For most of the last 30 years, I’ve worked under the assumption that most Christians do not know their faith. I base this on my personal observations. There are two types of Christians – those who are on fire for the lord, and those who sleepwalk. Those on fire for the lord, like my fundie cousin Trinity or my pal and intellectual Christian Brad, they know their bible and theology but tend to subdivide into two camps, fundies and intellectuals. The fundies may know the bible and theology, but they are incapable of rational communication. The intellectuals on the other hand, give me a challenge. They often know the bible and theology much better than me.
Sleepwalkers are the majority of the Christians I meet. I figure it is about a 500 to 1 ratio. That is to say, there are 500 sleepwalkers to every 1 Christian who is on fire for the lord. Sleepwalkers are everywhere and know almost nothing about their faith. Unfortunately, these are most of the Christians I meet. If you mention Martin Luther, they respond that they are not Lutherans (and I do a facepalm). There is nothing wrong with sleepwalkers, they are the sheep in sheeple and pay the bills.
There is one exception to my general rule, Mormons. The Mormons I know are knowledgeable about their faith, Christianity and theology. It’s rare to meet one who is a sleepwalker unless they are new converts. I think it comes from the mandatory education they get as children. Most of my Mormon friends when to Mormon school before public school and they tend to know their way around the bible at a much higher level than their Christian counterparts but not as well as those who are on fire for the lord. That’s why fundie versus Mormon battles are epic fun to watch.
A new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge and found result similar to my practical experience. I did not realize my fellow Atheists were so knowledgeable.
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
But why atheists?
I'll need to think about that.
Greg Smith, a senior researcher with the Pew Forum, suspects that atheists may have scored higher because they were more likely to have been raised in a faith and made a conscious, informed decision about their belief.