Religious Illiteracy in America

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey which was designed to test Americans’ religious knowledge. In this survey, which consisted of 32 questions, participants were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths, and major figures in religious.

The excerpt below describes some of the results:

A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

Read the full report from which the excerpt above was taken here.

Although the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world, people who go to church regularly know relatively little about their own faith, much less about the religious traditions of other faith communities.

These results show that churches and synagogues are failing to teach their members the basic knowledge of their own history and beliefs. What a sad commentary on the work of today’s churches and synagogues.

Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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