here), then it should use that power to sort all this confusion (the fact that the form identifies 5 conflicting perceptions if truth means that at least 4 of them have it wrong) and not leave it up to me to pay to clean up its mess.
Perhaps the best way to do the needful and stand on my “principals” would be to call myself Buddhist, which is actually closer to my world-view than than Christian (because kittens are cute and I wouldn’t possibly harm one…unless it pooped everywhere, then I’d eat it alive) and also challenges the policy by giving a “weird” answer. However, if I got called on it, I’d be in trouble.
Considering the colour of my skin and that I am not Richard Gere, “Christian” is the believable, “yeah, whatever” null-response.
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