Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Take the Religious Knowledge Quiz

According to the Pew Forum, "atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new Pew Forum survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions."

Take the quiz yourself. But be careful not to score too high, lest your friends and neighbors mistake you for a Mormon or, gasp, atheist.

I scored 15/15, better than 99% of those surveyed. I guess that's what 12 years of a Catholic education buys one. Or perhaps it's just my nature. One can't be skeptical about something without learning about it first.

After the jump, some theories to explain the poor results in general.

After taking the survey yourself, walk on over to Religion blog on The Dallas Morning News website, where an assortment of religion professionals (those who make a living explaining and, in some cases selling, this stuff) try to explain why Americans are so ignorant of religious doctrine and history. Some hypotheses:

  • Some people are more interested in practicing their faith than learning facts about world religions and religious history.
  • Religion in American life has often been more a matter of the heart and the soul than of the mind. We have turned religion often into a sense of feeling. People come to religion too often for solace alone, and not for challenge or education.
  • Participants in the religious majority (Christians) have little immediate need to learn about those who are different.
  • American Christians take their faith for granted and religious instruction takes a back seat to education for economic prosperity.
  • Contemporary American religious thought is embarrassingly shallow. This is indicative of the general dumbing-down of American culture.
  • The failure of Americans to achieve satisfactory levels of religious education is just a special case of Americans failing to achieve satisfactory levels of education in general.
  • Some religions place emphasis on faith. Others stress practice. Some promote learning, while others discourage it, leaving such pursuits to religious professionals.
  • Most people of faith are taught to agree with the lessons they're taught, not view the lessons with a critical eye.
  • Religion is a competitive business and it is in the self interest of the clergy to guard their congregation from learning too much about other religions, lest their congregation choose to convert.

All in all, pretty good hypotheses. No solutions, mind you, just reasonable explanations for why Americans, most of whom profess to be religious, know so little about religion, including their own.

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