Why Don’t Religious People Know More About Religion? » Sociological Images

(Updated) Susan got me in the comment section. The stats are not about knowledge of the Bible. The stats are about religious knowledge.

Statistically proven: On balance, atheists and agnostics know the Bible better than the overall population, better than white evangelical Protestants, better than pretty much everyone else.

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8 responses to “Why Don’t Religious People Know More About Religion? » Sociological Images

  1. Not based on that survey; read the 32 questions. A & A’s know general facts about various world religions better than the religious; not questions that test biblical knowledge. About the only true biblical knowledge question (re Job), white evans whipped the A & A. Seems merely a function of attainment of higher education levels (MA & PHDs), higher socioeconomic levels and urbanity, which is statistically proven.


  2. Yes, point taken, and I corrected myself. But Pew thinks there were 7 questions related to biblical knowledge: “On the other hand, most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey’s questions about the Bible. For example, roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible. And more than half know that the Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – is not one of the Ten Commandments. On the full battery of seven questions about the Bible (five Old Testament and two New Testament items) Mormons do best, followed by white evangelical Protestants. Atheists/agnostics, black Protestants and Jews come next, all exhibiting greater knowledge of the Bible than white mainline Protestants and white Catholics, who in turn outscore those who describe their religion as nothing in particular.”


  3. The lack of knowledge about Christian and Jewish history, on the other hand, is significant.


  4. Not often I get you on something. One thing I have learned, always read the survey questions. Alas, critical thinking is barely flickering if not put out completely. The larger issue, what makes our “elites” more likely to ascribe life to randomness and chance or to not care whether it is random? Is it an ego thing? If well-educated and prosperous, who needs God? Is it a natural outgrowth of individualism?

    And is anyone surprised that mainline protestants don’t know the Bible? Teaching/preaching within those walls tends to be social justice/love/self help (I blame Thomas Harris) rather than biblically based. Maybe because in general, the mainline protestants are approaching elite status. I will have to ponder on the white Catholic dynamic but who needs the Bible when the masgisterium has the last word.
    (This is as stream of consciousness as I ever get so James Joyce has nothing to fear)


    • As far as my mind goes, you’re asking the right questions. And they’re ongoing sources of frustration for me. I’ll take a step back and address what seems to me, at least at the moment, to be a larger issue: evangelical apologetics addresses evidence and arguments that aren’t relevant to the work of the A&As. For example, I’ve watched YouTube lectures by PhDs like Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and Hector Avalos, who discuss research and scholarship that I have rarely heard even mentioned among the evangelical apologists. — As for the mainlines, well, I don’t know about the congregations. But for a little more than a year now, I’ve had a post in my drafts folder about the eight or so Episcopal supply priests, the area’s TEC bishop, and (lately) the new vicar at Episcopal Church of the Messiah. The drafted post expresses my mock disappointment with all the orthodox homilies — I was hoping for some real crazy stuff! Where’s the “Spirituality of the Dominatrix” sermon? The homily on the common roots of Anglicanism and Wicca? Gosh darn it, I wanted some insane liberalism and I’m just not getting it. And in all seriousness, I can think of one priest who on two occasions went, in my opinion, off track far enough to baffle me. After those two sermons (herein lies the beauty of the liturgy’s format) we went directly into the same old Creed. It’s almost as if the homilies and sermons can only do so much damage: the next step is to recite the orthodox formula. — But I’m a total Janus head because I’m really taken aback by the claimed facts and the factual claims I’ve heard from Carrier, Price, and Avalos. Like I have time to fact-check scholars and their methodologies.


  5. Like you, I have not had the time to dig into those three scholars but as to both Carrier and Price, their tilt toward the Christ myth thesis, that even most of the Historical Jesus scholars balk at, tends to make me doubt the rest of their methodology. Avalos is a different kettle of fish. His work seems to me to be axe grinding and emotionally tinged. I find his position on religious violence particularly unworthy. While we will always have zealots who will engage in religious violence, I think for the most part it is usually about political and social power. Which maybe an unpopular view right now but really, isn’t ISIS just trying to create a political theocracy in which they run everything? ( DISCLAIMER: I am a political scientist and lawyer by training; tutored in religion and politics by Jim Guth, renowned scholar on the issue so I have a bias on the issue).
    The step toward faith in something larger than ourselves seems small but can be a chasm. It takes grace.


  6. PS Grace is an impossible concept for someone who is self-sufficient.


  7. I really appreciate the conversation and the points of view. The broad issue of myth versus history doesn’t bother me. What bothers me are Price’s inventory of stories, from earlier literature, that parallel the Gospel stories in enough detail to make some portions of the Bible seem like convenient reiterations, at least in Price’s framing of them. So it’s those earlier stories I’d like to evaluate and mull. I like C.S. Lewis’s view that “myth became fact,” and “God gave men good dreams,” and these thing prefigured what was ordained to become history. That works well, for me, with the broad brush strokes, but maybe not for the finer strokes. I guess these things aren’t new, but they aren’t mirages, either.

    But hey, lawyer, you know the mood and motive behind a statement of fact can be compelling to a jury, but the mood and motive isn’t a test of the truthfulness of a statement!

    Now I’m just picking on you there.

    You can imagine, though, Avalos could be bitter, and Whittaker Chambers could have been bitter. Bitterness could be accepted as almost evidence by one group (you’d be upset if you were lied to, or if you had bought into a lie for a season) while bitterness could be dismissed as mere emotions by another group. Somewhat related, I realize cynicism and healthy skepticism are two different modes, and they certainly color interpretations…. yikes, class time.