Posts Tagged ‘agnostic’
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 22, 2013
As I’ve written before, it seems that there is a growing secular and non-religious demographic in the United States that is starting to speak up. This topic is the subject of a recent opinion piece that I read on the Washington Post’s Guest Voices blog, and I found the analysis by the author, Jacques Berlinerblau, to be worth noting…
By Jacques Berlinerblau
When it comes to not making optimistic, pie-in-the-sky pronouncements about American secularism I have almost unparalleled street cred. For years I have rued and bemoaned and lamented the fate of this poor mangled –ism.
But in the past few months there have been some positive and unexpected developments both here and abroad as well.The first is far less obvious than it might seem. By far, the best thing that has happened to American secularism in about half a century was that the reactionary 2012 iteration of the Republican party, while not McGovernized, was pretty thoroughly thrashed. To the long list of those in this country who were perplexed and repulsed by this aberrant version of the GOP (e.g., Latinos, African-Americans, gays, women) let us add secular Americans. …
… I want to stress that Republicans, historically, have not been anti-secular nor should the same be said about many of their core convictions. The shift occurred with the synergies that developed between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the late 1970s. In fits and starts the relation between the Christian Right and the Republicans has grown for three decades. Did it crest in 2012? Will a humbled GOP shuck the divisive God-botherers in its midst? That is the question that secularists are eagerly—nay, gleefully—posing. …
Indeed, I can be counted among those secularists who are hoping quite strongly that the Republican party can finally free itself from the stranglehold of the religious right. Unfortunately, the religious right is dug so deeply into the GOP that they will not go quietly nor easily; methinks the Republican party is in for a long and nasty internal fight.
However, there is a note of caution to be heard…
… I am a pessimist by nature so let me raise a few caveats about the political potency of the nones. The first is that their Election Day turnout was somewhat underwhelming (they were 12 percent of the electorate though they are nearly 20 percent of the population). They actually gave less of their ballot to Obama in 2012 than they did in 2008 (70 percent down from 75 percent).
Most crucially, they are not an organized, disciplined, well-funded political juggernaut like the Christian Right, but a category on a demographer’s clipboard. The Democrats will need to organize and mobilize them (and perhaps this is why Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast gave them a shout out when he referred to “those of no faith that they can name”).
This is why I want to note, buzzkillingly, that 2012 was more a victory for secularism than a victory by secularism. But a victory nonetheless! Moreover, secularists can’t help but wonder if the pope’s recent resignation signals, at the very least, a set back for the global anti-secular platform. …
So, long story short, the “nones” should be happy to celebrate this victory, but we should not be so naive as to think that progress on those secular issues important to us will simply march along all by itself. The moment that we take our eye off the political ball, I think the religious right – which is more well-funded and organized than the secular movement – will swoop in and attempt to drag us all back to the Dark Ages.
Rather than rest on our laurels, this moment should serve to motivate us to become more involved in secular issues. We need to make sure to defend church-state separation, stand up for strong science education, and seek to curb the influence of sectarian religious groups upon our government. My suggestion is that you take some time to learn more about groups like the Secular Coalition for America and consider signing up with them. Get involved, get active, and we can make a more secular nation a reality! :)
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, election, evangelical, God, GOP, Jacques Berlinerblau, no-religious, non-religious, none, Obama, party, politics, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, Republican, research, right, right wing, SCA, secular, Secular Coalition for America, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, Washington Post, white | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2013
If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, then you know that I’ve touched on the topic of a rising secular and non-religious demographic in the United States; in fact, now 1-in-5 Americans label themselves as non-religious. I also wrote about Kyrsten Sinema, a newly elected Congresswoman who has openly identified herself as atheist. Well, it seems that there is now a convergence between these two things emerging, because this new Congress now contains the highest number of openly non-religious members in history!
It’s not just for religious fundamentalists anymore :)
This Politico story has more details:
By CHARLES MAHTESIAN | 1/5/13 2:34 PM EST
The number of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion is on the rise, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
In the 96th Congress (1979-80), not a single member of the House or Senate said they didn’t belong to any particular faith, didn’t know or refused to disclose their religion. But in the new 113th Congress, 10 members fall under that category.
That’s twice as many as in the 111th Congress (2009-10).
