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Author Topic: American Religious Knowledge  (Read 5611 times)

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Offline Zeitgeist

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #50 on: October 02, 2010, 02:42:57 PM »
Is it accurate do you think to lump together Atheists and Agnostics? Do the two share a more common belief system, as say Catholics and other Christians?

In my opinion, they don't. Someone who goes out of their way to self identify as Atheist could never be also described as being, well, agnostic. And if as the study says, there was little difference statistically between the two in their scores, then divide 20.9 in half and this survey looks quite different, and nor does it support the ideas people seemingly wish to make it say.

Simply said, its a thinly veiled poke in the eye of Christians, saying in effect: Ha! Those stupid, gullible Christians, they don't even know their own religion! Now I really despise them!

A months' worth of material for Bill Mahr I imagine.

Offline Will

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #51 on: October 02, 2010, 02:48:04 PM »
Is it accurate do you think to lump together Atheists and Agnostics? Do the two share a more common belief system, as say Catholics and other Christians?

In my opinion, they don't. Someone who goes out of their way to self identify as Atheist could never be also described as being, well, agnostic. And if as the study says, there was little difference statistically between the two in their scores, then divide 20.9 in half and this survey looks quite different, and nor does it support the ideas people seemingly wish to make it say.

You can't divide an average in half; it doesn't work that way. : /  I would be interested to see how the breakdown would look, though, if you did split atheists and agnostics into separate groups.  My initial expectation would be that agnostics on average scored a tiny bit higher than 20.9, atheists a tiny bit lower than 20.9, thus leading to that average of their averages.

Quote
Simply said, its a thinly veiled poke in the eye of Christians, saying in effect: Ha! Those stupid, gullible Christians, they don't even know their own religion! Now I really despise them!

I really agree with this.  I don't even know why else such a study would have been conducted.

Offline Zeitgeist

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #52 on: October 02, 2010, 02:57:03 PM »
You can't divide an average in half; it doesn't work that way. : /  I would be interested to see how the breakdown would look, though, if you did split atheists and agnostics into separate groups.  My initial expectation would be that agnostics on average scored a tiny bit higher than 20.9, atheists a tiny bit lower than 20.9, thus leading to that average of their averages.

I really agree with this.  I don't even know why else such a study would have been conducted.

Yeah, you're right. I got a little ahead of myself there. Nevertheless I don't think it is accurate to lump the two together. Jews and Catholics have more in common, in my opinion.

Personally I identify as Agnostic. I got a 73% score on the survey.

Offline mystictiger

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #53 on: October 03, 2010, 07:07:52 AM »
It also presupposes a view that one comes to faith through knowledge of doctrine / dogma / history rather than revalation and a personal experience of God.

It would be like saying "Oops. I failed the Friends of Judy test. Does that mean I can't be gay any more?" There are certain things that you define yourself by through your practice of a given subject rather than your knowledge.

Also, and maybe I missed this, but how did the survey determine religious identity? Was it a matter of self-reporting? Is someone in the survey a Catholic because they go to Mass twice a year, or because they support Celtic?

I think the point that 'if you knew more about [religion], you wouldn't practice' it is rather facile. Why? How else do missionaries work?

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #54 on: October 03, 2010, 08:57:58 AM »
I keep wondering about the identification issue too. A Jew. is a Jew whether she's an atheist, agnostic, theist or monist--and whether she goes to synagogue or not.

Maybe you can say that a Catholic who becomes an atheist is no longer a Catholic--but a Jew is a Jew no matter what she believes or doesn't believe.

So we have tons of Jews who are atheists or agnostics, some of whom are totally secular and some of whom belong to and attend synagogues regularly. So how were they identified? As Jews, or as atheists or agnostics? I presume each person decided for herself, but there was sure to be overlap.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 09:01:52 AM by Shoshana »

Offline JudeTopic starter

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #55 on: October 03, 2010, 12:26:44 PM »
"Jew" is both a religious and an ethnic identity.  Since this is a religious survey, I'm guessing they asked them what faith they belonged to, not ethnicity.  And of course religious identity was self-reported for the survey -- how else could they possibly conduct it?

