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  1. #1
    Good Enough brownnation's Avatar
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    Default Atheists and Agnostics Outperform Believers in Survey on Religion

    Here's the NY Times article:

    Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans
    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
    Published: September 28, 2010

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

    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.

    “Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

    That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

    “I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

    Among the topics covered in the survey were: Where was Jesus born? What is Ramadan? Whose writings inspired the Protestant Reformation? Which Biblical figure led the exodus from Egypt? What religion is the Dalai Lama? Joseph Smith? Mother Teresa? In most cases, the format was multiple choice.

    The researchers said that the questionnaire was designed to represent a breadth of knowledge about religion, but was not intended to be regarded as a list of the most essential facts about the subject. Most of the questions were easy, but a few were difficult enough to discern which respondents were highly knowledgeable.

    On questions about the Bible and Christianity, the groups that answered the most right were Mormons and white evangelical Protestants.

    On questions about world religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, the groups that did the best were atheists, agnostics and Jews.

    One finding that may grab the attention of policy makers is that most Americans wrongly believe that anything having to do with religion is prohibited in public schools.

    An overwhelming 89 percent of respondents, asked whether public school teachers are permitted to lead a class in prayer, correctly answered no.

    But fewer than one of four knew that a public school teacher is permitted “to read from the Bible as an example of literature.” And only about one third knew that a public school teacher is permitted to offer a class comparing the world’s religions.

    The survey’s authors concluded that there was “widespread confusion” about “the line between teaching and preaching.”

    Mr. Smith said the survey appeared to be the first comprehensive effort at assessing the basic religious knowledge of Americans, so it is impossible to tell whether they are more or less informed than in the past.

    The phone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish in May and June. There were not enough Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu respondents to say how those groups ranked.

    Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:

    ¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

    ¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

    ¶ Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

    The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Teresa was Roman Catholic.
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  2. #2
    Good Enough pal1800's Avatar
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    That's why it's called faith. You don't need to know the facts. Yeah.......

  3. #3
    Forum Frontman It's Mike's Avatar
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    not shocking. Those who aren't of one certain faith are much more likely to know a little bit about all faiths.

  4. #4
    Good Enough brownnation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by It's Mike View Post
    not shocking. Those who aren't of one certain faith are much more likely to know a little bit about all faiths.
    Yeah, I wasn't surprised by it either. I was just posting it because I have run into a lot of misconceptions and generalizations about atheists, a little on this board, but more in general: atheists don't know anything about faith belief so they can't understand it; atheists have never read "the word"; atheists just negate everything religious a priori; etc. etc.

    This survey kind of goes against the grain of those types of assertions.
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  5. #5
    Hang 'Em High RRMB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brownnation View Post
    Yeah, I wasn't surprised by it either. I was just posting it because I have run into a lot of misconceptions and generalizations about atheists, a little on this board, but more in general: atheists don't know anything about faith belief so they can't understand it; atheists have never read "the word"; atheists just negate everything religious a priori; etc. etc.

    This survey kind of goes against the grain of those types of assertions.
    I've been on both sides of this argument. For a while I was out to prove religion to be crap. Then things happened in my life that I have not been able to rationally conclude where anything but "divine intervention."

    It's people that claim to atheists/agnostic, with out having done any research, reading or having had any experience, other than what they have heard George Carlin, Bill Maher, etc. say. They haven't even read The Bible, Q'uaran, etc.

    I was watching a "Christian" comedian give his testimoy and he was golfing with another comedian, who asked if he was a Christian he told the guy he was an atheist. But he had never been to church, read The Bible, etc. The other guy said; "that doesn't make you an atheist, it makes you a moron. "Atheists have educated themselves on all the worlds religions and come to their conclusion."

    Do I begrudge the ones that have studied and come to their conclusions?? Nope. Not at all. I like Carlin, Maher, et' al. But it also doesn't change my opinion that one can't fully argue, on either side of the religion issue, without having studied. The ones that let others opinion become their opinions are lazy and give them no creedence. The ones that have studied, I enjoy rationally discussing views with. It just gives me another view point to study.
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    Good Enough brownnation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redrockinmonkeyboy View Post
    I've been on both sides of this argument. For a while I was out to prove religion to be crap. Then things happened in my life that I have not been able to rationally conclude where anything but "divine intervention."

    It's people that claim to atheists/agnostic, with out having done any research, reading or having had any experience, other than what they have heard George Carlin, Bill Maher, etc. say. They haven't even read The Bible, Q'uaran, etc.

    I was watching a "Christian" comedian give his testimoy and he was golfing with another comedian, who asked if he was a Christian he told the guy he was an atheist. But he had never been to church, read The Bible, etc. The other guy said; "that doesn't make you an atheist, it makes you a moron. "Atheists have educated themselves on all the worlds religions and come to their conclusion."

