Survey says: that’s true. At least, it’s true according to a recent survey to check what people knew about the history and traditions that make up those faiths they claim they hold dear:
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.
Jews and Mormons came in just behind the atheist/agnostic group, which I thought was pretty interesting. I wonder if it’s because they’re both essentially exclusive faiths that have communities and social structures that don’t make it easy for any old soul to sign onto. They are real minorities so perhaps they wind up caring more about keeping the stories and traditions alive for their progeny. Just a guess there, though. I wonder if any Amish, Mennonites or Hutterites wound up part of the survey. I suspect those kinds of groups wouldn’t get much wrong on a quiz of that nature either.
They give a reason why atheists scored so well; most started in a faith in the first place. The big reason why they aren’t in the faith anymore is because they learned more about it and realized how flawed and inconsistent and just plain wrong it all was.
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’d venture a guess that it’s because deep down they know that deep study will make them question everything their parents said was true and they’d wind up atheists at the end of it as well. Atheists are, of course, evil baby eaters sitting on the Devil’s lap and loving it…
“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.
They know just what they think they need to know about their faith and the world around them and that’s it. It doesn’t matter how educated and learned they may be in their fields, the brain compartmentalizes itself to protect the beliefs in supernatural things. A lot of smart people believe in ghosts, astrology and psychics, too, after all.
Another reason atheists know so much about religions (not me maybe, but other ones) is so they can level the playing field in terms of debate. Know your enemy as the phrase goes. The enemy isn’t the religious person; the ideology is. Atheists have to understand where the faithful are coming from and meet them there or else debates and discussions might never happen at all.