EDIT:  As for religions that aren't represented by the survey, there's a reason for that.  In order to conduct a polling of those religions they'd need to accrue a statistically significant sample of that religion to get an accurate result.  There are not many Hindus in America, so you can imagine that it'd be difficult to find a large enough number of them to examine their religious knowledge.  Now, you may suggest going to a Hindu community in order to gather the results, but that fails as a method because you're not randomizing the data enough.  Anyone left out was left out because they don't represent a significant portion of the US.

EDIT2:  I thought I was forgetting something -- if you're curious about the methodology, etc., it's on the first page.  DarklingAlice gave a link to the raw data that describes why certain groups were left out and the actual question asked.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 12:38:15 PM by Jude »

Offline Oniya

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #56 on: October 03, 2010, 12:35:58 PM »
They could theoretically hand out surveys to people walking out of a variety of religious institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, prayer halls, Pagan coffeehouses), but then they'd risk people like me, who continued to attend for family's sake until I moved out, and atheists and agnostics wouldn't be represented at all.

Self-reporting is about the only reasonable way to do it.

Offline JudeTopic starter

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #57 on: October 03, 2010, 12:37:12 PM »
They could theoretically hand out surveys to people walking out of a variety of religious institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, prayer halls, Pagan coffeehouses), but then they'd risk people like me, who continued to attend for family's sake until I moved out, and atheists and agnostics wouldn't be represented at all.

Self-reporting is about the only reasonable way to do it.
Even for measuring Christians, that wouldn't work because the sample wouldn't be random enough -- you'd be snagging people disproportionately from specific religious institutions, which would result in inaccurate numbers.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 12:38:47 PM by Jude »

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #58 on: October 03, 2010, 03:00:25 PM »
"Jew" is both a religious and an ethnic identity.  Since this is a religious survey, I'm guessing they asked them what faith they belonged to, not ethnicity.  And of course religious identity was self-reported for the survey -- how else could they possibly conduct it?
   

Judiasm isn't an ethnicity--I'm a white girl of Irish, German and Italian background. I'm clearly not the same ethnicity as the black members and Asian members of my synagogue! Yet we're all Jews.

Meanwhile, you can't even say that atheist Jews aren't religious. Plenty of atheist Jews are active in synagogue. Heck, one whole branch of Judaism--Reconstructionist--started as an atheistic branch. (Although G-d isn't quite a bad word anymore to Reconstructionists.)

Then you have secular Jews who may be atheists or agnostics or theists--but identify more strongly as Jews than anything else.

So the neat divisions for Jews you present don't hold up under scrutiny. Religious identity is a far more complex matter.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 07:50:07 PM by Shoshana »

Offline JudeTopic starter

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #59 on: October 03, 2010, 03:36:46 PM »
That may be your view, but I don't know if that's particularly widespread, prevalent, or representative of the whole.  For example, Israel itself holds that a person is no longer a Jew if they convert to another religion, making an Atheist Jew not a Jew.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1950_1959/Law%20of%20Return%205710-1950

EDIT:  I'm not saying that makes your view any less valid.  The mere fact that you believe that means that there are probably others out there who feel the same way.  And your insight definitely exposes the muddying of the waters and indefinably of what a "Jew" is.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 03:46:22 PM by Jude »

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #60 on: October 03, 2010, 03:46:38 PM »
Atheist Jews are considered Jews by the state of Israel, Jude. They are fully elligible to make aliyah. Becoming an atheist is not considered practicing another religion. Chris Hitchens can move to Israel tomorrow if he wants--so can any Reconstructionist Jew, and that is a largely atheist movement in Judaism. 

Edit--Israel would be in deep trouble if it excluded atheists as Jews! Remember, secular Jews are the overwhelming majority of Jews there and atheists are a dime a dozen. Heck, most of the founding Zionists were atheists--and just about all the famous ones.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 06:14:29 PM by Shoshana »

Offline JudeTopic starter

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #61 on: October 03, 2010, 04:09:24 PM »
I'll confess I don't understand how being an Atheist is seen as not practicing another religion, but religions are quirky -- it possibly isn't something that I can understand as an outsider to the belief/culture/religion/whatever you wanna call it.