Pew notes there’s still a great disparity between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion. …
… The numbers here caught my eye, not because of the disparity between non-believers in the general population and in Congress, but because I was surprised so many members actually admitted to it. … [emphasis added]
Exactly. I, and many others, have long suspected that there are a good number of closeted “nones” in our Congress, but up until now they’ve been cautious about self-identifying as non-religious for fear of electoral backlash. However, it seems that, slowly but surely, those days are drawing to a close :)
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, congress, demographics, election, federal, Kyrsten Sinema, no-religious, non-religious, non-theist, none, nontheist, Pete Stark, Pew Poll, Pew Research Center, politics, poll, religion, religious, religious right, research, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, United States, US, USA | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2012
As I recently blogged, there was the all-too-predictable nutty and inhuman reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School from the religious zealots in our nation in the past few days… it’s the fault of gays and atheists, don’t ya know! Thanks to all who have reblogged (thanks to Phil at Skeptic Money :) ), tweeted, commented, and emailed me with feedback about that blog post. I wanted to share with you all a really good bit of correspondence I got from my online friend “Other Jesus”, because it goes to the root of some deeper questions related to religion and how people do/don’t think about it. Read on…
I liked your article. I was actually waiting for these groups to emerge. Most of the responses on all sides of the background debate have responded in predictable manner. I know the main characters are the anti- and pro-gun groups, the “more mental health” people, and the “we need more God in school…” religious folks. But some of the most annoying folks are the “prayers and hugs” crew in the periphery. Every tragedy like this evokes a “hug your kids and pray for the family of the victims”. How’s that working? (Don’t quote me on the above!)
The Huckabee premise deserves a more blatant study and response. So Mike thinks we need more God in school for protection. Meanwhile, some folks are calling for full-time armed security in schools (Sean Hannity, eg.). So what if God applied for the security guard job at a school? Well the principal would need to review His resume and he/she might ask for more explanation about the following:
1) Where was God during the murder of Able? Was it preventable?
2) Where was God during the murder of the Egyptian first born in the 10th Plague? What about His alleged
ties to the Angel of Death?
3) Wasn’t God in the land of His “chosen people” during Herod’s “murder of the innocents”? Did He take any steps to prevent the slaughter?
4) During the Great Flood, what did God do to protect the babies and young innocent children? Did he have any role in the cause of the flood?
Now these are events from long ago, so the principal might accept God’s excuse that “that was then, this is now”. So how about a more modern example? A school like Huckabee wants: With God fully in-place. Maybe God’s checkered resume can be redeemed.
5) Where was God on December 1, 1958? Was he watching a student play with matches in the basement of Out Lady of Angel’s Catholic school in Chicago? What did he do when the young man ignitee a trash barrel? Did he take any action to stop the fire before it killed 92 kids and three nuns?
I don’t think that the principal conducting the interview would have a hard time deciding whether or not God was qualified, despite the endorsement from Mike Huckabee.
(NOTE TO SELF: Be very skeptical of anyone Mick Huckabee refers.)
And here are some other good points brought up by various people who read my article:
What really irritates me are those who claim that shootings happen at schools because God is not allowed in schools. However, that does not explain why students at a Jewish school in France (earlier this year) were killed by a gunman. Does God only dwell in Christian schools? The point is, belief in God has nothing to do with these tragic events. Horrible things happen because horrible people cause them to happen – it is not the result of divine punishment.
So how is it that shootings have occurred in churches, religious schools and if no sin is greater than another; why all the child molesting and rape in churches? Has God been removed from there as well.
Also, I’d like to know how Mike Huckabee explains the fact that slavery and segregation were legal while much of that praying was going on in schools.
Hmm, good questions. Food for thought, folks… food for thought.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2012
You’d pretty much have to be living underneath a rock to not have heard about last Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. All told, 20 children and 6 adults were killed by the shooter, Adam Lanza, before he killed himself. Understandably, people all over the nation are numb and puzzled about how something like this could happen. I know that at the high school where I teach, it has certainly been a topic of much debate and conversation. One of the most asked questions is “Are our schools safe?” – in general, the answer is yes.
In addition, at a time like this people are looking for answers and asking “Why?” In answer, some are talking about the issue of gun control (the shooter had easy access to guns), while others are talking about mental health issues (society doesn’t pay enough attention to mental health); what seems to be common to these, and other, analyses is that they are based mostly upon media-fueled speculation at this stage. Speculation runs rampant, and facts are frustratingly few and far between…
… Enter the God Squad. These are the dim-witted troglodytes whom you could have easily predicted would crawl out of their caves spewing the usual disgusting, vile-filled claptrap about how this is all somehow “God’s punishment”, and how they know God’s feelings on the matter! Here’s just a sample of the putrid idiocy pouring forth from the fundamentalist faithful…
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested Friday that the absence of God from the nation’s public schools may have contributed, in part, to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was asked by host Neil Cavuto how “God could let this happen.” Here’s his response:
It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. And so I sometimes, when people say, ‘Why did God let it happen?’ You know, God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up it’s all said and done at the back end.
