Anti-atheist discrimination in the US Post Office

Shoes from Germany for atheists. Apparently not appreciated by some US Postal workers.

I recently read a report of a delivery test done by the company that produces “Atheist” brand shoes. Yes, I know, why exactly anyone would name their shoes “atheist” is an interesting question which I will deal with in another post.

But first the test, and the apparent discrimination. This is how the Atheist shoe company described the experiment:

We sent 178 packages to 89 people in 49 U.S. states. Each person was sent two packages; one sealed with ATHEIST – branded packing tape, the other with neutral tape.

The results: packages with the atheist label were nearly 10 times more likely to be lost,’ and took on average 3 days longer to show up when they did. Control experiments were also done in Europe and Germany where the results were quite different. There was nowhere near the same disparity in delivery results between the two different packages.

What are we to make of this?

First, this is obviously not a result of official US Post Office policy. It is more likely that individual postal workers found the “atheist” packages offensive or distasteful enough that they gave them “special” treatment. Reminds me of that scene in the old Canadian movie called “Goin’ Down The Road” where a couple of guys hired to deliver fliers dump most of them in the river.

Finding some aspect of your job morally offensive is not all that hard to imagine. I remember instances where our company was involved in producing publications for people that certain employees found unsettling – usually for religiious reasons – stuff they simply did not agree with. In such a situation it was not unusual for them to ask not to be involved.

To appreciate this you have to understand the state of mind of a serious religious believer. Providing a service to aid in the dissemination of something he or she sees as counter to their religious beliefs can be a serious problem for them.

Given the prevalent attitude in the U.S. towards atheism, it is not hard to see how a person offended by the very idea of atheism would feel they were helping do the devil’s work by delivering a box labelled “ATHEIST”.

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