Thoughts on Religious Ignorance

“Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion,” writes Laurie Goodstein in her article written for The New York Times, Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans. The survey found that atheists, Jews, and Mormons were more knowledgeable than Christians regarding a wide range of religious topics. On average, atheists answered about five more questions correctly (Out of thirty-two questions) than Protestants and Catholics.
Why does this matter?

I have a habit of going on and reading articles having to do with religion. But more than the contents of the articles, I am interested in the reader comments. Here are a few that caught my attention. These are based on a CNN article written about the same survey.

“I just laughed and shook my head when I read: “For example, it’s not evangelicals or Catholics who did best – it’s atheists and agnostics.” Well yeah, there’s a surprise! This is what’s so damm scary about religion; people blindly following whatever they’re told without question or doubt. Only education and embracing other cultures will erase the ignorance that religion has cursed on our societies. I’m a proud atheist!”

“Atheists know more about religions than religious people. And it’s based on this knowledge that they choose not to believe it. So is it implied that religious people are too ignorant to know any better?”

“And it’s painfully obvious that the poorer and less educated a population is, here in the U.S. as well as in other 3rd world countries, the more religious they tend to be. Naturally, this belief in a wonderful, magical afterlife gives them incentive to get through the drudgery of their lives here on Earth. I say that’s fine if it gets them through the day, but in the end they will have suffered a less robust life based on their ignorance and, to top it off, they’ll rot in the ground and turn to dust just like everyone else. There is no grand prize awaiting behind door number three!! Live life to the fullest NOW!”

“Religion is slowly leaving. Now speed up.”

“Turn churches into museums. Gorgeous, historical architecture, but nothing good ever came OUT of them.”

“How do you know a teaching is false, if you don’t even know what the teaching is? Rejecting information without understanding it is willful ignorance.”

When I read through the comments after these types of articles I usually find a few ideas repeated in different ways.

  • The more educated a person, the less likely they are to be religious.
  • Believing in God and/or an afterlife is silly.
  • Science and technological progress are making religion an unnecessary evil.
  • Reason and faith do not go together.

I encourage you to search through CNN’s online archives to read these comments. Sure, there are a few people who represent the faithful, but the overwhelming majority appear to stand opposed to religion. The few who stick up for their faith are usually clumsy with their words and quickly overtaken by the objectors. It is a rare find to come across an articulate Christian with deep conviction about the faith they live by. At least in this realm.

In the beginning, followers of Christ were heavily persecuted for their beliefs. Most of Jesus’ twelve disciples (Later apostles) were put to death in a number of agonizing ways. These first believers carried the message of the gospel (that God has lived among us, and shown us how to live, and provided Himself as a means to save us from sin and the things that ensnare us through his death and Resurrection) After this came two-thousand years of church history. Christianity became Christendom (when government and society came to be defined by the church) and the foundation for Western civilization (even though it started as an eastern religion). Why am I saying all of this? Because modern American Christians are the result of all this history. The first Christians were persecuted heavily and had to be ready to die for their faith in Jesus. Modern American Christians are largely very comfortable. And with this comfort comes a tendency toward ignorance. I am a part of this. I admit it. I am too comfortable.
One who has to live by faith every day in order to struggle through life has more than “religious knowledge.” They have experience with the undeniable presence of God.

My father once told me about a Chinese Christian who came on American television to speak with a prominent pastor. The pastor told the Chinese man that they were concerned for their safety due to persecution, and prayed for them often. But the man of faith quickly responded, The Holy Spirit has told us to pray for the church in America. We are persecuted, but we are strong in the faith, and led by the Spirit. The pastor broke out in tears, recognizing how true this man’s words were.

A lack of religious knowledge does not concern me. What concerns me is a lack of spiritual conviction. I believe this survey reveals a symptom of a more serious ailment.


Conspiracy Theorist Theorizes that Conspiracy Theories are Part of Larger Conspiracy

The following is an interview from the May 2087 issue of Highlights For Kids.

HFK sat down with Alan Marks, the former head of Conspiracy Theorists of America (CTA) to discuss his new book, The Great Conspiracy: I Don’t Know Why I Even Wrote This Book Since You Won’t Believe Me Anyway.

HFK: Mr. Marks, it is a great honor to speak with you. I know how much you value your privacy.

Marks: The honor is mine to have. We don’t have much time.

HFK: Right, of course. Mr. Marks, can you tell us what inspired your new book?

Marks: Is there a mouse in your pocket? Who is us? Who else is with you!?!

HFK: My apologies Mr. Marks. I write for Highlights For Kids

Marks: Yeah yeah yeah I know who you are. I know who you work for. (Looks anxiously in all directions then grabs my arm) Let’s go inside.

