Skip to comments.Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says (Compared to Believers)
Posted on 09/28/2010 6:31:00 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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.
(Excerpt) Read more at mobile.latimes.com ...
"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."
That describes me.
Most Christians accept their faith and move on, no proof needed for them any longer.
I would discard "any longer" and just stay with "No proof needed."
But it is still needed for Christians to understand their faith and have a good working knowledge of apologetics.
I was raised in a fundamentalist protestant church and did my best to believe. In college, while searching for reenforcement for my belief, I learned that I could be in good intellectual company and not believe. So, I became an atheist. Surprisingly, I felt a great sense of relief. I was amazed but I felt as if great chains had been lifted from my back. I rejoiced!
After a short while I realized one couldn't disprove God, either, so I became an agnostic but i did not give up the quest. The emptiness in my core was still there. It doesn't go away even for pretend believers. Eventually I got there and as you said and many before me had learned, proof was no longer needed.
I think many, perhaps most, churches preach the wrong gospel. Too many, like the one I attended, come down hard on Hellfire and brimstone, about all the bad things that are going to happen if you don't believe, and too little time on the peace and joy that accompany belief. Many TV evangelists have made fortunes preaching that way and throw in the miracle healings for good measure.
Others, like the new phenom, Joel Whats-his-name, emphasize applying the scriptures to the problems of everyday life. I like that idea but I don't always like the way he applies it. A proper understanding of the scriptures, if I may be so bold as to use that term. negates many of our social problems. They just don't happen, and when real problems do arise we are able to put them in proper perspective and overcome them. Think of Job.
The movers and shakers behind the Marxist agenda are purposely trying to destroy our religious foundation. Their twists are purposeful. The Useful Idiots often just don't want the guilt that goes along with doing the wrong thing. They would rather transform wrong into right. That requires the negation of God and religion.
“From this comment I assume you are a believer, right?”
No. I am a conservative atheist, one of an extremely small minority. Technically I’m closer to being an agnostic.
The reason why we are so few is that conservative atheists/agnostics are at an extremely high risk for depression and suicide. There is absolutely nothing worse than having a love for humanity, knowing the true horrors of reality, and not believing that anyone can stop the madness. It is very difficult to survive a single day. The only reason I bother continuing with life is out of an arbitrary sense of duty.
The left wing atheists don’t have to worry about this so long as they are financially stable and surrounded by worldly delights. They love all the physical pleasures of life and they couldn’t care less about evil. They are also capable of atrocities that evil that even Muslims would give pause.
“Atheists, or self worshipers tend to be highly educated. As such they feel self empowered, like the sixteen year old who thinks he knows it all, and feel they have no need for God as they are in control.”
“I think that is a pretty good explanation except that maybe you could use some other word rather that religion, as religion is what the atheists and agnostics would like to call faith, Jesus did not preach a religion he preached the truth, the ones who hung him on the cross were the ones who believed in religion.”
I agree with you.... It’s more than “faith,” it’s understanding the anatomy & physiology of the soul and the spiritual development process.
“No. I am a conservative atheist, one of an extremely small minority. Technically Im closer to being an agnostic.”
Thank you for sharing. Your comments are profound.
Read my posts 31, 35 and 41 and see if there is anything there which is helpful.
The reason why we are so few is that conservative atheists/agnostics are at an extremely high risk for depression and suicide.
Until one can get in touch with their spiritual side, we have a physical and spiritual side, each as real as the other, and find something that satisfies that side of us, there will always be an emptiness, a lack of direction, a lack of purpose.
For me it is Christianity. I have been on all sides of this issue - struggling believer, atheist, agnostic, true believer - and Christianity is as close to truth as we humans are able to get.
I’ll offer another explanation for the findings of this survey.
Atheists tend to pride themselves on a certain level of intellectual ability and they make it their business to learn things. They tend to be self-selected intellectuals. Believers however, include millions of people who are happy and devout in their faith but are not necessarily very intellectual about it. Christianity after all, is at heart about the *love* of God, not the *study* of God.
I don’t know the methodology of the study so perhaps this was addressed, but taking a self-selected sample of the population and comparing it to one from the general population is quite likely to give exactly the result they got, and probably doesn’t prove much.
Many of the Atheists I have come across seem more like people who are just angry with God. Then, there are a few that I really just don’t want to be around because they seem like they are missing something in their eyes. They are frightening. (the latter are the ones who are the loudest)
They really ARE creepy
Love the conversation.
I was in much the same boat as you both. Grew up Catholic, “outgrew” the faith pretty early and became agnostic. But as I came out of the sunshine of youth and college, I saw increasingly that the beauty of the world was marred by so much terror and death. Even the passing of time is a savage brutality in a way. And many of us on the conservative side of the spectrum have enough sense to see that drowning ourselves in hedonism is not exactly the best way to deal with that.
I was at the point where I didn’t see any purpose to the whole business. Terrifying, that thought. It occurred to me then that the only sliver of hope I had to rescue some meaning out of life was that old antiquated concept called God. So I cracked open some books and started to look at the whole question fresh.
I don’t want to be preachy here but I could not BELIEVE the profound intellectual and spiritual wisdom in Christianity when I started to delve deeply into it. There were such great writers and great thinkers (Augustine, C.S. Lewis)—and all the weird strange questions I had in all different fields of human life (morality, love, science) seemed all to come together and make sense under the umbrella of a rational, loving God. So I made my confession and came back to Church. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a finished work by any means...I still have my questions (tough questions sometimes) and I still have my difficulties. But overall, I do not regret that journey one bit.
Godspeed to you both, I’ll keep you in my prayers.
I agree. I was discussing the philosophical aspect of it all rather than the validity of the survey.
This is a key point in the logic of faith. I most often hear it when some innocent, like a beautiful 4 year old child, gets killed in an accident or is murdered. A frequent refrain is, "How could a loving God allow that to happen?" The obvious, to me, answer is that it is only tragic if THERE IS NO GOD. A loving God with a plan and a loving hereafter takes the sting out of that.
... I could not BELIEVE the profound intellectual and spiritual wisdom in Christianity when I started to delve deeply into it.
I used to work with mathematicians and other scientists and engineers. We drank together and raised Hell when on out of town trips. (And with generous expense accounts.) However, when I would bring up my Christianity they were completely turned off. I often admonished them that Christianity was a much more sophisticate and exciting intellectual pursuit that they could imagine. They just waved me off and I doubt any of them ever explored it.
Yet, were we all believers there would be no market for the thousands of self help books and rehabilitation centers. There would even be less need for our massive medical system. There is a lot behind the words with Christianity.
While a lot of you rail against this survey just because you don’t like what it says, it aligns perfectly with my own experience. Walk up to most members of an orthodox Christian faith and ask them if Jesus Christ and the Father are two separate people, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a yes.
I reject the idea drawn from it however that being educated is somehow incompatible with faith and you don’t have to look too hard for a counter example. Such as we Mormons are generally well educated, scored high on this survey, and are a growing religion too.
Rather I think those who are in a religious minority (atheists, Jews, Mormons) have to swim against the current of society to remain faithful. Their beliefs are frequently challenged by others so they have to have a better understanding of it.
There are also cultural factors. Mormons are very active in missionary work among peoples of all faiths, and that leads them to have experiences that inform them of what other faiths teach.
Instead of looking for a reason to ignore this survey, Protestant and Catholic leaders should look in the mirror and ask themselves what they can do to better inform their followers.
The link isn’t working, is there a mirror somewhere?
It’s still being hit hard, I think. I tried for 15 minutes to get a download. Everyone is trying to look at it at once.