How to Identify an Atheist
The vast majority of people want to avoid offending other people and knowing what someone does or doesn't belive can help you not to be offensive. It can be easy to know what some people belive, lots of people display their beliefs by wearing certain clothing or jewellery, some will use language that shows their faith and some openly pray or offer blessings. Identifying atheists can be more difficult, an absence of any of the things that commonly show faith is an obvious start, but, not every person who worships a god advertises it. If you want to know if someone is an atheist, try these steps.
Remove your preconceptions. Atheist don't worship the devil (they don't believe in any devils more than gods!), they aren't axe murderers and they don't want to get in the way of your religious practices. With that said, atheists can be very spiritual people, seeking answers to the same Great Questions that you do. The main difference is that they just don't happen to find those answers in any god(s).
Understand why you want to know if someone is an atheist.You will have much better luck getting atheists to "come out" to you by showing that you're interested in a different worldview from yours. If you show that you're trying to gain converts, well, you'll have worse luck.
Understand that they are most easily identified by what they don't do. Some don't attend worship services (although some still do for the "community" aspect of it, most don't). They might not celebrate purely religious holidays like Easter, but they might for traditions' sake or to celebrate the time of year and a public holiday. When someone is hurting, they might say, "You're in my thoughts," as opposed to "You're in my prayers." In general, their behavior shows a marked absence of reliance on a higher power.
Ask some questions about their life in general for "clues", if appropriate.If you are often in social situations where small talk goes on, you can ask subtle, inoffensive questions that might reveal that someone has a religion, or they don't. For instance, you could ask, "What are your plans for the weekend?" If they say they are going to church on Sunday, it's very unlikely they are an atheist! You still shouldn't assume though. Around religious times of year, such as Diwali or Christmas asking about plans for the holidays could reveal beliefs. You can try to find out if someone is not an atheist by getting a group conversation going about where people were christened or baptised and lead it on to what they'd want to do for their children. You can ask about people's spouses if you think it's appropriate. Lots of people are happy to describe their wedding day, theoretically the happiest day of their life, those that got married in a religious service, and still have that faith, are likely to be identified as not atheist during a conversation like this.
Understand that they tend to be skeptics in all areas of life. It's likely that they take few things on blind faith, but you might meet the rare atheist who believes in everything but a god. On the other hand, they are also comfortable with what they don't know. With no way of knowing whether there is an afterlife, for example, they won't fill that void with something such as a deity.
If all else fails, just ask, but do so in a non-loaded way. Whatever conclusions you come to, remember you will only know if you ask. You may work out someone is not Christian and assume they are an atheist, only to later find out they are Jewish or Muslim when they are offended by your kind offer of a ham sandwich! When it comes to asking, try something like "You don't believe in God, do you?" - it's so much less confrontational than, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?"
- Sometimes the easiest way to "out" an atheist is to simply ask.
- Very few atheists, just like very few believers, are militant about it. Just as you do, they want to try to be good people and get on with their lives.
- You can try to engage them in theological debate, but this might rift whatever relationship you might have developed with them.
- Do not preach to them. Oftentimes, they've been evangelized to by the best already.
- Try to get rid of your preconceptions. Atheists are the same as all humans but they do not believe in any gods. Being an atheist does not mean anything except the lack of belief in God.
Video: ATHEIST VS AGNOSTIC
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