Fact: Christians ARE Ignorant!

In a recent study done by the Barna Group (a Christian research outfit), in their year end summary they state that, “3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.” (Read the full list after the jump for some really interesting statistics)

It’s not surprising for someone who has studied their Bible to know that most church going Christians don’t know much about it. Atheists often point this handicap out time and time again, and the reason is because many of said atheists were Christians before they read their Bible–and afterward defected into the ranks of heresy and skepticism–and the flood of apostates who have taken up reason and rationality over superstition and faith are proof that the Bible is one of the BEST tools for generating new atheists.

The problem is most Christians remain ignorant as to the content and stylings of their preferred holy book, let alone have any capacity to think critically about of any of it. Not because they are deluded, or delusional, although these may be factors to consider, but everyone who is capable of thinking is capable of exacting scrutiny and applying critical methods to the analysis of a text. 

The problem here, however, is that most believers  can’t apply these critical thinking methods because they simply DON’T know what their beliefs should entail (as the Barna poll is proof of)! Why, we might ask? Because they haven’t read nor comprehended any of the religious texts vital to sustaining their beliefs in the first place. But this raises the obvious question for Christians , if you haven’t really read or dealt with the content of your sacred text, how do you know what it means to be Christian?

It seems, by my reckoning, that today’s Christians are simply inheriting a watered down variety of Christianity from their parents, keeping the traditions alive which are handed down to them, but not actually taking the time to investigate the faith they are raised in, causing a generational rift in any actual religious knowledge or religious beliefs which are equated with the principle faith in the first place.

I think most Christians would agree that it’s not alright just to make up your own “Christianity” as you go along, even though, according to the Barna polls, that’s exactly what it seems most American Christians are doing. I know many Christians who are repulsed, if not saddened, by the idea that mainstream Christians aren’t taking the time to practice a devotional sort of faith, but rather, that they are living the good secular life and merely keeping the Christian name as an honorific badge and nothing more.

This may explain polls repeatedly show that 95% of Americans say they are “Christian” when, in actuality, the number of died in the wool Christians is probably far less. Now that the newly polled 15% nonbelievers, a number which is expected to triple in the next decade, and the 25% of faith parishioners who prefer to practice a secular lifestyle regardless of prior affiliation to any religious organization what-so-ever shows the opposite trend for Christians. Christianity isn’t growing, it’s merely spreading, meanwhile most Christians are dwindling away and/or converting to a secular lifestyle. (See: Gallup-poll: Americans are becoming less religious.)

This is good news for nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, naturalists, and secular free thinkers the world over–we’ll soon have more friends to talk with! Moreover, what this means is, although American love to spiritualize everything, many are not following any orthodox Christian creed or semblance of Christianity familiar to us as the Christianity we recognize throughout history. They are practicing a hybrid of Christianity and Secularism.

Most Christians don’t rely on the Bible, as Barna suggests, to inform their beliefs. So I think, as many have pointed out before me, they’re getting their actual beliefs from somewhere else. And whether or not it is ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ or a bad Rick Warren book, their beliefs are all relative.  Just like the atheist, Christians are picking and choosing the ideas which best suit them, and rejecting those that don’t.

Personally, I think this is what we need to point out and emphasize more clearly… religious believers are dependent on the same information we all are, for forming their assumptions. Knowledge in what their faith teaches, or the history of their religious beliefs and how they came to be, has little to do with it. And I happily cite the support Barna has conveniently done for me, because now when I say Christians are ignorant, people will know I’m not saying it as an angry atheist trying to attack people’s “faith-based” beliefs, but I’m in fact point out that the majority of Christians don’t even know what their faith based beliefs actually are! Precisely because they are completely illiterate as to the tenets of their faith (Granted this isn’t every Christian, since I know many who know the Bible a great deal, in fact I used to be one, but in general it seems to me that most Christians don’t have a clue–and that’s the everyday variety. Which gets me to wondering, why is it so important that they, who do not resemble Christianity except in name, find it so important to be recognized as or called “Christians” anyway? I guess ignorance is bliss. Just a thought.)

