Atheist vs. Starbucks Barista

Atheist Darryl walked into a Starbucks recently wearing an OUT Campaign t-shirt.

He didn’t have the most intellectually fulfilling conversation with the conversational barista on duty…

Here’s how it went down:

Barista: “The Out Campaign!”
Darryl: [Smiling] Yes.
Barista: What is that?
Darryl: [Pointing to "A"] Atheist… I’m an…
Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
Darryl: Well actually, no, that’s a common misundersta–
Barista: NO! You are! You are! You’re proselytizing!
Darryl: Tall, dark roast, please… No, it’s actually the absence of religion.
Barista: No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?
Darryl: No. Tall dark-roast, please.
Barista: Yes you do. [Laughing] It wouldn’t surprise me.
Darryl: How’s that dark roast coming?
Barista: What size was it again?
Darryl: Tall.
Barista: Yeah — with those buses… and the books — you guys are basically a religion.
Darryl: Have a nice day.

Darryl’s been mulling this over for days now and still hasn’t come up with a good way to have that conversation.

He writes:

How can you possibly argue “Yes, you are — No, I’m not — Yes, you are — No, I’m not”? I need a quick gun-slinger, conversation-ending, intellectual atom bomb with which to drop on arrogant Christians. Got any?

How would you have dealt with this barista?

If someone wants to have that conversation in this sort of forum, how can you explain what atheism is (and what it isn’t)?

What can you say to the person that could actually be effective?

  • Ubi Dubius

    Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com Cannonball Jones

    Yeah, you could also ask him if he thinks that ‘bald’ is a hair colour but it doesn’t sound like he’d get it. I’d just pay for the drink and get the hell out of there, not worth the effort…

  • http://www.bagnecaude.blogspot.com Enrico

    You could have asked for an A-COFFEE.
    “So you don’t want a coffee?”
    “No, I want an a-coffee! An a-coffee is a coffee as the others”
    “It’s an empty cup?”
    “Yes. And I will pay you with a-money…”

  • Zered

    There is also the simple definition of “religion” that puts atheism outside that circle.

    Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp, a personal God or gods

  • VorlonGuyverOss

    I think the best way to handle this is by asking probing questions to get to the root causes of the persons thinking. Maybe an extra 5 minutes (if you have the time) to listen and question would have clarified the misconception. Personally, I have found that a question is the best way to get someone to think for themselves.

  • Richard

    It’s for this reason that I often don’t describe myself as an atheist. I am one, but the use of similar language can promote this misunderstanding – “I’m a Christian” vs. “I’m an atheist” makes it sound like they’re in some way equivalent.

    When I’m filling in forms, for “religion” I write “None”. If someone asks me what religion I am, I say I don’t have one. And if it comes up in conversation as a reason why I might have done or not done something, I say “I don’t have any religious beliefs” or “I don’t believe in any gods or anything”.

    I’m not ashamed to use the word “atheist” to describe myself, but I do then risk it being labelled a “religion” if I do so.

  • http://www.minervashowl.com dbuddah

    @ubi dubious: very nice!

  • AxeGrrl

    Richard wrote:

    When I’m filling in forms, for “religion” I write “None”. If someone asks me what religion I am, I say I don’t have one. And if it comes up in conversation as a reason why I might have done or not done something, I say “I don’t have any religious beliefs” or “I don’t believe in any gods or anything”.

    I like Julia Sweeney’s attitude/response:

    “i prefer to call myself a naturalist ~ which makes believers A-naturalists

    :)

  • http://www.madatheist.wordpress.com NiroZ

    Heh, recently someone claimed that Richard Dawkins was a prophet.

    Two things I would have pointed out. 1, atheism to religion is baldness to a hair colour. Second, religion implies the belief in the supernatural.

  • Tony

    I like the one about stamp collecting.

  • Ha

    I wish atheism was a religion, then i could get tax breaks out of it as well as a special standing under the law making me above criticism.

  • Todd

    I believe Monty Python has already covered this. This isn’t an argument. It’s merely contradiction.

  • http://www.coasm.wordpress.com Slow

    Seriously? This has to be one of the most annoying things that I keep getting told. Atheism has no prayer, doesn’t require you to come to church, to do anything at all.

    If you don’t believe in a god, your an atheist, full stop, end of. How anyone thinks it is a religion is beyond me, it shares virtually none of them!

  • andrew

    just ask what this guy’s definition of religion is. if its like minded people that publish books, gather, and advertise, well, ask him what group wouldn’t qualify as a religion.