    Do I begrudge the ones that have studied and come to their conclusions?? Nope. Not at all. I like Carlin, Maher, et' al. But it also doesn't change my opinion that one can't fully argue, on either side of the religion issue, without having studied. The ones that let others opinion become their opinions are lazy and give them no creedence. The ones that have studied, I enjoy rationally discussing views with. It just gives me another view point to study.
    I think that is mostly fair. There is the flipside to that and I think this study brings that out a little bit and that is that there are also a bunch of ill-informed people out there about their own faith belief. I don't have a problem of ignorance (used in its most literal definition) of one's own faith system, it is ignorance of one's own beliefs PLUS the condemnation of other faiths, beliefs or non-belief that gets a lot weird.
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  7. #7
    Forum Frontman It's Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brownnation View Post
    Yeah, I wasn't surprised by it either. I was just posting it because I have run into a lot of misconceptions and generalizations about atheists, a little on this board, but more in general: atheists don't know anything about faith belief so they can't understand it; atheists have never read "the word"; atheists just negate everything religious a priori; etc. etc.

    This survey kind of goes against the grain of those types of assertions.

    i think most who would call themselves an atheist or an agnostic probably only does after looking into religion (probably more than 1) so I'm not shocked that they would know about other religions than say a Christian. I know that I haven't spent much time considering the theory behind other religions myself.

    I haven't met many stupid atheists/agnostics. I've met dickhead atheists/agnostics, but they're usually pretty damn bright. They tend to be pretty knowledgable other the faith of others.

  8. #8
    Damage your reputation seenbad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brownnation View Post
    I don't have a problem of ignorance (used in its most literal definition) of one's own faith system, it is ignorance of one's own beliefs PLUS the condemnation of other faiths, beliefs or non-belief that gets a lot weird.
    I think a pretty significant thing to note here when talking about ignorance to a faith, is that identifying Martin Luther as the leader of the reform movement has very little to do with understanding the message of Jesus Christ. Church history is interesting to say the least, but it's just history of the church and the people in it and has very little to do with the red letters...

    Am I familiar with Martin Luther? Yes. Am I surprised that 53 percent of Christians weren't? Not in the least. As a make up question, ask those 53 percent what Saul's profession was before becoming Paul. It's another question that really doesn't have direct correlation to the "red letters", but it's at least referenced in the book from which we believe is God's written word (not to discredit God's work in Saul by any means/just making a point).

    Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:
    I highly doubt that, because these questions really have nothing to do with their actual faith. That's ridiculous. There is no test you need to pass on church history and the who's who to lay claim to a faith. Yes, some faiths you will need to get a lay of the land to some degree (don't forget to get on your knees at 1pm every day new muslims! East! Not West! And get ready for some cardio work Catholics! There will be a lot of standing up and sitting down! Take a trip to the underwear store Mormons!), but a person can gain salvation with very little information at the onset. A relationship with God can come second.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redrockinmonkeyboy View Post
    I was watching a "Christian" comedian give his testimoy and he was golfing with another comedian, who asked if he was a Christian he told the guy he was an atheist. But he had never been to church, read The Bible, etc. The other guy said; "that doesn't make you an atheist, it makes you a moron. "Atheists have educated themselves on all the worlds religions and come to their conclusion."
    that's odd ... because that actually reads the christian as an idiot. not only do you NOT have to know all the worlds religions to understand why they are false, it implies the christian is a moron BECAUSE he is indoctrinated into the cult.

    notice the attempt at the clever little 'indoctrination' name calling there, as if somehow the christian ACTUALLY CHOSE to believe in a zombie in the sky that is his own father?

    entertaining turn of phrase -- especially if you don't understand what is actually being said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Redrockinmonkeyboy View Post
    Do I begrudge the ones that have studied and come to their conclusions?? Nope. Not at all. I like Carlin, Maher, et' al. But it also doesn't change my opinion that one can't fully argue, on either side of the religion issue, without having studied. The ones that let others opinion become their opinions are lazy and give them no creedence. The ones that have studied, I enjoy rationally discussing views with. It just gives me another view point to study.
    ahhhh yes. the ol' you don't know my 'retarded fictional bullshit that i believe in therefore you don't know what you are talking about' nonsense.

    having a rational (read: logical) conversation with a christian is like talking to a fucking wall. there is NO such thing as having a rational conversation with a cultist because the conversation is NOT based on logic (rationality) but on one person presenting logic to the degree it is possible (the atheist) and the xtian RATIONALIZING (get it? haha, turn of phrase, i'm a fucking comedian!) their beleif in fiction.

    the conversation is always the same:

    xtian: i believe in some bullshit for which i have no evidence AT ALL

    atheist: well here are some socilogical, philosophical, physical, evolutionary, historical, political arguments and some reasonable and light evidence that anyone can review.

    xtian: name calling, random nonsensical spewing of their particular cultist fiction, more name calling

    rinse and repeate. just watch the responses here.

