On the Ignorance of American Christians
¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.
¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.
If you want to know about Martin Luther or transubstantiation, it turns out that atheists and agnostics are likely to be a more reliable source of information than Christians. Unsurprisingly, president of American Atheists Dave Silverman concludes that atheism is “an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge.” Silverman adds, “I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
I prefer Half Sigma’s explanation of the data:
. . . the moral of the story is that people believe in what they believe for social reasons and not because they actually know anything about what they believe. And the same applies to belief in global warming.
While obviously not explaining why atheists scored better on the survey, Half Sigma makes the important point that atheists are by no means immune to societal influence. Surely, most atheists accept global warming with as little understanding of the science as the typical Christian possesses of theology and church history.
Not that that’s a bad thing. While not an atheist, I do count myself among those who accept the science of global warming — not just passively, but with an accompanying commitment to carbon reduction — despite having only the most rudimentary grasp of the greenhouse effect and other scientific principles. My logic is very simple: I accept global warming science because I trust the people who say that the planet is warming (chiefly, the IPCC) and do not trust the people who deny that the planet is warming (FoxNews, et al).
Is it a discredit to Christianity that its adherents also tend to reason like this? No — though trust obviously has its limits.