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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Monday, January 09, 2012

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grade Atheist?

Jack Kemp

Victoria Knox, who writes the Tea Party Nation "The Daily Blade" column has contacted me after reading my "The Rise of Spiritual Illiteracy" article and supplied these remarks from one of her columns:

THE DAILY BLADE: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grade Atheist? (Obama Isn’t.)

A telephone survey of more than 3,400 Americans by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life measuring Americans' knowledge about the Bible, religion, famous religious figures and the First Amendment finds that atheists and agnostics answered more of the 32 questions correctly than believers, which “may give new meaning to the term "blind faith," sniggers the Los Angeles Times:

Atheists and agnostics - those who believe there is no G-d or who aren't sure - were more likely to answer the survey's questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey's measurement of religious knowledge - so close as to be statistically tied.

So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The New York Times notes that “[c]lergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings”:

† 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.

† Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Theresa was Roman Catholic.

Like many Americans, President Barack Hussein Obama’s understanding of the precepts of his faith is shaky – and not necessarily because his mother "didn't raise me in the church" or because he “came to my Christian faith later in life." At a campaign event in New Mexico, he told a woman who asked why he's a Christian that “Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead - being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me."

Oy. Where to begin ...

Jesus never spoke of himself or anyone else being his brother’s keeper. But Cain did – in answer to G-d demanding to know where Abel was (Genesis 4:8-10). Obama also misunderstands the connotation of “keeper” in the Old Testament. For instance, Abel is described as “a keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2) – that is, he stood watch over them. So Cain – who tried to evade the question by being insolent – was really saying: “How should I know where my brother is? Am I supposed to watch him every minute of the day?”

Perhaps Obama was referring to Galatians 6:2 (Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ). But there are many ways to bear another’s burdens; the help you offer need not be financial, but can be emotional, spiritual and even physical labor. But having learned his faith from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama interprets “keeper” and “bearing another’s burdens” as taking from the rich and giving to the poor. When a rich Christian voluntarily gives to the poor, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he fulfilled the law of Christ, but neither Wright nor Obama would allow him that grace.

As for “treating others as they would treat me” – that’s the Chicago version of the Golden Rule (“Somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with him.”). In answer to the question, "which is the greatest commandment," Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Which means treat your neighbor no worse than you would treat yourself – not treat your neighbor no better than he treats you.

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