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

Atheists! Think you know more about religion than the faithful? September 28, 2010

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).

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.

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