… My mother, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, fought to make the public schools the armed camps they are today by removing prayer, the recognition of the authority of God. In 1962 and 1963, I was attending an all-boys public high school in downtown Baltimore, Md. The school was a magnet school before the term even existed and was intended to prepare young men for college, majoring in science and engineering. There were 1,800 teenage boys in the school, and there was not a cop in the building – ever. The doors were unlocked and often the un-air-conditioned rooms had open windows. There were no metal detectors, no picture IDs, and students went in and out the doors on the honor system.
What happens when you’re raised by America’s most famous atheist? Read William Murray’s riveting and redemptive new book, “My Life Without God”
The authority of God was present, even though I am very sure many of those young men, including myself, had some pretty vile thoughts that were not in the least way moral. The presence of the authority of God, vested in the teachers by His recognition every morning, was reinforced by the churches and the families of the students.
That high school has since merged with a girl’s school in another location, for purposes of political correctness. The last time I checked, the old building itself was the headquarters of the Baltimore City Schools Police Force, something that did not exist when Baltimore’s population was nearly double what it is now. Every kid at every school now has a photo ID. All the doors of every school are locked. All doors have metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs roaming the corridors. I am told that every school in Baltimore has at least one armed “safety officer.”
In the vast majority of America’s public schools, the authority of God has been replaced with the authority of the iron fist of government. Morals? Without the authority of God, there are no morals, and none are taught in the public schools today. The ethics that are taught are situational, perhaps the same situational ethics that led to the logic that caused the tragic shootings in Newtown. …
and (of course it wouldn’t be complete without these assholes)…
The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” …
So what are we to take away from this incredibly frakked up display of asshattery? Apparently, we are to all repent and come to the realization that God’s pissed off at us (“us” being the United States) for not forcing children to pray in public schools (and by “pray” I mean “pray to Jesus Christ”, because that’s what these morons really mean), or because our nation actually has the audacity to recognize and respect the rights of atheists and gays, not to mention in the United States we actually acknowledge the separation of church and state.
Yee-haw… Fun with Fundamentalism. Image Source
So what are we to make of this reaction on the part of the ultra-religious to the Sandy Hook massacre? As I’ve noted before, the fundamentalist right-wing segment of our nation is starting to slowly dwindle, and there is a more secular demographic rising in this country. I think part of what we may be seeing here is the gradual, but inevitable, unhinging of the religious right as they start to see their power over the rest of us who don’t share their twisted worldview slowly slipping away. They cannot handle the fact that their worldview isn’t THE worldview which is forced upon the rest of society through the power of the culture and the government, and that is making them nuts.
I predict more of the same in the future: every time there is a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster; every time there is a man-made disaster (such as the Sandy Hook massacre); every time anything bad happens, these self-described servants of the Almighty (who, of course, have the message straight from God himself, you know) will scurry in front of the TV cameras to spread their message of doom and judgement in a vain attempt to appear relevant. And as time goes on, they will get ever more extreme with their message, as they marginalize themselves even more.
And that’s the key thing right there… what these preachers, prophets, and fundamentalist believers really fear is exactly what’s happening to them: they are slipping into irrelevance. Let them, I say, because civilized society has no need for their sociopathic mythologies.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 26, 2012
I have posted before on the emergence of a more secular demographic within the United States and what appears to be a concurrent decline in religious fundamentalism. However, I listened to a recent Point of Inquiry podcast which got me to look at the question in a different manner, and there appears to be much more work advancing a secular worldview to be done. I especially agree with the idea that atheists should be attempting to find common ground with moderate religious believers and building broader political coalitions, as opposed to alienating those believers simply because we have differences on belief(s) in God. I encourage you to give it a listen…
November 12, 2012
Host: Chris Mooney
On this show, we often debate the state of American secularism—covering topics like the rise of the so-called “nones,” or the unending battle to rescue the country from the pernicious influence of Christian right.
Our guest this week, Jacques Berlinerblau, has a provocative thesis about all this. He says that American secularism has clearly and distinctly lost major ground. And to recover from that loss, well… he’s got some suggestions that might not go down well—but it’s important to hear them.
Even if, you know, you’re not quite ready for a political allegiance with religious moderates.
Jacques Berlinerblau is author of the new book How to be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom. He’s an associate professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, where he directs the Program for Jewish Civilization.
