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[Atheists & Agnostics] know more about your religion than you!

Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands PorcupineWhy?Registered User regular
edited October 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, atheist and agnostics were found to know more about religion than the faithful, followed closely by Jews and Mormons. As an atheist, this information is hardly surprising to me. I've often felt like I knew more about their religion than the person I was debating. This doesn't mean that the non-believer is smarter than the believer, though. Rather, it suggests that, as a minority group, it behooves anti-theists and minority faiths to do the research. In those debates, knowledge is power and (even if you onous shouldn't be on you) you are often on the defensive from the start.

However, the report also says that many religious people do not know information that should be common knowledge for the faithful. For example, according to Pew, 45% of Catholics do not know that the church teaches transubstantiation (that word's a mouthful, ain' it?). A standard of Vatican doctrine, it is taught that during communion the bread and wine become the literal blood and body of Christ. This is just one example of many for standard information for their faith's teachings that religious people don't know. I won't go over them all here. You can read the link above for further details.

So what does this information mean? What does it say about believers? Does it suggest anything about the state of religion in the U.S.? Does it say any about atheists and agnostics? Are there any correlations or conclusions that can be drawn from this survey?

Mikey CTS on
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  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    This really isn't surprising to me. We know that atheism (and probably also agnosticism) has a positive correlation with education. I am willing to bet that a test of general knowledge in any area is going to show atheists and agnostics (and Jews!) doing very well compared to other faith groups.

  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Yes I do!

    I like the quote from the American Atheists guy, something like "I gave my daughter a Bible - it's the best way to make atheists."

  • LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Hachface wrote: »
    This really isn't surprising to me. We know that atheism (and probably also agnosticism) has a positive correlation with education. I am willing to bet that a test of general knowledge in any area is going to show atheists and agnostics (and Jews!) doing very well compared to other faith groups.

    It remains constant even when level of education is taken into account.

  • DeebaserDeebaser Lead Frog Rammer Fake Board GamerRegistered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Well, the more deeply you study religion, the more most people go "What the fuck?"

    am0n
  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Leitner wrote: »
    Hachface wrote: »
    This really isn't surprising to me. We know that atheism (and probably also agnosticism) has a positive correlation with education. I am willing to bet that a test of general knowledge in any area is going to show atheists and agnostics (and Jews!) doing very well compared to other faith groups.

    It remains constant even when level of education is taken into account.

    Well how about that.

    I wonder what the order of cause and effect is here. Do people learn about world religions because they atheist or are they atheists because they learned too much about religion?

  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    It said a slim majority of Protestants didn't know the Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther.

  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

    Actually, according to this study, they don't.

  • EndomaticEndomatic Registered User
    edited September 2010
    Probably has a lot to do with how it is introduced to the individual.

  • nstfnstf __BANNED USERS
    edited September 2010
    Deebaser wrote: »
    Well, the more deeply you study religion, the more most people go "What the fuck?"

    You say that now, but you'll be the foolish one when you are toasting in hell forever while I'm getting it on with 70 virgins, then I'll be laughing.

    Now make sure to throw rocks at your sisters head.

  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I tend to think that it just stems from trends in the overall education levels of religious vs. non-religious. Like, aren't athiests and agnositics in a rather short section of the bell curve when it comes to education? And then followed by the strong tradition of textual study in Judaism and Mormonism. I'm not so sure any of this is because certain groups feel a specific significant need to be prepared for a debate.

    Stats like these often to me seem to indicate a rather disingenuous notion of what faith and religion are, though. 45% of Catholics don't know that the church teaches transubstantiation? Ok, but realistically, does being a Catholic imply that you should be able to answer such a question? Maybe an educated analytical athiest would think so. But, you know, the educated analytical athiest isn't the man of faith we're talking about. To me it's kind of like saying that 45% of American citizens don't know that their first Sec. of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton (probably way more, I know). He's hugely significant in the history of structure of the Country, something an educated person should be able to speak knowingly about, but is academic knowledge of that really central to being an American citizen? I could probably make this point with much less obscure examples, too.

