Atheists Get Top Score on Religious Knowledge Survey

religion on the world survey
The Pew Forum recently released their U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey results concerning religious knowledge based on religious affiliation. The poll image and the following quote are taken from from:

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.
           How do you match up? Their sample quiz is available Here

Dalai Lama on Religion

dalai lama
"Developing love and compassion and reducing anger and spite is a universal activity which requires no faith in any religion whatsoever." - Dalai Lama

dalai-lamaIn a previous post I talked about the problem with modern religion in order to consider the potential ‘religion’ may hold as an institution. This quote from the Dalai Lama adds another layer to that critique. Don’t you find it ironic when you hear stories about angry religious people who are full of spite? I don’t think religion is inherently bad, but I find many people either miss the point or move away from it since they don’t see a point. Those who miss the point – at the most extreme level – are out protesting in anger and burning the holy books of other religions groups (See Terry Jones). Those who don’t see the point have most likely been turned off by religious extremists, or have been brought up in sterile traditions which shove morality down your throat – or both. So what’s this point I’m talking about.

The point is increasing happiness – what we all look for anyway – through cultivating ‘love’ –Basically learning how to love harder. Now If you’re skeptical, let me explain. As Plato’s Socrates said, the highest purpose of love is to become a lover of wisdom – for him this is equivalent to becoming a philosopher. Wisdom, in its mystic sense, can be found at the core of each religion – hence the term ‘wisdom tradition’. If you strip religion of all its doctrine, hierarchies, and ‘unwavering’ laws, you will be left with its core ‘wisdom’.

By wisdom I don’t mean hidden rules or knowledge; I mean practices – particularly, practices which cultivate love. The benefits of specific practices can be seen in within the field of positive pychology (click to view insights into Buddhist practices). Loving-kindness meditation is actually considered a practice of Buddhism. This is not limited to Buddhism, but can also be found in Christian monasticism and several other religions. When you get down to this level of religion, it begins to lose its strong attachment to faith, authority, and other modern institutional structures.

So how does this relate to the Dalai Lama’s quote? He says love and compassion “requires no faith in any religion whatsoever." He has also said “kindness is my religion”. By equating religion with kindness, this eliminates the institutional structure altogether. If religion becomes ‘kindness’, where is the need for faith? The alternative to focusing on faith – which presupposes knowledge and laws – is the focus is on practices which are a tool for growth. Of course, this is a break from ‘religion’ as we commonly know it.

Rather than being a mere part of the flock, over-determined by the laws of a master, one must make religion into ‘kindness’; only then can freedom and individual growth begin to occur. On that note, I will end this post with another quote:

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness, the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.” – Dalai Lama

Einstein Quotes on Religion

einstein religion quote
The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. ( Albert Einstein - The Merging of Spirit and Science)

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. (Albert Einstein)

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. (Albert Einstein, 1954) From Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of Nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being. (Albert Einstein, 1936) Responding to a child who wrote and asked if scientists pray. Source: Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann

A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. (Albert Einstein, Religion and Science, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature. (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It)

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