When a new survey that showcases atheists in a good or bad light is released, we’re all writing about it somewhere or another.
After the Pew Forum’s recent study on US Religious Knowledge showed that atheists scored higher on basic religious literacy than any faith group, there are a lot of responses out there from our community.
I wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune blog explaining why atheists scored higher than others. My reasons?
- Many atheists left religion in the first place because we learned too much about our faith.
- Atheists pay attention when we hear religious groups make ridiculous statements.
- Atheists tends to be better educated than the rest of the population.
More detailed explanations are in the piece.
Dave Silverman of American Atheists already got off a terrific zinger in the New York Times:
“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.”
But he wasn’t done there. Dave wrote a full piece for FOXNews.com adding his own explanations for why the study came out that way:
Many religious people do not read their holy books for fear of finding things they don’t like, which will force them to consider whether those easy answers are valid, and whether death is in fact permanent. In other words, religious people already have doubts, and avoid reading their Bibles to avoid addressing those doubts.
Preachers, on the other hand, know that knowledge of the Bible can often lead to atheism, so they prefer the flock listen to the preacher talk about the Bible (which the preacher can edit as he sees fit), rather than read it themselves. This is how they make a (tax free) living.
When a person begins to doubt the veracity of the religion into which they happen to have been born, they often read the holy books in the hope that they are wrong, that it will all make sense, and that the answers provided by those books will be logically valid. The problem is, they aren’t.
Further study will show that indeed, all religions are the same in that none of them provide anything but yesterday’s mythology.
I’d be shocked if any preacher actually wanted his flock to read less of the Bible — many large churches promote small group Bible studies — but I think Dave’s right that many Christians choose not to read the Bible for themselves. They like having someone else interpret it for them, leaving out the stuff that might cause cognitive dissonance. Which is disappointing. If people understood why they reject every other god, maybe they’d see why we reject theirs.
Tom Flynn of the Council for Secular Humanism has his own theory about the results at the Washington Post On Faith blog:
… as adherents of an often-unpopular worldview, atheists and agnostics are frequently challenged to defend their position. In my experience, people whom propriety would restrain from grilling a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness about his or her religious beliefs are seldom shy about challenging the unbelievers they encounter. So even atheists and agnostics who didn’t engage in the study of religion in the course of abandoning their childhood faith feel pressure to come to “know thy enemy.”
Countless blogs have commented on this story, too. If you wrote something, feel free to link to it in the comments!
Are we missing any other possible explanations for why atheists fared so well (compared to theists) in this study?