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Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

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Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Postby Scepcop » 29 Sep 2010, 11:44,0,3225238.story
Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says
Report says nonbelievers know more, on average, about religion than most faithful. Jews and Mormons also score high on the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey.
By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

September 28, 2010

If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.

Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term "blind faith."

A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn't identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church's central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.

Atheists and agnostics — those who believe there is no God or who aren't sure — were more likely to answer the survey's questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey's measurement of religious knowledge — so close as to be statistically tied.

So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn't," served as an advisor on the survey. "I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people," he said.

He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of "When Christians Get it Wrong," said the survey's results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.

"I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it's already accepted to be true, they don't examine other people's faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith," he said.

The Pew survey was not without its bright spots for the devout. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The question that elicited the most correct responses concerned whether public school teachers are allowed to lead their classes in prayer. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents correctly said no. However, 67% also said that such teachers are not permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, something the law clearly allows.

For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote "Moby Dick."

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Postby Scepcop » 29 Sep 2010, 11:45

I think this is true in one sense, since I learned more about Christianity from the Secular Web site than from Christian books. The Secular Web sites and articles were more willing to divulge ugly truths and verses that the Christians prefer to ignore.

Plus Christians tend to know only a one sided view of the Bible, that has been watered down to support core beliefs and doctrines. And of course, due to their religious beliefs, they have a strong bias toward the Bible, not an objective one.

Personally, I learned way more about the Bible as a non-believer than as a believer. Once you come from an objective standpoint, you learn a lot more that is unfiltered.

However, this study probably included people who merely call themselves Christians due to family traditions and lip service and the fact that they go to church regularly, rather than the Bible thumpers who can quote scriptures well.

But of course, memorizing Scriptures does not mean that one knows a lot about Christianity. Most Christians, including preachers, have no idea that the Bible borrowed it's ideas of Heaven and Hell, God vs. Satan, etc. from the religion of Zoroastrianism when Israel was under the dominion of the Persians. That is pretty clear from the evidence, but is so damaging to the doctrine that the Bible is uncorrupted infallible divine truth, that it is never mentioned.
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Postby Craig Browning » 29 Sep 2010, 23:48

Some years ago my ex and I had a little shop in Yellow Springs, Ohio that became known throughout the area as the "Witch Store"... now up the road a tad there is a Christian seminary school as well (are you seeing where this is heading?)

The day arrives when little wannabe Johnny Baptist comes into the store with bible in hand and begins "witnessing"... roughly 3 minutes into his sermon however, grandpa, a sweet looking gent well into his 60s and a retired circuit preacher from long ago days, comes into the room. "I think it's time we go... pardon us folks for the intrusion" says grandpa.

"But these people are evil and servants of Satan..." comes Johnny's reply

Nodding his head and looking a bit embarrassed the elder gent pointed to us saying, "These people probably know more about the bible than you ever will. They are not here to do harm and you need to learn to respect them as they respect us."

I was rather taken aback at what the older gent said at first but his visit about a half hour later clarified things; he understood the old ways because in his youth it was quite a common part of life to learn about nature, home remedies, midwifery, and the role of being a sounding board. He understood that much of what people now day's view as "Wicca" is based more on 18th & 19 century culture more than any kind of demonic worship. But he likewise knew from experience that most adherents of these old ways had a fondness for scripture, frequently using it in their healing work... they were likewise students of history, knowing better than most when it came to the historic paradigms surrounding a given course of faith... one might be "Pagan" but that didn't mean they were ignorant.

But then we come into the early-mid decades of the 20th century and the more public views shared by Crowley & Co. views expressed by formally educated men and women, many of them with Ph.D at the end of their names and who were fully capable of digesting even an experienced minister for lunch let alone a fresh from the classroom seminary student.

In those days we had a bookshelf in our home that was roughly seven feet wide and about 10 feet tall, each and every shelf filled with books on the Christian religion and its many faces; one shelf being nothing but a few dozen versions of the bible itself. While but a fraction of our over-all library, it is demonstration of how many "Elders" within the pagan community tend to do things... a course of action mirrored only in one other sub-group that I've personally seen; the home of atheists/agnostics... people that invested a good deal of time in honest and earnest research but who didn't find any sense of resolution when it came to their questions and concerns.

Personally, I think most of us are perpetual students...we're born with this innate need to study, especially when it is something that affects us on a personal level. Even today, I still grab up as many books as I can find on church history, doctrine, general theology and christian perspectives. While I might get annoyed at the preaching some of these tomes tend to include, they each offer nuggets of insight that either sustain previous discoveries or add to the pile of new knowledge tied to said topic.

My name is Craig and I'm Theologically Addicted... :oops:
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Re: Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Postby NinjaPuppy » 01 Oct 2010, 21:26

Hi Craig, thank for sharing.

I hear ya baby.... I hear ya!
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