Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We Told You So! We Told You So! Nah - nah - nah - NAH - nah!

religious-knowledge-01 10-09-28

Life's A Journey. 
Enjoy The Ride!

Sorry, but I'm so happy, I couldn't possibly come up with another headline! The Pew Forum On Religion And Public Life just confirmed what I've been trying to drum into the heads of everyone reading my scribblings for the last five years: not only does the Christian Right know squat about other religions, but most of "the faithful" don't know much about their own religion! 

(AP)  A new 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. 

The survey's questions, moreover, were almost ridiculously basic: 28% of the people surveyed could not name Moses as the chief character in Exodus, 54% didn't know who Martin Luther was, 61% could not identify Job in the Bible, and a whopping 45% did not fully know the Ten Commandments. This last statistic brings to mind another survey conducted:

In a 1997 survey, the London Sunday Times found that only 34 percent of 220 Anglican priests could recite all of the Ten Commandments without help! All of them remembered the parts about not "killing" and not committing adultery. But things got a little fuzzy after that. In fact, 19 percent of these priests thought that the eighth commandement is "Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride."
Kenneth C. Davis, Don't Know Much About The Bible

In the Pew Survey, Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics knew the least about world religions while mainline Protestants and Evangelicals fared little better. There is an obvious correlation to this particular piece of ignorance in the current anti-Muslim sentiment the country is experiencing.

Another revealing statistic: knowledge of religion increased with level of education. Since few (if any) seminary graduates were polled, this means that the demonizing tactic against secular public education - secularism has taken all religion out of public schools - doesn't quite hold up. Tell THAT to the Texas Board of Education! 

The lack of knowledge evidenced in the Pew survey is something many writers have been warning against, but few people have acted upon. My own piece, Keeping Them Clueless,  got a lot of attention, but it certainly didn't send people to the polls. Charles Pierce's latest book, IDIOT AMERICA - How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, had modest sales, but not enough to show that the message was getting through: Right wing Religious forces are slowing making our kids dumber in many areas of education as well as dumber in their own religion. 

Again, for the zillionth time

It could then be argued that the more narrow and self-righteous view a people have of their own religion, the better it is to control them. As with the contradictions and complexity of the Bible, a simple but very narrow, very definitive construct is the best way to keep control...
It's control. It has always been about control. Authority and control. Last week's major scandal about "Bishop" Eddie Long was a good example: a few buzz words during a sermon elicited a standing ovation. Eddie Long has authority. Eddie Long has control. Many of his flock have actually read the Bible, but Long's dictates determine which parts are important, which parts can be used as a weapon, and which parts can be used in healing. 

To the man-on-the-street, the questions could seem  basic. However, questions like "What is the first book of the Bible?" stumped 15% of Evangelicals. Not good. Roughly 50% knew the four Gospels. Bad. And a staggering 70% of Evangelicals do not know one of the core beliefs of Protestant Christianity: Salvation is reached by faith alone. 

What the PEW survey didn't question people on: history of the Bible,  Doctors of the Church (e.g. Founding Fathers), religious wars, missionary activities, epistles of St. Paul. Imagine what the scores would have looked like. Cry later and continue reading.

So the upshot of the survey: if you test an atheist and a Southern Baptist with this survey, chances are the atheist will score much higher overall. Shortcomings of religious education aside, this tells us that atheists are definitely more open-minded about religion than Southern Baptists. 

And being close-minded about religion can be ... deadly. 

Just a thought.

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