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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Survey: Americans don't know much about religion (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Survey: Americans don't know much about religion
The White Whale
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quote:
Originally posted by sinflower:
quote:
I don't profess to have a deep understanding of other religions, let alone atheism.
I don't think it's possible to have a deep understanding of atheism; atheism isn't a belief system. The only belief you need to have to be considered atheist is "there is no God." There you go, now you know as much about atheism as I, an atheist, do!
I beg to differ. Most atheists I know don't define themselves simply by stating "I don't believe in God." There's a lot more subtlety, philosophy, ethics, and morality in it. It's not a belief system in the sense that there is some predefined or authoritative place to go to check your beliefs, but there is as much deepness in spirituality as an atheist as there is in many religions.
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sinflower
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Atheists, themselves, can hold individual belief systems or subscribe to belief systems, but there's no unified "atheist belief system." There's no belief you can hold (besides the belief in God) that disqualifies you from being an atheist, nor any beliefs that you're required to have to be an atheist. This isn't the case for actual belief systems, like secular humanism. You can describe the tenets of secular humanism and reasonably claim that all or nearly all secular humanists subscribe to them. But there's nothing all or nearly all atheists are supposed to believe except for the one statement "there's no God." All other beliefs are fair game.
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The White Whale
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Yes, but again most of the atheists I know use atheism as a convenient definition that best matches their actual beliefs.

Since the strict definition of atheist ("I do not believe in a god") is hollow, unfulfilling, and hardly a complete description of any atheist's beliefs, using it in the way you're describing is not (at least in my experience) anything like reality.

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Bokonon
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I got the leading in prayer one wrong, because I was allowing for the case of clubs and the like, which I believe are protected. I was being too loose in my definitions.

A couple others (like the Great Awakenings one) I would not have gotten 2 months ago (though I would be kicking myself for not remembering my AP US history class, where the Great Awakenings were covered). However, I've been reading a mammoth history of Christianity that I think dkw posted about at some point, and I read that section a week ago.

-Bok

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sinflower
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quote:

Yes, but again most of the atheists I know use atheism as a convenient definition that best matches their actual beliefs.

Since the strict definition of atheist ("I do not believe in a god") is hollow, unfulfilling, and hardly a complete description of any atheist's beliefs, using it in the way you're describing is not (at least in my experience) anything like reality.

"Atheism" can't encompass all the beliefs of all atheists without losing all consistency. There are atheists who believe in subjective morality. There are atheists who believe in objective morality. There are atheists who are spiritual, and atheists who are not. And so on for any other set of beliefs possible. If all atheists used the word "atheism" to describe "all of my beliefs," that waters the word down into meaninglessness, or worse, makes it self-contradictory.

Why does "atheism" need to be a complete description of any atheist's beliefs? No terms are a complete description of anyone's beliefs, which is why we're luckily not limited to one term each.

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Scott R
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14/15-- missed the Great Awakening one.

Mormon; college education.

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Scott R
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Note that Porter's comment is absolutely correct: this measures religious trivia, not religious understanding.
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ricree101
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The problem with that view is that while it might be true in the literal sense, it neglects any opportunity for meaningful reflection or understanding.

One could easily do the same for pretty much any belief system that is widespread. Just consider the vast range of beliefs between various Christian groups, both contemporary and historical. Just summarizing it as "Belief in a monotheistic diety and his son Jesus" would be technically true, but there is little meaningful insight to be drawn from it.

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The White Whale
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To state that you are an atheist is really only stating that you do not believe in one particular set of beliefs, typically a belief in God. It does not tell me what you do believe in. In that sense atheism alone is hollow.

If you ask me what I believe, and I answer "I do not believe in purple dragons," I have not answered your question.

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sinflower
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quote:
To state that you are an atheist is really only stating that you do not believe in one particular set of beliefs, typically a belief in God. It does not tell me what you do believe in. In that sense atheism alone is hollow.

I agree completely.
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Blayne Bradley
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I got 14/15, Apathetic. I'm pretty sure the last one I screw up on. Who did the first great awakening?

Now, leading a class in prayer is unconstitutional, but using it as an example of literature isn't right?

Those were the only two questions I think I may have gotten wrong at, the former I guessed, the second I reasoned out.

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The White Whale
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It gave you the answers at the end.
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katharina
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15/15, and then 32/32, although I had read the answer to the Maimonides question in the news. I can't say whether I could have gotten it correct or not. There's a good chance.

Mormon, college education

I knew the Great Awakening one because of studying Jonathon Edwards sermons in my American Lit class.

I'm surprised there were so many questions about Mormons. What - three out of the 32? (timing of founding, geography of BoM, religion of Joseph), and then a lot of questions about Judaism, Islam, and Eastern religions. That's definitely more of a "world religions" test than anything.

I did enjoy the line I read (I don't remember where) that said the Pew center refused to give "grades" on the test because that would mean declaring a standard of how much knowledge of religious trivia people SHOULD have. I mean, I know next to nothing about any video games other than Tetris, but that doesn't mean anything, either.

[ September 30, 2010, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: katharina ]

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rollainm
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15/15, but I only got the First Great Awakening one because I saw katharina's post before I took the quiz. The rest were easy.

Atheist, some college.

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katharina
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JE's sermons are fairly awesome. "You are dangling above the fires of hell like a spider on a fiery thread." It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival; they were jumping pews and shouting hallelujah.
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rollainm
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival; they were jumping pews and shouting hallelujah.