    I'd say that 100% of people who believe this statistic represents a significant critique of religion are therefore people who likely fundamentally misunderstand what religion is.

    EDIT: Ok the thing about controlling for education is interesting. Yeah, so maybe knowledge about religion tends to evoke athiesm?

  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

    Atheists score above average on Christianity when compared to everybody but Mormons and white evangelicals.

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

    Only Mormons and white evangelicals know more about Christianity than atheists/agnostics, according to the survey.

    White evangelical 7.9
    Mormon 7.3
    Atheist/Agnostic 6.7

    Everyone else scored lower, according to Pew.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    religious-knowledge-03.png
    Edwards was the "sinners in the hand of an angry god" guy, right?

    Edit: Thank you, AP history!

  • ShurakaiShurakai Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Well, speaking in my case, I only really started learning a whole lot about religion after I became secular.

    In other words, I was curious about exactly *what* I wasn't believing in, and why people would believe in it, so I read a bunch of stuff about it.

    That, and I firmly believe that atheists and agnostics should, if possible, form their worldview by examining both sides of the argument and refusing to be ignorant of the facts.

    This is personally why I know more about religion in general than many of my religious relatives and my apathetic parents/friends.

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    I tend to think that it just stems from trends in the overall education levels of religious vs. non-religious. Like, aren't athiests and agnositics in a rather short section of the bell curve when it comes to education? And then followed by the strong tradition of textual study in Judaism and Mormonism. I'm not so sure any of this is because certain groups feel a specific significant need to be prepared for a debate.

    Stats like these often to me seem to indicate a rather disingenuous notion of what faith and religion are, though. 45% of Catholics don't know that the church teaches transubstantiation? Ok, but realistically, does being a Catholic imply that you should be able to answer such a question? Maybe an educated analytical athiest would think so. But, you know, the educated analytical athiest isn't the man of faith we're talking about. To me it's kind of like saying that 45% of American citizens don't know that their first Sec. of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton (probably way more, I know). He's hugely significant in the history of structure of the Country, something an educated person should be able to speak knowingly about, but is academic knowledge of that really central to being an American citizen? I could probably make this point with much less obscure examples, too.

    I'd say that 100% of people who believe this statistic represents a significant critique of religion are therefore people who likely fundamentally misunderstand what religion is.

    EDIT: Ok the thing about controlling for education is interesting. Yeah, so maybe knowledge about religion tends to evoke athiesm?
    More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

    Considering they do communion constantly and describe what it is every time, I don't think that's beyond the realm of expectation. Basically, your average Catholic is exposed to it every Sunday. I've been to a mass before, and they describe what it is every time. Sure, I'll grant you they don't know the word, but the report itself, if you read it, doesn't use the word either. It's standard doctrine that Catholics are exposed to every time they particapte in mass.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I don't think it is unreasonable to expect people to know of the faith/acts division or whatever you want to call it. It is an important doctrinal difference.

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Shurakai wrote: »
    Well, speaking in my case, I only really started learning a whole lot about religion after I became secular.

    In other words, I was curious about exactly *what* I wasn't believing in, and why people would believe in it, so I read a bunch of stuff about it.

    That, and I firmly believe that atheists and agnostics should, if possible, form their worldview by examining both sides of the argument and refusing to be ignorant of the facts.

    This is personally why I know more about religion in general than many of my religious relatives and my apathetic parents/friends.

    This.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    When education and other demographic traits are held equal, whites score better than minorities on the survey’s religious knowledge questions, men score somewhat better than women, and people outside the South score better than Southerners. The oldest group in the population (age 65 and older) gets fewer questions right than other age groups. However, people 65 and older do about as well as people under age 50 on questions about the Bible and Christianity; they do less well on questions about other world religions.
    No surprise there.
    And those who attended private school score more than two questions better on average than those who attended public school when they were growing up. Interestingly, however, those who attended a private religious school score no better than those who attended a private nonreligious school.
    Hilarious.

  • Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    I tend to think that it just stems from trends in the overall education levels of religious vs. non-religious. Like, aren't athiests and agnositics in a rather short section of the bell curve when it comes to education? And then followed by the strong tradition of textual study in Judaism and Mormonism. I'm not so sure any of this is because certain groups feel a specific significant need to be prepared for a debate.

    Stats like these often to me seem to indicate a rather disingenuous notion of what faith and religion are, though. 45% of Catholics don't know that the church teaches transubstantiation? Ok, but realistically, does being a Catholic imply that you should be able to answer such a question? Maybe an educated analytical athiest would think so. But, you know, the educated analytical athiest isn't the man of faith we're talking about. To me it's kind of like saying that 45% of American citizens don't know that their first Sec. of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton (probably way more, I know). He's hugely significant in the history of structure of the Country, something an educated person should be able to speak knowingly about, but is academic knowledge of that really central to being an American citizen? I could probably make this point with much less obscure examples, too.

    I'd say that 100% of people who believe this statistic represents a significant critique of religion are therefore people who likely fundamentally misunderstand what religion is.

    EDIT: Ok the thing about controlling for education is interesting. Yeah, so maybe knowledge about religion tends to evoke athiesm?

    Well, being a Catholic does kind of imply that you should know about the Real Presence, given that the Eucharist is one of the seven Sacraments and one of the two that Catholics participate in more than once in their lives. According to the Church it's a required belief. It's not really some piece of trivia. It's more along the lines of knowing that Catholics aren't supposed to get divorced and remarry, or that birth control is forbidden.

    Of course, I'm also one of those people who was brought up Catholic, learned about this and went "WTF?" and eventually wound up as an atheist (though I won't pretend that's the only reason). I don't think the finding is significant, at least not in the sense of "LOL atheists know more about religion that's why they're atheists", but I'll freely admit I have no fucking what religion "is" or what the point of it actually is (so feel free to share). If I were going to guess why the results were what they were, though, I suspect it's that a lot of atheists go through a seeking period, which may entail learning about whatever religion they're brought up or learning about other religions, and so wind up with a higher score.

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  • emnmnmeemnmnme Heard about this on conservative radio:Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    The Jewish Sabbath question would have tripped me up. I would have answered Saturday. And I didn't know there was more than one Great Awakening. There was a second?

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  • krapst78krapst78 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Yeah, I didn't know about the Jewish Sabbath either. Also, didn't know about Edwards and Maimonides.
    Yar wrote: »
    Stats like these often to me seem to indicate a rather disingenuous notion of what faith and religion are, though. 45% of Catholics don't know that the church teaches transubstantiation? Ok, but realistically, does being a Catholic imply that you should be able to answer such a question? Maybe an educated analytical athiest would think so. But, you know, the educated analytical athiest isn't the man of faith we're talking about. To me it's kind of like saying that 45% of American citizens don't know that their first Sec. of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton (probably way more, I know). He's hugely significant in the history of structure of the Country, something an educated person should be able to speak knowingly about, but is academic knowledge of that really central to being an American citizen? I could probably make this point with much less obscure examples, too.

    Not knowing about transubstantiation as a practicing Roman Catholic is pretty hard to believe. It's not some menial fact about the history of the church. It's akin to not knowing what the Bill of Rights is as an American citizen. And yes, that type of academic knowledge is somewhat central to forming your identity.

    Like MikeyCTS said above, they literally tell you every single time DURING Mass what is happening to the bread and wine. I mean the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Communion Rites are two of the most important parts of the Mass. Basically, it means that if a Roman Catholic doesn't know what transubstantiation is, then that person is not attending mass.

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  • Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    emnmnme wrote: »
    The Jewish Sabbath question would have tripped me up. I would have answered Saturday. And I didn't know there was more than one Great Awakening. There was a second?

