Something-You-Already-Knew of the Day: Atheists Know More About Religion than Religious People, Study Finds

This should surprise no one.

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

It’s easy to see why this is true. The people who know a lot about religion are the people who ask a lot of questions. And the people who ask a lot of questions eventually find that religion either doesn’t have any answers or offers answers that don’t make any sense.

Sick, Sad Romance

Hello, humans.

Here’s a concept I’ve been chewing on for the past few weeks. Holler if this has ever crossed your mind.

Why is our species, homo sapiens sapiens, so goddamned obsessed with being in a “good” relationship, as if “good” and “relationship” are two words that can be reasonably placed alongside each other?

Perhaps that sounds pessimistic. Okay, you know what… it’s pessimistic. I’ll give you that. But what is pessimism, but realism for people with cojones?

Maybe it’s not the “good relationship” part that seems so naive to me. There are definitely relationships out there that might meet some quasi-objective standard of “good.” Or at the very least, “functional.” I think what strikes me most about our species’ attitude toward mating is the expectation of a happy ending.

Cause, really, what relationship has, or will ever have, a happy ending? None of them.

The best way a relationship can possibly end, is in death. Someone is ending up alone, with nothing to fill the void but a lifetime of memories, a shoebox full of memorabilia, and a closet full of clothes that still have “their smell.” And you don’t know who’s luckier, the one that survives or the one that doesn’t have to spend every single day missing the one that doesn’t survive.

That’s what most of us are looking for. Actively.

And I don’t care if you’re religious, or a baby-eating heathen like me. We’re all on the same cosmic, organic spaceship here. Even if you believe in an afterlife, it doesn’t change our current situation.

We want families. No one has any idea why, but every single thing we do is part of an elaborate scheme concocted by our genes in their effort to replicate. And somewhere along the line, we got the idea that things are supposed to end well. That you’ll find that one person out of a sample size of 6 billion, and everything will be okay.

But ultimately, it won’t.

So my advice to you, however unwarranted or officious it may be, it that if you’re happy, enjoy being happy, and if you’re not happy, get happy. But don’t be the idiot that expects it to last forever.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, if 100% of all relationships end badly, what chance have I got?

Practically none.

Beer Distributors Oppose California Marijuana Bill

The folks who deliver beer and other beverages to liquor stores have joined the fight against legalizing marijuana in California.

On Sept. 7, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors gave $10,000 to a committee opposing Proposition 19, the measure that would change state law to legalize pot and allow it to be taxed and regulated.

The California Police Chiefs Association has given the most to the Proposition 19 opposition with a contribution of $30,000, according to Cal-Access, a website operated by the secretary of state’s office.

The bullshit motivation behind this political contribution should be perfectly clear. And it’s a good example of how a government policy, regardless of it’s “official” justification, can really be just a masked attempt to eliminate competition.

But what do you expect, when you set the precedent that the government is allowed to regulate the free market?

God Dies

This, I can tell you, is right on. To think that this was written eighty-or-so years ago really lays waste to the whole “New Atheism” shtick.

GOD DIES

No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” It wasn’t a murder. I think God just died of old age. And when I realized that he wasn’t any more, it didn’t shock me. It seemed natural and right.

Maybe it was because I was never properly impressed with a religion. I went to Sunday school and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn’t believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.

Religion was too vague. God was different. He was something real, something I could feel. But there were only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie between cool, clean sheets at night after I’d had a bath, after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger nails and teeth. Then I could lie quite still in the dark with my face to the window with the trees in it, and talk to God. “I am clean, now. I’ve never been as clean. I’ll never be cleaner.” And somehow, it was God. I wasn’t sure that it was … just something cool and dark and clean.

That wasn’t religion, though. There was too much of the physical about it. I couldn’t get that same feeling during the day, with my hands in dirty dish water and the hard sun showing up the dirtiness on the roof-tops. And after a time, even at night, the feeling of God didn’t last. I began to wonder what the minister meant when he said, “God, the father, sees even the smallest sparrow fall. He watches over all his children.” That jumbled it all up for me. But I was sure of one thing. If God were a father, with children, that cleanliness I had been feeling wasn’t God. So at night, when I went to bed, I would think, “I am clean. I am sleepy.” And then I went to sleep. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the cleanness any less. I just knew that God wasn’t there. He was a man on a throne in Heaven, so he was easy to forget.

Sometimes I found he was useful to remember; especially when I lost things that were important. After slamming through the house, panicky and breathless from searching, I could stop in the middle of a room and shut my eyes. “Please God, let me find my red hat with the blue trimmings.” It usually worked. God became a super-father that couldn’t spank me. But if I wanted a thing badly enough, he arranged it.

