Considering all the fuss that has been raging this summer in the American press you would be forgiven for thinking that the American Public are particularly well informed on matters religious.
After all we have had the debate over the building of mosques, the burning or otherwise of holy books, and an entertaining fuss over whether Satanists have picnic tables.
To foreigners America, that last of Victorian societies, is held out to the world as one of the most religious and most churched of any western society.
Religious perhaps but poorly educated, uninformed and ignorant too.
Foreigners do not realise that in America they dont teach religion in schools. Nor, it seems, do they teach much in the churches. But this is so basic you wonder what they teach in history, geography, art, english, civics, modern studies.
The Pew Charitable Trust (Pew as in the person’s name and not a bench seat in a church) who look to improve public policy and inform and stimulate civic life, has done a poll on religious knowledge in America and it doesn’t make kind reading.
Half those polled don’t know that the Quran (Koran) is the holy book of Muslims. And almost no one has heard of Maimonides the great medieval philosopher and Jewish religious thinker.
Unbelievably less than half can name the four Gospels or even knew the Dalai Lama was a Buddhist.
Fully one quarter did not know Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt or that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Seriously they don’t.
Out of the Christians the Evangelicals and Morman got top marks on the Bible but scored significantly less on other religions – which are also known as “the works of the devil”.
It was the Jews, the atheists and the agnostics that scored best overall. Maybe they arrived at their positions by reading their way out of their original religious positions, or it might be that they are just better educated. Jewish Americans are typically highly educated.
Normally I make a smart remark at the end of a blog, but tonight I find myself just sitting stunned.
Copyright David Macadam 2010