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No. of Recommendations: 37
Pew Forum just published results from US Religious Knowledge Survey http://www.pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Reli...
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.


The New York Times had an article with this interesting tidbit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/us/28religion.html?_r=1
That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”


Perhaps atheists should distribute Bibles?
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"Perhaps atheists should distribute Bibles?"

Actually, we (atheists) would like all Christians to read their Bible. But read it from cover to cover, not just the select verses the clergy picks out to "strengthen your faith".
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Perhaps atheists should distribute Bibles?

No, Steven. The study clearly shows atheists know more, so they would know better than to aid in the spread of superstition.

:-)
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they would know better than to aid in the spread of superstition.

But do bibles aid in the spread of superstition? Did you see the bit I quoted from the president of American Atheists?

I'll repeat it here:
“Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

So, do you think he's wrong?
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Take the quiz - http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/

Wow. Like a good atheist I got 15 out of 15. I have to admit I took a pure guess at the last question. God must have been guiding me.

Elan
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Wow. Like a good atheist I got 15 out of 15. I have to admit I took a pure guess at the last question. God must have been guiding me.

Yep, that's the one I got incorrect, for a score of 93%.
Half-full disclosure: I am neither Jewish not an atheist, but this seems to be a religious board with some sanity. I hope you guys don't mind if I hang out here.
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Fifteen out of fifteen.

But I did guess one—the one about the First Great Awakening. I'd never heard of that before, nor had I heard of Jonathan Edwards or Charles Finney.

I would have expected each group to score highest on questions relating to its own faith. Which is why I was surprised to see Jews "lose" on two questions related to Jewish history:

1. More Mormons than Jews knew that Moses was the Bible figure most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt.

2. On the question about Job, three religious groups outscored Jews:
  White Evangelical Protestants
  Black Protestants
  Mormons

On the other hand, Jews were far more likely than Protestants to correctly answer the question about the Protestant Reformation.
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I hope you guys don't mind if I hang out here.

I sure don't mind.

Glad you think we're sane. (Boy, have we got you fooled!)

Is there some reason why you don't want to go with full disclosure? I don't think there's any religious affiliation you could name that would be controversial on this board.
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15 out of 15, although for the last one I did guess.

And for "obedience," Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac takes the cake, and Noah was also highly obedient, but the "suffering" clue pointed to Job. I'll bet a lot of Jews got tricked into answering "Abraham" or "Noah," even though we do know the story of Job. So that question was more about test-taking skill than religious knowledge, IMO.

YG
Jewish atheist
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15/15, guessed on the last question too, secular jew.

but the test wasn't really about religious knowledge. general knowledge, i'd call it. martin luther? high school history. what can and cannot be taught in a public school? high school civics. hindu gods? modern literature. mother teresa? the newspaper. ditto ramadan. the jewish sabbath? ok, that one i know from personal experience, but even if i hadn't, i surely would have picked it up somewhere.

c.
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14 out of 15 ... I thought that was pretty good till I read all the previous posts with people get 15 of 15 ... but, I just guessed wrong on the last question. everyone else guessed right.

.... the question about Nirvana applies to both Hinduism and Buddhism, so if you answered Hinduism, you would have been correct, but you would have been scored as incorrect.
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Well in fairness this poll is more like history of religion than in depth familiarity with the bible. It'd be interested to see a breakdown by group....if a fundamentalist xian doesn't know that Pakistan is muslim I wouldn't say their religious knowledge is deficient. if they don't know Job is considered a paradigm of endurance in the face of suffering, I'd say it is.

silencer
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I'll repeat it here:
“Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

So, do you think he's wrong?


Tricky question. If the child is not brain-washed, then no he is not wrong. If you brain-wash little johnnie from the time he's 1 yr old it's difficult for him to shake that off later (I forget which pope said it, but I believe the quote is "give us a child until he's 12 and he's ours for life").

But for someone who did not experience such indoctrination, yes, I think actually reading the Bible straight through is a great inoculation against Christianity. It certainly pushed me down that road when I was in high school...no...junior high (8th grade, I think).
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I think actually reading the Bible straight through is a great inoculation against Christianity.

Do you think the same think with regards to the Jewish Bible and Judaism?

Do you see religious people as someone intellectually crippled? Even if I grant that for those you describe as "brainwashed" from infancy, what about those who come to religion as adults?

It's appealing to write off one's philosophical opponents as stupid or naïve. (Though I don't presume you do that.) And yet there is no shortage of Orthodox Jews with advanced degrees in hard sciences, some of them Nobel Laureates. Surely you don't think they're stupid, ignorant, or naïve, do you?