Posted in politics, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, evangelical, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, How to be Secular, Jacques Berlinerblau, moderate, no-religious, non-religious, none, Pew Poll, Pew Research Center, podcast, Point of Inquiry, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, research, right, right wing, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, white | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2012
In a recent post, I outlined how secular Americans are starting to make inroads into the political process, partly due to the rise of a non-religious demographic in the United States. On a related note, I find it worth pointing out the fact that the power and influence of the socially and religiously conservative movement known as the “religious right” seems to be on the decline. Evidence for this can be found by looking at the results of the 2012 elections. The following article from The Atlantic magazine goes into more detail; I shall share my thoughts on a few excerpts…
… “I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR. He’s right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The late Falwell’s Liberty University gave former Gov. Mitt Romney its keynote spot at its 2012 commencement and backed off previous language calling Mormonism a “cult.” Billy Graham uncharacteristically threw his support behind the Republican candidate, and his evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads all but endorsing Romney. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition spent tens of millions in battleground states to get out the religious vote.
As a result, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Romney on Tuesday. That’s the same percentage that Bush received in 2004, and more than Sen. John McCain received in 2008. The evangelical vote was 27 percent of the overall electorate — the highest it’s ever been for an election.
Their support wasn’t enough. Not only did President Obama win soundly, but four states voted to allow same-sex marriage. …
So why is it that the religiously conservative vote didn’t win out? Here are some reasons:
… First, the size of the evangelicals’ base is a limitation. While white evangelicals comprised a quarter of the electorate, other religious groups that lean Democratic have grown substantially. Hispanic-American Catholics, African-American Protestants, and Jewish-Americans voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers. Additionally, the “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation — are now the fastest growing “religious” group, comprising one-fifth of the population and a third of adults under 30. Seven out of 10 “nones” voted for Obama.
Second, evangelicals’ influence is waning. Conservative Christian ideas are failing to shape the broader culture. More than 3,500 churches close their doors every year, and while Americans are still overwhelmingly spiritual, the institutional church no longer holds the sway over their lives it once did. The sweeping impact of globalization and the digital age has marginalized the church and its leaders. …
… Third, evangelical leadership is wanting. A quarter-century ago, Christian mobilization efforts were rising, Christian advocacy groups were sprouting, and charismatic Christian leaders were popping up in every corner of the country. This is no longer the case.
Politically influential pastors like Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have died, James Dobson retired, and Pat Robertson has been relegated to the fringes of his own community. By any reckoning, few charismatic figures are able or willing to fill these voids.
The leadership vacuum became painfully obvious during the Republican primaries, when 150 “high-powered” evangelical leaders, including Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer, met behind closed doors in Texas to determine which candidate should receive their endorsement. They chose Rick Santorum, but in the South Carolina primaries a week later, Newt Gingrich and Romney split two-thirds of the state’s evangelical vote.
Additionally, organizations like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are either defunct or defunded, while Focus on the Family has made clear its intention to move in a less political direction. The number and influence of evangelical organizations shaping the public square is greatly diminished. …
Will the religious right end up dying off? I’m not sure, but whether or not you view this as a good thing (personally, I see it as a positive development that fundamentalist religion is having less influence on our modern society), I think it is safe to say that things are changing in the United States.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, election, evangelical, federal, God, no-religious, non-religious, non-theist, none, nontheist, politics, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, research, right, right wing, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, United States, US, USA, white | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 12, 2012
All I can say is: wow. I knew the ranks of the non-religious and religiously-unaffiliated in the United States was on the rise, but I didn’t know it would be taking off like this so soon. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, the number of Americans self-identifying as part of the so-called “nones” is now at nearly 20%!
The summary from the Pew Report is quite telling:
The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 –are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%). …
This chart, from the Pew Report, says it all I think:
Note the one key feature of this chart: the fact that the core of the religious right in America, white Protestant evangelicals (19%), is now actually outnumbered by the decidedly secular “nones” (19.6%)!
And further, the trends are also looking very positive for the “nones”: as the chart above shows, they are easily the fastest growing religious (or non-religious) demographic in the U.S.A.
I must say, the future is looking brighter :D
Posted in religion | Tagged: agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, evangelical, God, no-religious, non-religious, none, Pew Poll, Pew Research Center, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, research, right, right wing, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, white | 8 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 11, 2012
I just wanted to pass along this announcement from the fine folks at the Center For Inquiry regarding one of the most valuable orators and activists for freethought, science, and rationality: Robert Green Ingersoll. This past Saturday (August 11th) was his birthday, and I think it is worth letting you know more about him:
Happy Birthday to “The Great Agnostic!”
Back before blogs, opinion-based news programs, talk radio, and even amplified sound, the American public gathered by the thousands to listen to professional orators calling out their opinions from train platforms, outdoor stages, and the steps of city hall. Oratory was wildly popular in the 1800s, and there was no lecturer more popular than Robert Green Ingersoll, a.k.a., “The Great Agnostic.”
