Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Discussion in 'Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality' started by Traveling Man, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    L.A. Times on Religion

    Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says
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    By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
    Story posted 2010.09.27 at 09:07 PM PDT

    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."
    mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

    U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey Pew Research Center
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2010
  2. Jamesb

    Jamesb Registered User

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    I think this relates directly to "Know your enemy"
     
  3. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    Really, or is it a case of someone really delving into studying religion and carefully analyzing all perspectives? I say this because a lot of individuals claim to know "their enemies religion†when in fact they are very misinformed; such as this survey indicates.
     
  4. AhimanBeard

    AhimanBeard Registered User

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    I know I'm new here but there is one thing that bugged me about this article. It wasn't that it claimed that atheists and agnostics know more so much as they didn't differentiate in non-denominational protestants (evangelicals, fundamentalists ect..) from established stream-line Protestants like Episcopalians (which i am), Lutherans, Presbyterians or Congregationalists. I feel like that's a strange, probably unintentional, misrepresentation.
     
  5. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    It didn't differentiate between Orthodox and Reformed Jews either, nor Wahhabi or Shia Muslims.
    I also see that Deist are no where to be found… But here are some answers


     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2010
  6. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    Or could it be the level of education, as the study suggests?
     
  7. AhimanBeard

    AhimanBeard Registered User

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    Yeah I noticed that. It's frustrating, I suppose, as a regularly practicing episcopal to be lopped in with that unique brand of submissive/uneducated brand religious folk.
    I mean if they were going to do the pole and recognize that those eastern faiths (& islam) were too small to count, they should have at least, for more variety even, broken up protestant.
     
  8. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member

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    No one is an "enemy" simply because he believes differently than we do.
     
  9. MacFie

    MacFie Registered User

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    I think he was referring to the fact that a number of atheists study Christianity specifically in great detail, because they do view the major "theist" religion in the US to be their enemy, for whatever reason. Books like "The Case Against God" by George Smith. Whotever makes people happy I guess.
     
  10. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member

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    Respectfully, that is incorrect. I've read a good many of the works by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, et al, and I can safely say that they do not regard Christianity, per se, as their "enemy", though they do view (correctly, in my opinion) certain individuals and groups as enemies of religious liberty in that these individuals or groups so often seek to advance their personal beliefs to the point where they have the force of law.

    But setting aside the debate about how much influence atheists or Dominionists have over public policy, an atheist has just as much right to put forth his beliefs, and assail the validity of other beliefs, as any "true believer". Many religions often put down those who believe differently as "infidel", "lost", "demonic", "satanic", etc. It appears now, that they often do this without having done much study of the beliefs on either side, and make no mistake; atheism is most certainly a "belief". So, "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander", I say. Believe how you want. Ridicule my faith, if you want. That makes you a boor, but hardly an enemy.
     
  11. Robert Marshall

    Robert Marshall Secretary, Waco 92 Premium Member

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    I would say this is also a result of the centuries old belief that reason and faith cannot coexist. Now, of course there are great theologians like Aquinas who made considerable impacts and greatly undermined this notion, BUT, the fact remains that as a society, we tend to separate reason and faith, though more conspicuously by calling the debate one between science and religion. It's sad really because science, scientia, at its core and in original form was simply a seeking of truth and understanding. Heck, Aquinas goes so far as to say theology IS a science. And I'm on his side. However, many Middle Age and even more modern "religious" people denounce science and consider parts of it blasphemous, while many modern scientists do just as much damage by denouncing religion and suggesting that it is for stupid people. I think this latter point is where the earlier post's "Know your enemy" comes into play. Too bad, I'd say as for the most part, history's greatest scientists were religious and history's greatest theologians were certainly scientists.
     
  12. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    While the age of enlightenment changed the perspective on religion it did not dismiss it out of hand. It was not ridiculed as it is today. But I pose that individuals that waste time and energy to ridicule (someone else’s) religion are trying to make themselves feel morally superior by marginalizing those that choose to practice their personal beliefs. Somewhat like the bicoastal elites calling us in “fly over country†rubes.

    But to condemn someone for their beliefs is absolutely ludicrous and over the top. One would think that posing Pascal’s Wager would be the proper approach about the “superstitionâ€.

    An enemy, no; a boor, yes!
     
  13. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member

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    Quite right, Brother. Sir Francis Bacon who is often credited with creating "the scientific method" (he did not, but he did lay much of the groundwork), was trying to find rational and repeatable means to "know" the GAOTU and His work. While a handful of modern scientists are atheists and a few of those might ridicule spiritual things, most of them are humble enough to realize that there is still an awful lot to learn about the universe and how it works.

    Or..., like religious zealots insisting that those who don't live by their arbitrary "standards" are "infidel", "satanic", etc. You know, trying to "make themselves feel morally superior by marginalizing those that choose to practice their own personal beliefs".
    Sorry, but I see a lot more of that than I see atheists bashing believers. I have no use for either group though, because each of those that bash the other are unwilling, perhaps even afraid, to respectfully allow the other to indulge in their equally irrational positions, Pascal's wager notwithstanding. :)
    If I have a pet peeve, this is it. Far, far too much of mankind's inhumanity to itself is born of such petty and irrational bickering. While I'm put off by what might be rightly called a nihilistic streak running through Buddhist thought, his Holiness the Dalai Lama has some wonderfully loving views in his book, Toward A True Kinship Of Faiths , on how we should regard the beliefs of others.
     
  14. 6229 MAC

    6229 MAC Registered User

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    Everything has a process, good or bad. A good process provides wise checks and balances and makes for a best decision, a quality product or service, and excellent execution. A bad process rushes through an inferior design or a half-baked decision, and impedes progress. So, a wise leader allows all processes to be up for debate. No process is immune to questioning, but the discussion is to be done with dignity and respect.

    Keep the conversation focused on process and not personalities. This is why everyone holds a process with an open hand. If you become a rigid proponent of your pet process, then there is a good chance you will take any criticism of your process personally. Process, by design, is what’s best for the entire organization, not just a convenience created to accommodate someone’s preference.

    Therefore, do not overprotect a process with smothering ownership. Furthermore, challenge the process with professional courtesy. You challenge the process with respect when you speak factually and do not react emotionally. This creates calm and communicates care.

    You respect others when you listen to their ideas without becoming defensive. This allows everyone to discover and support the best process. Respect keeps the best interests of the organization in mind. This facilitates teachability, teamwork, and responsible stewardship. Anyone can complain, so challenge the process with thoughtful solutions, not mindless meandering.

    Furthermore, challenge the process with better ideas by researching other groups who have proven processes. This invites innovation. Pilot new processes before implementation, because this enhances quality. Lastly, plan a process to challenge the process because this reminds the team to think.

    God is into process. This is why He is symmetrical and systematic in His creation and design. His will is process-driven. Thankfully, He is ultimately in control of the process. Therefore, challenge mediocre processes and create superior ones. And above all else, trust God in the process and with the process.

    God has a lot of passion around precision and process, and He always has. “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks†(Genesis 6:14-16).
     

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