Hah! Haven't heard that in forever.
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Scott R
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I love that song.
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kmbboots
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Missed the Great Awakening so 14/15. 32/32 on the longer quiz having learned the answer to that question. Catholic. BA.
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Belle
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I just got finished teaching the Jonathan Edwards sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" so I would have been VERY remiss had I missed that question.

But it's interesting to me that that questions seems to test knowledge of early American literature rather than any knowledge of religion. [Smile]

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advice for robots
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I remember reading that sermon in school. Yeesh.
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Belle
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We didn't spend a lot of time on it. We read it in class in one day, and talked about Edwards' use of metaphor and imagery.

Welcome to the English Language Arts course of study for 10th grade - I had to cover it.

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advice for robots
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Well, as I recall, his imagery was very vivid. Enough so that I had no problem remembering his name on the quiz. I do not think that man smiled much.
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kmbboots
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I wonder if studying Jonathan Edwards is either a newish thing or a regional thing. I took (and did well in) American Lit. classes in middle school, high school and college and never heard of him.
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advice for robots
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I can't remember if we read it in 8th or 10th grade, but that would have been in either '88 or '90. But I also went to a private school, so the curriculum might have been different.
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Belle
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I read it in my survey course in college and it's in the Alabama textbook. But, we use Glencoe which is a large textbook company, and it's pretty prominently featured as part of the section on early American lit.

Believe me, if I could choose what to teach I would not include that section of literature, but we have to cover it. This section of literature (which begins with native American mythology and ends with the Declaration of Independence) is my least favorite of what is on my course of study.

I make up for it, though. Once we get past this unit we get to do Poe and then at the end of the year, Julius Caesar. [Smile] I really like teaching Poe and I LOVE Caesar.

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kmbboots
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I don't recall using textbooks for lit. courses. We used several books of plays and poems and short stories from which our teachers pulled what we were to study. I still have quite a few of them. I'll have to see if Edwards is in any of them. I know we didn't read the Declaration as literature.
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katharina
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We used the Norton Anthologies and books like that. I have several of them on my shelves from my various lit classes. The JE sermons are in both of the American Lit ones I have.
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kmbboots
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They may well be in there but we didn't study them. Though my various Nortons may be English lit. rather than American.
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FoolishTook
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13/15 (Protestant, Born-again Christian)

I missed the Jewish Sabbath one, thinking "It actually starts on Friday night" after I hit the "Next" button.

And the Catholic communion one...I just can't get my head around that, even though I should have known better.

Got the Great Awakening right, thanks to finishing a book about U.S. History two weeks ago.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
And the Catholic communion one...I just can't get my head around that, even though I should have known better.
Well, to be fair, it's even more complex than it seems. Catholics, while they believe the wafer and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Christ, do not believe that the wafer and wine change in any chemical or physical way; rather, their essence -- their essential nature -- is transformed on a spiritual but non-metaphorical level.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I wonder if studying Jonathan Edwards is either a newish thing or a regional thing. I took (and did well in) American Lit. classes in middle school, high school and college and never heard of him.

Whereas I heard about him in my high school American history classes as well as college.
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kmbboots
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Tom, right. It is not a very well worded question, but it is not a very well understood doctrine. I am not sure it can be well understood.

BlackBlade, your education would be "newish" to me. [Wink]

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Magson
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31/32. Would have gotten 30/32 in high school. Mormon.

The difference between HS and now is that I stumbled across mentions of Maimonides between then and now. I wouldn't have known he was Jewish back then. I never heard of him in school. Believe it or not, it was a work of fiction I was reading that mentioned him. . . .

The one I missed was Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening. Never heard of him before now. Knew it wasn't Billy Graham, so was guessing between the other 2.

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Amanecer
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31/32. Atheist. I'd never heard of Maimonides.
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Teshi
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14/15

Never heard of the Great Awakening before. It probably doesn't help that this is a US test.

College Grad., Atheist

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Teshi
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quote:
Since the strict definition of atheist ("I do not believe in a god") is hollow, unfulfilling, and hardly a complete description of any atheist's beliefs, using it in the way you're describing is not (at least in my experience) anything like reality.
Nevertheless, that is the meaning of the term. It carries no more weight than an absence of a belief in a deity or deities.

What you do with the space of thought and idea and belief that is allotted you when you become an atheist, that is up to you and is hugely varied.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
We didn't spend a lot of time on it. We read it in class in one day, and talked about Edwards' use of metaphor and imagery.

Welcome to the English Language Arts course of study for 10th grade - I had to cover it.

We read it in school, too -- while reading The Crucible. But by that point I'd already been introduced to Edwards (and that particular sermon) through a church class.

--j_k

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Flying Fish
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Interesting essay by Tom Trinko at American Thinker regarding this survey.
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Mr. Y
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I scored 14/15. The one I got wrong was about the Afghanistan. I guess I though that one was a trick question, so I avoided the obvious answer.
On the final question I did get the correct answer, but I have to admit that it was a guess.

With regard to the two questions about the law and the teacher, I must say that the way the questions are posed makes it obvious what the answer should be.

FYI: I wasn't raised in any faith - I guess that I should be labeled an agnostic.

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Mucus
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It's worth noting that the actual question that splits atheists, agnostics, and unaffiliated out is "What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as
Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing
in particular?
(INTERVIEWER: IF R VOLUNTEERS “nothing in particular, none, no religion, etc.” BEFORE
REACHING END OF LIST, PROMPT WITH: and would you say that‟s atheist, agnostic, or just nothing
in particular?)"

So it just depends on how you would have answered that.

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