What if you had to take a written exam to get into heaven?

You might be aware of the recent Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey on which atheists beat out Christians (I scored 100). Last week, I laughed until I cried listening to representatives from various denominations explain on National Public Radio why the test was unfair and the results were irrelevant anyway.

I mean, come on guys, if you're an American Christian, you have the good fortune to live in the most religious of First World nations BY FAR, yet atheists know more about religion than YOU do! ATHEISTS!!! I mean, aren't you just a little embarrassed? If you are, good for you. At least you're more humble--or, perhaps, just more honest--than the experts on the radio. I can't prove it, of course, but I would bet you anything that if the atheists had flunked, those same experts would be saying, "See there. The reason atheists don't believe in God is that they don't know enough about religion."

"But were the differences significant," you might ask. YES! Atheists barely edged out Jews, and Jews barely edged out Mormons, but other Christians might as well have been riding hobbyhorses in the Tour de France. The poor Catholics were clueless about the role of the bread and wine in the mass, and Protestants were fuzzy on the identity of an old-timer named Martin Luther. Arrrgh! All I can say is LOL.

I remain sincerely yours,
An Insufferably Smart-Alecky Atheist

P.S. Enjoy Sunday school!


The Bipolar Diva said...

I want to take the survey :(

Marion said...

I'm not embarrassed. Just another ploy by you smarty-pants non-believers to beat us over the heads with our own Bibles. Sheesh. :-)

Lydia said...

I saw the report on NBC so we went to their webpage to find the test. My husband found two separate tests, so that was confusing. One had fewer questions (15) so that is the one we took. Hubby got 13 right (he is the son of a Presbyterian minister) and I got 12 right (I believe in God but am not a Christian). I had only recently heard on NPR about the bread-and-wine thingy in the Catholic church, so I got that correct.
The evangelicals are a bunch of reactionary sheep bleating moral values they cannot back up.

Elisabeth said...

If I had to take such an exam, I'd fail, even with my early knowledge of Catholicism. I'd only get the trimmings right. That's all I attended to when little.

ellen abbott said...

gotta love it.

Strayer said...

Hahahaha. You're loving it. Actually I loved it too. I'm another 100% scorer. Agnostic. I think. Make some T-shirts about it. Bet they'd sell. The Mormons are very happy with the results, bragging even.

The Blog Fodder said...

I saw that and was amused but not the least bit surprised. I haven't tried out the quiz yet. It is on line somewhere? Written, I will do better than oral. Was the survey by phone?

A written exam to get into Heaven would suit me but others would need an oral exam.

kylie said...

i took the 15 question quiz on the website and i scored 93%, which was one wrong. it was a question on the first great awakening.
i did better than 97% of americans and i got about 40% over the average white evangelical protestant.
all up, it wasnt all that hard and anybody who cant get an ok result should be ashamed of themselves.

as for you snow, atheist or not, as a person who is interested in his world i wouldnt expect less of you.

smart alec!

CambridgeLady said...

That's brilliant. And not surprising - I would guess that most atheists, especially in the god-fearing USA, have had to think long and hard about being an atheist and will have studied various viewpoints, philosophies and religious teachings before reaching their decision. Whereas so many - not all - religious people seem to take on the religion of their parents, unquestioningly, and don't even consider alternative philosophies.

The Depressed Reader said...

You can take the test here. I am sad to say that I only got 3 questions out of the 15 wrong. Still, according to the stats on the site that is more than my average fellow atheist!

rhymeswithplague said...

I also scored 100% on the Pew Forum's 15-question quiz. You and I are practically twins, Snow.

Bonus question: What does knowing a few facts about various religions of the world have to do with entering heaven? (Answer: Absolutely nothing.)

The Tusk said...

Don't know what to say, just now. I have some studying to do, before I venture into this junkyard dog fight.
And I wont spit into the wind I promise you.

Who Am I?
hint" (Singer songwriter)

bluzdude said...

Doesn't surprise me at all.

That sound you hear all over the country is people going, "I'm supposed to believe WHAT?"

Simone said...

I thought that the whole idea of Christianity was to become like Christ? It is great to know something about God, but it is far better to know Him and have a relationship with Him.

