15% of American Atheists and Agnostics Believe That Jesus Was Born of a Virgin?!?!

Larry Moran at Sandwalk posted some results from a recent telephone-based study by the Barna Group, as reported by the Toledo Blade. In this study, 1005 adults were asked whether they viewed six Bible stories as being literally true or “merely as stories told to communicate life’s principles.” For this rationalist, the results are as mystifying as they are depressing. See below the fold for details.

Here are the results for the six questions:

–75 pecent believe that Jesus was born to a virgin. Mary–69 percent of adults believed Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.–68 percent believed Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd of 5,000.–64 percent believed the Earth was covered by a flood in which Noah, his family, and numerous animals were spared by living on an Ark.

–56 percent expressed literal belief in the Bible account of the devil, disguised a serpent, tempting Eve to eat forbidden fruit.

–49 percent accepted as accurate the Bible story of Samson losing his legendary strength when Delilah had his hair cut.

As Larry exclaimed, “Guess what folks? This survey was not taken in 1500 AD. These are the opinions of people today in 2007!”. This statement brings to mind a brief period of substantial disillusionment I went through a few years ago as I struggled to wrap my head around the fact that the majority of the world’s people still believe in some omnipotent omniscient Creator God. I remember saying that I could wake up and find out that this was all a dream, and I wouldn’t have been shocked, as it is utterly stupefying to ponder the ridiculousness that has colonized the minds of the majority of my fellows.

Anyhow, back to the study. As sobering as the results mentioned above are, they are not what shocked me most–in fact, they didn’t shock me much at all, having had years to get used to the credulousness and unreason that permeates the world—with the US being one of the true ringleaders (“WE’RE NUMBER 1!!”). What I found to be truly stunning was that 15% OF ATHEIST AND AGNOSTIC AMERICANS BELIEVE THE SUPPOSED VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST TO BE LITERALLY TRUE! How does an atheist believe in the parthenogenesis of Jesus? What’s more, if they do believe this, then how are they an atheist!?

Other notable stats from the study:

  • There was little difference between Protestants and Catholics with regard to belief in the virgin birth;
  • The percentage of surveyed evangelicals believing in the virgin birth was in the upper 90s;
  • Atheists and agnostics were the only surveyed group who did not boast a majority of virgin birth believers;
  • More people are prone to believe in the historicity of the New Testament stories than those of the Old Testament. This is especially so among Catholics, among whom literal belief in the OT was about half, compared to 75% with respect to the NT.

The sampling error of this study was +/- 3.2%.

8 Responses to “15% of American Atheists and Agnostics Believe That Jesus Was Born of a Virgin?!?!”
  1. Demonweed says:

    While this is disturbing, it is really just one more bit of evidence behind a broader phenomenon that seems ageless — most people just don’t care much about getting in touch with realities that are not prominent in their daily lives. Though it sounds like an urban myth, I believe it is the case that a poll some years back demonstrated that 1/3rd of adult Americans believe the Sun moves around the Earth.

    To those of us who are curious about the world around us and/or reasonably well-educated, it must seem astounding that millions of people with easy access to real answers about the nature of the universe would be so ignorant. To those millions, it must seem astounding that knowledgeable people would rather spend time learning about such “trivia” than absorbing important information like who just got eliminated from American Idol.

    Obviously there is a strong case for taking greater interest in the truth about the origin of the human species than the truth about the biological father of Anna Nichole Smith’s baby. Making that case is problematic when the infotainment beast is so well-nourished by feeding on itself. A sense of social responsibility must be invigorated in education, journalism, media, and politics at the least. History shows that progress is possible, but the will to make that progress must overcome entrenched interests willfully perpetuating the scarcity of profound insights among modern populations.

  2. ronbrown says:

    I too have heard of disturbing stats on the proportion of Americans who believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth–indeed, that everything revolves around the Earth. I don’t think this is urban legend, man. 1/3 seems like it’s probably pretty close to the mark, what with the percentage of fundamentalists in the US, and the proportion of them living in insular communities with homeschooling.

    Many worthy points and observations you make. Given the anti-intellectualism encouraged by Christian fundamentalism, airheaded pop culture (e.g., reality shows, news magazine programs, music devoid of any deep themes, and “news” like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsey Lohan’s most recent trials and tribulations), and widespread financial insecurity, the road to a society that isn’t rife with ignorance and intellectual and political apathy will surely be uphill and winding.

    Thanks for writing.

  3. Since most people think the Bible records the virgin birth of Jesus, you may find these articles on virgin birth of interest and coming from an unusual angle


    and, similarly the debate on TheologyWeb:

    Forum — General Theistics 101
    Thread — Does the Bible teach that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived?