  • http://www.sappari-zenzen.net eruvande

    From the childish attitude of the barista, it seems the best response might be “Nuh-uh, poopyhead.”

    I have no idea how else to respond to that.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net thoughtcounts Z

    The barista’s argument seems to be that bus ads = religion. What about saying something like, “I just saw an ad on a bus for [upcoming local festival, popular TV show, cell phone plan]. Is that a religion too?”

  • Wim

    I think you can be creative and think up new variations on the stamp collecting example.

    I sometimes use:
    If atheism is a religion then NOT beating your wife is domestic violence.

    If atheism is a religion then NOT beating your children is child abuse.

  • Eric

    The main confusion comes from the fact that he has a definition of religion which is something like “anytime a bunch of people think the same thing.” So point that out, but indirectly – when he says “atheism is a religion,” follow up with “You have a strange definition of religion.” If he wants to continue the conversation, then he’s the one who has to explain his definition, rather than you needing to explain yours. It can even lead to a productive discussion (though it sounds like with this guy, probably not) if you point out why his definition doesn’t make sense.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?”
    “Why yes, we have them right next-door to the non-stampcollectors’ trade fair.”

  • georgie

    If not believing in a god is a religion, then how many religions do people who believe in a god have? They may believe in jesus but don’t believe in allah or zues or thor or ra and so on, now that’s a lot of religion!

  • Lifer

    “What can you say to the person that could actually be effective?”

    If the person is religious, nothing.

    To further that, I always find it quite humorous if the person is religious and erupts in such a fashion because they are essentially saying, “Well you’re no better than WE are!” This is, of course, quite comical.

    It’s the same line of thinking they employ when they trot out Stalin and talk about atheist dictators and mass killings. “You’re killing people by the thousands as well! I guess we are quite similar!” Trying to explain morales and ethics after this is moot because we all know Yahweh has the monopoly on those.

    If the person is on the fence about religion, possibly believes in a personal god but has done away with the trappings of organized religion, it’s best to do what you did and just request your beverage. This individual is hopefully leading a rather benign existence and their personal god doesn’t exert influence through them into the physical realm.

    I can’t see many athiests responding the way this barrista did unless they belong to the contingent that believes the athiest movement should keep to itself and not be so outspoken as to avoid a polarizing effect. From his attitude, I don’t think this is the case.

  • Einmaliger

    I would say that I’m not religious and that the Flying Spagetthi Monster will strike him down if he says otherwise.

  • http://hypatianshore.blogspot.com/ MC Pickard

    Did anyone hear the Logically Critical podcast on atheism? The host gave the analogy that atheists worship the Grinch.

    Perhaps, Daryl could have just brushed the barista aside and agree by adding that “yeah at atheist church we sing exhalations and prayers to the Grinch.”

    He’s standing in line anyway and he’s not going to have much time to define terms. If the barista is paying attention perhaps it will sit in her mind to be worked out later with an “oh yeah” moment.

  • http://deekdubberly.com/ Deek Dubberly

    I would say that, “Yes, there are ways in which atheists have institutionalized, but that’s in no way an indication that it has somehow become a religion.”

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    It’s just not possible to have a conversation with someone that doesn’t listen.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    How about “Can I speak to your manager? All I want is a coffee”?

  • K

    Don’t wear the pin if you can’t handle the heat.

  • Kate

    Atheism is a religion if bald is a hair color.

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com/ Paul

    Hoverfrog has nailed it. I don’t mind the discussion…as long as the coffee is forthcoming. The second the Barista pauses in his coffee making activities in favour of arguing with a customer (good naturedly or otherwise) he needs to be reprimanded.

  • Richard

    I think he did well.

    If he’d come up with some witty argument, she’d have been made more defensive.

    Now, after the argument, she probably felt quite silly.

    Next time she might ask for information, instead of assuming she has it.

  • ShavenYak

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  • http://friendlyhumanist.blogspot.com Tim Mills

    Yah, I’d respond to this person the same way I respond to our local creationist community: I don’t engage them. Not worth the effort. (Not to say that creationists never need engaging – just that the ones around here are harmless and don’t deserve my time of day.)

    You’d need more time than is generally available in a client-barrista conversation to even identify all of this fellow’s misleading preconceptions, let alone start correcting them.