    There are arguably four Great Awakenings, but it's kind of an arbitrary term that arises after the fact. The first one was the generation before the American Revolution (second quarter of the 18th century), the second was in the early 19th century and ends with the Great Disappointment, third was the tail end of the 19th century and pre-World War I and gave rise to social gospel, the temperance movement, expanded missionary work and Christian fundamentalism (in the proper sense - it's the period when "The Fundamentals" were written). The fourth (the arguable one) started in the 1960s or early 1970s and is marked by the fundamentalists and evangelicals eclipsing mainline Protestantism, the Jesus movement and the culture war. May or may not still be going on.

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  • Psycho Internet HawkPsycho Internet Hawk Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I'm pretty sure all this study indicates is that people don't bother to learn about their own religion when the primary significance of it to them is cultural and familial. People tend to be a certain religion because that's how they were brought up and it's a significant part of their life, and so the finer parts of doctrine aren't terribly important to your average layman as much as holiday and ritual.

    As opposed to agnostics/atheists whose "religious" beliefs tend to do more with the actual religious substance and less with other things.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    religious-knowledge-04.png
    While not directly dealing with religious beliefs, this is an important damn thing that people should know.

  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Yeah, not all people is raised with the theological education required, just the dogmatic part.

    As an individual raised catholic, my parents made me join a school with a christian inclination and there I learned a lot of our theological ways. Not all people have that privilege and also the required training to teach that knowledge.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    According to the article, religious schools aren't any better than secular private schools when it comes to this. Moreover, a lot of the shit is dogmatic shit they should have learned either in Sunday school or Sunday services.

  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

    Only Mormons and white evangelicals know more about Christianity than atheists/agnostics, according to the survey.

    White evangelical 7.9
    Mormon 7.3
    Atheist/Agnostic 6.7

    Everyone else scored lower, according to Pew.

    hmm, I don't know then. Well as an athiest myself, I'd like to make a joke about how religious people are stupid, but then I'd feel bad if some Mormon started making fun of Atheists.

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I'm pretty sure all this study indicates is that people don't bother to learn about their own religion when the primary significance of it to them is cultural and familial. People tend to be a certain religion because that's how they were brought up and it's a significant part of their life, and so the finer parts of doctrine aren't terribly important to your average layman as much as holiday and ritual.

    As opposed to agnostics/atheists whose "religious" beliefs tend to do more with the actual religious substance and less with other things.

    The more I read the article over the more inclined I am to agree with you. I've experienced it myself having been raised non-denominational Christian. For most religion is a communal experience. However, not bothering to learn something about what you've based your entire belief structure, morals, and life on seems self-defeating. I mean, you're going every Sunday anyway. Why not try to learn something while you're sitting in the pew bored to death?

    As for your comment regarding atheists/agnostics, I think this has more to do with lacking a centralized power-base. We don't have a place to go every Sunday with like-minded people who help reinforce our beliefs.

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  • GuffreyGuffrey Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Well, I suppose I am an outlier. Fairly conservative protestant, and I managed to snag a 100% (as someone else said, thank you ap history). I have seen a lot of good points explaining the results. . Atheists generally have a really good idea of why they believe what they believe. Practicing Jews, and I would expect Muslims also, have a good grasp of their religion. And finally, although I may not agree with Mormon doctrine, I have always admired the dedication they show. One of my good friends in high school spent two years in Germany soon after graduation for his mission trip.

    I was hoping my fellow Christians would give a better showing, but honestly was not surprised. I think the reason is Christianity seems to be almost the "catchall" for someone who wants to say they are religious and mainstream, but really don't know what they are talking about. Or, as my wife calls them, the "ding ding da lings" (imagine a banjo playing), who just want to hold signs about how God apparently hates fags, or talk about how Obama is an evil mooslim. Not exactly the intellectual cream of the crop there...

  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    well, the test covered a lot of different world religions. Presumably religious people do know more about their own religion.

    Only Mormons and white evangelicals know more about Christianity than atheists/agnostics, according to the survey.