Just like you can know all about someone by reading and studying about them, but the person that has a relationship with that person, knows him/her far better.

However, good for you Snow...


Snowbrush said...

I'm off to yet another funeral soon, so will only answer questions for now.

Rhymes said: "What does knowing a few facts about various religions of the world have to do with entering heaven?"

Cambridge Lady (two comments above yours--of course, I do remember that you read all comments) addressed this. Christians who know nothing about other religions come to their own faith by default. Had they been born in Iran, Thailand, or India, they would almost certainly be a Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindu. That said, no matter how much one learns, most people believe whatever the people around them believe, both about faith and other things.

Blog Fodder, yes the test is online.

Skepticat said...

I think it's a tragedy that some people who are so insistent that I convert to their beliefs don't even know their own religion very well. These people often vote based on their supposed religious values yet, when pressed, can't even explain where they come from or what they mean.

I've no problem with educated religious people who search for answers, struggle with their faith and ask all the hard questions. I'm still struggling with a lot of moral things too. But when the uneducated and hateful come to me and demand that I submit to their faith? No thank you.

Snowbrush said...

Okay, I've got my suit on with ten minutes to spare, so I'll write a little more.

Simone said: "It is great to know something about God, but it is far better to know Him and have a relationship with Him. "

Was Jesus ignorant about Judaism? Was the Apostle Paul at a loss when asked to give a reason for his faith? What do you say to someone like Skepticat, or to someone like me who asks how you know your "relationship" with the supernatural pertains to anything outside your own head? And is it even possible to know someone without knowing much of anything about them? What is it, exactly, that you know, and how do you know it?

Diana said...

Well the nice thing about being a Christian for me Snow, is that I don't have to memorize the bible word for word. All I have to do is have Faith. And that I do!
Love Di ♥

dana said...

It only stands to reason that a person must know the insides and out of a subject, right, left and sideways, before he can see that it just isn't "right".

The ones that insist their religion is right do so only because they ignorant of what they profess to be correct.

Snowbrush said...

Diana said: "I don't have to memorize the bible word for word. All I have to do is have Faith."

Yes, Diana, I understand the concept of salvation by faith as it is typically understood by the Christians whom I have known. All it requires is that you profess with you mouth to believe in Christ, and ask him to forgive you of your sins, and you are assured of heaven. You don't have to be loving, or compassionate, or generous, or develop any other virtue whatsoever. ALL you need do is to demonstrate your faith by repeating this statement frequently and to hope that you have a few moments to say it one last time before you take your final breath in order to cover yourself in the event of any outstanding sins, and, bingo, you wake up in heaven. Of course, there is that troublesome chapter in First Corinthians about faith in the absence of love being meaningless, but I'm unaware that it gets much press. I know that, as far as this blog is concerned, I don't remember even one Christian ever telling me that god expected me to be loving, although the subject of faith has come up repeatedly.

dana said...

I only got 26 out of 31 correct...does that mean I've got religion? lol

Snowbrush said...

Dana said: "..does that mean I've got religion?"

Dana, I think you probably "have" religion. I mean, you know a lot about it, and god is dog spelled backwards, and you have a dog, so I would say you're practically ready for the priesthood if you can find a church that will take you. I would suggest that you try the Episcopal Church because you would look real cute with one of those nifty collars. I know you could go out and buy one, but it just wouldn't be the same.

Natalie said...


Robert the Skeptic said...

The poll made national news. Not surprising that we non-believers topped the list of correct answers. I think that most believers don't investigate or question their own beliefs; they don't put any energy into thinking about them. After all, it is much easier to believe than to "know".

But non-believers want to know so they investigate, read, and most importantly, QUESTION the religious of all stripes.

I had Mormon missionaries at my door on two different occasions who didn't know what an Agnostic was.

The absolute best fun you can have with a believer is start asking them about heaven, what they expect there. Then start having them explain if there is day and night, if there is food and if so, why? Will their aunt Suzie be all shriveled up like when she died or a beautiful teen ager.. most of all, ask them what they think they will be doing in heaven, day after day.... forever. I love making them squirm, great fun!!!

Snowbrush said...

Robert, Mormons scored very well on the test, so I'm surprised--a little--that your two were ignorant of the meaning of the word agnostic.