    Best solution: have a business card with contact info for the local humanist or atheist group handy, and just offer it to the person. Ball’s in their court, they can choose to come along for further discussion or not, and you haven’t wasted your time on a fruitless conversation.

  • http://mconrsullivan.wordpress.com/ Matthew Sullivan

    the a-coffee idea actually backfires on people who are creating a positive identity out of not believing something. there’s little need for people who don’t drink coffee to go to non- or anti-coffee shops where everyone sits around talking about why they don’t drink coffee.

    so should they be wearing a-coffee t-shirts?

    (though I must say I’m all for the “out” campaign as a temporary phenomenon aimed at creating a public voice and confidence for non-theists of all sorts.)

  • http://brielle.sosdg.org brielle

    If I was as mean as some people make me out to be… It could be a fun situation.

    * “Don’t they pay you to pour coffee, not try to undermine my choices in life?”

    * “Last time I checked, it says Starbucks Coffee on the sign, not Church Of Starbucks.”

    But alas, I’d feel bad if I said either of those…

    Its like, when I go into Popeyes and they’re playing the local Christian station. Their corp office doesn’t give a crap, and if I complain to the manager, most likely I’ll not be able to go back out of fear that they’ll spit in my food or something.

    It bugs the crap out of me that people think it’s okay to make your customers uncomfortable like that. Just because I live in a heavy Moron… er, Mormon area, doesn’t mean I’m Mormon, or that I go to church on Sundays.

  • Richard Wade

    Barista: No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?
    Me: Do you know any atheists really well?
    Barista: No…
    Me: Do I know you really well?
    Barista: No…
    Me: And am I telling you all about what you think, what you feel and what you do?
    Barista: No…
    Me: That’s right. Because pretending you know all about someone else instead of respectfully asking them about themselves is how you stay ignorant.
    Barista:
    Me: Leave plenty of room in the cup for sugar. Your coffee tastes like ear wax.

  • Miko

    According to George Orwell, people fall into linguistic patterns like this as a strategy to allow themselves to hide their real meaning both from others and from themselves. There is no real argument there; the barista is just parroting words from a preacher who was just uttering them to get the congregation to blindly dismiss any and all ideas that the preacher disliked.

    Before they can be engaged intellectually, it’s necessary to break people out of their traditional thinking-ruts. (And if you value the free exchange of ideas, it’s beneficial to continually force yourself out of that rut too.)

  • Brian E

    What the fark is a Barista? Is that a French word meaning ‘coffee making douchebag’?

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    Brielle, the solution to your problem is simple. Don’t go to Popeye’s chicken at all. Not necessarily out of a desire to boycott the Christian music, but rather because the food there sucks.

    I’ve used the “stamp collecting” line in the past. I got back a slackjawed, uncomprehending stare as my interlocutor tried to think it through — the guy’s mental gears moved only slowly when pointed in a direction other than his “atheism is a religion” trope. Which was fine at the time, because it gave me the time I needed to escape and I didn’t consider it my mission to educate the ignorant.

  • TXatheist

    Ditto to what Vic said.

  • http://brielle.sosdg.org brielle

    Brielle, the solution to your problem is simple. Don’t go to Popeye’s chicken at all. Not necessarily out of a desire to boycott the Christian music, but rather because the food there sucks.

    Well, I actually do like some of the food there. :) Thats the problem. I have a delicate stomach, and I know I can order a chicken sandwich and it won’t make me sick. OTOH, if I go to the other local place that can make a sandwhich like that, I’ll be miserable for hours.

  • http://www.kristenmary.com Kristen Mary

    So, there are the two sides of being an out athiest. It feels good to be “out” but then you have to deal with complete morons. It is his right to wear the shirt, but the very nature of the shirt becomes a conversation starter. And some conversations are better left un-started. It is a tricky one!

  • Clippo

    He: “Atheism is a religion.”
    Me: “That’s another stupid thing you believe.”

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean Sean G

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    LOL @ ShavenYak

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com Paul Lundgren

    How’s this…we start calling ourselves “whole” people, thus making religious people “a-wholes”.

  • http://cupcakesinhell.blogspot.com jynnan_tonnyx

    Why say in anything in response to this? Calling atheism a “religion” doesn’t make anyone’s belief or non-belief more valid. It’s not an argument, it’s a label. I suspect it’s a sort of self-assurance: if the prospect of somebody living a quality life without religion is threatening to someone who needs religion (i.e., “What’s wrong with me that I need religion while others don’t?”) they just call atheism a religion, and, suddenly, the atheist is not somebody who is “better” or “stronger” or “smarter” than you; they’re just somebody with a different “religion”.

