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Who Needs Knowledge When One Has Faith? Poll Finds Atheists/Agnostics Know More About Christianity

I come from a large family with many faiths, cultures and nationalities intermarried. We've found a way to mutually respect and celebrate the traditions and customs of our individual beliefs together, I believe to the enrichment of all. So I

I come from a large family with many faiths, cultures and nationalities intermarried. We've found a way to mutually respect and celebrate the traditions and customs of our individual beliefs together, I believe to the enrichment of all. So I feast with my Muslim cousins after sundown during Ramadan; we light a menorah during Hanukkah while my brother-in-law recites from the Torah; we put up a Christmas tree with my Lutheran in-laws and go to Sunrise Mass on Easter with my Catholic relatives. And my atheist brother is there with his Egyptian Coptic wife and me at all these functions, enjoying the spectacle and the traditions and most of all (if one is to be honest), the food.

The privilege of having such a diverse family enables me to look beyond the differences of faith and see the commonalities. We have far-ranging discussions on comparative religion and that has given me a far more solid foundation on the Bible and religion than my strained Catholic instruction as a youth gave me. I've used that knowledge on more than one occasion to paint some Christian conservatives I know into corners with their bizarrely unChrist-like beliefs. It's always struck me as odd that those who would cloak themselves in the mantle of being Christian should have such a poor grasp of the Scriptures in which they believe. Turns out, I'm not the only one who noticed that:

A new Pew survey is pretty much guaranteed to ruffle the feathers of the faithful. In a survey of religious knowledge, Americans did fairly poorly, displaying little knowledge of world religions. More provocatively, Americans did not even know much about their own religions. A shocking forty-five percent of Catholics incorrectly answered a question about Catholicism and Communion, for example. To make matters worse, it seems that those who scored highest on this survey were, in fact, atheists and agnostics. The next-highest scoring groups were Jews and Mormons.

  • 'Well This Is Awkward,' observes Truthdig's Ear to the Ground blog, noting that "Mormons and Jews also scored well, and, like Atheists, know more about Christianity than Christians."

  • Atheist Effect Holds True When You Control for Other Factors, Too "Atheists and agnostics score particularly well on knowing something about world religions," notes Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, although he also points to their high scores with knowledge of Christianity. "The effect remains even after controlling for education," he adds.
  • The Lesson? "People believe in what they believe for social reasons and not because they actually know anything about what they believe," concludes blogger Half Sigma. "And the same applies to belief in global warming."

I mean, who needs knowledge when one has faith?

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