Well, here’s a headline for the pantheon of “news that isn’t really news.” It joins such gems as “World’s Oldest Man Dies” and “Anti-Gay Activist Caught in Gay Tryst.”
A new Pew Research Center Poll titled “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey” shows that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than believers–even fundamentalists!
Nonbelievers scored an average of 21 out of 32 questions about major religions, better than Jews and Mormons (2o out of 32). Protestants and Catholics scored a pitiful 16 and 15, respectively.
Among the findings:
- Only 85% of those polled knew that an atheist was someone who doesn’t believe in God. (How is this possible?)
- Less than half could correctly identify the Four Gospels (Larry, Mo, Curly, and Shemp, for those keeping count)
- Roughly half of all CATHOLICS were unaware that official church doctrine holds that Communion bread and wine actually become the flesh and blood of Christ, rather than just symbolize it.
Some might crow that this poll shows that atheists are smarter than believers. While I won’t disagree with that assumption, I should point out that this poll says no such thing. It simply points out that nonbelievers are more factually informed than the faithful. Which, upon a bit of reflection, is not surprising. One of the biggest criticisms the atheist community makes against religion is that is is culturally inherited, rather than chosen on merit as a result of thoughtful study. Is it any surprise that the vast majority of Arabs are Muslim? That heartland Americans are Protestant? Indians Hindu? People don’t adopt their religious beliefs knowingly; rather, they just assume the mantle of their parents’ religion, rarely bothering to study it in detail, much less study other religions.
It’ll be interesting to see how the religious chattering class interprets these poll results.
(Thanks to the many folks who sent me this news.)