I'm willing to concede that intelligent, well-informed people can examine the same data as I and come to different conclusions. I still think they're wrong, but I don't presume it's a result of some kind of character defect or intellectual deficiency.
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I think actually reading the Bible straight through is a great inoculation against Christianity.

Do you think the same think with regards to the Jewish Bible and Judaism?

Do you see religious people as someone intellectually crippled? Even if I grant that for those you describe as "brainwashed" from infancy, what about those who come to religion as adults?


There's hardly ever someone who becomes religious as an adult without being exposed to it before. We are all exposed to discussion of god, at least in casual conversation, from the day we begin to understand spoken language. It's in everyday phrases, in the media, it's even on our currency. It's impossible for a child of three or four, who tends to believe every word his parents and other adults say to him, to not hear of god as a given fact. He may spend years, or his whole life, struggling with that belief that was planted in his mind as an infant. Very few break away from it completely in our society.

Elan
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Do you think the same think with regards to the Jewish Bible and Judaism?

Haven't read it, but it's mostly the Old Testament, yes? The Old Testament is a huge "turn-off". Violent, bellicose, savage. So I would say "yes".

...what about those who come to religion as adults?

From my (limited) experience, it's an emotional thing. I have a coworker who converted (fundy) several years ago. Tears roll down his cheeks every time he discusses it. He tries to couch it in intellectualism, but fails miserably (sorry...the data tells us unequivocally that the Earth is older than 6000 years).

I still think they're wrong, but I don't presume it's a result of some kind of character defect or intellectual deficiency.

Not necessarily, no. Sometimes it is. Studies have shown an apparent predisposition to religion. I'm not a psychologist so can't really comment further about that aspect.

FWIW, so long as a person's beliefs do not conflict with the available data, then more power to them. I only get annoyed when people stick their fingers in their ears saying "la la la, no it's not, can't hear you, la la la". And then teach their children the same thing. The stuff for which there is no data, then we certainly can discuss and have differing opinions, etc. Other things are not a matter of opinion.

1poorguy
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the data tells us unequivocally that the Earth is older than 6000 years

Actually, what we can only say that's true if we know "unequivocally" that rate of radioactive decay has always been constant.

We've been able to study radioactive decay for about 100 years. If the Earth is 4 billion year old, then our "sample size" is equal to 0.0000025% of the total.

Based on such a small period of observation, I don't think we can say with certainty that the rate of radioactive decay never changes.

I think it's extremely likely that the rate of radioactive decay hasn't changed. But that's my opinion, not a fact.
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I think it's extremely likely that the rate of radioactive decay hasn't changed. But that's my opinion, not a fact.

Actually, from what we know about decay, yes it is. The quantum mechanics are well-understood, and verified. I understand your point, but consider that some really smart folks have been working the math for a long time, and it never leads to variable decay rates.

And also consider that if, somehow, 4B years of radioactive decay were compressed into 6K years, the amount of radiation for the first thousand or so would have destroyed all life and the Earth would have been a barren rock for the subsequent 5K years.

There are also astrophysical considerations including how long it takes stars to produce all the heavy elements (and then explode), and how long it would take new systems to form with those elements in the planetary bodies, etc, etc, etc.

It's never as simple as sites like Answers in Genesis like to paint it. You get overlapping data across multiple disciplines always pointing to the same answer. It's really elegant, and really powerful.

1poorguy
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Actually, what we can only say that's true if we know "unequivocally" that rate of radioactive decay has always been constant.

We've been able to study radioactive decay for about 100 years. If the Earth is 4 billion year old, then our "sample size" is equal to 0.0000025% of the total.

Based on such a small period of observation, I don't think we can say with certainty that the rate of radioactive decay never changes.

I think it's extremely likely that the rate of radioactive decay hasn't changed. But that's my opinion, not a fact.


This is absolute rubbish. Radioactive decay is but one small factor out of thousands of observations from many different fields of science that indicate the age of the earth is closer to six billion than to six thousand years, your sophistry not withstanding.

Elan
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Okay, I feel like I have to preface this answer by saying I don't believe that what I'm about to say is a true explanation. Only that it isn't inconsistent with observed facts.

(In other words, don't lump me in with the Bible literalists.)

consider that if, somehow, 4B years of radioactive decay were compressed into 6K years

Ah, but I never claimed that. I specifically mentioned that we can't know for certain that the rate of decay has never changed. We've estimated the half-life of Carbon 14 at 5,700 years, based on measurements that we've only been able to perform in the last 100 years or so.

