PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life

This just in: U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. Apparently, “American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study,” thereby making them as a group significantly more knowledgeable about the subject matter than those who, as a group, maintained their status quo of “belief” (save for Jews & Mormons in close second place). Black Protestants and Latino Catholics, it may be noted, are the least informed about what they believe.

Is such mainly an effect of being a member of Mainstream Belief (vs, for instance, Jews & Mormons), or might it be more a question of the incapacity of dominant religious structures to express what they in fact are to their own adherents (e.g., “I believe WHAT??”)?

I saw this on CNN. Does it mean atheists and agnostics think deeply, while others do not? Or does it indicate types of belief that have little or nothing to do with theological abstractions that do not address here and now concerns about death and what to do while living?

I don’t know about depth, but certainly breadth (with Jews & Mormons close behind). One can think very “deeply” about, say, the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, if of course one is even aware of it (which apparently near half of American Catholics aren’t (aghast!!)), to the exclusion of considering a greater range of alternative notions… One can, on the other hand, also have one’s mind provided with a broader sampling of the facts, and make decisions on that more comprehensive basis. I don’t think there’s anything in the survey which touches on “here and now” concerns; nonetheless, one might hypostatize that dealing with the here and now benefits from a cosmopolitan appreciation of what the actual expanse of beliefs out there in truth are.

Here’s more on the specific questions.


You mean people that examine learn more than people that accept?
That makes no sense at all!

And it doesn’t mean atheists are smarter; it means they know more on their religion than the average adherent to their religion.
That’s because they spent the time becoming an expert on their religion.

We all drive cars.
Just because a mechanic knows more about cars doesn’t mean he’s more intelligent than I am…nor does it inherently mean that I am smarter than he is.
It just means that he knows a shit load more about cars than I do.

The difference is that in religion; it’s more like me telling the mechanic what’s what about the car by trying to convince him that it’s personality has to be treated a certain way and that I can feel where it hurts.
The mechanic will just think I’m an idiot even though that may make perfect sense to me, because what the mechanic sees when he sees the car is statistics and figures.

Perhaps they’re just less intellectual about what they believe. Of all the religious groups mentioned, I do tend to think of these as having the most heart - whether or not that’s fair.

Polls? There is about a 95% correlation between storks arriving in Stockholm and babies being born there.
The old philosophical puzzle here raises its ugly head once again–does correlation prove causality?

Surely those who examine (employ critical thinking) learn more than those who passively observe? Surely those who are more broadly informed have a greater degree of critical insight? While I don’t believe that “being smart” implies “being a good person”, I do believe that it implies “being more informed” (at least insofar as information is made available). A “smart person” who wilfully avoids information may be “faithful”, but no more intelligent for that. Surely there’s some direct correlation between critical perspective and intellectual status?

I’d agree. I’d also suppose they’re the least well off economically. Does heart require poverty? If I recall, Jesus taught so. This would seem to imply that White Evangelicals (who as a group did comparatively well on the survey) are relatively heartless.

I don’t think it’s saying Atheism/Agnosticism causes intelligence, but rather that a broader understanding may cause less Belief (albeit Jews & Mormons aside). Or am I missing your point? (I claim limited intelligence for myself, of course).

Oughtist; I was being sarcastic.
Meaning; it’s obvious that someone who examines something will become more versed on it than someone who accepts what another tells them.
That doesn’t make anyone more intelligent or less intelligent though.
That makes a content expert and a non-content expert.

I don’t know about intelligence per se, but I think a case could be made for the overly simplistic thinking of a lot of people who are religious followers.

