A Walmart greeter had been barred from saying, “Have a blessed day,” based on one complaint.
This story isn’t about politics in the narrow sense, but it demonstrates some problems in our culture in expectation inculcated into us by the media.
According to WSBTV, it only took one complaint for Walmart to ban a greeter from wishing customers to “have a blessed day,” though James Phillips had been doing so for years without any objection.
Just think about that. Here is a town in the middle of the Bible belt—Blue Ridge in north Georgia—and a company demands that he secularize his language for the sake of one complaint.
One bizarre part of this story is that everyone considers “have a blessed day” a religious expression. That is obviously not true. Atheists don’t have any problem “feeling grateful” on Thanksgiving despite having no one to thank. Why should a “blessed day” be any different? A person can be blessed by other people, or by any number of hypothetical gods, so no one can claim that Phillips was dictating who God is and that he exists. “The Lord bless you” would be a religious greeting. “Have a blessed day” is obviously secular. The only thing that makes it feel “religious” is that Phillips himself is a religious man and some freethinker is extra sensitive on the issue.
It must be a real rush to be able to get a corporation to censor a man’s speech who has never done you any harm and only wished you well.
And yet somehow the corporate powers that be decided that this one complaint was reason to intervene in the kindly expressions of one of their employees and dictate what his speech could be within narrower confines. That one complainer, in their minds, represented their customers more than everyone else. They just took for granted that this one person was “normal” and that Phillips was deviating into sectarian territory.
What was the result of that order to not use a “religious” greeting? It was that Phillips must alter his behavior in order to sound even more like an atheist. Even though the greeting was completely innocuous Walmart basically declared that all employees must go to extra lengths to sound like a person who does not accept the existence of God (or any god).
Why would anyone expect all religious believers to talk like atheists just because one happens to be an atheist? Such people are intolerant bullies and cultural imperialists.
The only thing that made a difference was the community uprising against Walmart on behalf of Phillips.
When Philips was told that as a Walmart employee he could not greet people with the phrase, the community became his mouthpiece.
“I wasn’t trying to start a movement, but I am very appreciative that people thought enough of me to stand up for me this way,” said Philips. “I want to just be one of the best greeters I know how to be.”
As you will see in the video, thousands of people “became his mouthpiece” by using the greeting “have a blessed day” to the greeter when they entered the Blue Ridge Walmart. They also initiated a letter campaign and a social media campaign.
If a bunch of people hadn’t been willing to stand up and be counted, Phillips would still be forced to choose between droning his secular, corporate-approved message, or quitting his job.
There are atheists and agnostics in the United States who are absolutely committed to using whatever power they have to force you to act as if you are as devoid of belief as they are. You cannot shrink back when they push you around. And you have to let the corporations, who seemed so primed to assume that an atheist society should be the only permissible public society, understand that you are real and you are numerous.
If atheists want to start a fight, teach them that they will get a fight.