    Which isn’t to say that atheists are somehow better or smarter or stronger than theists. But I think it’s a notion that exists and that some people feel the need to defend themselves from somehow.

    If somebody were to tell me that Atheism is a “religion”, I’d probably say something along the lines of “OK. Whatever floats your boat. Call it what you like.” Then you can cut off a pointless argument of semantics while subtly(?) pointing out that other people’s labels don’t affect you, which I would imagine is a good example to set for somebody who feels the need to label other people’s worldviews.

  • Michael

    The government puts up signs, politicians write books and meet regularly. Is government a religion?

    I would tell the “Barista” to first, learn what the fuck he is talking about and second, get his manager for me.

  • http://msmith13.wordpress.com Mark

    You don’t have to agree with somebody to have a polite conversation with them — but you do have to agree to have the SAME conversation. Coffee Guy had an idea for a different conversation than the one you wanted to have. He wanted to have the one that would allow him to remain ignorant.

    There is often help for the clueless. The clue RESISTANT are another story. When someone values and defends their ignorance, it’s best to walk away.

  • Karl Withakay

    …I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    [Stephen F. Roberts]

  • http://twitter.com/untheist unTheist

    I get this all the time actually. Here is a quick stfu to use when they call atheism a religion.

    Random person: Atheism is a religion.
    Me: No.
    Random Person: Uh huh!
    Me: Call it what you like, but it a rejection of dangerous supernatural nonsense. If you want to call not believing something a religion, go ahead but thats kind of oxymoronic.

    Something to that effect either offends them enough or bores them enough that they leave it alone, or if they tuned into the subject enough it may actually spark a substantive conversation. Either way it ends the one dimensional deadlock

  • AJ

    I’m non-religious, but if I were religious and someone used the stamp collecting line on me, I would be likely to respond with something like:

    “I haven’t seen rows of bookshelves pro-claiming the virtues of non-stamp collecting. I haven’t seen bus ads telling me that my life can be happy without stamps. Nobody has come into the coffee shop with a shirt spreading the message of non-stamp collecting. I don’t see people intentionally labeling themselves as “Non Stamp Collectors”. Non-stamp collecting groups have not formed on campus all over the country. There also aren’t community non-stamp collecting groups. Etc. etc.”

    Atheism most certainly isn’t a religion, but the stamp collecting analogy breaks down pretty quickly.

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    I’d have gone with:

    “Perhaps so, but at least our followers don’t run around killing people they don’t agree with. Can I have my fucking coffee now?”

    But I’m kind of a jerk.

    Also, @Paul Lundgren, that’s a wonderful idea and I am going to start suggesting it.

  • Jay

    I see the stamp collecting one used often, but that seems like an out of date analogy.
    How about

    Is not playing baseball a sport?
    Is not creating a sculpture art?
    Is not getting me a coffee doing your job?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Maybe he should have simply invited the barista to come join his church.

  • J Myers

    The barista was either dishonest or hopelessly stupid, so you can’t effectively have that conversation. In these situations, I generally say something like “You’re plainly wrong, and it’s not my problem that you won’t admit it. You don’t seem interested in having any of you silly misconceptions corrected today, so I see no point in continuing this conversation.” At which point, the person will (occasionally) become genuinely interested in having the conversation, or (more often) shut the hell up and glare at me… but get me my coffee.

    Don’t wear the pin if you can’t handle the heat.

    Yes, the stupidity of others should dictate our behavior; spectacular advice. And there wasn’t any pin in this story, in any case.

    As for quippy rejoinders, the stamp collecting and bald analogies are reliable old stand-bys, but I’ve always preferred:

    Atheism is a religion just as silence is a genre of music.

  • Karl Withakay

    “Atheism most certainly isn’t a religion, but the stamp collecting analogy breaks down pretty quickly.”

    I don’t think so. If stamp collectors were obsessed with compelling everyone else to collect stamps and insisted that people who don’t collect stamps are stamp collectors, you’d probably find a lot of books written by non collectors about why they choose to not collect stamps, and why not collecting them isn’t a hobby.

    Analogies always break down at some point anyway, otherwise they’d be exactogies.

  • John Larberg

    “I think the best way to handle this is by asking probing questions to get to the root causes of the persons thinking. Maybe an extra 5 minutes (if you have the time) to listen and question would have clarified the misconception. Personally, I have found that a question is the best way to get someone to think for themselves.”

