Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says
Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says
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.”
Tuesday September 28th, 2010 @ 11:03am
Really? “bright spots”? you mean things anyone on the face of the planet would know?
Tuesday September 28th, 2010 @ 1:38pm
This doesn’t surprise me at all.
Tuesday September 28th, 2010 @ 6:57pm
This doesn’t surprise anyone with a coherent brain.
Tuesday September 28th, 2010 @ 7:01pm
I find it funny how religious fundamentalists tell me that I should read their books in order to “better understand” their religion cults *faith*, because they clearly miss out on the bullshit which is in their books.
Tuesday September 28th, 2010 @ 7:02pm
I find it funny how religious fundamentalists tell me that I should read their books in order to “better understand” their
religion cults*faith*, because they clearly miss out on the bullshit which is in their books.
Thursday September 30th, 2010 @ 5:15pm
“that Jesus was born in Bethlehem”
Actually, that’s under much debate. It’s contraindicated in the gospels themselves, not to mention the archeological record indicates Bethlehem wasn’t even a functioning town during the period Jesus would’ve been born.
They must not have had many atheists or agnostics putting together the survey or they would’ve known that. ;-)
Saturday October 2nd, 2010 @ 7:04am
I find this hilarious, and it also sheds some light on an experience of mine. When I was in boot camp the drill instructor stood in front of the platoon and told all of the catholics to stand in one line and the protestants to stand in another. They weren’t profiling, they were just trying to get a rough idea of the numbers that would be going to each service (they lumped the protestants into one generic service.) As children most catholics are told explicitly that they are by their parents, while they may not appreciate the nuances of the eucharist, they can identify themselves as catholics. When I saw a little less than half of the room collect in the catholic line, and everone else stood around looking clueless and no one got in the other line, I felt compelled to speak up. I then exclaimed in a loud voice “alright! if the church you go to is Methodist, baptist, lutheran, etc. then you are a PROTESTANT and you probably wanna get in this line! At that point they started to get it and as the line started to form my voice trailed off “you know…Maritn luther? Henry VIII? protestant reformation? 95 theses? anyone? anyone?….” and I quietly withdrew from my attempt at a history lesson. I of course was the only guy in the room that stood in neither line, a fact that seemed almost overwhelmingly ironic to me at the time, but now seems rather appropriate considering this study.
ISLAM IS GOOD
Monday October 4th, 2010 @ 7:44pm
atheists don’t know what REAL islam is!
Monday October 4th, 2010 @ 7:47pm
Yes we do.
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 7:13am
Let me guess. You think real Islam is… good?
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 12:22pm
“atheists don’t know what REAL islam is!”… because ‘Islam’ is just a Rorschach inkblot. It’s completely ambiguous nonsense onto which you can put absolutely any moral, ethic or idea – it has no rational or empirical basis whatsoever, so shut the fuck up and grow up. Faith is inferior to fact. Fact.
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 5:57am
This doesn’t surprise me either. One of the reasons my own faith fizzled out was that when I got to a point where I knew I had a reasonable, defensible, well-informed faith, I found myself in a disturbing minority in faith communities.
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 2:40pm
atheists are murderes
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 2:40pm
islam doesnt kill no one its the extermist
Tuesday October 5th, 2010 @ 11:20pm
Wednesday October 6th, 2010 @ 6:38am
“islam doesnt kill no one its the extermist”…. in English next time, please. Cheers.
Wednesday October 6th, 2010 @ 9:12am
The return of labinot was less than exciting…
Friday October 8th, 2010 @ 8:40am
well, it’s not that I have some histrionic need for my comments to be responded to, but after seeing the return of Iabinot I have come to a realization. This site is much like politics, far more interested in juicy and polarizing rhetoric than bothering to actually having anything to say. I therefore tender my resignation from futher participation herein, and I wish the best to all, cheers!
Friday October 8th, 2010 @ 9:19am
We try our best to invite conversation, but nobody ever responds to our responses. They simply continue off of their old posts and continue saying things we’ve already addressed. As a simplification of what they do:
Them: Walls are made of bunny rabbits, even though they aren’t soft and fluffy and cute.
Us: Where does this claim come from? Last I checked walls were usually framed with metal or wood of some sort, and often covered with drywall or brick.
Them: Walls are made of bunny rabbits, even though they aren’t soft and fluffy and cute. Clearly you don’t know anything or you would have responded to this post.
Friday October 8th, 2010 @ 9:24am
Shame. Your inputs are usually interesting.
If only we had a similar level of intelligence from the other side.
It’s mostly ignorant teenagers who can’t be reasoned with.
Tuesday October 12th, 2010 @ 11:14pm
Islam isn’t a religion at all. Muslims are a race that look to there holy book for answers. The Qu’ran has no meaning at all its up to the person reading it to understand it for themselves. That is the fundamental meaning behind the book and there are alot of people who clump together because they believe the same thing that the book told them so thats where we have Islam ,etc.
Tuesday October 12th, 2010 @ 11:43pm
There’s a lot of wrong in this post.
A lot of it.
Wednesday October 13th, 2010 @ 5:02pm
1. Your comment has no meaning at all — it’s up to the person reading it to understand it for themselves (how completely ridiculous it is).
2. Definition for religion:
re·li·gion /rɪˈlɪdʒən/ Show Spelled
[ri-lij-uhn] Show IPA
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
How can Islam NOT be a religion?
3. Muslims are a race? In that case, I would like to be Irish! No? Then how about Chinese? Why can’t I be Irish or Chinese? I thought it was as easy as that just by changing my BELIEFS.
4. The Qu’ran is a nice compilation with tales of violence, violence, sexism, and yet again more violence. Oh yeah, and the Hadith mentions Muhammad tying the knot with a 6-year-old girl. [Name removed because she was a delusional sex victim of a pedophile] didn’t even begin menstruating at such an early age! Isn’t that adorable? Makes you want to get a hard on.
Wednesday October 13th, 2010 @ 5:37pm
Laughed my ass off.
Monday October 25th, 2010 @ 5:43am
the prophet married Aisyah not becos of lust. yeah he tied the knot when she was six but they did not live together till she was nine after she had her menses =.=
Monday October 25th, 2010 @ 7:10am
Stop trying to justify fucking 9 year olds.
Monday October 25th, 2010 @ 4:36pm
I bet many pedophiles would love to have you as their defense attorney.
Havanese puppies for sale
Wednesday February 22nd, 2012 @ 10:09pm