Wednesday, 29 September 2010

“Atheists know most about religion” [updated]

A new Pew survey of religious knowledge confirms most religionists know little about their own religions, let alone others.And “to make matters worse, it seems that those who scored highest on this survey were, in fact, atheists and agnostics.”

_Quote I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people," says the president of American Atheists. "Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That's how you make atheists."

Atheists lack some powers however.  Because if you do have faith and do not doubt, you can say to a mountain, "Go throw yourself into the sea!"

[Hat tip mitchellhall]


  1. Excellent.

    I vaguely remember that my own conversion to atheism happened when my Catholic faith was fighting a rearguard action and I studied a Christian dictionary for reinforcement.

    Obviously, it failed, and getting that monkey off my back remains a big personal achievement.

    It intrigues me that many of us who had memes imposed on our young minds have dealt with them by studying the very things that should have kept us in the flock.

  2. Yeah, atheists are blogging and twittering this all over.

    But has anyone seen the list of actual questions?

  3. It's in the right hand sidebar...

  4. Just did the Pew survey and I scored a perfect 15 out of 15.

  5. @Berend de Boer. Good for you. You must be a good Christian.

  6. Dinther, I thought the argument was that atheists know so much more about religion. The more you know, the more atheist you become.

    So I must be an atheist.

  7. BdB is out at last! ;-0

  8. The quote is a clever reversal of Kant's famous aphorism: "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," from his almost-as-famous work on epistemology Critique of Pure Reason.

    (Sorry the quote is not exact; I'm doing this from memory before my first cup of tea.)

  9. @Bdb: Congratulations on your coming out. :-)

    @Jeff: Phew! I was beginning to worry no-one else was chuckling.

  10. I've done this test now with some other people, all would call themselves Christians, and they all score 13-15.

    I'm afraid this Pew poll will be another example of too good to be true.

    Or perhaps this is an excellent example of premature optimisation, or as one would call it in LP: a suboptimal solution: Little knowledge makes one a Catholic, some knowledge makes one an atheist, and extensive knowledge makes one a Presbyterian...

  11. @BdB With the words of Jeff from his latest post, you just make it too easy.

  12. Reasonable is being an atheist.

    You're not an atheist.

    Therefore you are not reasonable.

    Flawless argument Dinther.

  13. Actually this is false. You write

    "A new Pew survey of religious knowledge confirms most religionists know little about their own religions, let alone others."

    The Survey found that athiests knew less about Christianity than white evangelical Christians. Athiests got higher marks overall because they knew more about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc and knew more about the law. But on the questions about the bible and Christianity they did less well.

    What the survey shows then is that athiests know less about Christianity than white evangelicals but know more about other religions and the law.

    see for example the analysis at

    Funny how the atheist blogsphere have run with a story affirming the total opposite of what the study found.


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