    The Socratic method works well at both proving a point and sometimes pissing the person off.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    @AJ: sounds like you’ve missed the point. The non-stamp-collecting example doesn’t try to equate stamp-collecting with religion. It just serves to point out why the lack of religion doesn’t make atheism a religion: if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby and bald is a hair color.

    But if your hypothetical religious person would really give that response, you could easily counter with something like this:
    “You’d see many books about the virtues of non-stamp-collecting if stamp-collectors expected everyone to collect stamps. You’d see non-stamp-collecting support groups if non-stamp-collectors would be demonized by many stamp-collectors.” You get the idea, I’m sure you can think of many more.

  • Tom

    Barista: atheism is a religion!
    Me: I’m sorry, you’re mistaken. May I have a large coffee please?
    Barista: no really blah blah blah!!!
    Me: It’s insulting for you to presume to tell me that you know more about my beliefs than I do. Please refrain from telling customers what they believe. I was asking for a large coffee.
    Batista: but blah blah blah…
    Me: MANAGER!!!

    I have encountered the “xtian music in store” issue. I left quietly and emailer the corporate office to tell them I was offended by lyrics that claimed their religion was better than mine and had left because of it. I got back an apology and a promise it would not happen again.

  • Wordstolearnby

    Turn the conversation around by asking a question.

  • bgs

    Say nothing except, “May I please have my coffee?” If that doesn’t work, say, “May I please speak with your manager?”

    Just don’t discuss it with him. It’s like wrestling with pigs; the pigs like it, and you get dirty.

  • sc0tt


    Yes, the stupidity of others should dictate our behavior; spectacular advice. And there wasn’t any pin in this story, in any case.

    The customer was wearing an atheist T-shirt, he has to expect that people may question him about it (just as with any other message display like a bumper sticker or silicone wrist band). The barrista’s questioning was inappropriate given the customer-clerk relationship but if we were to take the conversation to a bus stop for instance it would not have been.

  • http://hungryfilmmaker.com/ Matt Agnello

    There is no a-bomb comment you can drop on someone who refuses to understand. The real a-bomb happens when the barista at Starbucks has enough critical thinking training and self-confidence in their own beliefs to say, “Oh, interesting. Hadn’t thought of it that way.”

  • Mountain Humanist

    Get your coffee at an independent coffee house. I’ve found their baristas to be more free-thinking — perhaps its the absence of corporate conformity. Beyond that, ask a few questions; make some of the above stated observations and enjoy your coffee.

  • http://www.myspace.com/misterjoeclassic TimothyJosephWood

    That’s easy, stop arguing like there is some inherent meaning to the word religion. Is atheism a religion? That depends on how you define religion. But, if you sufficiently broaden the definition to include atheism is also includes lots of other things that we don’t typically consider religious.

  • nowoo

    I’ve sarcastically told theist friends that the “only” difference between what atheists are doing and “other” religions is that atheism doesn’t involve belief in god(s), prayer, churches or temples, holy books or scriptures, priests or religious leaders, belief in the supernatural, miracles, an afterlife, holy wars, heaven or hell, lifestyle restrictions, belief without evidence (faith as a virtue), belief despite conflicting evidence, supernatural origins of the universe or humans, murderous fundamentalist extremists, annoying doorstep preachers, the soul, regular ceremonies or acts of worship, sin, a concept of blasphemy, or the idea of being God’s chosen people.

    But other than those things, I guess it’s just like a religion because some atheists are passionate about their ideas and wish more people knew about them.

    I got that list of differences from this website: http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/atheismreligion.html

  • http:/www.lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com Lyvvie

    I wouldn’t have engaged in the conversation past being accused of proselytizing. I’d have told him I wassn’t proselytizing, I was ordering coffee and if that was beyond his ability he’d better get someone else to serve me. What a schmuck.

    I wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to carry on like Richard Wade suggests, but I wish I could. I’d also like to be in the queue behind Richard to witness that dialogue.

  • Alexis

    sc0tt Says: The barrista’s questioning was inappropriate given the customer-clerk relationship but if we were to take the conversation to a bus stop for instance it would not have been. I disagree. At a small town or neighborhood business it is quite common for they customer/clerk relationship to also entail casual conversation and evolve into friendship. At slow times in even large businesses, this can happen as well.