  11. #11
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    45% of Catholics did not recognize that the church recognizes the consecrated host as literally the body and blood of Christ? they never heard of the doctine of transubstantiation?

    hey, being raised "half Catholic" even I knew that, (it's a pretty basic belief of the church and one that sets the Catholic Church apart from the Protestant) and I went thru catechism with the Lutherans! the LUTHERANS!......what do these jokers think the big deal about the tabernacle is? do they think it's a freakin toaster oven to keep the host "fresh"?

    lotta lapsed Catholics around I guess.

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    look, lets not pretend that cultists and non cultists have ANYTHING to discuss rationally.

    the whole conversation reduces to the following:

    * xtians typically only know WHAT they believe, NOT why
    * xtians typically don't know anything about their religion, never mind not ever actually having read the bible
    * xtians don't even know that the bible is a set of political documents (while the new testament is not only a set of political documents we even have the missing pages/sections, there is some evidence that the old testatment is pretty much the same)

    on top of not actually knowing anything about their own fiction, xtians believe that a rational conversation equates to conversations WITHIN the topic of xtianity WITHOUT understanding any of the following:

    * psychology
    * socioligy
    * philosophy
    * mathematics
    * ethics
    * evolution
    * history
    * the nature of systems
    * the nature of the scientific method
    * the nature of reason
    * the nature of data (what is data and what is not data)
    * etc.

    if you are going to make the claim that you only respect atheists that understand your particular brand of fictional bullshit, at least have the courtesy to understand that if YOU want respect you need to know A LOT MORE than simply your on particular fiction, which by definition you are virtually guaranteed to know nothing about.

    afterall, we are all entitled to believe what we want, we simply are not entitled to our own facts.

  13. #13
    Good Enough brownnation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seenbad View Post
    I think a pretty significant thing to note here when talking about ignorance to a faith, is that identifying Martin Luther as the leader of the reform movement has very little to do with understanding the message of Jesus Christ. Church history is interesting to say the least, but it's just history of the church and the people in it and has very little to do with the red letters...

    Am I familiar with Martin Luther? Yes. Am I surprised that 53 percent of Christians weren't? Not in the least. As a make up question, ask those 53 percent what Saul's profession was before becoming Paul. It's another question that really doesn't have direct correlation to the "red letters", but it's at least referenced in the book from which we believe is God's written word (not to discredit God's work in Saul by any means/just making a point).



    I highly doubt that, because these questions really have nothing to do with their actual faith. That's ridiculous. There is no test you need to pass on church history and the who's who to lay claim to a faith. Yes, some faiths you will need to get a lay of the land to some degree (don't forget to get on your knees at 1pm every day new muslims! East! Not West! And get ready for some cardio work Catholics! There will be a lot of standing up and sitting down! Take a trip to the underwear store Mormons!), but a person can gain salvation with very little information at the onset. A relationship with God can come second.
    Yeah, some questions were general about religious history, but others, such as the one Daisy pointed out, were about theology and church doctrine.

    But a general survey like this is good to make a broader point, which is why I posted it: 1) the irreligious engage in religious thought all the time and do not simply dismiss it out of hand and 2) there are a lot of religious adherents that don't really analyze a lot about religion.

    While I agree with you, the study doesn't necessarily show this (although you could argue it points to it in places such as the transubstantiation question), but I wouldn't necessarily be so quick to assume that religious people understand the theology of their own denomination, or even a broader theological understanding of Christian salvation. Or to use your example, even know what Jesus says about stuff.

    So, yes, I agree with you, this study doesn't show that atheists/agnostics are better versed in the salvation history of the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, or denominational theology. But, I wouldn't bet against them!
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    Quote Originally Posted by seenbad View Post
    I think a pretty significant thing to note here when talking about ignorance to a faith, is that identifying Martin Luther as the leader of the reform movement has very little to do with understanding the message of Jesus Christ. Church history is interesting to say the least, but it's just history of the church and the people in it and has very little to do with the red letters...

    Am I familiar with Martin Luther? Yes. Am I surprised that 53 percent of Christians weren't? Not in the least. As a make up question, ask those 53 percent what Saul's profession was before becoming Paul. It's another question that really doesn't have direct correlation to the "red letters", but it's at least referenced in the book from which we believe is God's written word (not to discredit God's work in Saul by any means/just making a point).



    I highly doubt that, because these questions really have nothing to do with their actual faith. That's ridiculous. There is no test you need to pass on church history and the who's who to lay claim to a faith. Yes, some faiths you will need to get a lay of the land to some degree (don't forget to get on your knees at 1pm every day new muslims! East! Not West! And get ready for some cardio work Catholics! There will be a lot of standing up and sitting down! Take a trip to the underwear store Mormons!), but a person can gain salvation with very little information at the onset. A relationship with God can come second.
    how is IGNORANCE about your FICTION anything to be proud of?

    how can you know WHAT you believe if you know NOTHING about what you believe?

    if ALL you know if fiction HOW can you know FACT?

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    Damage your reputation seenbad's Avatar
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    Sir, I do believe you have missed the point of my post. Nor did I ever state it was anything to be "proud of", but rather insinuated that not knowing Martin Luther's specific history has nothing to do with ignorance of ones faith.

    ....really?

    lol
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