Atheists! Think you know more about religion than the faithful?

I’m fascinated by the tussle between the so-called ‘new’ Atheists and the folks in the other corner, who for want of a better term seem to be called ‘accomodationists’. The main reason I find it fascinating is not the content of the debate, which is mostly pretty mundane, but the fact that the argument rages so hard (take this recent example from Jerry Coyne or this, from Casper Melville standing in the other trench).

Click for larger version.

Anyway, that’s not what today’s post about. What it is about is the new research from the Pew Center, who have recently found that atheists scored higher in a religious quiz than any of the religious groups.

You can take a short form of the quiz here. Let me know how you get on!

Now, atheists tend to be better educated than the religious, but  the differences held even after they adjusted for demographic differences like education and income.

So it seems that the non-religious are genuinely more knowledgeable than the religious – at least in terms of this kind of knowledge-based quiz.

What makes this interesting is the charge, often made by religionists, that the ‘New’ Atheists don’t even understand what is they’re attacking. They don’t understand religion. Now, to a certain extent that’s true. Theological rationalizations for the existance and nature of the various gods can be esoteric in the extreme, and few atheists will have spent the time to understand them.

But of course by this standard most religious people don’t understand religion either, which rather begs the question of what religion is. Are these ‘ordinary’ religious people simply uneducated? Or, if confronted by the rarefied, intellectual and theologically correct version of religion, would they reject it?

In other words, is the ill-informed, theologically incorrect version of religion more real than the true religion?


Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

8 Responses to Atheists! Think you know more about religion than the faithful?

  1. I got 93%. Yup. Atheist.. Religious background though.

  2. I got 93%, too, losing out on the last question. However, the questions were aimed at Americans and I'm a Brit, and I managed to answer the two US-related ones, so I suppose not bad. Atheist, too – or agnostic. Can't really say there isn't, because there's no way of knowing. All we can say is that there's no scientific evidence. So, well done, NrvsAboutAngels! Join the club.

  3. Oooh, I got 100%. I'm an atheist who comes from a family of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. I am also a Renegade Buddhist (and Buddhism does not propose the existence of a god) who accepts only the core principle and rejects any religious trappings.

  4. 100% from an American, raised-christian, turned atheist, primarily self-educated – no college degree here. But then, even when I considered myself a christian I had a strong interest in other religions and mythologies. No doubt that was part of what turned me toward atheism.

  5. 93% for this British atheist. I also got the last question wrong but then only 11% of the general (US) population knew the correct answer. I would have expected 33% to get it correct by pure chance.

  6. I'm an atheist and I scored 100%. I did have to guess on one question. However, I knew the other fourteen. I bet many of my Christian friends would fail this test.

  7. Per you request, 93%. I suppose you could call me R. C. (Recovering Catholic.)

  8. I got 100%. I am an atheist. The only tuff question was the one about the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath is the seventh day, Saturday, but it begins on Friday (the sixth day) at sundown. I love to violate the sabbath every Saturday (named after Saturn) by having a barbeque and brew with my friends. It is a violation of the Ten C to cook or even kindle a fire on Saturday. Hallelujah! Repent, the end is Rear, Infidel

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