Thursday, September 30, 2010

Religiously Illiterate America

Two new interesting Pew Forum studies have recently been released. The first is a really useful interactive graph which illustrates controversial battles over the building of 35 mosques in the U.S. in the past 2 years. Aziz over at City of Brass made an interesting point on the growth of mosque constructions. In 2000, there were 1200 Masjids (or Mosques) in the U.S., now there are roughly 1900 at a growth of 6% a year. If Muslims are taking over America they're pretty lousy at it.

 The second survey is disheartening. Atheists and agnostics are among the most religiously knowledgeable. Click here for the number breakdown. The internets is a buzz with this recent report. I'm a bit late jumping on the bandwagon but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. The questions were simple, which is why I found the results so disappointing. Anyone who has taken a World Religions class at a community college could have answered all the questions correctly. Don't believe me? Then take the quiz to see where you stand in comparison with your fellow Americans. I haven't nor do I make it a habit of reading any evangelical blogs but I can guess their response to the survey. A "Who cares?" attitude about other faiths is exactly what caused Christians to score lower on the survey because they already know what they believe is true. What's worse is that roughly half of protestants could not correctly identify Martin Luther and his writings as inspiring the Reformation. I can understand walling yourself off from other religions to protect from "the taint" of their sinfulness, but missing questions about your own faith screams that we are less religiously literate than we actually portray ourselves.

I understand most people don't have the time to study other religions, unless that's what you do for a living or a hobby, but if anything this survey should be very humbling. There is a LOT we don't know about each other, a LOT. To assume that Muslims want to impose Sharia Law (thereby destroying the very religious freedom they have come to love and embrace as Americans) or that Buddhist worship themselves plays to our fears rooted in our lack of knowledge. We don't know anything about "Them" but this is what I've heard... We say we want to love our neighbor, but how can we love them without getting to know them? I am more concerned with removing fear and ignorance about our neighbor than with being religiously literate, BUT I believe this is only possible through educating ourselves. Sadly, most people of faith will only access material deemed acceptable by their religious view. A conservative Christian is more likely to read a book about Islam written by a fellow Christian than actually reading the Qur'an itself. Outsiders, then, are filtered through a water-downed perspective which often times scarcely resembles the original. This is why I avoid apologetic material of any religious cloth, apologetics exist only to defend their own point of view. Frankly, most people don't care to be religiously literate, but seeing that a good chunk of the world follows a certain religious view it's probably not a bad idea to pick up a $10 Intro to World Religions book.


Don said...

Took the quiz a couple of days ago. Your sentiments are mine as well. Ignorance is rampant in the area of religion as well as politics. I was amazed by an experience my son had at a bus stop. When he arrived to wait for the bus, there was a Tea Party sponsored demonstration taking place. One demonstator was carrying the well-known picture of the president complete with the Hitler moustache. My son asked him, "why the Hitler moustache?" The guy said, "because he's a Communist." My son said, "Hitler wasn't a Communist". The guy looked puzzled at my son and said, "HUH?"

captron52 said...

Another great post Sam! I read the article about agnostics and atheists being the most knowledgeable about religion and that doesnt really surprise me vfery much. In my experience those who subscribe to their religion only as the one truth more often than not are taught those beliefs at an early age and never question for themselves the values of other relgious beliefs or teachings. And that is very sad in itself. I wish everyone would take some time to at least l;ook a t other beliefs and try to be just a little more open minded.

Post a Comment