Ingersoll continually championed science, reason, and secular values in the public square. He was an early popularizer of Charles Darwin and a tireless advocate for women’s rights, racial equality, and birth control decades before others would pick up the cause. He often poked fun at religious belief, and he defied the religious conservatives of his day by championing secular humanist values.
Ingersoll’s work and his words are highly relevant to our day, too, so the Center for Inquiry and its sister organization, the Council for Secular Humanism, work to bring his wisdom and insights to a broader audience.
— Learn more about Robert Green Ingersoll —
Happy Birthday, Colonel Bob!
Posted in free inquiry, philosophy | Tagged: agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, atheist, birthday, Center For Inquiry, CFI, free inquiry, freethinker, freethought, God, history, Ingersoll, philosophy, religion, Robert Green Ingersoll, science, secular, secularism, The Great Agnostic | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 31, 2012
I just wanted to share with you a blog post from my friend Phil over at Skeptic Money titled “12 Hottest Celebrity Atheists and Agnostics” which outlines some really good looking celebrities. But more important than the sexy pics (rowr) are some of the things they say. Check out Phil’s post; meanwhile, I’ll share my favorite… Mr. George Clooney :)
I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I don’t know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life–the only thing I know to exist–to be wasted. (LA times)
Posted in religion | Tagged: afterlife, agnostic, atheist, belief, blog, faith, George Clooney, God, hot, hottest, religion, skeptic, Skeptic Money | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 28, 2010
**Update: Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, has an excellent analysis over at the Chicago Tribune religion blog – check it out!
In a widely reported poll today (here is the link to the actual Pew survey), it seems there are some rather counter-intuitive results regarding religious affiliation & level of factual religious knowledge in the United States. Namely, from the survey, the non-religious (atheists & agnostics) are among the most religiously literate when it comes to knowing facts & details about various religions…
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.
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.
More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish. …
Now, while I am not a religious believer myself – I identify as an “Epicurean freethinker”, basically a modern-day atheist – I am a pretty serious student of religion and religious history. I also include among my circle of friends & acquaintances people from all religious and non-religious backgrounds: Christians (including Catholics & Mormons), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on. However, I have to say that while I don’t believe any of the supernatural aspects of religion, I do understand how a knowledge of religion & religious history is advantageous in knowing more about who we are as a society.
This is why I am a bit amazed and upset by the results of this survey. I would think that people who are sincere religious believers would want to be educated about the facts & history behind their faith. If people don’t learn for themselves the factual information about the origins, history, and basic tenets of their own religion, then that opens them up to all manner of hucksterism in the name of God, etc.
For example, I know someone who is what I would call an ardent fundamentalist Christian; however, they are also terribly ignorant of the origins & history of their own religion. When I try to have a discussion with them about where the Bible came from, who wrote it, when it was written, the formation of the early Christian Church, and so on, they just want to ignore me or change the subject. It is almost as if they are uncomfortable with the very thought of learning about their religion, as if they have a fear that if they learn too much their faith might be shaken (perhaps it might be). As a result, they are heavily influenced by those who would use Christianity for political and other nefarious purposes.
Perhaps that is what is going on with some religious believers: they want to remain willfully ignorant, because – as the saying goes – ignorance is bliss. Or maybe they just want to be told what to believe by their religious leaders, either because they are a bit intellectually lazy (thinking about this stuff is hard work), they don’t have the time to look into it (if you’re working three jobs, it’s tough to study during what little free time you have), or they believe that if they question things they could be cast out of their religious community. I’m sure it could be a combination of all of the above.
In any case, I think it is a sad state of affairs. Knowledge, even the knowledge about religion, should be something that we aspire to collect & nurture. Cultivating an environment of intellectual curiosity & critical thinking should be encouraged among the religious, partly because people can then arm themselves against those who would use their beliefs to manipulate them (such as politicians making bogus “Christian nation” claims or crusading faith-healers).
To sum up: we need skeptics & critical thinkers in all areas of human endeavor, including religious believers within their religious communities. Since the majority of the U.S. population is religious, the more ignorant they become about their own beliefs, the more susceptible they become to erroneous claims & extremism – and that can affect all of us. If you know someone who is religious, or are religious yourself, take some time to actually learn more about their (or your) faith.
Posted in philosophy, religion | Tagged: agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, believer, Bible, Christianity, church, facts, faith, fundamentalism, God, Hindu, Islam, Jew, Judaism, Koran, literacy, Muslim, non-believer, Pew, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, poll, religion, religious, survey, Torah, United States | 1 Comment »