Monday, December 28, 2009

Fact: Christians ARE Ignorant!

In a recent study done by the Barna Group (a Christian research outfit), in their year end summary they state that, "3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S." (Read the full list after the jump for some really interesting statistics)

It's not surprising for someone who has studied their Bible to know that most church going Christians don't know much about it. Atheists often point this handicap out time and time again, and the reason is because many of said atheists were Christians before they read their Bible--and afterward defected into the ranks of heresy and skepticism--and the flood of apostates who have taken up reason and rationality over superstition and faith are proof that the Bible is one of the BEST tools for generating new atheists.

The problem is most Christians remain ignorant as to the content and stylings of their preferred holy book, let alone have any capacity to think critically about of any of it. Not because they are deluded, or delusional, although these may be factors to consider, but everyone who is capable of thinking is capable of exacting scrutiny and applying critical methods to the analysis of a text. 

The problem here, however, is that most believers  can't apply these critical thinking methods because they simply DON'T know what their beliefs should entail (as the Barna poll is proof of)! Why, we might ask? Because they haven't read nor comprehended any of the religious texts vital to sustaining their beliefs in the first place. But this raises the obvious question for Christians , if you haven't really read or dealt with the content of your sacred text, how do you know what it means to be Christian?

It seems, by my reckoning, that today's Christians are simply inheriting a watered down variety of Christianity from their parents, keeping the traditions alive which are handed down to them, but not actually taking the time to investigate the faith they are raised in, causing a generational rift in any actual religious knowledge or religious beliefs which are equated with the principle faith in the first place.

I think most Christians would agree that it's not alright just to make up your own "Christianity" as you go along, even though, according to the Barna polls, that's exactly what it seems most American Christians are doing. I know many Christians who are repulsed, if not saddened, by the idea that mainstream Christians aren't taking the time to practice a devotional sort of faith, but rather, that they are living the good secular life and merely keeping the Christian name as an honorific badge and nothing more.

This may explain polls repeatedly show that 95% of Americans say they are "Christian" when, in actuality, the number of died in the wool Christians is probably far less. Now that the newly polled 15% nonbelievers, a number which is expected to triple in the next decade, and the 25% of faith parishioners who prefer to practice a secular lifestyle regardless of prior affiliation to any religious organization what-so-ever shows the opposite trend for Christians. Christianity isn't growing, it's merely spreading, meanwhile most Christians are dwindling away and/or converting to a secular lifestyle. (See: Gallup-poll: Americans are becoming less religious.)

This is good news for nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, naturalists, and secular free thinkers the world over--we'll soon have more friends to talk with! Moreover, what this means is, although American love to spiritualize everything, many are not following any orthodox Christian creed or semblance of Christianity familiar to us as the Christianity we recognize throughout history. They are practicing a hybrid of Christianity and Secularism.

Most Christians don't rely on the Bible, as Barna suggests, to inform their beliefs. So I think, as many have pointed out before me, they're getting their actual beliefs from somewhere else. And whether or not it is 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' or a bad Rick Warren book, their beliefs are all relative.  Just like the atheist, Christians are picking and choosing the ideas which best suit them, and rejecting those that don't.

Personally, I think this is what we need to point out and emphasize more clearly... religious believers are dependent on the same information we all are, for forming their assumptions. Knowledge in what their faith teaches, or the history of their religious beliefs and how they came to be, has little to do with it. And I happily cite the support Barna has conveniently done for me, because now when I say Christians are ignorant, people will know I'm not saying it as an angry atheist trying to attack people's "faith-based" beliefs, but I'm in fact point out that the majority of Christians don't even know what their faith based beliefs actually are! Precisely because they are completely illiterate as to the tenets of their faith (Granted this isn't every Christian, since I know many who know the Bible a great deal, in fact I used to be one, but in general it seems to me that most Christians don't have a clue--and that's the everyday variety. Which gets me to wondering, why is it so important that they, who do not resemble Christianity except in name, find it so important to be recognized as or called "Christians" anyway? I guess ignorance is bliss. Just a thought.)

I propose, that if we increase Biblical literacy along with literacy in competing world religions, that we will observe a natural tendency to reform opinion and fall back upon familiar secular ground, as has been the observable case thus far. That is, my theory is this: the more religiously literate a person becomes the greater chance they have of seeing the religious scheme for what it is, a big fat sham, and a mass exodus of faith-based adherents taking the spiritual aspects they like the best and starting a new faith, packing up these salvaged beliefs they couldn't live without, and applying them to a secular lifestyle seems to already be a reality. It's worth mentioning that it is a tested theory, that naturalism and spirituality do mix, as it worked for the Buddhists, why can't it work for a modern Christianity?

Gradual secularization seems, at this juncture, an inevitability. And I only wish more Christians would read their Bibles, because as a skeptic and a critic of Christianity in particular, it's tiring to try and educate "believers" as to the particulars of their beliefs before I can start showing how such beliefs are erroneous, unsustainable, and virtually indefensible to begin with.

On the horizon, I predict a glorious dawn of reason and crystal clear critical thinking awaits. A future where our rationality and knowledge outweigh our ignorance and don't ask don't tell policies regarding what it is we believe. There is no shame in not believing in something so ridiculous that to actually believe in it, in all that it entails, would be more shamefully ridiculous still. 

Even so, we can always change our minds after weighing all the evidence and thinking about it rigorously, the first step though, is looking at the evidence before formulating our beliefs. Herein lies the mistake I think these sorts of Christians are making when they prematurely settle for an inherited belief before considering what the evidence has to say. It's sort of like jumping to conclusions, and if someone should point out that such a conclusion is invalid, they simply ignore the criticism and continue to believe as they will. This is true ignorance, and it may suit the person of faith, but for a strict rationalist, such as myself, it just won't do.

Have a good one!

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist