Greetings, everyone. First, I begin with a story. Is it a story of awesomeness? Naturally.
I work for the state, in the unemployment program. So, as I’ve noted, these days I’m busier than a three-legged cat trying to cover up a turd on a frozen pond. That aside, the unemployment law in Wisconsin is some complicated shit. There are entire categories of employment that, should you get laid off, aren’t covered by the unemployment system; that is, if you work as, say, a caddy on a golf course, and you find yourself out of that job through no fault of your own, you don’t get shit from the state. One of these exclusions–Section 108.02(15)(h)1, for those of you who care–states that anyone “In the employ of a church or convention or association of churches” is excluded from receiving unemployment benefits based on that work.
Well, recently, at a training session (not conducted by me) on this law, someone asked why that was the case. My answer, jokingly, was “Because it’s not really work.”
And everyone laughed.
Because it was a joke.
Well, almost everyone. One woman got all out of sorts and said “My husband is a minister,” to which I replied “I’m sorry to hear that.” She got even pissier and clammed up. At lunch, she came up to me, still pissy, and said “I’m still mad about what you said.”
Me: “I thought you people were supposed to turn the other cheek.”
Her: “I’m used to dealing with people like you–the ignorance-“
Me: “Slow down. Don’t confuse mockery and contempt with ignorance.”
And that was the end of that.
Why do I bring this up? Good question. As you’ve no doubt seen, a recentPew poll has been making the rounds. And there’s been a lot of triumphal bleating from many non-religious types, who I’d normally agree with, that atheists/agnostics know a lot more about religion than the religious types do. PZ Myers, for example, whose work I really dig, gives us the following ridiculous post title: “Want to know about religion? Go to your local atheist, not your priest.” Which, and keep in mind I am a big fan of his blog, is just stupid. They weren’t polling priests, they were polling the general populace. But I digress.
Yes, atheists and agnosticsdid score higher than any other group. But keep in mind that, though Pew had an absolutely gigantic sample size–3412 people (as you’d expect when they’re trying to get good data on so many sub-groups). Even though they got pretty large sub-groups, the margins of error go up as the groups get smaller. For example, the MoE for atheists/agnostics is a whopping8.5%. So, you know, the parameters for atheists/agnostics in the general population could vary quite a bit from the statistics gathered this sample. The results of the poll arehere (warning–big-ass PDF). Sadly, there are no cross-tabs. At any rate, you can’t really claim that this poll robustly demonstrates that atheists/agnostics (who had to be lumped together ’cause there weren’t enough straight atheists to make even wild inferences from) are vastly superior to theists in knowledge of religious bullshit.
But let’s leave that aside for a moment. Consider this: That poll (smaller PDF of whole thing, without results, here) is preposterously fucking easy, and it’s almost all multiple fucking choice. And people still fucked it up. And when I say “people,” I mean “everyfuckingbody who took this goddamn thing.” If this were a test, the highest grade (again, the 212 atheists/agnostics) would be at the head of the class with 65% correct. Now, depending on where you went to school, that’s a D or an F. Big fuckin’ bragging rights there, chief. Just two fucking percent of all respondents got 29 or more of the questions correct–that’s 90.6%. Overall, it’s just a piss-poor showing. I mean, 34% of the people who call themselves Christian couldn’t name the first fucking book of the Bible. The first one! Nobody was asking what number 34 is (it’s Nahum if you’re a Christian). And a full 55% of Christians polled couldn’t name the four Gospels. (Jews, not too suprisingly, bombed the shit out of that question–but they beat the hell out of all other groups when asked about Martin Luther starting the Reformation–go figure.)
We’re a nation full of fucking morons, folks. And that’s why, when that woman got in my face about ignorance, I didn’t mention this poll. Yeah, as an atheist, I’m probably statistically more likely to know slightly more about religion and religious shit than someone who’s actually religious. But, as noted, a D-/F doesn’t give you much of an edge in my book. Sure, I personally know quite a bit about religion, but I can’t claim status in a group that has superior knowledge for all of the above reasons.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to perform some unspeakable dark rites. By which I mean drink a pint of stout. Peace, bitches.