Oct 05, 2010 |
William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist
A recent survey by the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life offered up some counter-intuitive findings. Among them, agnostics and atheists scored the highest of all respondents to the survey of religious knowledge. Not far behind were Jews and Mormons, so it wasn't that no faith tradition scored well on the 32-question quiz. But the findings did show that Protestants and Catholics particularly lacked a good understanding of religion in general. Mainline Protestants, for example, averaged correct answers only about half the time. The same was true for white Catholics
No one who teaches theology, leads a house of worship, or takes their faith seriously can like the numbers in that poll, even if your own tradition did okay. In general, the report shows a lack of religious knowledge among quite a few people of faith.
So, here's this week's question:
Although there are some exceptions, a wide of range of people of faith apparently don't possess a deep knowledge about religion in general. Why is this?
Read on for the answers from a wide range of our panel.
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism,
The shallowness of religious knowledge can be attributed to the immediate gratification syndrome, which can lead one to be satisfied with quick fixes and shy away from seeking deeper knowledge about religion. Many people are content with simple answers to questions like "Mom where did we come from?" "What is the bottom line?" "Am I saved?" They are happy with the instant meals.
With the advent of religion, men and women considered it a sacred duty to guide the lost souls. Gradually, the duty settled into the dominion of "professional clergy". As more divisions and religions formed, it became a competitive business and it was in the self interest of the clergy to guard their congregation from dispersing into other "mumbo jumbo" religions.
Some of them have done everything to secure their congregations from inculcating values to shutting the doors of horizontal learning. It is not surprising to hear cocky statements from the pulpits, "no other religion offers salvation" or "no other religion defines the purpose of life than my religion" capping it with "others go to hell."
Knowledge of other faiths is implied in their statements but only a few dare to find it otherwise. Perhaps some of those who did not score well on the survey may have believed that learning about other faiths amounts to infidelity to their own.
The more you chase your own tail, less time you have to know what is around you. There may be a correlation between conservatism and knowledge about other religions, and an inverse relationship between the two may exist.
Unlike most people who are confined to a singular religion, the agnostic and atheists have actually crossed the threshold of their religion into another realm; the process is often reflective and requires a lot of knowledge in combating doubts and warding off salesmen of other religions.
Hence the atheists tend to be more knowledgeable about different religions than the religious ones. The same can be said about Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and other religious minorities whose faith is under the gun. Either out of necessity or as a way of reaffirming their own views, they seek to learn about other traditions.
That may be the story of a cultural, social or a political minority in any nation. They tend to know more right things about others than the majority knows about them.
Indeed religion is about humility and not arrogance. The arrogance of bigness blocks one from listening to other religions and cultures, let alone learning about them.
Other opinions at - http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/10/texas-faith-pew-forum-study-on.html