In fact, although the United States is one of the most religious developed countries in the world, most Americans scored 50 percent or less on a quiz measuring knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion in public life.
The survey is full of surprising findings.
For example, it’s not evangelicals or Catholics who did best – it’s atheists and agnostics.
It’s not Bible-belt Southerners who scored highest – they came at the bottom.
Those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better.
I actually don’t find it surprising that literalists and “Bible belt Southerners” did worse. in fact, it’s something I’ve argued for some time – opening one’s self up to the other, something vitally important to living peaceably, is terrifying to fundamentalists/literalists of all religious/anti-religious beliefs. There has always been a cloistered way of living within these faith communities as a protective mechanism.
My parents, religious teachers and mentors discouraged us from learning about other religions for fear that we would be opened up to satan/evil spirits and lured away by “the angel of light”. Even the less extreme people just didn’t see the point. The attitude was “they’re wrong, we’re right, we don’t need to learn about their misguided faith, we need to teach them about ours.” Those few who did want to learn about other religions did so for the primary purpose of using that knowledge to proselytize.
I am less concerned that people don’t know about their OWN religion than I am about them not knowing about OTHER religions. If a person wants an ignorant faith that is only about feelings and relationship, fine. But the level of ignorance I hear from so many people I know about other religions concerns me. It contributes to the kind of comments I hear about all kinds of important issues in America today – immigration, Middle East relations, our interactions with American Muslims, how we educate our kids, etc.