PEW study credits nonbelievers with biblical literacy

FFRF: Bible bestseller no one reads

A study  by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released this week revealing that the people who scored highest on 32 simple questions about religion were atheists agnostics, and religious minorities (Jews and Mormons) did not surprise the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“As we’ve always said at FFRF, the bible is the bestseller than nobody reads,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation spokeswoman. “But we can attest that our membership is biblically literate,” she added.

“At least 5% our membership came to reject religion because they read the bible, not just those more palatable passages,” said Dan Barker, who directs FFRF with Gaylor.

Barker, an evangelical minister before “seeing the light,” has written two books about his rejection of fundamentalism and religion, Losing Faith in Faith and Godless.

Other typical reasons cited for rejecting religion by FFRF members include: Religion just doesn’t make sense (32%), lack of evidence (19%), science (17%), religious hypocrisy/bigotry (17%) and reading skeptical authors (9%).

Since its inception in 1978, the Foundation has emphasized biblical literacy. Its first book, still an organizational bestseller, is Ruth Hurmence Green’s classic Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, which takes off where Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason leaves off.

“We encourage the public to read the bible critically, like they would any other book, and predict those who judge its teachings like they would any other pronouncements will not want it invoked in government,” Barker added. FFRF offers a self-graded 50-question online quiz, "What do you really know about the bible?"

“Although a 3rd generation freethinker when I read the bible cover to cover, what I learned taught me that I didn’t want that book dictating my life and that of other women,” said Gaylor, author of Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So.

Barker and Gaylor added that they can understand why “nonmasochists” would prefer not to open the bible. Gaylor called it a “literary mishmash with a wavering plotline, contradictions galore, few stories cohesive enough to have a beginning and an end, which contains a string of curses and dire threats woven together in no particular order.”

Read more about the bible from the skeptical point of view

Take the PEW bible quiz

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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