    White evangelical 7.9
    Mormon 7.3
    Atheist/Agnostic 6.7

    Everyone else scored lower, according to Pew.

    hmm, I don't know then. Well as an athiest myself, I'd like to make a joke about how religious people are stupid, but then I'd feel bad if some Mormon started making fun of Atheists.
    Well, you could make the argument that atheists aren't really obligated to know about Christianity, while it seems reasonable for Christians to know about their own faith.

  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    @Mikey CTs

    As a catholic living in Mexico, I can assure you there area lot of "Sunday christians".

    This has been denounced a long time ago by Soren Kierkegaard. Check the link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard

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  • HappylilElfHappylilElf Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
    However, the report also says that many religious people do not know information that should be common knowledge for the faithful. For example, according to Pew, 45% of Catholics do not know that the church teaches transubstantiation (that word's a mouthful, ain' it?). A standard of Vatican doctrine, it is taught that during communion the bread and wine become the literal blood and body of Christ. This is just one example of many for standard information for their faith's teachings that religious people don't know. I won't go over them all here. You can read the link above for further details.

    Was the question "Do you know that the Catholic church practices transubstantiation?"

    Because I can easily see people having no idea what that means. I've never heard communion referred to by that name outside of, well, threads like this :P

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  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Spoiler:
    Well, you could make the argument that atheists aren't really obligated to know about Christianity, while it seems reasonable for Christians to know about their own faith.
    This, at least in my mind, is how it should be. They are the ones positing a theory, after all.

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    You can go to Pew's website and take an online version of the quiz, I think it has 15 of the questions. Multiple choice, I think the two choices in the Catholic communion were "The bread and wine symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus Christ," and "The bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ."

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Hulk-hands Porcupine Why?Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
    However, the report also says that many religious people do not know information that should be common knowledge for the faithful. For example, according to Pew, 45% of Catholics do not know that the church teaches transubstantiation (that word's a mouthful, ain' it?). A standard of Vatican doctrine, it is taught that during communion the bread and wine become the literal blood and body of Christ. This is just one example of many for standard information for their faith's teachings that religious people don't know. I won't go over them all here. You can read the link above for further details.

    Was the question "Do you know that the Catholic church practices transubstantiation?"

    Because I can easily see people having no idea what that means. I've never heard communion referred to by that name outside of, well, threads like this :P

    No, the study never refers to it as transubstantiation. It's really not a very long article. Give it a read. It's pretty fascinating.

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  • Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
    However, the report also says that many religious people do not know information that should be common knowledge for the faithful. For example, according to Pew, 45% of Catholics do not know that the church teaches transubstantiation (that word's a mouthful, ain' it?). A standard of Vatican doctrine, it is taught that during communion the bread and wine become the literal blood and body of Christ. This is just one example of many for standard information for their faith's teachings that religious people don't know. I won't go over them all here. You can read the link above for further details.

    Was the question "Do you know that the Catholic church practices transubstantiation?"

    Because I can easily see people having no idea what that means. I've never heard communion referred to by that name outside of, well, threads like this :P

    The actual question is: "Which of the following best describes the Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for Communion?"

    The respondent picks from these two answers:

    1) "The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ."

    2) "The bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ."

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  • PotatoNinjaPotatoNinja Fake Gamer Goat Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Knowledge of Christianity in general is easy to come by in the United States. Knowledge of, say, Jewish traditions or the underpinnings of common Atheist arguments or the holy days of Islam are less common knowledge.

    So, by default, people who come from backgrounds or belief systems that include uncommon religious knowledge will also likely pick up all the common religious knowledge as well.

    Imagine the study another way: "People in the United States who speak a non-English language are very likely to be bi-lingual!" Well, duh. Almost everyone speaks English, so knowing another language is essentially a "bonus."

    I suspect if you did this study in other regions, you'd find similar data.

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  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Catholicism, ritualized cannibalism?

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    But the study says that a lot of people don't even know basic shit about Christianity.

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