  • Alex

    I’m usually quite patient with minimum wage help, but since he started it and stamps and hair color are way over this guy’s head: “You are a fucking idiot, Barry Barista. Leave room for milk.”

  • Dave

    Well there are movies based on books that are advertised on buses…RELIGION!

  • 3D

    This is how I would have handled it.

    Me: Barista? You’re a fucking cashier.

    Cashier: Barista! I’m a barista.

    Me: Cashier.

    Cashier: Barista!

    Me: Cashier. Shut the fuck up about my shirt and get my fucking coffee, you fucking cashier.

    Cashier: Yes sir.

  • J Myers

    The customer was wearing an atheist T-shirt, he has to expect that people may question him about it (just as with any other message display like a bumper sticker or silicone wrist band)

    Obviously; no where is it so much as implied that the customer expected otherwise, which makes the comment to which I was referring all the more idiotic.

    I’m really not sure what you were going for with your comment, or why you quoted me.

  • http://www.myspace.com/deadjerusalem Brian’s A Wild Downer

    My reply to people telling me atheism is a religion is something like “Well even according to the extremely broad definition of ‘religion’ that sociologists use, atheism itself still wouldn’t qualify as one. The sociological definition of religion is pretty much anything that people use to answer questions of meaning like ‘where do we come from?’ and ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ and stuff like that. Atheism can’t answer those. If you really want to accuse me of having a religion you could do so accurately by saying that Metaphysical Naturalism or Humanism was my religion. That would make more sense, and I’d have to plead guilty to it. But then I’d just say ‘so what?’ I don’t have any problem with religion. What i do have a problem with is dogma and superstition which unfortunately lots of religions are full of.”

  • Gridman

    Typically I’d say, “If you’re good perhaps Santa will bring you a dictionary for Christmas this year.”

  • Vincent

    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!

    well, as long as I get my coffee, you feel free to believe crazy things like that all you like.

    But seriously, if I ever do have that conversation I’m so quoting Inigo Montoya

  • Stephen P

    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    Me: you say that like you think religion is a bad thing.

    …..

    Barista: No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now.
    Me: I saw a Starbucks ad the other day. You guys into proselytizing too?

    You’re right: there isn’t really a good way to have this conversation. But keeping calm is at least way better than giving a heated response.

  • 5ive

    “No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?”

    “yeah. And I am also a Verizonist, what with the bus ads, monthly literature, meeting at the Verizon store and monthly tithing…”

  • Max

    @ Todd, I love the argument clinic sketch. It’s brilliant.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    A t-shirt and a bus ad doesn’t exactly constitute proselytizing. And since when is proselytizing a sufficient or necessary condition for religion?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Barista: No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?
    Darryl: No. Tall dark-roast, please. I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.
    [JARRING CHORD]. [The cardinals burst in]
    Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Joe

    I think the only way to get through to this guy would be to hit him with his same tactic. Make up a religious straw man and stick him with it.

    “Atheism isn’t a religion because we don’t engage in human sacrifice like you do.”
    “I don’t engage in human sacrifice”
    “yes you do”
    “no I don’t”
    etc…

    Maybe he would see what a moron he was.

  • http://lepouseturningtide.blogspot.com/ Julie Ward

    I don’t get it…how is being an atheist, or meeting with other atheists in a “group” setting proselytizing? Wouldn’t then a chess group or a homeowners association be the same thing? People gathering because they want to discuss the same ideas? It’s only when you start adding invisible men who control our lives that it gets a little fuzzy…

  • John Moeller

    I’m with the manager-summoners. I’d ask for his manager, and explain to the manager that his/her employee seems more interested in telling me what I think than in filling my order. Then I’d state that the situation can be resolved simply by completing my transaction.

  • Richard Wade

    Using jynnan_tonnyx’ approach:
    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    Me: Oh, are you trying to bring atheism DOWN to the level of religion, like that’s a bad thing? You should be careful, some religious people around here might take offense to that.

    Using Miko’s approach with George Orwell’s ideas:
    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    Me: That’s not your original idea, is it? You heard that from someone else, right? That idea is designed to keep you from making friends with any atheists, and guess what? It’s working.

    One more:
    If Atheism is a religion, then my not putting any money into that “tips” mug on the counter is giving you a tip.

    None of these would work. The barista is clearly a moron, but it would be fun to try them.

  • Nicole

    Whenever someone tells me that atheism is a religion, I simply respond “Then you must think not believing in fairies is a religion as well”

  • http://diaphanus.livejournal.com/ Ian Andreas Miller

    The “Atheism is just as much a religion too” meme has become so common that we might as well call it a religion, too.

