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Southern Religion

Who’s smarter than an atheist?

Despite their claims to the contrary, neither Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register nor the staff of the Christian Science Monitor will help anyone answer that question.

No. Neither makes the mistake of relying on a shorter Pew Forum quiz to arrive at the wrong answer.

Yet both use headlines which mislead readers toward believing that by comparing their scores on the full, 32-question quiz to the aggregate scores for atheists and agnostics who were surveyed, they can determine whether they’re smarter than an atheist.

Not going to happen. No opportunity to disaggregate the Pew data to find you an atheist with whom to compare yourself is offered.

Nor is the full survey an intelligence test.

The measurement tool reveals and was designed to reveal social trends.

The data can be useful to those who analyze and apply it. As opposed to the recreation of applying the measurement tool to yourself.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Education, Politics, Religion, Science | , , , , | Comments Off on Who’s smarter than an atheist?

Atheists & Agnostics, Jews and Mormons score best on test of religious knowledge

Atheists/Agnostics, Mormons and Jews score best on test of religious knowledge

From the Executive Summary of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

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.

Atheist PZ Myers did a restrained victory dance.

Get Religion suggests that as a nation we do in fact need to be better informed about religion. Lest Americans continue to excel at believing without knowing.

Matthew C. Nisbet, associate professor in the School of Communication at American University, argued that the survey’s outcome was to be expected, scientifically. He sees it all “in the context of research I have conducted with my colleague Dietram Scheufele on like those shaping political knowledge more generally.”

He explains:

(1) Each of the highest scoring groups is a very small minority in a U.S. culture [that is] dominated by other belief traditions. Under these conditions of minority status, there is much higher motivation for members of these groups to seek out, acquire, and retain knowledge about their own beliefs, the beliefs of others, and the legal protections afforded religion.

(2) This motivation to acquire and retain knowledge is amplified when these minority individuals also anticipate engaging in conversations or arguments with others–where as a small minority–they often have to defend their own beliefs.

In other words, contrary to some of the claims made today, it’s not that atheists are smarter or superior to other groups, but instead, the social climate in the United States encourages and motivates atheists to acquire higher levels of religious knowledge.

While members of more dominant groups feel secure in their relatively uninformed lassitude.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Education, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

The N.C. silly season on office-holding atheists goes pandemic

When atheistic Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell took office without legal challenge or other untoward event, we thought the silly season had ended and with it talk of applying Article 6, section 8 of the North Carolina constitution (a bootless anachronism). It says:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Vain hope. The sensationalistic atheist-bashing virus which greeted Bothwell’s election went national and then international.

Now apparently pandemic, the infection has boomeranged back to North Carolina, afflicting N.C. Christian Action League chief Mark Creech.

As Tony Cartledge explains:

Relying heavily on David Barton’s The Myth of Separation, which argues against church-state separation, Creech holds that “the founders” intended only that there should be no denominational test (Anglican, Presbyterian, etc.), assuming that all potential office holders would be Christian. In addition, he suggests (with the late D. James Kennedy) that those who don’t believe in God have no basis for life-affirming values.

Threatened with legal action, radio-interviewed and written about hither and yon, Bothwell is not unaware of the arguments being deployed. Bothwell answers them calmly via his own blog. For example, he writes:

Blind belief in the righteousness of our current wars is bankrupting this country while our economy has gone into a tailspin. And while our leaders often cloak their actions with prayer and religious posturing, it is the oil companies and defense contractors who reap profits while our young women and men sacrifice their lives.

And, in regard to death, it is my conclusion that those of us who believe that this is our one and only life are much more likely to value and protect the lives of our brave soldiers and our citizens than those who believe that they will live again in heaven.

Yet the nature atheists, who from here appear to be a varied lot indeed, isn’t the issue here. Religious freedom is. One need not be a Bothwell supporter to note, as we did earlier, that the U.S. Constitution supersedes any and every state constitution where there are conflicts. Then there is both the First Amendment to consider and Article VI, which says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Religious belief and/or the lack thereof have no bearing on the right to exercise the privileges of citizenship in this country. That’s our way of keeping the state out of our religion (or lack thereof), and it works.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on The N.C. silly season on office-holding atheists goes pandemic

Atheists & officeholding in North Carolina

Perhaps also refugees from the war on Christmas, opponents of Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell argued that he shouldn’t be seated because he’s an atheist. All reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times, which also explains that Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution (a bootless anachronism) says:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

The U.S. Constitution supersedes any and every state constitution where there are conflicts. There’s the First Amendment to consider, as well as Article VI, which says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Yet the opponents of duly elected Bothwell, author of “Pure Bunkum: Reporting on the Life and Crimes of Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Lee Medford,” persisted. And failed. For Bothwell was sworn in Tuesday night.

Thus the silly season came again this year to North Carolina, and passed.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Atheists & officeholding in North Carolina

OMG! Atheist ads keep right on rollin’

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on OMG! Atheist ads keep right on rollin’

Wednesday insomnia relief

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Wednesday insomnia relief