Pod people: On converts to atheism

We have another podcast up and running. This one is a follow-up chat, with me this time around, about the new wave of data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life -- the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey." For me, this was a chance to explain some of the views I expressed both here at GetReligion and in my most recent Scripps Howard News Service column, which is up now at tmatt.net -- right here.

The key for me is that most atheists and agnostics are, in their own way, CONVERTS to a new faithless tradition. Anyone who knows anything about religion knows that converts tend to be very passionate people when it comes to practicing their faith and learning more about it. Passion drives people to knowledge.

The same thing is true with atheists. Most of them have been raised in a faith tradition and then they have chosen -- for reasons of experience, reading, academics, etc. -- to convert to a faithless stance.

When it comes to gaining knowledge about religion, love is not the opposite of hate -- apathy is.

People who love their faith (or now have chosen to hate or reject a given faith) tend to know more than people who are apathetic. People who practice their faith the most also tend to have more knowledge. Duh. A Catholic who goes to Mass several times a week is, most of the time, going to know more about Catholicism than someone who goes once a year. A Southern Baptist who goes to church several times a week, including Wednesday night missions classes about world religions, is going to know more about religion than someone who goes two or three times a year on Sunday morning, period.

There are many other details in the survey and in the coverage that come up in this podcast discussion.

Oh, and brace yourself for "Catholic vote" coverage in the coming weeks. How is that related to the Pew Forum study?

Give it a listen.

I hope GetReligion readers are giving this new project a try. It's easy to simply click the "direct download" link and listen to the short program right on your computer. We are coming soon to iTunes, as well. Hang in there with us.

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