America: “Religious” Or “Religiously Ignorant”?

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

I had a girlfriend once who (after that was over) became born again.  And we were still in contact, and she tried, in subtle and non-subtle ways, to "bring me into the light" or "save me" or whatever you want to call it.

Her initial assumption was that, because I don’t regularly attend church or read the Bible, I must know nothing about religion or the Bible.  But when we actually started talking about godstuff, she found out that I actually did know a few things about the Good Book, and that’s precisely why I wasn’t able to swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

I would ask very simple questions which would stump her.  She would steadfastly claim that "the Bible is The Truth" (with two capital T’s), but more often than not, the conversations (which were cordial and which I enjoyed) would end with her saying, "Well, look.  I don’t know the all answers.  If you want to know more, I can certainly bring you to someone more knowledgeable than me who can answer what you ask."

Needless to say, she failed to save me.

And this, I’ve found, is typical of many well-meaning "born again" people.  They profess some connection to God/Jesus through an unerring Bible …without knowing very much about the Bible or what it says about God/Jesus.  It’s kind of like me declaring myself to be a military expert by enlisting in the Army, but skipping basic training and never serving a day.

So it comes as little surprise to me that a new book proves Americans are simultaneously the most “religious” and the most religiously ignorant people in the developed world. Despite the fact that most Americans consider themselves to be "christian" and religious, most don’t know anything about the Bible, the teachings of Jesus or even the 10 Commandments they want posted everywhere.   Wonkette snarkily goes through the bill of particulars:

  • 98% of Americans profess belief in a monotheistic God, with 81% claiming to be “Christian.”
  • The USA is the “only developed nation in the survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion plays a ‘very important’ role in their lives.”
  • Other recent surveys show only 58% to 80% of Americans are “certain” there’s a God.
  • 75% of adults believe the famed Benjamin Franklin saying “God helps those who help themselves” is one of the Ten Commandments.
  • On CNN today, the two anchors and the religion reporter and presumably the producers and directors and editors did not know Benjamin Franklin is responsible for “God helps those who help themselves,” with the religion reporter specifically claiming that “nobody” wrote the saying.
  • “A 2005 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly two-thirds of Americans endorse the simultaneous teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools,” despite the former’s insistence that the latter isn’t true and never happened.
  • 10% believe Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah from the Book of Genesis.
  • The decline of religious literacy in America began with the “Second Great Awakening” of the 1800s — a rejection of the Founding Fathers’ Age of Reason and theological knowledge in favor of “personal relationship with God” quackery that led to today’s brain-dead born-agains.
  • George W. Bush, himself a religious illiterate who claims to be a born-again Christian whose “favorite philosopher” is Jesus, excitedly jabbers about a Third Great Awakening, which will surely end with people sitting on toilets in their living rooms watching 24-hour live video feeds of Paris Hilton shooting heroin while pooping on a Koran.
  • 50% of high school seniors believe Sodom and Gomorrah were married. (They were actually just part of an early “sister cities” Chamber of Commerce program.)
  • 17% agree that Ramadan is the “Jewish day of atonement.”
  • Most believe Saint Paul led the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt.
  • Only one in three Americans can name the four Gospels, while less than half can even name one of them.
  • A majority couldn’t identify the preacher of the “Sermon on the Mount.” (Hint: The Bible says it was Jesus.)
  • Religious fundamentalists say all this Christian ignorance is because public schools don’t teach the Bible, but people don’t know anything public schools do teach, either.
  • Besides, “evangelical Christians are only slightly more knowledgeable than their non-evangelical counterparts,” so those megachurches aren’t exactly instructing the faithful.
  • Oy vey.