Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Americans Are Very Religiously Ignorant

Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn't laughing. Americans' deep ignorance of world religions — their own, their neighbors' or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir — is dangerous, he says.

His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.

That was a story a few months back about a book on our lack of knowledge of our dominant professed faith as well as others. (I put this book up as a link on the sidebar if anybody is interested in reading more).

Anybody want to guess how well Americans know what the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam is and what players in what regions are of what sect? Or, how about the nuances between members of both sects. Saying that Ted Kennedy and Sam Brownback are both Catholics so they must think alike would be laughed at by many who consider themselves politically aware in this country.

When the Bush administration claimed that Saddam and Osama were good old Sunni buddies though, alot of these same people believed it to be true. Professional evil-doer Michael Ledeen has suggested that Al-Sadr, a Shia, is in bed with Sunni Osama bin Laden. If Americans were more aware of religion, telling lies would be harder for people to do when they want to start a war in a country that can't be found on a map.

On the link above, there was a quiz about your religious knowledge. Not to brag, but I aced the test. But, I took comparative religion, studied Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and early Christian Church history in college. Perhaps we need to make comparative religion mandatory. I am thinking this as I remember a story my mother, a minister, told me about a friend of hers who is a Sikh. He was dressed in traditional Sikh attire after 9/11 and getting abuse for being one of those terrorists.

Although I have put it up before, here is a funny Colbert Report bit where Congressman Lynn Westmoreland advocates placing the 10 commandments up in public, yet like 60% of the public has no idea what they say.