By Mary DeTurris Poust
Just yesterday, as I was searching for Catholic background information on some off-the-beaten-path teachings, I came across a website run by an atheist which was, quite frankly, better than a lot of the Catholic information I'd been finding up until that point. I found it disturbing, although not surprising. Now, a new survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life confirms exactly what I as thinking as I did my research yesterday: Atheists often know more about the Catholic faith than many Catholics do.
According to the new study (h/t Deacon's Bench), Atheists, who are typically raised believing in God, tend to spend a lot of time reflecting and researching their beliefs before they decide to abandon them. But, really, should they know more about the Eucharist than those who receive Communion week after week?
Some shocking survey results as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.
Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term "blind faith."
A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn't identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church's central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.
Atheists and agnostics -- those who believe there is no God or who aren't sure -- were more likely to answer the survey's questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey's measurement of religious knowledge -- so close as to be statistically tied.
The good news? Eight in 10 people knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. So I guess that's something.
According to the L.A. Times story:
"The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of "When Christians Get it Wrong," said the survey's results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.
"I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it's already accepted to be true, they don't examine other people's faiths. That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith," he said.
Read the full story HERE. For the Pew survey, click HERE.