Many different studies (read one account here) have found the United States to be the most religious of the industrialized nations. And yet:
...a recent survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths. --from Huffington Post; read more here.With all the ridiculous furor erupting over the location of mosques, and the insistence by some that the United States is a "Christian" nation, one would think that the passions on display are rooted in deeply held conviction. But this survey shows that most Americans, and especially those who claim to be religious, don't know much about the core tenets of their faiths.
In support of the survey's findings, my own informal observations are that I am often more informed about religion than many supposedly religious people. Believe me, folks, I've met some ignorant people purporting to be Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, and just about every other faith you'd care to name. (Let me also quickly add that I have learned a lot from knowledgeable and reverent believers.)
What might it mean?
My take on it is this: Too often, in the United States, religious fervor is really just a veneer used to conceal tribalism and racial identity. Persons who have identified themselves as belonging to a particular faith feel that, by applying a label to themselves, they have fulfilled their obligations to seek Truth. Nothing more need be done.
In short, this religious illiteracy is a manifestation of the intellectual laziness first brought into vogue by Ronald Reagan and culminating in the ultimate anti-intellectual, Junior Bush. Let the clergy worry about all those impossible questions surrounding God and Man; as long as you call yourself a [insert your religious label here] your ass is covered.
I find the whole thing discouraging.
I'd make a pitch to those who call themselves religious: whatever your faith, does it not warrant constant study and examination? By continually questioning and exploring, are you not making your faith stronger?
There is a mini-quiz available here for those interested. I answered 13 of the 15 questions correctly. That put me in the 92nd percentile. And I'm an Oregon agnostic.