I propose, that if we increase Biblical literacy along with literacy in competing world religions, that we will observe a natural tendency to reform opinion and fall back upon familiar secular ground, as has been the observable case thus far. That is, my theory is this: the more religiously literate a person becomes the greater chance they have of seeing the religious scheme for what it is, a big fat sham, and a mass exodus of faith-based adherents taking the spiritual aspects they like the best and starting a new faith, packing up these salvaged beliefs they couldn’t live without, and applying them to a secular lifestyle seems to already be a reality. It’s worth mentioning that it is a tested theory, that naturalism and spirituality do mix, as it worked for the Buddhists, why can’t it work for a modern Christianity?

Gradual secularization seems, at this juncture, an inevitability. And I only wish more Christians would read their Bibles, because as a skeptic and a critic of Christianity in particular, it’s tiring to try and educate “believers” as to the particulars of their beliefs before I can start showing how such beliefs are erroneous, unsustainable, and virtually indefensible to begin with.

On the horizon, I predict a glorious dawn of reason and crystal clear critical thinking awaits. A future where our rationality and knowledge outweigh our ignorance and don’t ask don’t tell policies regarding what it is we believe. There is no shame in not believing in something so ridiculous that to actually believe in it, in all that it entails, would be more shamefully ridiculous still. 

Even so, we can always change our minds after weighing all the evidence and thinking about it rigorously, the first step though, is looking at the evidence before formulating our beliefs. Herein lies the mistake I think these sorts of Christians are making when they prematurely settle for an inherited belief before considering what the evidence has to say. It’s sort of like jumping to conclusions, and if someone should point out that such a conclusion is invalid, they simply ignore the criticism and continue to believe as they will. This is true ignorance, and it may suit the person of faith, but for a strict rationalist, such as myself, it just won’t do.

Have a good one!


  1. T-VickPeople usually don't leave the church because all of a sudden they got smart. Something else usually takes place first, things like they have better things to do. Or their feelings got hurt or they were offended. Let me tell you about the really smart people who left church, when they were in the church, they still thought they were smarter than the people they went to church with.I don't think this is such a new thing, yeah it may be happening a little more than before, because each generation probably seeks God a little less than the one before? But you always have new Believers starting new generations as well?Then for this argument to work you would have to explain to me why there are so many dumb ass Atheists?I had this conversation before on Mr. Loftus site. I don't know exactly what I said but it was something like "If it's that simple than anyone who has an IQ over 125 is smart enough to an Atheist, and if your IQ is lower than that, I guess your doomed to Christianity".When it comes to things like logic, common sense, personal experiences, emotions and gut feelings, Atheists think that theirs are the only ones that matter. If feeno and T-Vick took a test to see who's smarter, there is no doubt in my mind I would come in second place. So do you think now that I should just take your word for everything and discard my experiences and life matters and not calculate those things into my thinking? As our friend Mr. Spock once said "that would be most illogical".On "Debunking Christianities" site today I left a comment on a post John wrote about his Sister-n-law. It kinda touches on these matters a little more? Check it out if you can.Peace to you and your fam. feeno

  2. I've always said: if you read the Bible starting with Genesis, there is absolutely no way you will still be a Christian by the time you get to the end of The Revelation of John.The average Christian gets their theology from extra-biblical books. "Chicken Soup for the Soul" has been far more influential to American theology than the Bible ever could be. This is why Christians are always suggesting atheists read such-and-such a book, a New York Times Bestseller, but never the Bible itself.

