What Americans Do and Don't Know About Religion

Read the Transcript: http://to.pbs.org/dpBDUt Alan Cooperman of the Pew forum on religion, talks to Judy Woodruff about what Americans know and don't know ab...

Comment by Scott H on February 10, 2012 at 7:50pm

Alan says only 4% of Americans are atheist or agnostic (self-identified).  Usually we hear a figure like 15%.  Where is the discrepancy coming from?

Comment by kris feenstra on February 10, 2012 at 8:22pm

I'd wager the discrepancy is mostly an issue of terminology.  Sometimes people identified by 'no-religion' or 'no religious affiliation'  in a given survey are interpreted as atheist; however, not all of those people would necessarily identify themselves explicitly as atheists given the option.

Comment by Luis Contreras on February 10, 2012 at 8:52pm

i also wondered that Scott.

Comment by John Kelly on February 10, 2012 at 9:26pm

That seems to be right Kris.  I looked up the census data at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0075.pdf

.7 % Atheist
15.8% w/No Religion, no-religion-other, Atheist, Humanist

It seems if we were to do half of that for the people who don't have a specific religion, we get around 7.5%.  15% seems to be pushing it though.

228,182,000 Population total estimate
34,169,000 No Religion
1,621,000 Atheist
90,000 Humanist
45,000 Other no religion

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on February 11, 2012 at 4:16am

"atheists and agnostics scored best" in a survey of religious knowledge... WIN!

Comment by Zakori Thomas on February 11, 2012 at 2:45pm

So, according to the data, the more you know about religion, the less you believe.

Who would have thought...

Comment by Kairan Nierde on February 11, 2012 at 6:42pm

My pet theory, as an ex-Catholic, is that the church keeps the "truth" about the eucharest on the down low.  I went to church every 2-4 times a month for a decade and completed way too many CCD courses during this time.  In this day and age, people are skeptical enough to ask why it appears, smells, and tastes like wafer and wine even after the blessing should have transfigured it into flesh and blood.  That's my theory, because I like conspiracies--more fun, those.  It could also be that when they tell you "it becomes His flesh and blood" your mind automatically takes that as a symbolic statement because it just sounds unbelievable.

Comment by Zac Kimmer on February 12, 2012 at 3:28am

I think the reason Catholics answered that question wrong because in reality that doctrine is extremely complicated, i would compare it to like string theory. It is something that has to be taught to adult, and takes sometime to understand. From what I know, even Kairan explanation's is wrong. The word is "transubstantiation" and the easiest way to explain it is half way between the believing that the wafer is a symbol of the body and blood and believe it actually transforms into blood and flesh. The "substance" of the wafer changes into body and blood but not the physical state. It is confusing and i probably got it wrong, but I would like to say the doctrine makes sense , if you assume god exists.

I think it is shameful how little people know about other people religions and belief. I hate to hear people call the catholic god an great wizard in the sky as much as i hate to hear atheists called heartless immoral bastards.  You no more sit down, read the bible and understand it, than sit down and read a physics journal and understand. I believe you cannot study any faith or set of beliefs assuming that they are simple. All beliefs, whether it is Catholic or Atheist, are extremely complex and must to be treated that way.

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