How Much Do Religious People Actually Know About Religion

A recent article in the LA Times reports the results of a survey which shows that, on average, the most knowledgable people about religion are those who don’t believe in it. When asked 15 questions about world religions those who reported their personal belief as either Agnostic or Atheist scored highest. The next highest were Mormons and Jews, with Protestant and Catholics brining up the rear.

Wow. I tested this out myself and went and took the Pew Research Questionaire on US Religious Knowledge . ┬áSure enough, I got 93% correct and I’m an Atheist. So there ya go. We who don’t believe know a lot more than those that do. Of course, it goes a bit deeper than that. I went to sunday school quite a bit growing up and there was those five years of Catholic Theology that I got in parochial school. So my religious knowledge should be far above the norm, but this survey verifies something I have long held as a personal truth. Those that believe most fervently that the Bible is the literal word of God are those that have simply never read the book.

I say this and always get a “Oh yea,” from the Bible thumping Baptists, but I’m usually able to ace them on actual Bible knowledge when we get to discussing things. For instance, I will ask them how exactly they explain Jesus’s actions regarding the fig tree that bore no fruit when it wasn’t supposed to. I often get a glassy eyed stare in response. It gets far worse when you start asking them about comparative Biblical accounts. For instance, why is the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (where King Herod ordered the first male children of all Israelites put to death) only mentioned in the Gospel According the Matthew? Was it not a significant enough event for the other Gospel writers to mention it? Or, for that matter, how come the Gospel According to Mark not include the accounts of Jesus’s Virgin birth? Mark opens up discussing Jesus’s life as an adult. You mean to say that this guy who hung out with Jesus his whole life and wanted to record his life for posterity did not thing the Virgin Birth a significant enough event to actually record? Was he just low on ink?

The vast majority of Christians, particularly those who believe the Bible is the absolute literal way it happened, have no idea that the different Gospels contain different (and occasionally conflicting) accounts of the life of Jesus. They furthermore are very hard pressed to actually know which Gospel has the briefest account of Jesus’s life, and so on.

It has been my lifelong experience that those who believe in religion the most are those who know it the least. It’s strange, given how fervently they seem to cling to their devotion, but it’s true.

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