  3. Feeno- Actually, I totally agree with what you're saying. It's not so much about having the highest I.Q. or whatever, but about the experience which people use to inform their opinions about their faith. Well put!That said, most opinions are uneducated ones. That means, they don't actually know what they're talking about when it comes to their own faith or religious beliefs! That's just pitiful. And I'm not saying that to be elitist or whatever, I'm glad you think I'm smart, I actually feel like I'm always trailing behind those who are genuinely intelligent and I have to work my ass off just to gain a little know-how. I hold myself to such a high standard because, partially, it's how I was raised, but also because I care about being informed so that I know what I'm talking about. Why? Because I care about personal integrity and intellectual honesty above party line affiliations and cliques dependent on subjective experience. Even pot smokers have shared experiences, even transcendent ones sometimes, but this doesn't make their experience any more accurate or correct than the next subjective experience. I wrote about this some on the Aliens vs. UFO debate on the Dinesh D'Souza article I recently did, to show how experience is not the same as fact.So what I see in the Barna survey is not that Christians are "unintelligent" but rather just "undereducated." Surprisingly enough, however, the subject Christians lack an education in is Christianity itself!!! That's sort of like being a Biologist who knows nothing about biology. Or think of it this way, an commercial airline pilot who knows nothing about flying planes!!! Would you take a ride on that jumbo jet? Probably not, and that's my point. You can't trust people to be dependable when they don't know the first thing about their professed beliefs.So I think that's an important distinction, and I think you nailed it on the head by suggesting the experience is what is more important for believers than the brute facts, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter, that ignorance is important to sustain faith–because if you work diligently to increase knowledge and understanding, the ignorance subsides and reason wins out in almost every case.Your other point is well taken; there are a lot of annoying, loud mouthed, inarticulate, atheists who are not well informed either. But maybe they are relying upon experience as well? The bottom line is, experience is no substitute for the truth.Peace out!

  4. Ginx-I agree, it's a great tool in showing that it is just another fairy story book. Genesis was likely written around the same time as Aesop's Fables, and most people forget to take that into consideration, even though there is internal textual evidence to suggest it. And I'm not merely referencing talking snakes this time. lolIt seems to me that only people who have had a more liberal upbringing, or more multicultural experiences, can come to such an opinion. One needs to draw on external sources and weigh the evidence. If the Bible is all you know, then more often than not you become a fundamentalist, and that's where I come in. I think advocating atheism is the best way to counter balance the fundamentalism by show, in order to sustain any belief, you need a much larger plethora of experiences, knowledge, and sources to rely upon when weighing what it most likely with that which is most likely preposterous. The problem is, when all you know is the Bible you can't do that. But most Christians don't rely on the Bible, as Barna suggests, to inform their beliefs. So I think you're right, they're getting it from somewhere else. And whether or not it is 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' or a bad Rick Warren book, their beliefs are all relative. And I think this is what we need to point out and emphasis more clearly… they are dependent on the same information we all are for forming their assumptions, and faith has little to do with it. And I happily cite the support Barna has conveniently done for me, because now when I say Christians are ignorant, people will know I'm not saying it as an angry atheist trying to attack people's "personal" beliefs, but I'm in fact point out they don't even know what their personal beliefs actually are. So this begs the question, why does it matter so much to be called a "Christian" anyway?

  5. I have never read any Chicken Soup books, never read anything by Rick Warren. If I'm gonna read I'd just assume read the Bible.But what is wrong with reading that stuff if it helps you understand your faith etc. When I read/study my Bible I often will use different interpretations, get other peoples advice or use a commentary.That's how you learn more. The problem is when we both study something and come up with different conclusions you automatically assume we aren't informed enough. I don't know how many times I've read the Bible through. I don't keep track, but just about every day I read it(for 25 years) You and Geenks can't believe someone can read this and still believe it. I read it and can't see why you guys can't believe it."Faith has little to do with it".T, faith has everything to do with it. When I first accepted Christ I didn't know anything about Aesop's fables or Greek mythology or the history of the early church or all the arguments against Christianity. But that was a long time ago, and since then I've seen the Bible/God/Christianity scrutinized and questioned like no other. If I were to run down every claim to why the Bible isn't true I'd spend every waking hour doing that. I've looked at most of, if not all of these arguments and have found them unimpressive. I've read Mr. Loftus' book, investigated his arguments and discovered that people would rather be smart than right. The problem is that we can find out by tracing through history "truths", that is unless you don't like what we find so we just simply change history by a stroke of a pen. Take the life of Christ for example, did he ever even exist? I can find maybe 50 sources that said he did. And you can find someone who will try to "debunk" all 50 of those sources by saying they all lied, or those works were all plagiarized or they (the writers) didn't even exist all together. Do you believe these statements are true?* Perception is reality?* If you say a lie long enough, people will believe it?* History is only what is written down?My point to those questions is simply this: we will believe what we want to believe, then find evidence that favors us. Don't forget for every Christian who became an Atheist there are Atheists who become Christian. So that's not a knock against learning. C.S. Lewis was a pretty damn smart Atheist, did he turn into a uninformed Christian over night?I honestly don't know what runs through the mind of non-believers, I only know God gave me the knowledge of his existence and the ability to communicate with Him, it would be just to hard to deny. PT 1

