Gene Weingarten is on vacation. This column originally appeared in 2010.
WASHINGTON -- A Pew Research Center poll has found that atheists and agnostics are more knowledgeable about religion than are people of faith. Many of my fellow atheists are smug about this, which is a shame. Gloating is arrogant. We should instead use our superior knowledge to patiently educate the rest of you nincompoops. I shall now take your questions about religion.
Q: Is the pope Catholic?
A: Serious questions, please. This is science.
Q: How is religion different from superstition?
A: Superstition is silly. Religion is not.
Q: But how can you tell the difference between them?
A: If it's what you believe, it's religion. If it's what the other guys believe, it's superstition.
Q: That's too glib.
A: OK, let me give you an example. Hindus and Jains worship Ganesha, an elephant-headed god who rides a mouse. Christians and Jews consider this quaint and adorable, and they are, of course, respectful of other faiths, but they know, deep down, that it is poppycock.
A: Because Jews and Christians know there is only one God. And He cannot have tusks and a trunk, because He made man in his own image, out of dust and mud, and then made woman out of the man's rib. So the whole elephant thing is obviously just completely preposterous.
Q: Why isn't anyone named Job or Ham or Japheth or Abishag anymore?
A: Because those names sound stupid. Today we name our children Skylar, Jazlyn, Kaydence and Bristol.
Q: If Adam and Eve had only Cain and Abel, how did other generations happen?
A: Everyone's forgotten about Jazlyn.
Q: Why are you so down on creationism?
A: Because it is an anagram for "I note racism."
Q: Do you think evolution is inconsistent with the possible existence of God?
A: Theoretically, no. An all-powerful God could, of course, set evolution in motion. But it would mean a God who then completely washed his hands of us.
Q: Do you deduce that because of all the suffering in the world?
A: No. I deduce that because "evolution" is an anagram for "I love u not."
Q: If God didn't create the universe, how do you atheists think it began?
A: With a Big Bang.
Q: Oh, yeah? Well, what came before the Big Bang?
A: The Big Diamond Ring.
Q: You don't know, do you?
A: No, but the prevailing scientific sentiment seems to be that because time began at the precise moment mass and energy did, there was no "before." So trying to answer this question is like trying to taste your own tongue.
Q: That sounds like a cop-out.
A: Well, there are other theories involving "branes" and colliding dimensions, but no one really understands them, even the physicists who came up with them.
Q: So you just accept it all ... on faith?
A: The pope is indeed Catholic.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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