NYTimes reports results from a survey that tests peoples' knowledge about religion. And guess who know their faith the best? Atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons. Other 'Christians' fared worse, often not knowing even basic things about the tenets of their faith. (Here are the results of that survey.)
Well, ignorant and proud of it might be one response: the whole idea of religion to many is that it must be taken on faith. Let the pastor or priest tell you what's what. Don't ask questions.
This might be OK in the sense that if religion can't be proven by scientific means, one must get it from the experts in costume who must somehow get it more directly and authoritatively. Details don't matter.
But this is a difficult position to square with the widespread aggressive assertions of religion against what we actually know about the world, the real one, the one we live in. These assertions purport to give real-world reasons for the Faith and against the marauding of science. If science is actually so evil (especially, those nasty evolutionists!), then what are the counter truths on which its opponents' knives are whetted?
We won't say more about this than that many of our strident Christians seem not to have read the fundamentals, like the Sermon on the Mount. At least, the 'religious' engage in enough greed, hate, and inequality to suggest that, as we're seeing in the US these days. (And Christians are not alone: plenty of Muslims cite what is convenient from the Prophet, assuming those strapping bombs on their chests have actually read any of it.)
More relevant is that this shows the symbolic, cultural, nature of the science-religion divisions in our society. This is about cultural power and influence, partly perhaps in terms of access to wealth but probably mainly access to psychological and symbolic 'wealth'. Don't bother me with the facts! It's highly tribalistic in that sense, about membership, waving the right banner, and that sort of thing, more than it is about the facts of the world.
The story has some symmetries. Many in evolutionary biology and genetics do not have a very sophisticated or complete knowledge of what is actually known, and cling to various beliefs of their own--beliefs that life is simpler or more deterministic than we actually know is the truth. The belief in Darwinian essentialism--you are what your genes are--is as deeply invoked, regardless of the evidence, as theological beliefs. Or, scientists proclaim as if science somehow could prove the falseness of religion (i.e., that there's no God), showing that they, too, haven't understood the limits of their own field.
So, when we're in a cultural conflict, what role do the facts actually play, and does knowledge of the essentials that are purportedly behind one's expressed point of view matter? Of course, in a democracy it is perfectly legitimate to vote however you want without having to give a reason--or even without having to have a reason. So does a democracy decide relevant questions, such as the legality of stem cell research, based on facts of some sort (religious or scientific), or is this mainly about planting one's flag in the enemy's territory?