A recent report that I saw on the CBS evening news and heard on the radio says atheists know more, on average, about the Bible than those who claim to be Christians!
A Pew Research survey asking questions about religious history, scripture and religion’s role in public life revealed that the least religious Americans are the most knowledgeable about religion. A Los Angeles Times writer said, “If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.”
The survey that measured Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term “blind faith.”
A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released last Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church’s central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.
Atheists and agnostics — those who believe there is no God or who aren’t sure — were more likely to answer the survey’s questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey’s measurement of religious knowledge — so close as to be statistically tied.
So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?
American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.
“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister and the author of “When Christians Get it Wrong,” said the survey’s results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others. I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it.”
The Pew survey was not without its bright spots. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
What can we learn from this survey? First, we don’t know how large their data base was which would add to the authenticity. However, this is a reminder to us that we must do more to grow our people in the basics of our faith. As a pastor or church leader don’t assume your people know the fundamentals of our faith. Offer some basic studies that cover all the major aspects of what we believe. Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it. This is what discipleship is all about. What are your plans/strategy to raise the Biblical IQ of your members?
Keep the Son in your eyes,