I don’t believe in your faith because I know more about it than you do

September 28, 2010

This little news item caught my eye

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.

Being an atheist, it doesn’t surprise me that non-believers would score higher on religious knowledge tests because we look at religion in the same way we look at, say for example, comic books.  Both aren’t real, but we all know why Bruce Wayne became Batman or what planet Superman is from.  It’s general knowledge to atheists, something to help us win at Jeopardy or Bar Trivia.  It’s not something sacred, so that when we learn about some other faith we don’t fear that we’re cheating or sullying our faith (’cause we don’t have one) and that the Lord will punish us for our quest for knowledge (apples, anyone?  They’re juicy!)

I wasn’t surprised the Mormons knew the most about Christianity, considering Mormonism is sort of like an unwanted and unnecessary sequel in a movie franchise, in that it has to know the source material really well in order to ruin it.   We really didn’t need Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the one where they go back in time to feudal Japan (we certainly didn’t need RoboCop 3 either), and a lot of Christians really don’t see the need for a twist in the story of Christianity where Jesus and Lucifer are really brothers and that the Israelites were the ancestors of the American Indians, and it’s all told by some guy who was really into having multiple wives reading from golden plates out of a hat.

Not surprising either was that American Christians had large gaps in the knowledge their own faiths, as I have a working theory that modern Christianity in the States is less about knowing about your faith and more about belonging to a special club and developing a superiority complex over nothing you’ve actually done so you can piss on people you don’t like.   You don’t have to know what Jesus actually said or what else happened in the Bible, you just have to know that as long as you believe in your particular flavor of Jesus that you’re better than all those hellbound queers, Muslims, Europeans, Catholics, scientists, Hindus, pro-choicers, godless atheists, vegetarians, whatever other group who draws your ire…

I’m also not surprised Wicca wasn’t on here because you can’t get Wiccans to agree en masse on anything – which is why their covens are smaller than the active lineup for a NHL hockey team – so questions about the faith would probably be a little too inconsistent for proper polling.  Then again, decentralization hasn’t stopped Protestant faiths from having millions of followers.  Go ahead, try to find the head of the Baptist religion.  You can’t.

Of course there’s no questions about atheism, probably other than “What do you call someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of a god or gods?”  We don’t have a mythology to draw from, and questions about Richard Dawkins are more literature questions than religious questions because he’s not the Pope of Atheism.  We don’t have a Pope or bishops or any titles in atheism because there’s nothing to be a cardinal over.  You either believe in god or you don’t, and if you do you’re not an atheist.  There’s no need to appeal to some authority about the issue.  It’s a straightforward question.

You have to take a thorough test to get into Judaism, maybe other faiths should follow suit.  Maybe you shouldn’t be born again until you can score above a combined 1800 on the Jesus SAT exam, or you don’t get to join that megachurch until you get all the pie pieces in a game of Pentecostal Trivial Pursuit, or you shouldn’t get your prayer rug until you reach the $32,000 mark on Who Wants to Be a Muslim?  Don’t feel like studying, then go atheist.  Our exam is a one question test.

I wonder if Cthulhu has a test.   Probably if your mind doesn’t melt after you see him, you pass.



  1. Mainstream religion types don’t know anything about their faiths because they are encouraged not to. The hallmark of mainstream religions is a “do what you’re told” philosophy that deliberately eschews the asking of questions or the seeking of knowledge.

  2. Actually, the Catholics require passing of a test also.

    I think it is interesting that the First Assembly of God church uses as its logo “1stAG”. I guess they aren’t comfortable being the FAG church.

    • You are very right. They make you do RCIA classes,something I vaguely remember hearing about when I was a Catholic school lad who knew better than to become an altar boy.

  3. i remember feeling a twinge of guilt when we made the decision to not drag our children to church – i worried that if they were ever on “Jeopardy” any categories on religion would hose them…

    and by the way, have i mentioned lately that you should consider submitting editorials (this one in particular) to some mainstream media outlets… maybe not “Jeebus Style” or “The Weekly Bible Thump”, though.

    • For some reason, editors are rather squeamish about printing articles containing the phrase “rape lemonade.” That’s probably why newspapers are dying out.

      • Too bad. Your editorials make a lot more sense than the vast majority of those I have read in the “mainstream”.

  4. Is Tag Larkin an atheist?

    • No, because Tag Larkin believes in the awesome power of Tag Larkin.

  5. Oh, Richard Dawkins. The man’s voice is like an intellectual lullaby.

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