I’m A Believer

The story has been out there, but what the Hades:

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.  Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.   — NY Times

This should surprise exactly nobody.  Atheists aren’t unbelievers because they don’t know anything about religion, they’re atheists because they know a lot.  The more one knows about religion, the easier it is to see what a fucking scam it is.

I speak as an atheist, of course, but for all that, I’m usually the one at the end of the night bellowing defenses of religious belief, and singing the praises of the faithful.  Some of the finest people I’ve had the privilege to associate with have been devout believers, both secular and clergy.  Just two weekends ago, at my cousin’s wedding, I sat beside an inspirational Catholic priest with whom I had a wonderful conversation about world affairs, ministering to returned American veterans, and the music of Johann Stamitz.  (He was one of only 4 men at the affair without a necktie – the other three were myself, my brother, and my mentally disabled second cousin.  All of us sat at the same table, too.  Hmmm.)

But what one believes and one does occupy separate realms. As a pastor, he accepts the mystery of the rosaries and the transformation; I don’t.  But he gets up before dawn every day and provides precious counsel to distressed young men and women who return from war with their heads up their asses and their lives torn to rags – if it’s his faith that gets him through this, why would I  disdain his faith?  He’s a better man than I.

Look around the globe when disaster strikes.  The first on the scene are the churches, the religious orders, the missions.  Is their faith a crock of shit that their own congregations can’t comprehend?  Fine.  Their work is needed, good, and a credit to the species.  What have you done lately?

So, yeah, in the intellectual tussle between faith and reason, I wear an R when I go to war on the side of the academy, the ACLU, the scientists, and the unwashed freethinkers.  But when there’s a soul to be soothed, I stand aside and let the faithful through.  There’s the Truth, and then there’s what’s Important.  Sometimes believers have a better perspective on which is which.

And then there’s John Entwistle.

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22 Responses to I’m A Believer

  1. Good points. We just need to remember not to lump all believers in with the scammers, the same way it’s unfair to label all Muslims as terrorists or all conservatives as racists. Faith isn’t the enemy; it’s the people who manipulate it and exploit it for their own gain — either money or power or control — that are the bad guys.

  2. Pastor Eddie Long says:

    I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me.

  3. rag says:

    did you really write this? never thought i’d see the day. good thoughts.

  4. Neil, a Christian soul says:

    I appreciate your good wishes and compliments for clergy and the Faithful, but please — please — remember that ultimately you yourself will be judged on what you yourself believe, and based on what you’ve expressed here, you’re going to hell.

    • Dawgbowl says:

      Neil, you’re a perfect example of what’s wrong with too many religous people. Is your God so petty, so trivial, so shallow that unless we believe in His existence He’ll send us to hell, no matter how well we conduct our lives? To you, there can be no such thing as a good or moral atheist. Great thinkers, including scientists, doctors, philosophers, and artists are condemed to hell. That’s s as stupid as it is just sick.

    • Neil, I have no idea what god you worship, but the one I’ve read about in your collections of myths and fables — you know, the one that starts off with two naked people and a talking snake — sounds petty, vengeful, and woefully insecure with all this need for people to worship him.

  5. Missing Lincoln says:

    If I weren’t a lesbian trapped in a man’s body…

    Jews over Mormons in 5. Mormon’s pitch(ing) is suspect.

    • Camiel Toe says:

      Missing Lincoln needs his own blog…..except I’d miss him here.

    • Fran G'Panni says:

      If I weren’t a lesbian trapped in a lesbian’s body, I might find something worthwhile in a religion that didn’t call me “an abomination” and encourage me to seek a “cuire.”

      If there IS an afterlife, Neil and anonymous, and you promise me that when I “cure” myself I’ll be allowed in to mingle with folks like yourselves, I prefer hell. But thanks anyway.

      • Missing Lincoln says:

        I just wish we could divorce religion from faith. I’m serious. Easier to mind your own business. I think that oughta be a commandment. Or at least a regulation (for the faithless among us). Either one works for me.

  6. Ray Ed Gneck says:

    The other factor to keep in mind concerns the poll itself. The Pew Forum is notoriously left-wing, so its findings are suspect from the outset. It’s consistent with their liberalism to make non-believers look more worldly, sophisticated, and educated than the rest of the world.

    • Frank of Oregon says:

      Fair enough, Ray Ed, if you’ll also concede that it’s in the interest of the big-hair evangelical crowd to keep their congregations on eternal edge with talk about the end of the world, devils and demons in the church down the road, and the evils of people not exactly like them. Like Jews, gays, and worst of all, unelightened non-believers. It’s juust the way the game is played, right? Bidness is bidness.

  7. EVERYBODY lies in these polls.

  8. Your overworked underused conscience says:

    “I speak as an atheist, of course, but for all that, I’m usually the one at the end of the night bellowing defenses of religious belief, and singing the praises of the faithful.

    C’mon, Squatty — I’ve been around you at the end of MANY nights and you’re always bellowing about something or other anyway, usually for another shot. With friends like you, the Church doesn’t need enemies! Just breweries!

  9. MadamI says:

    God made breweries and yeast for that matter… for a reason.

  10. anonymous says:

    “Great thinkers, including scientists, doctors, philosophers, and artists are condemed to hell”.

    That is funny, because I do not remember, Newton, Galileo, Coppernicus, Einstein or Bacon as being atheists.

    “Small amounts of philosophy lead to atheism, but larger amounts bring us back to God”.
    Francis Bacon

    “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
    (He said that and yet he called for a priest to confess himself on his deathbed)

    “I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them.”

    I do not know if those who say God does not exist
    are correct or not, but I think I will find out soon after I die, and so shall all of us. Won’t we?

    • Frank of Oregon says:

      Amonymous: You’re right only if there’s something like an Afterlife, which atheists find a rather laughable concept. I’m rather sure that when you die, you discover nothing, not even the taste of dirt.

      • Missing Lincoln says:

        Frankly, your certainty about something so unconfirmable is almost… faith-like. But I’m sure you knew that.

  11. Frank of Oregon says:

    Mr Lincoln: Agreed……I like to think of it as the distinction between upper-case and lower-case faith. I am also (Frankly) confident that 2+2=4, the earth revolves around the sun, and John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence. yet this certainty does not constitute “Faith.”

    And God didn’t make…..little green apples…….

  12. anonymous says:

    Since death is inevitable and we all can agree on that, it means ALL of us without exception will die, and we just have to wait until that day and then, we will find out if there is an afterlife and God does exist.
    As a Christian and a believer I think you all are in for a big shock after you die,but please, don’t claim later no one told you.
    You can mock and make fun of God all you want, but that does not change one iota the fact of His/Her existence.

    • Frank of Oregon says:

      Yes, anonymous, death is inevitable. But no, we will NOT found out when the time comes about a so-called afterlife unless there actually is one. If there isn’t, you won’t find out anything, which is a shame because that means nobody can tell YOU “I told you so.”

      I don’t mock your God or anybody else’s, and you’re right: even if I did it wouldn’t change a thing about that god’s existence (or lack thereof). It just might change a few monds about belief, though. Maybe. And by the way, your firm faith in your god’s existence doesn’t “change one iota the fact of His/Her existence” either.

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