  6. Just wanted to say that I know your not an angry Atheist. And I hope I don't come across as a defensive Christian?I truly don't know how I started Blogging. It really seems like the last thing I'd ever do? Then if I was to use a computer to blog, I would think I'd blog about sports or something? But I truly am interested in the reason people are Atheists and do love the Lord. So I really enjoy the exchanges, thanks, feenoW'dup Geenks?

  7. Feeno-Not at all. You come off as sincere. And that's a rarity these days.As for C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite writers, I find he was a horrible theologian. His arguments are simply reducionalist, and that's as good as they get. But he had a way with words. He could communicate his thought clearly in a style and language everyone could relate to and understand.This is where I think you are getting the confusion about atheists like me, when you say we state you're not well informed enough when your conclusions differ. I think it's that the people who inform you aren't well informed enough. You, Feeno, can continue informing yourself to your hearts content!It's not so much that you're not informed enough as it is you are continually being misinformed (by those who know better nonetheless).But when there is such a thing as a baloney detection kit, I don't see how Christians can be "willingly" lead to believe in what is factually known to be disproved. So I look toward the professionals in their respective fields for finding the answers to the question I have. Because no matter how good an orator or communication a Christian apologist may be, such as C.S. Lewis, often times they are as clueless as the next person. This doesn't mean C.S. Lewis wasn't a smart cookie. He was brilliant! But I have read all of his religious works, and although I find a great humanitarian spirit reaching out in those tomes on religion, his knowledge of religion was pretty poor. He had faith, but his faith was inevitably something different than what he professed a faith in.Also his flirtation with atheism was just him coming to the age of reason and beginning to attempt to wrap his mind around the deeper more complex philosophical issues. You see a lot of his grappling back and forth between reason and faith in his personal letters to friends, well worth reading if you ever get a chance.But I don't really consider those like Lewis to ever have understood Atheism per say. He was raised Christian, his whole culture was Christian, his friends were all Christian, he had a week where he questioned it all (and that was his atheistic phase), but then he went back to believing what he has always believed. So that's not really understanding atheism or what it means. I think you probably know a great deal more about atheism than C.S. Lewis ever did. You have actually taken the time to open a dialogue with nonbelievers and ask why.That's a start.

  8. I was a devout christian for a most of my life– from childhood to my thirties. While reading the bible from Genesis to Revelations didn't ruin my faith immediately, I think reading the Bible completely and "chronologically" was a catalyst to my losing faith. I started to question my beliefs and search for more answers to better understand myself and the Christians around me who didn't seem to want to follow the bible, but were adamant that we obey it.My mind became open to considering alternatives. That mindset came about by wanting to explore my faith more. That openness had a flip side– I started reading arguments against my beliefs, too, when I wouldn't have normally.Today, someone told me their New Year's resolution was to read their bible more. Funny . . . I wholeheartedly encouraged her to do it. I told her to find a translation that reads well to her and challenged her to read it chronologically. I did it somewhat based on what Ginx mentioned earlier– she'd either become a strong believer, or stop being one.The timing of the original post if most interesting, indeed.

  9. Uruk-That's the most common form of deconversion I hear, but you know what? I never get tired of hearing it. Thanks so much for sharing part of your personal story here!I think it's important to hear the atheist testimonies too! I mean, it's never just one thing that does it, but I think if Christians listen to our stories they will see that they have had the same thought, perhaps experiences, and maybe this will shake them up and cause them to think more seriously about what it is they believe.I totally agree, reading the Bible chronologically is a good way to see it's flaws, not only textually, but also logically. But also a good reading experiment for the Gospels of the Bible, is to do a horizontal reading, where you take the same overlapping stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and read them side by side at the same time. Wowza! Then you really begin to see that they are totally different books about totally different things! And the discrepancies, disagreements, and divergences come shining through! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

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