More Evidence That Derpity Derp Derp

Om mani padme durr.

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.

16 thoughts on “More Evidence That Derpity Derp Derp

  1. I reviewed all the questions asked (after taking the online quiz, and getting fifteen out of fifteen, just to see if the 32-question survey was more difficult), both religious and general knowledge, and I would agree that the survey was not particularly onerous for anyone who reads the newspaper regularly, and only two questions (the ones the correct answers to which were Jonathan Edwards and Maimonides) might have presented some difficulty for the reasonably informed person.
    What surprised me a bit was the degree to which the news reports I read had distorted the general knowledge questions, particularly the one aboutMoby Dick. The upshot of them was that by highlighting the fact that 4% chose Stephen King as the author, they gave the misleading impression that a high remainder had volunteered the correct answer. In fact, it was a multiple choice, and only 42% correctly picked Herman Melville and the incorrect answers/don’t knows totalled 58%. Hell, that’s just who wrote it, not how many had actually read the book…

  2. And poor Jonathan Edwards. You’d think the fundies would be all over “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but I guess Glenn Beck doesn’t mention him enough. Or ever.

  3. Fourteen out of 15 here. And as for Moby Dick, I have tried to read that fucking thing a dozen times and can’t get past page three.
    My relatively conservative Catholic high school (which right now looks downright communistic, given how bonkers actual conservatism is these days) had a world religions class in which we learned the basics of everybody else’s stuff. It was nice, even if everybody thought of it as an easy A.

  4. Catholic school comparative religion? Yeah, that’s an easy A. “The first religion is Islam. They’re not Catholic. They’re going to Hell. Next, Hinduism. They’re not Catholic. They’re going to Hell. Next, Buddhism…”

  5. Oh yes, 15 out of 15. Probably have an unfair advantage given I didn’t go to elementary and middle school in this country.
    Also: Uh-Poll-Oh and my-mon-eh-deez. I think we have bigger problems if Pew has to teach their surveyors how to pronounce these words.

  6. I’m a Christian, and I also scored 15 of 15. The test is better suited for anyone who took a comparative religions class as a freshman or sophomore in college, and since I teach that class, along with philosophy, ethics and Christian apologetics, I would have been embarrassed to do any less. However, the range of religious ignorance among American Christians is just staggering. Simply put, many (perhaps most) rarely or never actually read (much less study) the Bible; they simply accept at face value whatever dogma their particular denomination or pastor regurgitates down their baby-bird open beaks. What usually passes for Christianity for many Americans couldn’t make it past the litmus test of three or four key scriptures. Atheists and agnostics are excused for a lack of biblical knowledge; for people who call themselves Christian, it’s like an engineer who never passed College Algebra.

  7. Maitri! “Bearshit”! Heee!
    There’s nothing like Hebrew transliteration. You should see some of the sheet music I must sing, and then view the pngoing pronunciation lessons throughout the learning of said music.

  8. I have the advantage of being a convert from very fundamentlist Baptist (The SBC was too liberal for us) to Catholic. Had to take a year of classes on what Catholicism is.
    Still only problem I had was remembering the what parts of the India-Pakistan riots were Hindu / Muslim. Still only had to think for a few minutes though.
    I still can’t believe that 50% of Catholics answered wrong on transubstantiation. It has been a few centuries since Luther and we still carry a grudge on that one. 😉

  9. Thirteen years of Catholic school and I’d never heard of the First Great Awakening before this. I’m dead serious. That said, 14/15; we had an actual comparative religions class in 7th grade that got our teacher in trouble with the diocese because itwasn’t “Islam: not Catholic, going to hell. Hindu: not Catholic, going to hell…”

  10. . Atheists and agnostics are excused for a lack of biblical knowledge
    Uh, no, we never are; we’re always told that if we haven’t studied this one or that one or the other one, then obviously wedon’t understand Christianity and therefore can’t criticise it. Fuck that. I’ve been an atheist since the age of five, when I realised the whole god thing was just ridiculous on its face, and I have read more Bible, Torah, and Qu’ran than most people (how many people doyou know who’ve studied sections from the Bible in four different versions of English — Old, Middle, Early Modern, and Modern) and more theology than most, and more of the literature that Christians seem to think is in the Bible but isn’t, and so on.
    The thing is, if you do that and you’re at all intellectually honest, you pretty muchhave to admit that at least Christianity makes no fucking sense whatsoever and has contradictions in it that can’t be reconiciled, and so isn’t worth the powder you’d need to blow it up.
    And we’re damn sick and tired of being told that we just don’tunderstaaaaaaaaand, when half the time, we can run mental rings around whoever it is with one hemisphere tied behind our backs. Like that drip C.S. Lewis, who never wrote a useful thing in his life, or Alvin Plantinga, who seems to feel that vague-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness drivel is philosophy.

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