What Do the Religious Know? It Turns Out, Not So Much

Jesus Christ!

DUH-O! - Athesists and agnostics are found to be the most knowledgeable about religion, but that's no reason for atheists and agnostics to break out the confetti and dance on the table in celebration.

I’ve debated hundreds of religious people over their preferred Tome of Enlightenment™ and found it interesting that a new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life validates my own anecdotal evidence – that some of the most pious are also some of the most ignorant of their own religion.

In fact, the study finds that not only do religious people often exhibit a shocking ignorance of their Bible, Quran, Torah, et al, but agnostics and atheists like me actually know more about them than those who depend on them for their moral guidance.

I’m what you might call a friendly atheist. I don’t get too worked up over many things believers think they’re divinely empowered to do, because in many cases, it doesn’t really matter. For example, is a dollar with “In God we Trust” worth less than a dollar without?

Believers as Aggressive SOBs?
On the other side of the fence, agnostics and atheists sometimes look at the religioned as aggressively ignorant SOBs who won’t stop discriminating against their fellow humans until they get to dance around the infidels nailed to the biggest cross around. But, that doesn’t mean everyone on both sides is an argumentative crapweasel intent on converting their opposites to a life of enlightenment and wisdom with extreme prejudice.

However, I can get worked up when it comes to believers imposing their beliefs on not only atheists and agnostics, but believers of religions not their own. It’s as harebrained for Muslims to assume Christians are, to a person, supporters of the most insane beliefs about Islam as Christians feeling divinely justified in depriving Muslims if all manner of Constitutional rights.

As a former Christian, I’ve come to believe the Bible is a wonderful work of literature, and on the whole, not a bad checklist for leading a morally good life. I know, and support, that others may differ. The biggest differences I have with most Christians are that I see the Bible as the work of man and where we’ll each end up when we die. I try to stay tolerant of views that oppose my own because that’s the compact I’ve made with myself – to allow believers the freedom to believe anything they want, so long as they respect my freedom to not believe.

I don’t believe I have the corner on biblical wisdom by virtue of answering more questions on a survey form, but I do think there is meaning – even non-biblical meaning – in how believers sometimes conduct their own religions.

Because My Bible Tells Me So
In all my personal religious debates I’ve ended up in the same place. I offer logical and scientific reasoning to explain things and, faced with the disagreement, almost every Christian explains away events or beliefs by saying, the Bible tells me so.

I have a feeling that part of this rhetorical impasse comes as a result of selective readings of religious texts – in other words, believers simply pretending Biblical quotes to the contrary aren’t there…when it’s convenient. The result is a disincentive to learn more about their religions. After all, if you only believe that parts of a religious text apply or that they apply differently to those you don’t like, what’s the point in digging further to find the inconvenient and inconsistent things hiding in the dense text?

There are many believers who dig hard and try to reach a level of religious understanding that clearly many of the people in this survey have no use for. And there are plenty of hypocritical muttonheads among the non-believers. I’d caution the non-believers to not do any fist-pumps over the survey though.

The poor showing of the believers isn’t doing believers OR non-believers any good. Without finding some middle ground where we can all learn to coexist, our philosophical culture wars and quite real hot, shooting wars, will continue unabated.

And, that is a situation that science can’t tolerate and isn’t what God wants.

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The Return of Jack ‘The Hat’ Abramoff

Pizza! Pizza!

THROWIN' THE DOUGH - Former lobbyist and amateur hat model, Jack 'The Hat' Abramoff is out of the hoosegow and dishing kosher pizza. There's no word yet on if, or when, he might treat those whose careers he destroyed to a nice slice of the humble pie.

Fresh off a 43-month stint as a guest at Uncle Sam’s deluxe Cumberland, MD penal colony, Jack ‘The Hat’ Abramoff has moved into a halfway house and scored a new gig at a Baltimore pizza joint.

It seems like a strange move for a former lobbyist and amateur hat model, but he’s paid his debt to society and it’s time for him to once again become a productive member of society – if you consider his former career as a lobbyist productive.

It turns out he actually has the right skill-set for the pizza biz. He’s the former owner of a swank DC eatery and devoutly Jewish, making him the perfect fit to eventually take over marketing for Tov, the kosher pizza place. After all, marketing isn’t that different from lobbying. You convince people to gobble up all sorts of tasty morsels in the hope they will grow fat and happy, come back again and again, and leave you a really good tip.

While he’s certainly no Bernie Madoff, he did do considerable damage to many people. Nineteen people, including Congressman Bob Ney (R-Stupidville) and a Dubya Deputy Secretary of the Interior, were convicted in the investigation. He was also partially responsible for some of the grief John McTheusela garnered while being all mavericky on the campaign trail and provided fodder to hammer Tom ‘The Hammer’ Delay his ownself. Even his erstwhile “clients” took a beating. Bernie Sprague of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe said Abramoff cost them millions.

“It totally destroyed our tribe,” Sprague said. “All he was worried about was Jack. Jack has to get his next big check. . . . That was the only thing on his mind.”

His stink may still linger too. Jack was BFF with Arizona Senate candidate and Tea Bagger zany J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth is known for slugging an already punch drunk John McCain during the bruising campaign and one can expect the ancient scion of what passes for Arizona politics to remind everyone of the connection.

Lobbyists come. Lobbyists go. But, the crapulent aroma of their pizza lingers on.

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