Offline Oniya

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #62 on: October 03, 2010, 04:15:54 PM »
I would guess it's because being an atheist is generally defined as not practicing any religion at all - it's like having no ice cream is not the same as having 'a different flavor than vanilla'.

Offline Will

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #63 on: October 03, 2010, 04:23:02 PM »
That's kind of funny, then.  It's like saying, we don't mind if you put the ice cream down, but you'd better not order a different flavor!

I can understand how atheism wouldn't negate a person's rights as a Jew.  It's their heritage, not their beliefs.  But it seems odd to me how that goes out the window if they DO decide to take up another religion.  They still have the same ancestry, so why is their heritage negated?

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #64 on: October 03, 2010, 04:58:33 PM »
I'll confess I don't understand how being an Atheist is seen as not practicing another religion, but religions are quirky -- it possibly isn't something that I can understand as an outsider to the belief/culture/religion/whatever you wanna call it.

Creed is not all that important in Judaism. You could be an Orthodox Jew and be an atheist. If you do all the stuff you're supposed to do--you keep Shabbat (the Sabbath), you help the needy, you stay kosher, you dress with modesty, you keep your head covered, you celebrate the holidays, you're active in an Orthodox synagogue, etc., etc.--you're Orthodox, even if you don't believe in G-d. Even if you outspokenly don't believe in G-d. Your rabbi might hope you'll come around--but ultimately he'll be more concerned with what you do than with what you believe.

Culturally and religiously in Judaism, deed outweighs creed. Plus, even among theistic Jews, you'll find it's common to deny any type of personal G-d. I disagree with that--but that's common in Judaism too. We argue about everything! 

So if you start attending a synagogue and announce that you're an atheist, don't worry. You're not going to shock anyone. You'll find some people to argue with, but that's a good thing. That means you're doing something right!
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 07:01:01 PM by Shoshana »

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #65 on: October 03, 2010, 05:17:47 PM »
That's kind of funny, then.  It's like saying, we don't mind if you put the ice cream down, but you'd better not order a different flavor!

I can understand how atheism wouldn't negate a person's rights as a Jew.  It's their heritage, not their beliefs.  But it seems odd to me how that goes out the window if they DO decide to take up another religion.  They still have the same ancestry, so why is their heritage negated?

This is an interesting question. Like I said in the post to Jude just above this one, what you do is much more important than what you believe in Judaism. So is what you are--and, per halacha (Jewish law) if you're born to a Jewish mother or you convert to Judaism, you're always a Jew. So Bob Dylan mighty have gone through a Christian phase, but he remained halachically a Jew. A Jew in error, per some rabbis, but still a Jew.

The state of Israel's definition of a Jew, however, doesn't always match the halachic definition. In most respects, it's broader. But not about this. I'm guessing this was adopted to curtail the 'Jews for Jesus' and other groups who have made converting Jews to Christianity their life's mission. No Jew goes to Israel to get preached to by Christian missionaries, after all. I mean, it happens, but I don't think the state wishes to encourage these (quasi-Jewish) Christians to move to Israel.

Meanwhile, I've never heard of a Jewbu--a Jewish Buddhist--being denied entrance to Israel. But they don't try to convert other Jews.

However, there is a 'Jews for Jesus' and 'Messianic' presence in Israel. After all, whether you're a Jew or not, you can still become an Israeli citizen. It might not be automatic if you're not a Jew yourself or married to one or the child or grandchild of one, that's all.

(And there are plenty of regular Christian Israeli ciitizens. And Muslim Israeli citizens.And the Baha'i have their headquarters in Israel. And, believe it or not, there's a Hindu presence there too.)

