Faithfully Ignorant

It’s not often I am presented with the opportunity to tout my atheism and gloat. After all, we of little faith generally do not win any popularity contests. Or elections, for that matter. But we did come out ahead in a recent Pew Research Center survey on religious knowledge:

Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences. [full article]

It’s not always easy being a faithless heathen in a country full of God-fearing believers, even if we are possessed of greater religious knowledge (and the occasional demon). Granted, times have changed. In years past, we might have gotten invited to the occasional barbecue (featuring us as the main entree). Now, the worst we might face is a look of scorn or pity or, ironically, disbelief. I guess folks have the Muslims to get all hot and bothered about instead.

Anyway, if you’d like to take a 15-question sample of the Pew survey, follow this link. In case you’re wondering, I aced it—15 out of 15 correct. I’m going to savor this moment while I can, since an eternity in hell (where the televisions are all tuned to Fox News) reportedly awaits me.

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14 responses

  1. I don’t follow any specific religion,but I never understood atheists.
    Here’s why-even accepting the “big bang”theory of universal creation,I have never heard a credible explanation how hydrogen created itself-or the “spark” for that matter.
    Hawking,the disabled scientist proffers the explanation that some advanced theory of physics allows for the spontaneous creation of the universe.
    I may be totally ignorant relating to physics and math,but I do recognize that the part(us)cannot understand the whole nor can we truly imagine what infinity or timelessness are either.It’s obvious “space” can never “end”,but we cannot grasp that.
    All of which argues for the existence of a higher power we cannot ever understand.
    I just acept it.As far as hell and all that stuff,I don’t worry about it-once we shuffle off to Buffalo,whatever happens or doesn’t happen is out of our control.
    FWIW I pray-I just don’t follow rules or rituals for doing so.

    1. I agree that there is much beyond our ken, that the complexity of the universe and its origins will always exceed the capacity of our knowledge. However, I cannot make that cognitive leap which equates the lack of a credible explanation with the existence of a higher power. While such a power might help to explain how the universe came about, how does one then explain the creation of that higher power? Some things will never be entirely grasped, and we must simply learn to live with the uncertainty and ambiguity.

      1. I hope you’re not referring to me as saying that being a pagan doesn’t count as a belief system.As a matter of fact I’ve read a lot more about pagan beliefs than about “conventional”religion and I don’t discount what amny pagans have believed.It’s no more incredible than believing in saints,maybe less so,because paganism tends to credit natural forces with powers beyond imagining.
        I did question how one can be a pagan and Unitarian simultaneously,since I have always assumed Unitarianism is a Christian set.
        Saying you have spirituality without a creed is exactly what I said in response to David.

  2. You’d actually get more than a look of scorn or pity in a Moslem country for espousing your beliefs.Probably at least a caning.

  3. Secular Christians and secular Muslims have to support one another on religious freedom. Unfortunately, fanatics in both religions are doing their best to prevent that.
    I’ve always thought that atheists in this culture are more likely to have deeply considered religion and god, and why and whether.
    Pagans in this culture have to endure being misunderstood, slandered, and some– not naming any names– drop heavy hints that we don’t even count as a religious practice. Spirituality without a creed is a leap, but I jumped off the edge long ago.
    I spent enough time in a Pentecostal church to fear eternity there more than being Left Behind.

    1. Oops-I left a reply for David that should have gone to you.
      So,David-you make my point.What made the higher power?We’ll never know that and we need to accept it.
      I think the fact that humans are intelligent has made us susceptible to thinking we’re entitled to know the reson for everything-we aren’t,or we would know.

  4. Surprising myself, I got 13 correct or 87%, I did not correctly answer the question about the First Great Awakening. And I waffled between Hinduism and Buddhism on Nirvana and lost.

    Really, regardless of your faith, most of the questions seemed pretty much common knowledge for anyone who grew up in the US. It kind of makes me worry about the depth of our cultural understanding that so many people did so poorly.

    1. I found the 15 question version and got 14 of 15.I missed the Great Awakening question.Don’t feel bad on the Nirvana question-Buddhism originated in India,so it’s easy to pick Hinduism on that one.

  5. I was only able to access six questions,but got them all correct.I studied history extensively and maybe that’s why I am knowledgeable about religion-it’s not like I read the Bible.

    1. I just realized something-look at how non-specific the word “read” is here.I used it correctly,but the tense cannot be determined from the usage here.
      Does it mean I didn’t read the Bible in the past or does it mean I don’t read it now?
      In this case both answers are correct,but just think how sometimes language cannot define what you’re trying to say accurately.
      This post was entirely devoid of political content.

  6. 12 outta 15 for me. Sadly, I missed the Sabbath question (going too fast), the Pakistan religion question (read it ages ago and loss the coin flip), and lost another coin flip on the great awakening question.

    I guessed at teacher’s being able to read from the bible as a literature.

    However, I don’t think these questions have much to do with what you know about religion, honestly. Religion isn’t just about knowing a set of rules and regulations and not once did a question reference love, redemption, charity, et. al.

    I felt more like I was taking a history quiz than testing my religious bona fides.

    1. Thank you Don,belief ,or faith ,or whatever,isn’t connected to religion in my book-awe of creation is what it’s about.
      Religion is about ritual.And to be honest(props to Nancy)the pagans have it all over the “standard” religions for the vitality of their belief systems.I have a whole library on pagan religions.

    2. Hey Don,
      Blessed are the Peacemakers. Thanks for joining the discussion.

  7. Elisabeth Cantor | Reply

    I scored 80%.
    I am not a religious person.
    I guess I’m in great company!

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