I try to be kind and respectful toward people whose beliefs differ from mine no matter what I think about those beliefs, yet I fail again and again. I even failed in my reply to at least one of those who responded to this very post, partly because I was in a gray mood on this gray day on which I had to attend a funeral, and partly because I hit the "Publish Your Comment" button before I gave myself time to reconsider--the two factors are not unrelated.

I did realize something today, however, that I knew but hadn't actually verbalized even to myself. It is that salvation as it is typically understood and practiced by Protestants (at least) is an entirely self-centered endeavor. When the goal is heaven, and people believe that all they need to get there is a personal supply of blind faith, it very much appears to have an extremely deleterious effect both on their desire for knowledge and their desire to do good. Thomas Paine said something over 200 years ago that expresses what I should hope the impetus of religion would be, but his sentiments are non-partisan, and the term non-partisan when used in conjunction with the term religion would be an oxymoron, at least inasmuch as religion was taught in any church I ever attended.

"The World is my country, all man and women are my brothers and sisters, and to do good is my religion."

I would argue that the common Protestant emphasis on faith as a necessity--indeed, the only necessity--for salvation is every bit as shallow, legalistic, and self-centered as the Pharisaic religion which Jesus criticized--in fact, railed against. For, to them, all that is needed is to walk to the front of one church or another and "confess their faith" (a confession that varies somewhat from one denomination to another). That being over and done with, all that remains is for them to hold onto that "faith" and hopefully increase it for however many additional years they might live, although exactly what faith entails, or how much faith is strictly necessary, or why faith is considered the supreme virtue, or what the remedy is for those who can't hold onto their faith is undefined. At least, I could never get the answers pinned down. All I know is that any and all doubts as well as any and all questions of any depth were severely frowned upon.

kylie said...

the Salvation Army doctrine (number 9) states:

We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ

so, after confessing faith we must act on that faith. one of the things i find incredibly difficult about a walk of faith is the continual talk of God's will for one's life. i struggle to determine Gods will for me, kylie and i get concerned that if i misunderstand in some way i am letting the team down.
having said all of that, though, even if a Christian never understands an instruction made specifically for themselves, to fully take on board and be obedient to general biblical principles is a life's work. which brings us to the point that there is much more required than a mere profession of faith.

i get an inferiority complex just thinking about it!

All Consuming said...

'An Insufferably Smart-Alecky Atheist' - and that's one of the reasons I love ya. Sore hands today or I'd write more, tsk.

Snowbrush said...

Kylie, I know I can't speak for all Christians everywhere and at all times, yet you will probably agree that my generalizations contain a great deal of truth. I didn't know about the Salvation Army's doctrine. It comes too close to combining faith and works to suit most Protestants, yet I grew up in that rarity of rarities, a Protestant Church that did believe that both faith and works were necessary for salvation. Were we then more kindly than those who believed in faith alone? No, partly because we saw our small sect as god's chosen, and everyone else in the whole wide world as richly deserving of damnation.

Thank you for your kind works, All Consuming.

Snowbrush said...

I said: "Thank you for your kind works, All Consuming."

I don't suppose I HAD to sound so formal, so, Hip, hip, cheerio, hail to queennie, and thankee kindly, mum.

Snowbrush said...

Ha, I said thank you for your kind "works"! All this talk about faith versus works, I suppose. Anyway, thank you for your kind WORDS,

Winifred said...

Streuth Catholic education must have changed since I went to school Wait a minute, I went to school in the UK. Maybe it was different here. Maybe you didn't get indoctrinated every morning for an hour before lessons!

Snowbrush said...

Winifred, I know little about Catholic schools. I do know that the Catholic Church teaches that both faith and works are necessary for salvation, and that Martin Luther taught that faith alone was adequate, which is what nearly all Protestants still believe.

Simone said...

Was Jesus ignorant about Judaism? (No). Was the Apostle Paul at a loss when asked to give a reason for his faith? (NO) What do you say to someone like Skepticat, or to someone like me who asks how you know your "relationship" with the supernatural pertains to anything outside your own head? (I admit I don't have the relationship I would like to have, or that others seem to have, is theirs in their head? I don't know.)

