It took me a little while to figure out that the point of this article was not to just advertise for the YouVersion Bible app. Ok, so atheists read the Bible and try to trip people up by quoting from it.
News Flash: That’s not new.
But if that’s not new, what was the point of the article?
This paragraph really stood out to me when I first read it:
“While it’s unknown how many atheists use YouVersion or other Bible apps, polls show atheists are among the most religiously literate Americans, topping Jews, Mormons and other Christians in a 2010 Pew Research Center poll.”
Atheists know more about Christianity than Christians. The article, after all, is about a Bible App containing the Christian Scriptures. The article cites several examples of people (who are assumed to be Christian) being “tripped up” by atheists who are doing nothing more than quoting from the Bible. Moreover, the source of the statistics proving that atheists are more Biblically literate than Christians was cited and documented in the article. To make matters worse, Christians seemed to be sitting at the bottom of the knowledge rung, having been topped not only by atheists but by Jews and Mormons as well.
At least that is how I interpreted what I read.
Disturbing indeed. To see exactly how wide the portrayed knowledge gap was, I decided to jump over to the Pew Forum and read the statistics for myself. And this is what I found out:
- On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge.
- Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Note: I would expect Jews to stand out in their knowledge of Judaism….
- Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
The facts gleaned from the survey results did not at all match how I read the assertions made in the original news article. The Protestant demographic, in fact, did better than atheists and other demographic groups (excepting Mormons) on questions specifically about Christianity and the Bible. Christians are not as well-versed as are atheists et al. “about the role of religion in public life” or about other religions.
Common sense tells me that Christians should be the most knowledgeable about Christianity and less knowledgeable about other religions. That Jews should be the most knowledgeable about Judaism, etc. The actual results of the survey proved this out. Interestingly, a finding not commented upon in the Pew results had to do with atheists being more knowledgeable about other religions than they are about Christianity. The news article didn’t mention this tidbit of information either.
Back to the original news article:
After sifting through the actual results of the survey and reading the news article again, it dawned on me that the news article writer said that atheists are more “religiously literate”, not that they are more knowledgeable than Christians about matters of the Christian faith. Clearly I misunderstood what the author had written. But did I misinterpret what the article intended to convey? I don’t think so and I do not think that the article was just an advertisement for the YouVersion Bible app.
Let’s take a look at what the article implied and conveyed:
Lauren a 22 year old Chemistry major (obviously a very smart girl), is in the closet about her atheism. Poor girl. Homosexuals are out of the closet but the oppressed atheists minority are forced to remain in there. Yet Lauren is an active evangelist for atheism. An odd contradiction, no?
Lauren, as do all the other atheists cited, makes many unchallenged statements in the article. Assertions like “a lot of atheists come to their unbelief by actually reading the Bible”. And If people would read the Bible “rather than just the fluffy stories they choose to tell you about in church”, they would find “the full story with all its contradictions and violence and sexism” which “should make you think”. You see, atheism is for people who think, but there is an all-powerful evil “they” in churches who control your ability to think by telling fluffy stories. It’s not necessary at all to cite examples of contradictions or sexism in the Bible, take Lauren’s word for it — they’re in there. And violence, the Bible is full of violence; but don’t look out of your window or you may realize that the world is also full of violence.
Lauren is not alone. No one knows how many, but there are a lot of people like Lauren (according to the article). Except they are an oppressed minority making up no more than 2.4% of the population (according to the article). Take the case of Tom. Tom has discovered that there is a translation of the Bible that uses the word ‘unicorn’ in it and that there is “a ridiculous number of versions” of the Bible which causes textual variations. Unicorns! Can you believe it! The Bible has to be nothing more than a book of fairy tales.
The article doesn’t indicate beyond what number constitutes “ridiculous”. Perhaps the ridiculous number was attained when the Bible was translated into German. Or maybe it happened when the English language Bible was updated for modern day word usage. If only King James English had not gone out of vogue! We just don’t know when that threshold to ridiculous was crossed but crossed it was. Nor did the article give examples of textual variations caused by Bible translations, you’ll have to take Tom’s word for it, they are there.
And we have the case of the “friendly atheist”, Hemant Mehta, who for some reason is not portrayed as an atheist in the article but only as a “blogger and expert on young atheists”. Mr. Mehta points out that atheists can make the Bible say “anything you want it to say”. Gee, I wonder if that includes portraying the Bible as being full of contradictions, sexism, violence, and unicorns?
So, did I misinterpret what the article intended to convey — that the Bible cannot be trusted, that Christians do not know what is really in the Bible, that we can make the Bible say anything we want it say, that the average Christian is below the mental capacity of the average atheist? No. I don’t think so. In fact, it appears to me that the writer of the article is guilty of perpetuating a notion that is just not true: that atheists know the Bible better than Christians. The author does this in two ways, first by presenting only the anti-Christian “case”. Second, the author deliberately misrepresented the Pew survey results about the Biblical literacy of Christians, implying that atheists know more than Christians about the actual content of the Bible.
Given the obvious anti-Christian slant of the article as well as the deliberate misrepresentation of the Pew survey results, I do not think it unreasonable to conclude that the purpose of this article was to lay a foundation on which it’s author could build a façade of legitimacy for anti-Christian atheism. So much for pluralism.