Should you take the first cab that comes along?

In an article in Salon titled Don’t Trust the Godless, Jesse Bering says that even though he is an atheist, he trusts religious people to do the right thing more than the godless. As an example, when he looks for a cab in a strange city, he prefers to take one that has prominently displayed religious icons such as crucifixes and Bibles over those that don’t. He seems to have swallowed whole the idea that belief in god makes people behave better because of their fear of divine retribution.

PZ Myers rightly smacks down his arguments. In the process, he argues against the practice of choosing an overtly religious cabdriver, not the least because it violates cab stand etiquette, saying that “The correct answer is that when you see a taxi queue outside a rail station or airport, you take the first cab in line.

While I agree with PZ in his criticisms of Bering’s arguments, I have to disagree with him on his choice of which cab to take on grounds that have nothing to do with religion. Doesn’t PZ read or watch any spy fiction? If he did, he would know that you never take the first cab because those always contain the bad guys who are planning to kidnap you. You must always let a few cabs go by before getting into one.

So you should always allow a couple of people to get ahead of you in line for the cabs. I know this works because I have never been captured by enemy agents.


  1. Brownian says

    I never got around to coordinating it, but I once fantasised about getting together a group of people, going to the airport, and cabbing back. The first person would take the first available cab and tell the driver “Take me downtown, and make sure I’m not followed!”, and each person after would wait a beat or two, then hop into the next available cab, shouting “follow that cab!” Ideally, there would be a chain of five or ten cabs racing into the city.*

    *Oh yeah, this is why I never put the effort into coordinating the stunt. It seemed too potentially dangerous for all the participants involved, including the cab drivers and other innocents on the road.

  2. Eric says

    Hitchens has talked about this idea and said quite the opposite of Bering, something to the effect that if walking down a street at dusk and saw a large group of men coming toward him, he’d be relieved to learn that they were not religious (I think the scenario was ‘coming out of a prayer meeting’), and he cited several examples of witnessed violence in such scenarios. At any rate, I think in the most tense of areas, i.e. the Middle East, Bering’s notion that religious people would ‘behave themselves’ falls apart pretty readily.

  3. smrnda says

    Perhaps it’s the fact that the guy is male? As a woman I get a uncomfortable when I step into a semi-intimate setting (like getting into a cab) with some strange guy anyway. All the religious paraphernalia would make me think the guy was probably a bit sexist to begin with, and would probably judge me for being out late without a male chaperone or would be wondering where I was going and what I was up to.

    I think a deal with cab drivers is perhaps a bit more classism on his part. He’s an educated journalist. It might be true that religious working-class people are more submissive and obsequious towards people they assume to be of a higher social standing.

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