And is it even possible to know someone without knowing much of anything about them? (No, I did not say I did not know about God, because I do. I am positive I could pass a test to get into heaven. ) What is it, exactly, that you know, and how do you know it? (I don't confess to knowing anything other than I too know about Him). Unfortunately, I wish to know Him more intimately...whatever that means.)

Simone...PS...when I have an answer for you and skepticat I will surely let you know.


this resonate somewhat with something i posted today on one of my blogs, to which i will link this blog, most definitely. born of a pentecostal father and catholic mother, i am not ignorant of those matters but they were pissed at me for believing in neither churches. but it's not because i didn't take interest. i did also look at the koran and the torah,
and judaism is probably the one i found most interesting for the direct connection we get to god rather than going through priests and such... i don't like intermediaries. i can speak/think for myself.

i respect people for their way of thinking and have never been rude when patients said they would pray for me for whatever kindness they thought i had done to them, but all in all, if my life is worth nothing to whatever entity there is [maybe],
then i was right in the first place to have doubts, but i'll regret nothing that i have done. can everyone claim as much??

(if i sound like i'm rambling or if the semantic is not quite right, my apologies: french is my primary language...)

i intend to take that test.
i'm intrigued now!!!

rhymeswithplague said...

I know it isn't all about me, me, me, but I can't help but suspect that when you do religious (i.e., anti-religious) posts you are hoping that I will argue with you. But unless I'm having a very bad day, I ain't gonna argue with you, Snow. John Wesley (founder of the Methodists) said: "Live and let live. Think and let think," and it has worked for me for almost 70 years now. Of course, that makes me not a very good evangelical in most evangelical people's eyes. Ya gotta be out there pounding truth into people's heads at all times, they think. No, they know. But Billy Graham once said, "Nobody was ever debated into the kingdom of God."

So I will just continue reading and enjoying and not arguing with you, if you don't mind.

Your dog is in a very provocative position. Is he a surrogate?

Gaston Studio said...

I probably know more about other religions than I do my own, but that's because I think of myself as inquisitive and unjudgemental. When it comes to politics and religion, to each his own.

BTW Snow, something wrong with the link to your latest post.

Snowbrush said...

Simone, I misunderstood you. I had thought you differentiated between knowing a thing (in this case, god), and knowing about a thing. Certainly, there are degrees of knowledge (e.g. my orthopedist knows far more about my shoulder than my wife does, but she knows me as on a deeper emotional level), yet knowledge can't be separated from content.

I really appreciated your answers to my questions. Most people ignore them.

Ticklebear, I too am more attracted to Judaism than to Christianity, but in my case, it's due to the fact that--if Isaac Singer can be believed--Jews are willing to entertain hard questions, and because some observant Jews are atheists. With Jews, as I understand them, it's not what you believe but what you do that counts, and I consider behavior a more reasonable standard by which to judge people than something so nebulous as faith.

Gaston Studio said: "something wrong with the link to your latest post."

Jane, as to the bad link, I did something that I have rarely if ever done. I put up a post and then pulled it down. I only post about one out of every three things I write, and I usually let days go by before writing something and posting it. This time I posted an hour after writing, and regretted it right away because I hadn't put my usual care into it. Maybe when I've worked on it some more.

Gaston Studio said: "When it comes to politics and religion, to each his own."

But, Jane, religious groups and political parties are hardly so innocuous as quilters or stamp collectors. Are you saying that you are tolerant of them even when theirs is a program of oppression? I rather doubt it, but if I take your words literally, it would seem so--to me, anyway.

Rhymes said: "John Wesley (founder of the Methodists) said: 'Live and let live. Think and let think...'"

Rhymes, are you SURE Wesley said that? I found the following in a 1762 letter, but it was as close as I could come: "The longer I live, the larger allowances I make for human infirmities. I exact more from myself, and less from others. Go thou and do likewise!" I tried to find the quote simply because I was surprised that he would have been so tolerant.

