Religion at Work

The Protestant Roots of Secular American Values

September 1, 2021

Featuring Dr. Emma Rifai, Instructor in Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech


Dr. Emma Rifai, PhD, offers a fresh take on the relationship between modern secularism and America’s well-known “Protestant work ethic.” In the process, she addresses the roots of “secular” American values found in the Protestant Reformation, the difference between capital-P and lowercase-P protestantism, and why secularism is not neutral -- or even truly secular. As she reimagines our culture’s ideas about success, Emma calls on employers to make the workplace more equitable, healthy, and holistically beneficial for workers.


Dr. Emma Rifai is an instructor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech for the 2021-2022 academic year. She has a PhD from the Department of Religious Studies at The University of Iowa with graduate certificates in gender, women’s, and sexuality studies and in college teaching. Her work explores how both religion and secularism shape the everyday at the site of the body by highlighting Protestant culture’s profound yet often overlooked impact on public life in the United States. 


Learn more about Emma’s work.

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