Edit--sorry for all the bad spelling, folks. I'm thumb typing on my Blackberry.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 07:44:02 PM by Shoshana »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #66 on: October 03, 2010, 06:32:37 PM »
Creed is not all that important in Jusaism. You could be an Orthodox Jew and be an atheist. If you do all the stuff you're supposed to do--you keep Shabbat (the Sabbath), you help the needy, you stay kosher, you dress with modesty, you keep your head covered, you celebrate the holidays, you're active in an Orthodox synagogue, etc., etc.--you're Orthodox, even if you don't believe in G-d. Even if you outspokenly don't believe in G-d. Your rabbi might hope you'll come around--but ultimately he'll be more concerned with what you do than with what you believe.

No.

This is complete misinformation. Among the primary tenets of Orthodox Judiasm are the direct divine revelation of the Law to Moses, the existence of a divine covenant with the Jewish people, the validity of the Torah as the divinely inspired word. The way you keep Shabbat is the study of and meditation on Torah as divine truth. The first of Moses Maimonides' principles of the Jewish faith is the existence of God.

I cannot speak to any of the rest of Shoshana's statements or any of her information about the State of Israel, but her explanation of Orthodoxy is a complete falsehood. As a result I would advise seeking independent verification for her other claims.

Offline Shoshana

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #67 on: October 03, 2010, 06:47:59 PM »
No.

This is complete misinformation. Among the primary tenets of Orthodox Judiasm are the direct divine revelation of the Law to Moses, the existence of a divine covenant with the Jewish people, the validity of the Torah as the divinely inspired word. The way you keep Shabbat is the study of and meditation on Torah as divine truth. The first of Moses Maimonides' principles of the Jewish faith is the existence of God.

I cannot speak to any of the rest of Shoshana's statements or any of her information about the State of Israel, but her explanation of Orthodoxy is a complete falsehood. As a result I would advise seeking independent verification for her other claims.

Well, I know a couple of atheist Orthodox Jews--they haven't been thrown out of the community. Admittedly, they're Modern Orthodox. (Heck, I've known gay Orthodox Jews too--they're also still in the community, though they're not atheists.)

I asked a very frum friend of mine about this too--frum means, well let's just say she's from a very Orthodox community--and she gave the same opinion. If you're observant, she said, even if you're atheist you'd still be considered Orthodox in her community. It's just that not many people will agree with you and they'll probably be sorry for you!

Now, again, no Orthodox rabbi is going to encourage atheism. However, at least among the Modern Orthodox, you're not going to find many who will turn away a Jew who wants to be observant, atheist or not.

Remember--we agreed, at Sinai, first to do the mitzvot (commandments) and secondly to hear them. Perform the commandments first, then you'll understand them.

Also a standard (Orthodox) rabbinic teaching is that the mitzvot do not require kavanah (with a few arguable exceptions.) That is, fulfilling the commandments doesn't require us to have mindfulness, or to understand them, or even to agree with them. But, again, by doing, we come to understand.

Lastly, I've never known any rabbi, of any branch, to use Maimonides's principles as a litmus test.

So what kind of Orthodox Judaism are you intimately acquainted with? And what has been your personal experience? I'm a Conservative Jew--most of my contact with Orthodox Judaism has been with Modern Orthodox communities (apart from my one really frum friend.) I've also had contact with the Chabad--I don't think they'd turn away any Jew who wanted to be observant either. I mean, their whole schpiel is to reach out to secular Jews. I also have my BA in religious studies.

So, since you took such exception to me, what are your credentials? It may be that you're from an Orthodox Jewish background and have had vastly different experiences than me. I'd love to hear all about it.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 08:19:07 PM by Shoshana »

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #68 on: October 03, 2010, 06:52:00 PM »
If you guys would like to discuss this, please do so in PM. :)

Offline Serephino

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #69 on: October 03, 2010, 09:00:03 PM »
Another possible reason for such an outcome is the people who identify, but don't practice.  There are many people out there who were raised Christian, and still call themselves Christian, but haven't stepped foot inside a church since they moved out of their parents' house.  A lot of people in my area are like this.  I even called myself Christian for a while after I stopped going to church.

Another thing you should look at is the questions.  Not all of them are about Christianity.  In the 15 question version I took, at least 5 involved Judaism, Islam, Hinduism. and Buddhism.  Even a devout Christian isn't likely to know the answers to those questions.  Most religions don't focus on others too much because they believe that the others are wrong.   

