After witnessing Dave Silverman’s lecture at the February Backyard Skeptics meeting, (see the Streaming Link at backyardskeptics.com for a free viewing) I decided to do a test at his suggestion. I have a T-shirt with the word “Atheist” in large letters with the caption “Come out – Reality is fine”. The ‘test’ was to wear this at a very popular travel show convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center several weeks ago.
Dave mentioned in his lecture that a shirt similar to mine, worn by him 20 years ago, brought a plethora of negative comments when worn in public (Dave did a lot of flying and wore the shirt in airports all over the country). Now, all the comments are positive, showing anecdotal evidence about how perception of the non-believer has changed in just two decades.
So how did people react in a very populated and public setting such as a travel show? As soon as the first person said ‘I like your shirt”, my wife said “start counting!” So I did. Comment after comment was positive. Not one negative comment, although I did get a negative head shake by one travel company employee there which I counted as a negative ‘hit’ in my informal count.
Five positive comments were heard in total, some from the vendors at the show (I wonder what their basses would think if they overheard the complement – would they be punished for a positive comment against the superior’s religious views?). One loud comment was from the Starbucks employee, which had some heads turning from the people in line. I had a Mocha without whip cream.
The next test was in the airport going to Chicago for work at a swing dance convention. (I’m in the video business and record these convention over a three-day period). No comments at LAX, but in Chicago coming back, one traveler, a professional trombone player, said ‘nice shirt’. We struck up a pleasant conversation that passed the time as we waited for our delayed flight to leave. And while boarding in the jetway, a suited man turned around and said “nice shirt – you must get a lot of flak for that!” I responded that just the opposite happens, that I receive nearly all positive comments. (I find the looks of passengers most interesting while walking down the aisle during flight)
When I first became an advocate of atheism 7 years ago, I was worried of what people would think of such a bold statement of ‘non-faith’ Now I know that the result of wearing such an outted symbol not only lets others know that is OK to sport such a shirt (no stab wounds yet) but that atheism is becoming more accepted in our culture, and that discussion and discourse is more open than even on the subject.
Try it yourself. Start with an ‘A’ pin fro Richard Dawkins foundation, move up to a shirt with a axiom or quote, then graduate to a bright shirt with an obvious “I am a proud atheist”.