Want to know about religion? Go to your local atheist, not your priest

Lately, a certain faction within CFI (not the whole organization — I know several staff who disagree) has taken it upon itself to slam the Gnu Atheists as a gang of crude louts who know nothing about religion — they’ve criticized Richard Dawkins, and I’ve heard that both Jerry Coyne and I were named in a recent talk as bad for the movement. Both Coyne and Benson have already taken John Shook to task for his poor HuffPo article, which begins:

Atheists are getting a reputation for being a bunch of know-nothings. They know nothing of God, and not much more about religion, and they seem proud of their ignorance.

This reputation is a little unfair, yet when they profess how they can’t comprehend God, atheists really mean it.

It’s almost as if a god has decided to smite those who sneer at the ignorance of the unbelievers, though. In an awesomely well-timed survey from Pew, Americans were queried about their knowledge of religion, and these results are being reported all over the place: the group that knows the most about religion are the atheists/agnostics. This is no surprise — we’ve been aware of this for many years, and one of the things we’ve routinely experienced is the fact that in arguments, we almost always know more about our opponent’s religion than he or she does. Would you believe about half of Catholics are surprised to learn that transubstantiation is one of the tenets of their faith?

Dave Silverman has a good explanation.

That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

In your face, John Shook. Take that, faitheists of the CFI.