(The interview is moved inside his underground bunker.)

HFK: Is this more comfortable?

Marks: A comfortable person is vulnerable. That’s how they get you. They get you…

HFK: Excuse me Mr. Marks, but I’d like to ask you about your new book.

Marks: My book is just that…a book. It’s a book of truth. Did you read it, Mr. uhhh?

HFK: My name is George, Mr. Marks. I introduced myself to you five minutes ago. And yes, I did read your book.

Marks: Did you believe it? I mean, the part about the conspiracy?

HFK: Mr. Marks, this isn’t about me. Our readers are interested in you.

Marks: Of course they are. Of course they are. That’s how people are. But, yes, my book. What about my book?

HFK: What inspired it? When did you start to believe in this great conspiracy?

Marks: I’m sitting in my bathtub, and I’m reaching for the soap. Then, I black out. When I wake up I’m underwater. At that moment, I knew the truth.

HFK: And what was the truth?

Marks: Conspiracy theories are all part of a conspiracy. You see, none of the conspiracy theories are true. That’s why they are conspiracy theories. If they were true they would be facts. That means that all conspiracy theorists were in on it.

HFK: But you were President of the CTA.

Marks: Exactly! I had to quit immediately. And, I couldn’t trust myself either. I was chief conspiracy theorist! I must be part of the great conspiracy.

HFK: So you don’t trust yourself?

Marks: The great conspiracy is that all conspiracy theories are connected and perpetuated by crazy individuals who believe in them. I am just as guilty. I have revealed the truth about conspiracy theories. They are a conspiracy!

HFK: But why? Why would people do this? Why develop these outlandish theories?

Marks: They didn’t develop them. I developed them. That’s my theory. I held this information from myself all of my life. Then, when I lost consciousness I remembered my past lives. In my past lives I developed and perpetuated the conspiracies.

HFK: To what end? Why do all of this?

Marks: It’s entirely self-serving. You see, in a past life I created Highlights for Kids. And I did it to brainwash the kids. Consider the Hidden Pictures page. That teaches kids that things are not what they seem. I included thousands of subliminal messages.

HFK: What? No, I don’t believe you.

Marks: I did it all so that I could have the opportunity to say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all the kids. I’m sorry for brainwashing them.

HFK: That’s crazy.

Marks: Are you saying that my conspiracy theory is a conspiracy?

HFK: Are you proving a point or are you serious?

Marks: I like the sticker page. You guys do good work.

My Thoughts on Glenn Beck (And Jon Stewart Too)

Glenn Beck is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing figures in America today. I understand that just saying his name is enough to raise the blood pressure of many. And I also understand that there are many who like him, and agree in large part with his views. After much thought, I will now attempt to offer my opinion of this controversial figure.

Here is an interview with Catie Kouric that I found. I looked for a half hour to find a Beck video that was not extremely biased for or against him. If you want to get a little taste of who Beck is, this should serve you well since it is coming straight from his mouth.

I am having an extremely difficult time writing about Glenn Beck. I’ve just been sitting here for a half hour trying to figure out how to approach him. Do I break him down into Pros and Cons? Do I talk about the things that we agree or disagree on? You know what, I just figured it out. I am going to simply write down what comes to mind. Here it goes.

Glenn Beck is heard by many millions of Americans every day. For this reason, we must take him seriously as an influence maker, even if we can’t take him seriously. Those who strongly agree with Beck are likely to take his word, most, if not all of the time. Many view him as a leader within the Tea Party, which is a significant force in modern American politics. So, whether he likes it or not (and I believe he does) Beck is one of the loudest voices of conservatives today. In a way, he is representing me, since many of our views are shared. We are wary of big government, and we respect the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We both believe that history can certainly teach us about the present. And, we are largely opposed to the policies of the Obama Administration.
Unfortunately, there are many occasions where I can’t tell if he is being serious or facetious. He sometimes reminds me of Andy from The Office. It always seems like you’re getting a performance, and not the real man. His expressions are over the top. Many times I get the impression that he is saying something just to get a reaction out of his audience. In short, he is extreme. Or, to put it another way, ridiculous. However true many of his statements are, Glenn Beck is ridiculous.
Beck has been compared to Jon Stewart on more than one occasion. At one point in the Katie Couric interview she even asks him about that comparison. This is very interesting. Jon Stewart is the host of a comedy/news show called The Daily Show. The Daily Show is a satire of the “real” news and never claimed to be a legitimate source of information for the public.
I want you to read an excerpt from a transcript that comes from an interview between Jon Stewart and the hosts of, the now cancelled, CNN’s Crossfire.

STEWART: It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You’ve got to be kidding me. He comes on and you…


STEWART: You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.


STEWART: What is wrong with you?

