Smarter Than the Average Atheist

It's been all over the airwaves since yesterday.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted an interview of Americans and found that, when it comes to knowledge of religion, Americans don't know much 'bout history.

Out of 32 questions, the average number of questions answered correctly was a paltry 16.  Atheists and agnostics led the pack with 20.9 questions answered correctly, followed by Jews at 20.5, Mormons at 20.3, evangelical Protestants with 17.6, white Catholics with 16, white mainline Protestants with 15.8, no particular religion coming in at 15.2, black Protestants at 13.4, and Hispanic Catholics bringing up the rear with only 11.6 correct answers. 

The really interesting tidbit is that education was linked with a greater religious knowledge.  Remember that the average number of correct answers was 16.  For people with a college degree or higher, the average number of correct answers rose to 20.6, followed by those with some college at 17.5, while those with only a high school diploma or less got 12.8.

In a news blip about the quiz, one commenter said that he gave his children Bibles when they were young because it was the best way to make atheists out of them.  In my own search for meaning, my parents raised me in the denomination of my more recent ancestors - Southern Baptist.  But my father always questioned things and, at one time before I was born, dabbled in Unitarianism.  For a long stretch during my high school days, I saw no need for church. 

Growing up in a small town where you go to school with the same people that you're in Girl Scout with, take ballet with, go to church choir with, are in youth group with, etc. etc. ad nauseum, when the group excludes you from everything, you're left completely alone.  I watched as all the Mean Girls were "saved" and baptized.  One would think that turning towards God would turn their hearts towards accepting everyone.  But it didn't.  In my eyes, joining the church became something you just did, not because God spoke to you but because everyone else did it.  Which wasn't for me.

My parents supported me in my decision to leave the church.  They also supported me when, not having set foot in any church for years, I came to a personal understanding of God in my life and wanted to officially join the church and be baptized. 

Mr. Gaelic also was raised Southern Baptist but in high school began attending a Unitarian church.  When we were first engaged, he took me to a Unitarian service and I took him to a Southern Baptist service.  Unitarian was too foreign to my sensibilities and he wasn't about to go back to the Baptist church.  So we met in the middle in the Episcopal church.

Both of us still have many questions that neither priest, nor pastor, nor Bible, nor prayer can answer.  Yet we still hold fast to our beliefs.  To me, questioning my faith makes my faith stronger.  I'm not one to blindly accept anything.  I don't understand everything but I still continue to search for the answers. 

Put a Bible in my hand and I'll find enough inconsistencies that will make you think I'm either atheist or agnostic.  I'll tell you stories from the Bible that are almost verbatim related in other religions using characters from other religions.  I can quote you the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism as well as tell you why the Five Great Religions of the World are, to me, only Two Great Religions.  I can impart my whole religious belief by telling you to read "The Last Battle", the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Perhaps I'm one of those religious elitists that live in the Ivory Towers of academia questioning the very existence of a god.  Or perhaps I'm a fierce believer in WWJD extolling that with God all things are possible.  Or perhaps, just maybe, everything isn't as black and white as quizzes and polls make things out to be and I happily reside in both worlds.  And know that Jonathan Edwards wasn't just a failed politician, unlike (according to the Pew Forum) most Americans.


  1. Very interesting, Mrs. Gaelic.

    I'm certain I would do well with the "quiz" though you have to wonder what it dealt with as quiz questions.

  2. Ms. R: Here's a link to the quiz. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0928/Are-you-smarter-than-an-atheist-A-religious-quiz/When-does-the-Jewish-Sabbath-begin

  3. Well you know how I did with it..