  • Matto the Hun

    Using jynnan_tonnyx’ approach:
    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    Me: Oh, are you trying to bring atheism DOWN to the level of religion, like that’s a bad thing? You should be careful, some religious people around here might take offense to that.

    Using Miko’s approach with George Orwell’s ideas:
    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    Me: That’s not your original idea, is it? You heard that from someone else, right? That idea is designed to keep you from making friends with any atheists, and guess what? It’s working.

    I like those, I’ll be tucking them into the fold of my brain for later use.

    I think one could also do something like this in order to point out the absurdity of this fool’s arguement:

    Barista: WHAT?! You guys are as much a religion as any other religion!
    … No — not at all. The buses?! What about the buses! With those signs… You guys are proselytizing now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys met regularly and had sermons. You do, don’t you?
    Me: In that case Starbucks must be a religion for you, they proselytize, they have signs every where, you and your fellow employees meet regularly… most days of the week in fact, by your standard it must be a religion.

    Seriously though, according to the mindset of this dimwit, atheists should just shut up and stay in their atheist closest or else be considered a religion.

    What a turd.

  • Matto the Hun

    A t-shirt and a bus ad doesn’t exactly constitute proselytizing. And since when is proselytizing a sufficient or necessary condition for religion?

    But if it did then attorney Ken Nugent must be the friggin’ pope of Atlanta lawyers. You can’t throw a brick in this town w/o hitting one of his ads* “One call, that’s all.”

    Come to think of it, he did have a TV ad where he was wielding lighting to stop an auto accident. That was very Thor-like or Zeusian of him.

    *Note to self, stop throwing bricks, it’s how our TV got broke and my arms are getting really sore.

  • Indigo

    What the fark is a Barista? Is that a French word meaning ‘coffee making douchebag’?
    It’s Italian for “bartender”, and it entered the English language almost thirty years ago. And no, it is not the same thing as a cashier. Cashiers run the cash register, baristas make drinks on the espresso bar (hence the term).
    Sorry to drag things further off topic, but I get really damn sick of people thinking it’s okay be a huge jerk towards someone just because of their employment. This particular barista behaved inappropriately, that’s no reason to go around degrading everyone else who has the same job – unless I get to say “Office worker, what’s that, corporatese for pen-pushing assholes?”

  • J Myers

    I don’t get it…how is being an atheist, or meeting with other atheists in a “group” setting proselytizing?

    No one said that either of these things were; Baristard* was clearly referring to the bus ads as “proselytizing.”

    *Taking Indigo’s point, I’ll note that I am referring to this particular Barista, and not Baristas in general, many of whom I’m sure are Baristastic.

  • Idaho Bob

    Thanks NoWoo – you nailed it. Best response on this board by far.

    I’ll be using that. (With your permission of course).

    Bob.

  • Julia

    * “Last time I checked, it says Starbucks Coffee on the sign, not Church Of Starbucks.”

    hehehe
    I used to meet my best friend at the “Church of Starbucks” regularly during highschool. She was catholic and was only allowed out on weekday evenings if she was going to mass, so she’d call me up and ask if I wanted to meet her at “church”.

  • Anne

    Uh, I didn’t see any arrogant Xian in this story. I saw someone who had an ignorant opinion which the atheist in this story had the opportunity to correct. In fact, if anyone was arrogant, it was the atheist who thought the person behind the counter should juist take his word for it and shut up.

    I’ve got to think very few minds were ever changed by snappy one-liners.

    If you’re not willing to have discussions about your beliefs with people of different beliefs, then why bother wearing the fucking t-shirt?

  • sc0tt


    Don’t wear the pin if you can’t handle the heat.

    I’m really not sure what you were going for with your comment, or why you quoted me.

    I assumed the “pin” in the earlier post (by K) you quoted was a metaphor for a label similar to the way the shirt was a label, and you said there was no pin. My point was that K had a point.

    Maybe I missed the meaning of the pin metaphor, haven’t heard that expression before.

  • gmcfly

    The tone sounds more like playful banter than anything. The exaggeration, the throwaway claims, the laughing.

    I suspect our barista was flirting with Darryl. Or at least trying to get a bored-looking guy to come out of his shell a little.