Offline Noelle

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #70 on: October 04, 2010, 02:37:38 AM »
Judiasm isn't an ethnicity--I'm a white girl of Irish, German and Italian background. I'm clearly not the same ethnicity as the black members and Asian members of my synagogue! Yet we're all Jews.

Don't confuse race with ethnicity. Ethnicity is a broad term to describe a group of people that may be categorized by a shared background, heritage, language, and yes, even religion. Race connotates black, white, Asian, etc., whereas you would share ethnicity with those people by not only being a fellow Jew, but also a fellow American. Yay!

Actually, you might find its etymology even more ironic, albeit outdated:

Quote
The term "ethnic" and related forms from the 14th century through the middle of the 19th century were used in English in the meaning of "pagan, heathen", as ethnikos was used as the LXX translation of Hebrew goyim "the nations, non-Hebrews, non-Jews"


Anyway, regardless of why things turned out the way they did, I don't see what purpose this serves on the whole; Of course religions won't teach about other religions on church time, their primary goal is to convince people that they have the right ones and that they need to focus on the religion they're in. It makes perfect sense; churches aren't just places of faith, they're a business, as well. If you don't have customers/a congregation, you don't have a job/a flock to guide on the right path, so to speak. They don't need to reconcile or compare, they merely need to keep their own numbers up and keep spreading the good word about their own faith.

Offline Asuras

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #71 on: October 04, 2010, 10:47:21 PM »
Quote from: Noelle
It makes perfect sense; churches aren't just places of faith, they're a business, as well.

Businesses are run for profit for shareholders. Churches aren't. The restrictions placed on charitable groups are significant; otherwise churches that really wanted to be businesses would stop pretending, and businesses that wanted the tax breaks would pretend to be. They take a side because of their purpose.

I was a Lutheran growing up and although I'm an atheist now I have respect for religious people and organizations and their role in our communities. And I think it's a bit insulting to call them "businesses, as well" just because they need tithes to keep the leases on the churchgrounds.

Offline Will

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #72 on: October 04, 2010, 11:52:48 PM »
I suspect that she may have meant in the metaphorical sense.  They do have a "product" (their message), and they want people to "buy it" in lieu of their "competitors," which is how it ties into the discussion about not knowing about the competitors' product.

Offline Noelle

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #73 on: October 05, 2010, 12:23:16 AM »
Businesses are run for profit for shareholders. Churches aren't. The restrictions placed on charitable groups are significant; otherwise churches that really wanted to be businesses would stop pretending, and businesses that wanted the tax breaks would pretend to be. They take a side because of their purpose.

I was a Lutheran growing up and although I'm an atheist now I have respect for religious people and organizations and their role in our communities. And I think it's a bit insulting to call them "businesses, as well" just because they need tithes to keep the leases on the churchgrounds.

Mega-churches are a fantastic example of questionable borderline "is this REALLY just a 'charitable group'" type church, but that's actually not my point. Will is exactly right in the message I was getting at. No congregation? Nobody to preach to. No customers? No business. Easy.

Offline Asuras

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #74 on: October 05, 2010, 12:33:11 AM »
Quote from: Will
I suspect that she may have meant in the metaphorical sense.  They do have a "product" (their message), and they want people to "buy it" in lieu of their "competitors," which is how it ties into the discussion about not knowing about the competitors' product.

That's reasonable, although I think that the overtone of "they do it for money" damages the metaphor.

Quote from: Noelle
Mega-churches are a fantastic example of questionable borderline "is this REALLY just a 'charitable group'" type church, but that's actually not my point.

Yeah, there are frauds, sure. I'm not going to defend TBN.

Quote from: Noelle
Will is exactly right in the message I was getting at. No congregation? Nobody to preach to. No customers? No business. Easy.

What I'm pointing out is if this is the right metaphor for the typical church. Sure, if there are no congregants the church will die, just as a "Save The Whales" NGO will die if no one wants to save the whales. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the profit motive was the driving factor in founding the church.