As for trying to argue with you, I can but say this. I often find in your answers something akin to religious pronouncements based upon Protestant dogma as opposed to heartfelt statements or intellectual positions based upon a thorough understanding of the many possible interpretations of Biblical passages. I could be wrong in this, of course, but I do sometimes yearn to engage you at a more personal level or even at at more scholarly level as opposed to what I interpret as a doctrinaire level. I hope I'm making myself clear without being offensive.


it is indeed because they are willing to discuss ad nauseam relevant questions that i fing it more alluring. and indeed, deeds speak louder than profession of faith, in my book at least...
i've seen so much hypocrisy among believers that i preferred to distance myself from such people.

i wish RHYMESWITH PLAGUE woud engage into the discussion as his approach seems more reasonable than others i've known...


Snowbrush said...

Ticklebear said: "i wish RHYMESWITH PLAGUE woud engage into the discussion as his approach seems more reasonable than others i've known..."

Him? Reasonable?! He's a horrid fellow, absolutely the worst. Some would even say that he's the most dreadful of the dreadfulest.


then, let's see it!!!!

i'm new here,
but i would venture you're still poking him here to get a reaction...
i'm just saying...

rhymeswithplague said...

1. I do believe you are right about the John Wesley quote. I can't find his name attached to it either. But if they are not his own words, they still constitute a philosophy many do identify with.

2. I agree: I am a most dreadful person. But one worth dying for. As are you.

Snowbrush said...

Ticklebear said: "i would venture you're still poking him [Rhymes] here to get a reaction..."

No such luck. When I try, he just tells me that Jesus died for me (see below). I must say though that any Christian who persists in reading my blog is alright by me.

elsiee said...

adorably smart alecky atheist!

Marion said...

I agree.You ARE insufferably adorable...

Joe Todd said...

Good old Martin just wanted to get married so he had to do something to get excommunicated. That's my take on it anyway.

C Woods said...

Your post made me chuckle. FFRF.org has a Bible quiz with about 50 questions. It is multiple choice ---and I found the way to choose the correct answers for the questions I'm not sure of, is to chose the most irrational, bizarre, or insane response ---works almost every time.

When Trivial Pursuit first came out in Canada, before it was available in the U.S., a boyfriend from Toronto sent the game to me. I used to take it to Mensa parties where it was a big hit. Other players would be delighted when I hit a religious question, because they were sure an atheist would know nothing about religion. It didn't take long for them to groan when a religious question came up for me because I knew more answers than the believers did.

I scored 15/15 on the Pew quiz, too.

Find more religious quizzes:
Church State Separation Quiz (21 questions)
Bible Quiz (50 questions)
And for a few good laughs:
More Bible Quizzes from the Landover Baptist Church parody website

Just_because_today said...

I happen to know a lot about my religion because in college I had to take a few classes that I found so interesting they inspired me to read more.
In the case of atheists knowing more than catholics, one normally has to arm oneself with amunition so we can fire at a target. Such is the case with atheist. What I find interesting is why atheist spend so much time and effort talking about what they don't believe? I never talk about the reason why an atheist doesnt believe, to me it is not important. Why is it important to them that others believe? why the need to prove? you dont need to prove anything when you are totally convince of it.

Christy said...

Those results do not surprise me one bit. And you're talking to a preacher's daughter, granddaughter, niece, and sister. That's why I don't have conversations with them about religion. I certainly do not have the same opinions that my deeply religious family members do. Can you guess I'm the black sheep?

Leah said...

Jewish 100%-er here. The test asks you to demonstrate only the most basic awareness of the world around you. Sweet fancy Moses, I'm a total solipsist (slight exaggeration but not really) and I look around me once in awhile. And I agree with Kylie's long-back comment that if you can't get at least an okay score on this, you should be ashamed.

I have come to realize I have no opinions except that I don't like proselytization of any sort. People who proselytize AT me (there is no other way to proselytize) will be met with a blank stare.

Laggy said...

Cool book:
Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes - A Year Alone in the Patagonia Wilderness

Sakura said...

I've gotten a kick hearing the religious being up in arms over this and the amassing amount of reasons as to the supposed flaws of this test.

I personally scored 13 out of 15...even being in the middle of mormon Utah, I actually have always challenged growing up being mormon. Sadly...I've asked my parents these questions...my dad scored 1 out of 12 (guess which one) and my mom scored 5 out of 12...

Honestly, the results of this didn't surprise me except for the high rate of mormons...since most I know believe dinosaurs really ran around on the earth billions of years ago but also believe in the young earth theory