A newly published report from the Pew Forum Religion and Public Life shows that Americans seemingly know very little about religious faiths, including their own.
According to USA Today:
The new U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that although 86% of us believe in God or a higher power, we don’t know our own traditions or those of neighbors across the street or across the globe.
Among 3,412 adults surveyed, only 2% correctly answered at least 29 of 32 questions on the Bible, major religious figures, beliefs and practices. The average score was 16 correct (50%).
The report also suggests that people who identify as atheists/agnostic, Jewish or Mormon scored the highest on the religious knowledge survey.
The top scoring groups were atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons. These tiny groups, adding up to less than 7% of Americans, scored particularly well on world religion and U.S. constitutional questions. It’s unclear why, although highly educated people overall did best on the quiz, researchers say.
But one wonders how the survey determines what is worthy of being categorized as baseline knowledge for certain religious traditions. Further, isn’t “knowledge” already a secular term? Would there be a story if 86% of people who believed there was such a thing as oxygen could not detail the scientific process by which oxygen was produced?
Couldn’t we say that (religious) faith and (scientific) knowledge have always had a differantial (Derrida) relationship? There was a major Renaissance theologian, Nicholas of Cusa, who actually advocated what he called “docta ignorantia.” One of the major Enlightenment treatises on the issue of religion and knowledge by Kant is called “Religion within the Bounds of Reason.” Aren’t the terms of this study already secularist, that is, presupposing a normative non-religiosity?
The impetus behind the study and the article is clear: “Christian” America actually doesn’t know much about Christianity. While I believe that there needs to be greater awareness of various religious traditions, including one’s own, the article slides too easily into painting people of faith as ignorant fanatics.
Read the Pew Forum’s complete survey here.