Perhaps 200 years ago the half-life of Carbon 14 wasn't 5,700 years but just 570 years, or maybe 57 years?

Again, I don't believe that. But there's no way to be certain.

Imagine studying a 100-acre lot in downtown Seattle, and based on those observations calculating the number of Apple trees in the State of Washington. It doesn't matter how accurate your observations might be, because you'd have no way of knowing if it was a representative sample. It would be better to study 100 one-acre lots distributed randomly throughout the state, and still the sample size might be too small. And it's not as if we can go back in time and measure the rate of radioactive decay 500 years ago, and 1000 years ago, etc.

(Now would be a good time for me to mention that, according to Jewish tradition, the laws of nature after the Flood were different than before the flood.)

I have heard some claim that G-d could simply have created the Earth in any state he so desired. Perhaps he created it with fossilized dinosaur bones already buried?

Now I think that's patently ridiculous, and I don't believe it for a minute. But is it theoretically possible that an all-powerful being could have done that? Of course. Not logical or reasonable, but still possible.
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Hey Steven,

Well, since you seem interested (and, yes, I understand that you aren't advocating what you are saying):

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

An excellent summary. Some things simply are not a matter of perspective or opinion (while others are). Section 2.1 covers decay rates, but the entire article is interesting (and provides citations to journal articles).

But is it theoretically possible that an all-powerful being could have done that? Of course.

It is more likely that all the molecules of air in the room you are sitting in suddenly move to one corner of the room, suffocating you. Statistically its probability is non-zero. (However, it is sufficiently small that it is not likely to occur even once in several orders of magnitude longer than the universe has been.) And it also has the benefit that this involves known quantities that can be observed and described mathematically. Nothing supernatural has yet been detected, so the hypothesis is not testable nor useful. It also does not explain the existing data any better than present knowledge/theories. So it really is no help to us (mankind).

Here's another article on the subject (again, with citations and links to journal articles).

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hovind/howgood-c14.html

(FYI: This website appears to have been created to counter AiG's claims, and many of their articles directly reference that site while providing present knowledge and data on various topics.)

1poorguy
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Perhaps 200 years ago the half-life of Carbon 14 wasn't 5,700 years but just 570 years, or maybe 57 years?

Again, I don't believe that. But there's no way to be certain.


By making such a statement you're demonstrating ignorance of the body of research in physics and other sciences. The half life of carbon 14 is not measured in isolation. Many other radioactive decay rates have been measured. Many other phenomena have been measured. It is impossible for one of them to have changed without the whole structure of the universe and all physics as we know it to collapse.

In scientific disciplines it's not enough to say - maybe this is not true. Anyone doing so carries the burden of proposing an alternative theory, and explaining how every other scientific observation in the world can be consistent with the alternative theory. Try to do that and you are doomed to failure. The only way anyone can claim that the half life of carbon 14 was 570 or 57 years at some time in the past is to shut their eyes and ears to the body of scientific evidence that makes it impossible.

Just contemplate one set of observations. There are many others. Humans can look deep into space and measure the compositions and physical interactions on distant stars. We can see what happens on stars four light years away, 4000 light years away, 4 million light years away, and 4 billion light years away. All these objects are behaving according to the exact same laws of physics, driven by the exact same physical forces and constants. By examining these objects we are peering into the past far beyond the last 100 years, and we see a universe with the same physical laws no matter how far we look. For the rate of decay of carbon to have changed, the nuclear forces holding atoms together would have to have changed. The stars and galaxies that we see millions of light years in the past would have been radically different if that was the case.

I have heard some claim that G-d could simply have created the Earth in any state he so desired. Perhaps he created it with fossilized dinosaur bones already buried?

Now I think that's patently ridiculous, and I don't believe it for a minute. But is it theoretically possible that an all-powerful being could have done that? Of course. Not logical or reasonable, but still possible.


No more possible than we are living in The Marrix. Maybe you are smarter than that and just playing devils advocate. That may be fun. The problem is that millions of people are taught and convinced that science is just one possible version of reality and they can believe any rubbish they want, and they live their lives as idiots with a mythical "reality".

BTW, if someone believes that an all-powerful being staged it all to make the universe look as if it has existed billions of years, just to fool us into thinking it's so, and he did it perfectly without leaving a single contrary clue, shouldn't that someone conclude that the all-powerful being MEANT him to believe the universe is billions of years old? Wouldn't it be heresy, then, to believe otherwise?

Elan
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