These are wise words, but their applicability varies, I think, depending on what kind of religious knowledge we’re talking about. Can one be a serious believer without understanding (or caring much about) some of the more abstruse debates in your faith’s theological tradition? Of course. Can one be a serious Christian without knowing that Jonathan Edwards was associated with the First Great Awakening, or a pious Jew who doesn’t know that Maimonides was Jewish? Most certainly — and many of the Pew Forum’s questions fall into exactly this category, testing a kind of historical literacy (or a multicultural literacy, in the case of questions about other faiths) that doesn’t necessarily relate to the way religion is lived and experienced.
But can one be a serious Christian without being able to name the four Gospels, a feat that only 57 percent of Protestants and 33 percent of Catholics could manage? Well, yes, I think so — but there things get a bit more complicated, surely, and you could be forgiven for wondering to what extent a “social imaginary” can be sustained amid widespread ignorance of what seem like some pretty basic facts.
Continue reading Douthat’s post here.