  4. Den says:

    It is said that Buddha’s mother concieved her son when in a state of blissful meditation under a banyan tree. Mary concieved Jesus in more or less the same way. It’s also been said that Leonardo Divinci, Joan of Ark, Moses, one of our Saint Catherines, Moses, (floating down a river in a basket?) Zoroster and scores more geniuses, visionaries and healers throughout history came about this way. If many of the lower species can and do concieve parthenogenetically I don’t think it’s too shocking to assume that humans can too. Based on this fact alone I can’t imagine why scientists arn’t more curious. A hundred years ago the famous biologist, Jacques Loeb realized that: “The Male is not necessary for reproduction. A simple physio-chemical agent in the female is enough to bring it about.” Though no mammals have been known to have given birth parthenogenetically, Jacques Loeb got monkey embryos to fertilize through various means like electrical fields and saline solutions etc.
    In the early 70’s I read and wrote a review for a book about the Ojibiwa or Cippewa people. (Sorry, I can’t remember the title.) The author spent a decade re-searching oral stories from the Ojibiwa’s old traditional speakers that existed before the coming of the whiteman. One story was that wise-women of the tribe looked for certain young maidens that possessed grace, intelligence and compassion. Sometimes a canditate for concieving and giving birth this way wouldn’t show up for a generation or two. Nevertheless, these wise-women kept an eagle-eye open for her. When found, men were not allowed to court her.
    When she reached the age of fertility, her first period, she was instructed to fast for several days and, if willing, was required to dance around a fire in a sacred womens lodge built far away from the village. This ceremony occured while she was ovulating. Ideally a state of bliss or ecstasy was reached during which, according to hidden wisewomen knowledge, it would be possible for her to concieve and give birth in the “old Way”. They also knew that a child born this way would be blessed with gifts of healing, clairvoyance or leadership. The Great Spirit would give to the child whatever tools the tribe might be in need of. I believe this is what happend among The Essenes along The Dead Sea over 2,000 years ago. Jesus was the result. It’s my guess that hey planned it. Also, I might venture to say that this “old way” of concieving and giving birth was considered a no-no during a time when patriarchy was firmly established. Was this why King Herod felt so threatened, enough to try and have all the new born males put to death in his kingdom?
    It’s known that the law of parthenogenesis results in the birth of females only. Let’s assume, until we know absolutely, that this holds true for species other than human, for there is a visionary power us humans possess. The Sanskrit term for it is Kriyashakti or, in short, shakti; the mysterious power of thought which enables us to produce external, perceptable, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy. Any idea will manifest itself externally if one’s attention is deeply concentrated. If a woman invisions a boy it’s quite possible she will give birth to one. “In the Mother Cell begins all living things. The Creative Principle is feminine. The highest divine mystery is Brahamana, the feminine of Brahma.” —-(according to Hindu mythology)
    If I haven’t scared the reader off by dipping into religious lore, one might ask the biological reason for the presense of the hyman in women. I believe only one species of whale has a hyman but it is to keep sea-water out. Among us humans the hyman remains a “medical mystery”. Some folks think it’s there merely as fodder for comedians. Is it there because Nature, the great conservative, has a higher form of conception and birth in mind for women? One might also inquire about dermoid cysts—-or certain types of them. Looking up dermoid cysts in Chambers Medical Dictionary, under Medio-logical Records, one finds; “dermoid cystic growths; embryonic growths or tumor-like formations found in women which are of congenital origin, containing evidence of being dejecta membra, or the remains of pregnant growths, in the embryonic fetal period of gestation, somewhat akin to the primary state of being with child.” Some of these dermoid cysts, sometimes mistaken by surgeons for tumors, but really are embryos, are similar in all respects to the products of female gestation, containing bones, hair, teeth, flesh, glands, portions of the scalp, face, eyes, ribs,—–in short, all the organs of the human body—-what else could they be but virgin embryos in the process of development? They’ve been known to appear in young girls from 8 to 16, that have their hymans intact. Unbeknownst to them, one of their eggs had parthenogenetically been fertilized and then had stopped developing and, typically getting trapped in their fallopian tube, had to be removed, as the failed embryo had become toxic. There is reason to believe that parthenogenesis was the primordial form of re-production for all life, while sexual generation (epigenesis) arose later as a result of inferior environmental and nutrutive conditons resulting in diminshed fertility. In other words, males develope in order to insure the survival of the species.
    Anthopoid apes, our closest biological cousins, have a monthly period while in captivity and on a artificial diet. When returned to their natural habitat and diet they will bleed in the Spring and Fall like most mammals. Back in 1969 I used to live at Hipprocrates Health Institute, in Boston, where everyone drank wheatgrass juice, ate raw sprouts, fruits, nuts and vegetables and nothing else. That means, no bread, grains, meats, or dairy products. After a month or two most women would have their periods lessen in the amount of blood-loss, and the overall discomfort and cramps they usually experience practically vanished. One woman in particular, who I got to know as a sister, lost her period completely and enjoyed total health. I also met several women who experienced extented fasts of one month or more. They had no periods as well. It’s also quite common that many women athletes lose their periods. Non-menstruating women, providing they are on a (super)-natural diet, faithfully practicing yoga or getting lots of vigorous excercise, like women athletes, enjoy a superior, overall health with a robust vitality. They’re able to re-absorb vitamins, minerals and hormones otherwise lost during menstruation. I should say that women on a normal, civilized diet should have their period. This is natures way of cleaning house. We can’t all be raw-fooders. Frankly, most of us can’t even imagine wanting to be a super-natural-health-nut. I do not encourage going in this raw-food direction unless one truly studies the subject in depth with experienced teachers. A commitment to this lifestyle is taxing—-at least until one eliminates the accumulations of a toxic, civilized diet.
