Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Religiously-illiterate America: What does it mean?

Get a load of this.

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.


Sarah said...

Amen, brother! "regligion" used to stand for a committment to that very exercise of seeking, of evaluating, of analyzing. It has become perverted to mean a strident set of "beliefs" that cannot be questioned. (Oh, and not to one-up you, but i got 14 out of 15 correct.)
thank you Dade for this thoughtful posting!

Nanci Hamilton said...

Your comments are thoughtful. I read this news report and found it worrisome as well. I took the quiz you linked to and got 14 out of 15 right.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately to me "religion" is just another friend John Trudell says for him believe always will have the word "lie" in the middle of it

where does that leave me
working hard trying not to hurt my neighbors on this planet which is a full time job

I have to say i was surprised at my score however

always great to read your postings
blessed be, jeanne

Dan Binmore said...

Brought into being by Reagan? I'm going to have to scoff at that statement.
And as an Atheist I can do so as part of the group with the greatest religious knowledge of any group.

Eugene said...

Recently, I did a ride along on my truck driving job with an openly Christian male. Every turn in the conversation, he was trying to convert me. Personally, I hate this. It is similar to telling me that I have no idea what my life is like, but he, a stranger, has the answers to it all.

Same with indigenous religions. Folk will focus on Indian religion like Christians do Jesus and will proclaim to folk as such. When you bring up conditions on the rez, they change the conversation.

Some Indians preach matriarchy, and their MALE version of matriarchy has nothing to do with women. But, like Christ, it is the savior of the world in their minds.

Personally, I try to be helpful and to accept help as I believe we should all help each other, even those annoying a-holes who think it is more important to try to convert me than to listen and share.

steve said...

Yea its funny how liberals try so hard to say and think everyone is unique and you can't stereotype then quickyly try to group people into their own categories and judge them. I wouldnt dig too deep into this libs because it seems blacks and hispanics did far worse than anyone else and drug down the "religious" score. Reinforcing the "racist" stereotype that they are just dumb. So you are not doing anyone a favor quoting or promoting this study...