Monday, August 24, 2015

We the (benighted) people.....

So I had a bit of schadenfreude, enjoying the early comments to the most recent screed by Jeffrey Tayler.  More readers than not thought Tayler went completely off the rails. (I read Tayler for the comments, now; it's like reading a barometer to gauge the weather.)

Eventually, of course, this was cited:  the article that "proves" atheists know more about religion than believers.  Apparently if Jews recognize Moses but not Maimonides, and Protestants can't tell you if the elements of the communion are sacramental (or what a sacrament is) or merely symbolic, then they don't really "know" anything about their religion.

As if religion were a matter of passing a multiple-choice test, or every Christian believer should be able to get a seminary degree without a seminary education.

Dare I repeat this blog's motto?  "Ideas don't matter.  Things don't matter.  People matter."  Does my knowledge of church history, ecclesiology, soteriology, hermeneutics, exegesis, biblical theology, really make me a "superior" Christian to my grandfather, a lay Primitive Baptist pastor and one of the kindest, gentlest, wisest men I ever met?  I assure you he couldn't explain the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation. Does that make me superior to him?  On what scale, and for what purpose does anybody set up that scale?

To put this in context, let me ask all the "natural born" American citizens reading this if you can tell me the contents of all 10 of the "Bill of Rights"?  Or can you at least tell me the content  of amendments 7, 8, and 9?  Google is your friend, but Google is cheating in this test.  Can you tell me who was present in Philadelphia to write the Constitution?  Can you tell me what the 16th amendment is, or the 17th?  How about the 11th or 12th?

And if you don't know, are you less of a citizen than someone who does know?  Does it matter to you as an American whether or not you know those things, anymore than it matters to a Jew whether Maimonides was a Jew?  If you are a Christian, is it important that you know who Luther was?  Ever heard of Zwingli? Any idea what lasting influence he had on Protestants?  Do you really know anything about Calvinism, or do you just think you do?  Can you name the two branches of historic Protestantism, and explain their relationship to Pentecostalism?

Would it matter if you could?

And if you know more about the Constitution than you do now, if you know what the amendments are I mentioned above, or how they have been interpreted by the Courts, does that weaken your trust in the form of government we have?  Does knowing Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and probably raped Sally Hemings make you want to repudiate the Declaration of Independence?  If you became a Constitutional scholar, would you expect you would repudiate the democratic republic of the United States?  Why, or why not?

These things that pass for knowledge I don't understand.....


  1. I can't resist, the Pope of neo-atheism and Darwinian fundmentalism, Dawkins can't correctly state the title of his Bible


  3. I was thinking about this while cleaning the oven, a truly hellish job, and I wonder why, if someone who accepts an idea is supposed to know every bit of trivia about it why those who reject the idea aren't just as obligated to know it in as much detail. I was listening to an exchange between Christopher HItchens and William Lane Craig (I listen to a lot of stuff while I'm doing house work) and Hitchens stated some of the common recieved wisdom that is absolutely false about the so-called Wilberforce - Huxley debate. He said that Huxley trounced Wilberforce, something that Darwin, himself, contradicted when he said that Wilberforce brought up every weakness in On the Origin of Species and that he, Darwin, was going to have to do some work in answering his points. And that's only one of a myriad of such common received factoids that are current in atheist lore, passed on as if it were historical fact.

    The problem is that there has been a double standard successfully imposed on educated people in which one side seldom is required to back up what they say and the other side is declared to never, ever have enough evidence to back up what they say, no matter how valid the evidence and how much of it there is. A lot of the nastiness and invective of the past fifteen years could have been avoided if a single standard had been required of everyone, the old fashioned one that used to at least be the ideal requirement of all scholarship. I blame science for a lot of that, they're the ones who started discounting the validity of those methods for dealing with the vast majority of human experience which scientific methods can't address.

  4. Most of the atheists I encounter on-line, from loonies in comments to Biblical scholars like Bart Ehrman, started out as fundies or in very conservative churches and, as they encountered a world that didn't coddle such narrow-mindedness, they abandoned religion altogether.

    Baby and bathwater both discarded. Mostly because they can't abandon the faith they grew up in; they can only discard it.

    That's not a crime or a failing. Most of us stick to the soteriology or theology we were raised with, even if we despise it or want to change it in adulthood. We never quite do. That's pretty much the way of the world.

    But I've known plenty of educated people who reconcile their science (lots of geologists and engineers where I grew up) with their faith, or who study and learn a great deal more about their faith than what they learned in Sunday School. Most adults want a fuller understanding, not a lesser one; but many adults don't need that, and don't seek it.

    How is this hierarchy established, then? And what does it mean to believers? I've yet to read the work of an atheist that I thought was all that knowledgeable about my religious faith. What atheists know tends to be as circumstantial and superficial as what believers know. I don't see how that sets one group above the other.

    And NTodd: put your hand down. Everybody knows your the teacher's pet in civics class. :-)