    The fact that Darryl engaged him in the argument may have been mistaken for an invitation to a round of friendly verbal sparring.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    @Anne: yes, the barista should have taken his word for it. The arrogance was precisely in assuming she knew better what atheism is than the atheist himself. The barista doesn’t need to shut up, as far as I’m concerned, but it might be nice if she had let Darryl finish his explanation. It sounds to me like Darryl would have been more than happy to correct the barista, but she didn’t really let him, did she?

  • http://www.quietatheist.com Slugsie

    I have to agree with the first two commenters. The Bald hair colour, and not collecting stamps are perfect analogies that you can quickly rattle off. If you have more time then you can go into more depth, but in the quoted situation you need to be quick and concise.

  • http:/www.lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com Lyvvie

    Anne said:

    Uh, I didn’t see any arrogant Xian in this story. I saw someone who had an ignorant opinion which the atheist in this story had the opportunity to correct. In fact, if anyone was arrogant, it was the atheist who thought the person behind the counter should just take his word for it and shut up.

    I’ve got to think very few minds were ever changed by snappy one-liners.

    If you’re not willing to have discussions about your beliefs with people of different beliefs, then why bother wearing the fucking t-shirt?

    I agree the Barista wasn’t professing Christianity, and was rather ignorant and certainly very rude. However this is a situation of being at the front line of a Starbucks, assuming it’s busy as I’ve certainly never seen an empty one, and being callously challanged by someone who doesn’t know there’s a time and place for such discussions. In this situation, a few quips are useful. You can’t expect to have a religious debate at the front of a line at a busy coffee house. The Barista didn’t really offer a chance for any kind of correction; already cemented on the idea that atheism is a religion.

    I don’t believe Darryl behaved arrogantly at all. Perhaps next time Darryl should offer the opportunity to discuss it further at a more appropriate time and place. Yet considering who he was dealing with; would anyone have invited that person to a meeting of minds?

  • AnonyMouse

    “Are you an atheist?”

    Projected answer: “No.”

    “Then how, exactly, do you know what we do or don’t practice?”

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/traffician traffician

    AJ:

    bus ads, shirts, and groups
    do not non-stamp-collecting
    a religion make
    .~.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/traffician traffician

    nowoo: thanks, i really like that scoresheet of religious markers.

    i also liked that not getting me my coffee equates as doing your job, and not leaving a tip equates to being a big tipper.

    is abstinence a sexual position?

  • nowoo

    Idaho Bob (and anyone else) you have my permission to use that response if you want to. As I wrote, I derived it from another source myself, so that author deserves the credit.

    Another response I’ve used before in a situation similar to this original post:

    atheist: a person without a belief in the existence of gods

    aleprechaunist: a person without a belief in the existence of leprechauns

    If a theist claims that atheism is a religion to which he himself does not belong, then he must agree that aleprechaunism is a religion to which he does belong (unless he happens to believe in both gods and leprechauns).

  • Pingback: Criticism vs. Censorship « skeptigirl

  • atom

    Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    Sure, but people who don’t collect stamps do not spend time talking about not collecting stamps, or spend time/money on campaigns creating awareness about not collecting stamps.

  • J Myers

    atom, I know it’s a long thread, but if you read through the above, you’ll see that that paltry criticism has already been addressed by several different commenters.

  • J Myers

    atom, I know it’s a long thread, but if you read through the above, you’ll see that that paltry criticism has already been addressed by several commenters.

  • J Myers

    Ah, my first double-post! I got an error the first time, I swear…

  • Polly

    Sure, but people who don’t collect stamps do not spend time talking about not collecting stamps, or spend time/money on campaigns creating awareness about not collecting stamps.

    Is it really that hard to understand? Religion is all around us and gets to be coercive oftentimes. God doesn’t exist as far as we’re concerned, but we still have to deal with pushy believers in civic and personal life.

    Take a look at the topics covered by atheist blogs: creationism in schools, mandatory “moments of silence”, faith-based opposition to gay rights, how to respond to theists’ dumb or demeaning antics, familial schisms due to rigid religious beliefs, etc.

  • http://www.cvaas.org calladus

    I think it is very telling that the term “Religion” is being used as a sort of insult.

    It’s like a bucket of religious crabs who spy an atheist crab on the rim of the bucket. They all have to pull the atheist crab down to their own level.

    I would ask, “Why are you using the term ‘religion’ in an insulting and derogatory manner? Are you an atheist? Non-religious? Or do you just not take religion very seriously?”

    When a religious person tries to frame atheism as “just another religion” – this says more about their own disdain toward religions.


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