A couple of points to make…
Unfortunately it has been my experience in the US that most people are Christian (at least in the South where I live) and almost every one of them assumes that everyone else is just like them.
In many other countries I have been to, it usually doesn’t even come up. I think a lot of that has to do with the many tumultuous periods in history when your religion could get you killed on the spot. People just don’t volunteer that information.
There are some countries in the Middle East / Asia where Muslim beliefs are the predominate religion. And yes in some of those places your religion or lack of religion can get you killed in a heartbeat.
So while it has been my experience that I don’t have to fear for my life while I am here in the states, it will sometimes sneak up on you if you are not paying attention. (The question that is)
Usually the Christians here will speak up first. And when they ask you what church you go to, just tell them you “Home Church”. This will usually elicit a facial expression of query, a laugh, or more questions. If you feel like engaging in a debate, this is a great way to start one.
Lastly, it has been my experience that if I am trying to discern a person’s theological beliefs, (or lack thereof) I can usually just make a comment about a controversial topic (Political or theological) and that will lead you to what they build their foundations on. (Logic or flying pink ponies that talk to them)
What do you think of Joel Osteen?
What is your position on women’s rights?
If you were to ask me what I thought about Joel Osteen I would honestly tell you that I like to watch him on TV. He gives a really good message most of the time about humanity when he isn't going on about God. Did you know he refuses to say that Atheists are going to hell? He said it isnt his position to judge. But to be fair I would probably admit I was an Atheist so I didnt confuse you about liking Osteen.
LOl, I love it even if there is not such little stickers as an evolve fist or freedom of thought paraphenalia. I think its the same as gaydar when you start speaking with a non-believer you can tell whether someone does or does not believe :)
I don't find it too hard to find people who might either be swayed or are normal. But I cant do it by looks alone I have to talk to them to know. Normally I can pick up on their mannerisms and the words they choose however for the less obvious it never fails to mention the latest science article you read in the news the other day.
This fake article, or real current event, has to be something against most peoples suspected beliefs and you have to appear on the fence or neutral. Listen carefully to the words they use, and it helps to be able to read body language well.
Possible topics could be:
* stem cell research [this one is a biggy]
* evolution [some people of faith believe in part of evolution, the key words being "part" and "believe"]
* the origin of life (or life in space esp. other planets etc.) [gets under most of their skins]
* new scientific instruments / ventures trying to find the origin of the universe [might not work on scientist so judging their profession / interest helps]
Whatever you choose make it a passing comment but do draw attention to how amazed or fascinated you were after having read it, as if its the first time you were exposed to such an idea. Then just listen, people will unsuspectingly give you a lot of information about their stance if you just listen.
If you think they passed the test casually bring up another topic like above. You shouldn't mention belief systems unless its brought up by the other party. There are many questions you could ask someone to find out the answers to other questions you really wanted to ask.
While i've only read the first and last pages of this thread, I propose that we come up with an atheist code word to probe for possible non-theistic viewpoints in someone we suspect is non-theist or simply are curious as to their position. It could be useful in those sensitive situations. Maybe not a word but a phrase or expression would be more appropriate. What do you all think?
Interesting thought. I was watching a quiz show on television a couple of weeks ago (a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire clone) and the contestant was a doctor from my local area. They interviewed him up front about his interests and he said he liked to 'research comparative religions'. My ears pricked up. Was that code for 'I'm an atheist'?
Anyway, as soon as the show was over, I googled him and shot off an email saying, "I may have read this wrong, but ...." and invited him to our local atheists' group dinner. I got an email back almost immediately saying, "Not sure if I'm exactly an atheist, but would be interested in attending."
We're looking forward to meeting him next month. I can't believe my 'atheist-dar' now has me picking up guys from television quiz shows!