    There are artistic depictions of Mary standing on the Crescent Moon. Did our ancestors know that women had to rise above the moon (menstruation) in order to immaculately conscieve? Indeed it seems obvious, from what we’ve observed thus far, that a clean, living food diet is nesessary for eliminating wasteful monthly menstruation and is the foundation for the process of parthenogenesis. Part of the condition required for a virgin birth is alkalinity. A proper raw-food diet alkalizes the blood.
    It’s obvious that the human race is over-sexed. The earth has amassed way too many bodies that don’t know how to get along with each other and are straining the earths resources. This is old news. But sex is beautiful and deemed necessary by almost everyone I know. I’m the last person to say it is wrong or evil. Still, 50% of marriages end in divorce. Think of rape, disease, un-planned pregnancies, over-population and the endless battle of the sexes. Oh well, we must pay the fiddler for our modern lifestyles. I do.
    In almost every culture on earth and in amost every major religion stories of The Virgin Birth abide. The following is an old Fijian legend: “There was a great chief in Tonga who had an exceedingly beautiful daughter. He hid her from the eyes of men, for he had never seen one worthy to be her husband. Down on the sea-beach he built a fence, thick, strong and high. Here she used to bathe after which it was her custom to lie down for a time upon the clean white sand within the fence, that she might rest a while, and that her body might dry. So it came to pass that the Sun looked down upon her, and saw her and loved her; and in the course of time a child was born to her, whose name she called Sun-child”.
    It’s time we all chip in and take a close look at this simple, long-forgotten and possibly forbidden subject. Is it fact or fiction? Are all parthenogenetic children gifted? As far as I’ve learned a virgin birth doesn’t guarentee the child will possess super-human powers. They could be as normal as any other child. Most likely they will, at the very least, have spiritual gifts like humility and compassion and would not want anyone to know of their special conception. Would you?
    I’m searching for re-searchers, fact-finders, fact-checkers, anyone in earnist to uncover more about human parthenogenesis. In my little pea-brain virgin birth is the jewel in the crown of creation. It’s the tip of an iceberg of hidden knowledge—–knowledge that might lead to God or Goddess knows what. Is it trully possible to prepare a woman for such a feat? Would any among us be courageous enough to attempt it? Will the return of parthenogenesis be the straw to break the back of patriarchy? I’m certainly not interested in raising women upon another unreachable pedastal. There’s nothing wrong with modern, meat-eating women. At least this shouldn’t stop them, and us men too, from being loving and responsable human beings. Every child is sacred and special no matter how they are born. I’m not trying to create a master race. And men are wonderfully filled with spark and creativity, piss and vinigar. They will not disappear. Yet we must eat some humble pie if we’re going to be open to these truths that art too important to be new. Speaking as a normal, red-blooded American guy, I can say that, once I opened Pandora’s Box and got freaked out by Medussa (women’s mysteries) my ego got beat up a little but it didn’t crumble and I think I’m better off for it. At least I don’t feel so left out of the loop of this ancient/modern knowledge. I sincerely believe that truth will set us free—-the more the merrier. That being said, as I approach 60 years of age, I still feel dumb. I’m not a trained scintist by any means and I never had the opportunity to attend college. I’ll end, for now, with a quote from proffessor Franceis Lester Ward: “Women are the race itself….the strong primary sex, and man the biological afterthought.” I’ve been contemplating this subject since 1969. It won’t go away. Mama mia, what are we gonna do?

  5. Boya J says:

    @4 Den: Pathenogenesis is very rare, and definitely more rare, if not impossible, in humans. So asking questions like “are all offspring of parthenogenesis gifted” is impossible to tell or verify. But I’d imagine before the science behind parthenogenesis even came to be, a virgin birth would have been quite a spectacle that people back then considered to be a miracle.

    You assume that the ALL of the 85% of agnostics and atheists that believe Jesus Christ existed, but also that he was born of virgin birth. I would venture that most of them believe Christ was a real person, but born of sex or rape.

  6. Roy says:

    This posting makes no sense. Atheists do not live with means of belief systems.

  7. Fred Glynn says:

    If born by parthenogenesis, Jesus would have been a woman. As an adult Jesus dressed as a male. The issue of parthenogenesis raises the question of whether Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lesbians? Maybe Dan Brown should go back and rewrite The DaVinci Code on that basis. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that none of the renderings of the crucifixion date back to 33 AD and also that none of those renderings reveal or even suggest the presence of male genitalia.

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