Thursday, September 30, 2010

"We're a nation of religious illiterates."

Here's the lead of a recent Associated Press/CBS story:
A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths. 
The survey in question was released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Who performed best on the survey? Atheists: 

Most Protestants "could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation," according to the AP/CBS. Given the importance of Martin Luther to the history of Protestantism, one would think that more Protestants would know who he is.

Boston University Professor Stephen Prothero told Byron Pitts of CBS, ""We're a nation of religious illiterates. We have a lot of people who really love Jesus, but don't know much about him. We have a lot of people who believe and hope that the Bible is the word of God but they don't really bother to read it."

Perhaps theists are relatively ignorant about the tenets of their own religions in part because no reasonable person would accept them—at least not without brainwashing, though I don't think brainwashing is a reliable way of making persons reasonable.

Here's an example of what I am talking about. According to the AP/CBS, "Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ." This is known as the doctrine of transubstantiation.

If I were some Catholic VIP, I would not advertise the official Catholic view regarding communion, because the official Catholic view regarding communion is insane. That might explain why so many Catholics are unaware of of the doctrine of transubstantiation. That might also explain why so many atheists are not Catholic.

Why on earth would I want to consume the body and the blood of the savior? Why would a religion encourage and promote cannibalism?

I am not a theist in part because I have knowledge of many of the tenets of theism, and I find those tenets far too incredible to be believed.

According to the AP, the survey also discovered that
many Americans don't understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature. 
"Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are," Pew researchers wrote. 
This is not surprising, given that so many Christians in this country appear to think that they are being persecuted and oppressed. The very idea is laughable. How could one be oppressed when one has so many opportunities to pray, read the Bible, go to church, consume religious programming on radio and television, and so on? 

With sufficient brainwashing, anyone can be made to believe virtually anything.

Update. Godless Girl has some thoughts about the study which you might find interesting. 

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson