Ignorant, Dangerous, and Organised

Recently a PEW study surprised many by its announcement that most atheists know more about religion that those of strong belief, despite the fact that a majority consider religion to be "very important" to their lives. In other surprise figures, a sizeable minority of Protestants cannot name the gospels and a similar figure of Catholics are unaware of the sacrament of transubstantiation. Some brave individuals have argued that these are "academic" results, and that religious believers understand behaviour better than the results suggest. This may be the case, but perhaps not in the form they suggest; a recent study show that the more devout are likely to support harsher punishment, even when that includes sacrifice by those engaging in the punishment, perhaps explicible because a "punishing God" is believed to be watching.

The results are troubling, and certainly not just for those with theological persuasions. Large numbers of religious people do not understand their own traditions, advocate harsh punishment for breaches of perceived moral crimes, and only fail to engage in such activities themselves because 'god is watching', is very dangerous to a progressive social fabric. If this was simply a matter of isolated individuals with such beliefs it would be less of an issue. But if churches are good at anything, it is certainly organising individuals and building community. Except, from the results provided, we're looking at communities of organised sociopaths. Listening to such beliefs it is not surprising that many otherwise religiously-minded colleagues express disdain with organised religion. But it is not the "organised" that is the problem - that is simply an inevitable result of the human condition; it's the content that is dangerous. Thus, not participating in an the free and liberal churches actually empowers those that advocate ignorance and authoritarianism.