The poll results reflect a couple of things to me. First, a lot of people who affiliate with a particular religion are drawn to it as a source for ethical guidelines and moral behavior and/or because it gives them a ready-built social foundation. Although I seem to recall reading that the majority of respondents identified as Christians couldn’t accurately name all ten of the commandments in the Bible…but then they only have to have a general idea of the rules they’re supposed to follow to choose a religion to guide them. Having more than a cursory understanding of the religion’s history or the content of its canon isn’t that necessary to such people. Along those lines, the second thing is that the poll results reveal a lot about authoritarian personalities who are religious followers. Again, they’re overly simplistic in their thinking (which is why they can make or accept outrageous statements about science without blinking, for example), they are provincial in outlook and unquestioning of authority; they oppose ideas that are unconventional or perceived as threatening to their religo-cultural beliefs and they think that the god they believe in is always on their particular side, whatever that side may be. They’re drawn to leaders based more on surface style than substance, people who exhibit “with us or against us” attitudes, because authoritarian personalities don’t trust those whom they perceive as “others”.

While this doesn’t typify all religious followers, I think it applies to those who are attracted to the forms of religions that are more orthodox, evangelical or fundamentalist. In the U.S., this is a good-sized chunk of the population.

I wouldn’t place too much significance to this particular report. There really isn’t anything surprising in it. That Americans have all sorts of opinions without the least bit of knowledge isn’t particularly new information. Most of the “casual” religious people couldn’t find the church of their particular faith on a map. But they know where the liquer store and the adult book stores are. :unamused:

14 out of 15, not bad.

The pattern is interesting as to which questions are less known. There is a lot of general ignorance regarding non-Christian religions (no big surprise). But that makes sense, self-identified Christians can’t really be expected to know much about other religions since they already have one. Atheists/agnostics, especially if they grew up in a religious household, spend a fair amount of time “seeking” so their having a broader awareness of non-Christian religions makes sense. Though they are as ignorant as anybody else regarding the Jewish Sabbath (interesting) and on really specific denominational issues (the Great Awakening question) seeming to be more familiar with the broad strokes of the religions and a few random textual specifics.

I’d be willing to bet a lot of the confusion regarding the role of religion and public life is due to right wing obfuscation on the issue for electoral purposes. Tea-party style populism on the issue, you know?

Wow and WTF. 21st century man is hardly likely to discover the truth of a traditional wisom that has not been discovered before. Truths stated in tradional religions is well-nigh incomprehensible to the majority of modern man. Modern man is more interested technical powers and has built a system of production that ravishes nature and mutilates man. Money is considered to be all powerful; if only it could buy things such as values, justice, harmony, beauty or even health. The development of production and the acquisition of wealth are the highest goals of the modern man. Why not leave your traditional religions you are only playing lip service anyway.

hush quido.

doesn’t typify religions . the spread of literacy enables larger section of the population to read their holy book directly and there in lies the problem. before the spread of literacy the clerics worked in conjunction with the ruler bringing to bear those elements in the religion that induces violence when needed and suppressing them when not needed . with people being able to read the old system of control is lost . the people can read those elements and decide for themselves . hence the problem.

education from education differs. you can educate some people all you like and they will still end up dangerous fanatics,. infact the education itself contributes to that and is the reason why. .

Statistics, confined and biased to the questions pollsters consider important, are in no way representative of the thinking of the masses–hence the correlation consideration. While I can agree that this poll does not reveal who’s intelligent and who’s not, it does reveal the lie of truth in numbers.

quido , the result of the study has to do with those who were in the study . i wasn’t

calm down. stop mouthing off foul language will ya ? what ? you can’t take it and you want to get banned ? you want to run ? quick exit? does it hurt that bad? okay then watch your language . i don’t care but others do . get it together . smile . be a polite quido. beside you can’t hide your shortcomings behind profanities . so whats the point ? none .

You’ll either stop calling names, or I’m going to start tossing warnings.
Quido means girl btw Churro.

To the point:
Get on with a conversation, or shut up.

I personally have found that most atheists are not atheists due to knowledge, they are so because they rebel. Its not religion that they truly rebel against, it is the religious that have caused them problems for questioning or doubting or whatever. The religion does not harm , it is the religious that can cause great harm in their enthusiastic embrace of their beliefs.

I am 99% sure he meant both of you stop the name calling, Churro


From anyone regarding anyone in slander; that is the request.