CARLSON: Well, I’m just saying, there’s no reason for you — when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy’s butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It’s embarrassing.

STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far — you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago.



STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk…

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.

The point is, Jon Stewart knows that he is a performer. He certainly has some political views that he shares openly, but he is very clear that he is a performer. Now, whether he likes it or not (And he probably does) Jon Stewart is respected and people listen to his opinion. He is an influential person with a podium. He is even having a counter rally to Beck’s rally to restore honor. He is calling it the rally to restore sanity. So, they do share some striking similarities. But, and this is a big one, Jon Stewart does not try to make himself into the purveyor of political and worldly truth on the scale that Beck does. Jon Stewart is the wise fool. He knows he is a fool. Beck is intelligent. He is passionate. I believe he is even mostly genuine. And, I believe a large part of his views are correct. But, and this is a big one, he is attempting to be the fool and the truth bearer. You cannot have it both ways. It is irresponsible.

Now, I leave you with this clip from The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart mocks Glenn Beck. I hope you are able to laugh at this. Hopefully it reinforces the last point I was trying to make about the difference between them. (Side note: Excuse the first part from Countdown with Keith Olberman. This is the only video I could find. I’m actually pretty irritated by what that guy says to introduce the video. A tour de force? Really? Anyway, disregard.)

The Obligation of Artists

How influential can a writer be? How about a director or a singer? How about a painter?

I’ve been thinking about why I’m so interested and involved in popular culture. When I say popular culture I’m referring to mainstream movies, books, music, and television. Why does it matter what people watch or read or hear?

Looking at what the people are investing their time in can tell you much about those people. When a movie makes $150 million in one weekend it is like the people lifted it up on their shoulders. Then the movie makes it into everyday conversations, and the kids have all the toys. Or, the song is number one on the charts and the people are humming the same tune. Almost without us even noticing these popular forms of entertainment invade our lives. As a culture, we choose to raise up certain artists and their work. And who we choose to elevate says much about who we are.

Artists, I believe, have a serious obligation to produce works that will benefit those who are influenced by them. What do I mean? I mean that artists need to understand that their work has power, or at least potential power, to shape those who witness it. Shape our thoughts, our language, and our perception of the world.

Unfortunately, much of what I would deem popular culture does not appear to come from thoughtful individuals aiming to improve society. Just read the lyrics to California Gurls (Or however it’s spelled) or Tik Toc. Also, look at most of the major comedies to come out of Hollywood in the past years. They are, many of them, so filthy and wildly inappropriate that I have trouble enjoying them, never mind recognizing any value for society as a whole. I often find myself laughing with reservations at movies like The Hangover, Superbad, Role Models, and the like. And Family Guy is largely about cheap laughs without substance.
It’s such a relief when anything comes along that is either thought provoking, honest, or morally grounded. Christopher Nolan is an artist that produces great thought provoking films like The Dark Knight and Inception. I was thrilled to find a moral center in The O.C. And I love Muse partially because their lyrics are honest about their views on politics, love, and religion.

Artists, be responsible. Your power is great. Your influence is vast.
Society, be responsible. Think about what you’re lifting up with money and attention.

Let me leave you with a quote from V for Vendetta.

Evey Hammond: My father was a writer. You would’ve liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.
V: A man after my own heart.

If I Were A Billionaire

If you had many billions of dollars, what would you do? Of course there are those things that any selfless humanitarian would do, but for the sake of indulging outlandish fantasies let’s put those things aside for now. If you weren’t limited by money what would you really do? This is a topic that I have put much thought into. As you will see.

My first order of business would be to make my friend, Chris Cavalieri, my financial advisor. I once approached him with this offer. His response went something like, “My first duty as your financial advisor would be to hire a much more qualified financial advisor.” At that point I replied, “That’s perfect. Only a great financial advisor would be so wise.” Chris is my advisor. Hopefully he lets me do the things I want to do.

Chris told me I should purchase about 100 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises. This seems like a great idea as it would give me financial security if I happen to live another ten thousand years.

I wouldn’t buy a mansion. Instead, I would buy or build between four and six houses, all near each other. A few of the houses would serve as temporary housing for anyone whom I first approved. I would charge very low rent, and encourage community dinners and cookouts on a regular basis.

I want to cover an entire beach with smooth colored rocks. Then I want to scatter small chunks of gold throughout the rocks. I would then invite the public to participate in a gold scavenger hunt. They would receive little bags to place the gold in. In the end, the people can keep the gold, but the one with the most gold also gets $500 dollars. But, if a child brings back a bag full of colored stones and says to me something like, “I like these stones because they are pretty,” I will pay for their college education. Plus I would give their parents like $1000 dollars.

