moving the goalposts of religious knowledge

October 3, 2010

You’ve probably heard of a recent survey which found that atheists are highly knowledgeable about religious history and beliefs. Having taken the online version of the quiz used in the poll myself, I can tell you that’s it’s actually really easy, the kind of stuff you learn in a breezy comparative religions class. Obviously, this finding is in stark contrast with what religious zealots have been preaching about atheists, that the only reason why any atheist would choose to become an atheist is abject ignorance. Now, it turns out that atheists tend to know at least as much as the average believer if not more about religious basics. What are the zealots to do? Why say that atheists are just really good at trivia but are actually too stupid to think things through and really get an understanding of the complexities of religious dogmas. Or as John Mark Reynolds says in the always reliably execrable On Faith section of the Washington Post between standard issue pseudo-pious whining…

To their credit, secularists have rejected something, and this generally means knowing something about what one has rejected. This is true, if by “knowing something” one means getting quiz show questions right — not understanding. Pew has released a study that shows if the average atheist and the average theist appear on religious Jeopardy, the theist is in trouble. However, wisdom and understanding are different from “just the facts.” It is good to know facts, but that doesn’t mean you get it.

No John, we actually get it and what we get that you’re indulging yourself in thinking of yourself a wise scholar of the metaphysical but in reality, you’re just making excuses for why people who actually know the facts don’t necessarily want to follow your beliefs and accusing them of being selfish hypocrites while painting your faith as carrying humanity’s sinful burden. But in the real world, you and people like you are humanity’s burden, not the other way around. You demand money, you demand respect, you demand obedience, you demand that all scientific research support your personal ideology, and should any of the above fail to happen, you throw a fit, accusing your detractors of being stupid, selfish, and careless minority who conspires against you, like the grown up version of a spoiled toddler who didn’t get a toy you wanted at the store. And by the way, that’s not at all pretentiously condescending or patronizing, you know, the way atheists are always said to act when they’re discussing their thoughts on religion based on a priest’s in-depth reading of r/atheism.

Again, it’s one thing if you believe in a deity and that belief makes you happy. But going around and spitting fire and brimstone speeches, or verbally slathering those who disagree with you in libelous muck is not simply a distasteful thing to do, it’s also a sign of social ineptitude that makes so many people turn away from religion as preached by theologians. Why do you think so many atheists are angry? Maybe, just maybe it could have a connection to pious blowhards who call them stupid, weak-willed, and label them genocidal Nazi maniacs as they manage to spectacularly overlook well documented and well known modern history? Maybe our wannabe pundit should spend some time learning a few things about reading comprehension and social graces rather than continue being a human parasite who benefits from everything that’s given to him by science, technology, and yes, secular laws that defend his right to sound like a condescending, self-absorbed twit, while doing nothing but spewing divisive contempt and demagoguery. And Washington Post? Shame on you for asking so many rabid and interchangeable zealots a national platform to spew their pious libel without a filter.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    … secularists have rejected something …

    Try again, Reynolds: atheists and agnostics have rejected something: if you look up “trivia” such as what the word means, you’ll find that “secularists” include believers (who have swallowed something) too.

    And Washington Post? Shame on you for asking so many rabid and interchangeable zealots a national platform to spew their pious libel without a filter.

    Now, now – think how much blank space the WaPo would have to publish if they had to get along without quoting Republicans of both parties.