Americans Know Nothing About Their Own Religions


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The latest Pew Research survey dove into religion. Specifically, researchers wanted to know just how much actual religious knowledge drives this most holy of lands.

Unsurprisingly, the answer was not so much.

Americans, who are religiously bent, are as ignorant of the tenets of their diverse faiths as they are of the Constitution’s purpose for the separation of those faiths from the workings of the state.

Who knows the most about religion in general?


Which makes total sense. A person has to know something about religion in order to conclude that it’s bigotry wrapped in superstition and basically a tool used to maintain some of the world’s more useful oppressions.

After the God deniers, Mormons and Jews knew more actual facts about the various religions of the world. I wonder if this isn’t because their faiths focus more attention on following the letter of their laws, as opposed to the nebulous, feel-good spirit of the rules that seem to change with each new evangelical schism.

Catholics didn’t know shit. How could they? They are apparently not being taught the most basic tenet of the religion – transubstantiation. You know, that icky sticking point with Protestants of all ilk? The fact that the wafer and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ during the consecration during mass.

41% of Catholics think the wafer and wine are … symbolic. The Pope must be breaking his own knuckles with hand-wringing over this big oops by his American clergy. Perhaps the bishops of America have been too occupied covering up the molestation thing, suppressing women and being all round tools of the man in the pointy hat to remind their parish priests about such an important topic?

Protestants fair a bit better but only if they are mainline and not evangelicals. Both groups, also unsurprisingly, gloss over the main point of Luther’s original break back in the middle-ages – “grace” can’t be earned. God gives or not. It’s a bleak outlook whose darkness varies according to the religious flavor. Evangelicals don’t bother with it at all because it’s simply too much for them and they prefer their view that everyone BUT them is a loser in the whole “God loves me better than you” grace race.

Curious about my own knowledge base, I took the quiz at the Pew Forum site.

I missed the last question on The Great Awakening. Not too strangely, this wasn’t covered in religion class at my Catholic high school.

My general distaste for the puritan streak that runs wide and uselessly through the American psyche means I haven’t spent much time trying to discover how such an atrocity happened. Frankly, I thought the whole “personal guilt” thing floated over with the Pilgrims, but it started here. We can’t blame the English for this.

The “awakening” was a clever assault on the god-fearing with the end result being that life generally sucked more than it should have for the early American colonists. Worst of all, it marked the beginning of that sing-song preaching style that’s punctuated with shrill notes and poignant silences.

At The Daily Dish, Sullivan linked to a blog that invited a bunch of scholars to apologize for the ignorant. One guy thought that the “spirit” of religion was probably more important than adherents actually knowing factual information or even, gasp, understanding what it was they professed to believe.

Seriously? If you are going to vote, persecute, impose or otherwise force your faith down the throats of those who worship, or not, then you had better know your shit.

Because it stinks.

8 thoughts on “Americans Know Nothing About Their Own Religions

  1. I hardly feel that this survey’s results allow for sweeping generalizations of the entire country. While the poll was at least scientific, applying results from 3,400 respondents to an entire nation is quite a leap. People love using surveys to back up their claims, but the truth is that their results are often ball park estimates at best.

    This is a classic case of confirmation bias. You are of course entitled to believe whatever you want, but if you’re going to trumpet all the fallacies of organized religion while ignoring the enormous amount of charity and humanitarian aid they provide, you may want to reconsider whose mind is actually more closed.

    1. Damacles, in turn should acknowledge that the highest levels of aid as a fraction of Gross National Income are given by Northern European countries (the USA comes nineteenth). They also tend to have a much higher proportion of atheists.
      As a Brit married to an American, I am surprised by the USA’s obsession with religion.
      Generally speaking, religious belief is irrelevant in Europe.

  2. Not surprising. I’ll willingly admit my ignorance of religions, but it is ignorance by choice – I was “raised catholic” but smelled the bullshit from an early age and just opted out of the whole organized religion thing altogether.

    It’s just so…disturbingly curious…to me how there can be SO many beliefs in this world, with each one claiming they are right to the point of killing each other over it, with no solid proof to back much of it…

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