I would throw a massive Great Gatsbyesque cookout for my family and friends and probably everyone I’ve ever come in contact with. It would last 72 hours and include multiple volleyball, wiffleball, and ultimate Frisbee tournaments. There would be meals of all you can eat Chinese, Italian, and of course limitless hamburgers and hotdogs. There would be swimming pools and water slides and obstacle courses. Of course there would be prizes galore. Guests could stay in any of my nearby houses throughout the duration.

I would open a flower/candy/ice cream/bait/book shop. From time to time I would work in each section, but I would mostly leave the work to my friendly employees. They would receive a minimum wage of $20 an hour. Once in a while I would pay to have a famous author do a book signing in order to attract business. Everything would be fairly priced.

I would build a Friendly’s restaurant near my houses. Once a week I will pay for one lucky family’s meal. Anyone who orders the Honey BBQ Chicken Supermelt will get a numbered ticket, and once a month there will be a drawing for a year of free ice cream.

I would not build a movie theater in or near my houses. I want to go out to the movies. I might buy out a theater from time to time, but never on an opening weekend. That would suck for everyone else.

And last, but certainly not least, I would devote weeks at a time to writing my book. You know, the post-apocalyptic love story dealing with free will. When I’m not writing that, I would write for whoever would take me. I would even start my own magazine dealing with American popular culture. And another magazine focusing on the Christian perspective. This would be my work.
If I had billions of dollars. If I were poor.

For any loyal followers, I am planning to write a response to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat Pray Love as soon as I have finished it. This will likely carry into multiple posts. After reading the first few chapters I think it’s safe to say my response will be… impassioned.

Scientists Baffled By Their Inability to Destroy Humanity

When Oppenheimer, the scientist known as the father of the atomic bomb, witnessed the destructive power that he had unleashed upon the world, he famously said, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” But more than sixty years later it seems that the ambitious Oppenheimer was overshooting the mark. Scientists, no matter how hard they try, have failed to wipe out all existence. And it is baffling scientists.
“I really thought we had something when we figured out how to split the atom. That should have sealed it. But here we are. Still alive. And not just alive, but thriving with a global population nearing seven billion,” said a scientist.
“You’d think by now a mutated virus would turn the world into zombies, or a machine would become self aware and turn on us all, but it’s just not happening. People are just too damn resilient,” said another scientist.
Despite a number of setbacks, some scientists are still hopeful. They point to the Hadron Collider, which could create a black hole right here on Earth.
“We have no idea what this thing is going to do. But our fingers are crossed.”

The future seems bright for scientists. Monkeys moving robot arms with their thoughts. New synthetic killer viruses. And there’s even talk of shooting stuff into the Earth’s atmosphere to block some of the Sun’s rays in an attempt to reduce global warming.

“What keeps me going is the thought of Mother Nature taking all the glory for herself. An asteroid impact, super volcano, and any number of natural disasters could beat us to the punch. That’s just unacceptable,” said a man in a lab coat.

Dale Anderson is not a real reporter. He has no formal education and lives out his life in an underground bunker. His book, It’d Be A Conspiracy If It Weren’t True, sold over seventeen copies in its first four years of publication. He does not reflect the views of this blog.

My Thoughts on the 3D Trend in Movies

It seems as if every new movie coming out is featured in 3D. Many of them are geared toward children, but some are aimed specifically at adults; Avatar and Resident Evil 3D to name a few. There is no sign of this trend stopping. What do I think of this new craze?

Movie ticket prices are already criminally high, so to add on those extra dollars for a 3D experience makes purchasing them unjustifiable. In my local theater it is about $11.00 to see a movie. The usual matinee price is around $8.00. 3D ticket prices can go as high as $14.00. That is about the price of your average DVD.
And don’t forget that snack purchases are even more outrageous. A box of candy will cost between $3.50 and $5.00. A bag of popcorn will cost at least $5.00. Even an Icee will run you $5.00. A family of four could easily spend upwards of $60.00 if they see a 3D film and have a few snacks. That is criminal.

Another issue I have is that 3D is almost universally used as a gimmick. Can you tell me how 3D adds any real depth to a plot or character? It is merely visual stimuli to make you feel that the movie is reaching into your space. But is this necessary? I know that a movie is good when I forget that I’m watching a movie. That is magic! And it is the result of a competent director, writer, cast etc. How will birds flying at me or glass shattering on me make me care about a lame story? Even Avatar, the best 3D movie to use 3D well, loses some points in my book. When the film becomes all about how it looks over how well it is written and acted, it loses the magic. It loses me.

Think of all the great films of the past century. Would any of them be strengthened by the addition of 3D? Would any of your favorite films be more cherished by you if they had this extra element? I suggest that 3D is bad for film, and as a result, bad for our society.