That satisfied me until I began to figure that if God loved all his children equally, why did he bother about my red hat and let other people lose their fathers and mothers for always? I began to see that he didn’t have much to do about hats, people dying or anything. They happened whether he wanted them to or not, and he stayed in heaven and pretended not to notice. I wondered a little why God was such a useless thing. It seemed a waste of time to have him. After that he became less and less, until he was…nothingness.

I felt rather proud to think that I had found the truth myself, without help from any one. It puzzled me that other people hadn’t found out, too. God was gone. We were younger. We had reached past him. Why couldn’t they see it? It still puzzles me.

—-Frances Farmer (1931)

Another Stupid Movie That I Will Not Be Seeing

Oh, for Pete’s sake… not this crap again.

I guess the Christmas-season-fear-mongering slash atheist-hate-fest is starting a few months early this year.

Our film industry has stumbled around looking for the next group to fear and denigrate. Homegrown terrorists? Too boring. Arabs? After 9/11 that became pretty insensitive. Neo-Nazis? Are people even scared of them still? We’ve been lost, groping blindly in the darkness.

But now one film has brought the light and shown us a new way forward: Let’s all be scared of atheists! Specifically resentful atheists who want to take away Christmas.

The direct-to-DVD Christmas with a Capital C is based on a song by the Christian Rock band Go Fish and concerns the nefarious plot by a big-city scumbag (Daniel Baldwin) to ruin Christmas for everyone in his home town. Yes, that’s right. NewsFeed should admit, the first time we saw the trailer for the film and heard its laughably on-the-nose dialogue we were convinced it was a joke: Does anyone actually believe in that tired dialectic of humble patriotic small-towners vs. smug urbanites who hate religion? Apparently some people still do. And that makes NewsFeed a little sad.

I’m actually a little surprised that they managed to get a Baldwin to be in a shitty Christian propaganda film who isn’t Stephen Baldwin.

Perhaps Stephen is busy?

For anyone not in the know, there’s no war on Christmas. Most atheists have absolutely no problem with Christmas or the people who celebrate it. What we do have a problem with are those people who think that their religious holiday is somehow not valid unless the government is endorsing it.

Since I’m pretty sure the majority of Christians aren’t aware of how many things they think they know about Christmas are wrong, I plan on elaborating a bit more in the future. But until then, please don’t bother seeing this movie. Paying for it will only encourage them to make more.

How I Saved a Dude’s Life (Subtly)

Here, for illustrative purposes, is an aerial view of the Publix near where I work.  It’s within walking distance, and I often like to go on leisurely strolls during my lunch break, so I walked there today to procure a sweet tea and some Pringles.

Note that one of the entrances to the parking lot is at the intersection of Datran and South Dadeland Blvd. There’s a traffic light there, which directs people that are coming out of the parking lot. This may seem a little over-explanatory, but it’s important, I assure you.

So I’ve just purchased my delicious sweet tea, and I’m partaking in its sweet nectar as I walk through the parking lot. The building where I work (not pictured) is a little further to the southwest, so I’m heading towards the aforementioned intersection.

As I’m momentarily distracted from a generous swig of sweet tea, I suddenly realize that there’s a man on a scooter behind me trying to get by.

You know those moments during your everyday social interactions where you abruptly realize that there’s something you need to do, and you need to do it quickly, but your brain temporarily freaks out and you end up momentarily frozen? Well I had one of those.  My brain said, “Move your ass, so this guy can get by you,” but my body took a split-second to respond.

So I move to my left, allowing the scooter to pass me. He’s now heading toward the intersection. The light is green, so it looks like he’s just going to pass right through without stopping.

BUT…

Just as he’s about to exit the parking lot, a black sedan speeds right through the red light and passes right in front of him, missing him by what couldn’t have been more than a foot. The guy in the scooter yanks on the break, yells some sort of Spanish expletive that I didn’t catch, and then continues on through the intersection completely unaware of how close he came to a terrible death.

It took me a few seconds, but I soon realized that if I hadn’t had a craving for Publix sweet tea, I wouldn’t have been in the parking lot to obstruct his journey toward the intersection, and he would have most certainly been killed by a crazy, speeding, red-light-disregarding motorist.

And what’s even nuttier is that this guy will probably live another fifty years, never knowing that I saved his life. Maybe he’ll have kids that never would have been born. Maybe he’ll save the life of someone else, who would have otherwise died. Maybe he’ll create an awesome piece of music that would never have existed.

Now for the moral of the story…

Moral #1: I have super powers.

Moral #2: The next time you’re driving and a pedestrian slows you down and you get a little frustrated that you had to slow down just to let him cross without getting hit, keep this fact in mind: life is ridiculously, terribly, and unbelievably fleeting. In less than a second you can go from living, to null. And so it stands to reason that the few seconds this pedestrian is adding to your trip may be the difference between a short life, and a less-short life.

In fact, it may have already happened. More than once.

So rather than cursing the wayward pedestrian, thank him.

Preferably with money.