Religion gets less believable the harder you look

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, September 30, 2010 0:47 EDT
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Some Golden DaybreakSo, I’m sure you saw the latest Pew report on Americans and religious knowledge. It, unsurprisingly, discovered that Americans are both really religious and profoundly ignorant, even about their own supposed faith. But the big news is that atheists score better than all other groups on the test.

This, of course, was absolutely no surprise to the loose online atheist community. I took abbreviated version of the test, and wasn’t particularly surprised that I got 15 out of 15 questions right. Many, maybe most, atheists that I know came to atheism because they learned so much about religion, enough that the logical inconsistencies and overt wish fulfillment aspects of it made it impossible to take it seriously. They’re often people who are inclined to pay close attention to the content of things instead of just the social context—the kind of people who, when sitting in church, actually think about the texts being presented and not so much about the role the church plays in their social life and self-identity. Thus, it’s easy to ask questions, and once that starts happening, atheism is right around the corner.

I just want to note that activist atheists who interrogate religious claims by a rationality standard and piss people off should bookmark this study. That’s because it’s an excellent refutation to the Courtier’s Reply. The Courtier’s Reply is a believer tactic that involves the believer telling an atheist that they don’t appreciate religion because they don’t see how complex it is, as if elaborate arguments about angels on the heads of pins somehow is evidence towards the claim that angels are real.

So, when believers tell you that you only criticize religion because you’re ignorant, just point out to this survey. Turns out knowing more about the actual details of religion correlates more to rejecting. Religion reminds me of those insects that have showy, beautiful colorings. It seems really beautiful, but if you examine it up close, it’s actually a big, gross insect with hairy legs and overall creepy-crawliness.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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