While Fox Nation is bolstering up its defenses for the War on Christmas, many of us find ourselves wondering whether or not they have anything over which to be so upset. Fox continually reminds us that religion in America is under attack, at constant risk of being extinguished. We are also implored to be mindful of the “reason for the season”, and take in to account the religious underpinnings of the holiday season. But how many of us, including our conservative friends, are really that knowledgeable on Christianity or any of the other major world religions?
Recently, I was delighted to find a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, designed to test our knowledge of the core teachings and founding principles of the world’s major religions and belief systems. Polling groups selected from the overall population included white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Atheists/Agnostics and, curiously, those who believe in nothing in particular.
Before you read on, I encourage you to take the survey yourself to find out where you stand in relation to your compatriots from the studied results.
All done? Excellent! I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
Now, I’ll disclose here and tell you all that I scored 14 out of 15 answers correcty, or a 93%, placing me squarely in my small but increasingly influential philosophical bloc. I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly, but the results are intriguing. According to official polling results (the poll has been closed and the results tallied, so our taking it does not have any effect), of the nine groups surveyed, Atheists/Agnostics scored the top spot, followed closely by Jews and Mormons; Protestants and Catholics trailed in behind at varying levels.
Pew has of course drawn its own conclusions from this data, but I can’t help contributing my own two cents—an intellectual tithe, if you will. I would speculate that the increased public disdain and prejudice of a group has a direct correlation to the amount of knowledge they sustain about others’ belief systems.
Know thy enemy, perhaps? While it’s tempting to think of this as a battle for the greatest god/most populous following/best academic reputation, I suspect these results, and perhaps my speculation, show that an unpopular minority position has instead yielded a less myopic world view. The top scoring demographic segments aren’t as defensive of alternate belief systems or philosophical constructs and are more open to listening to competing opinions, thereby knowing more about your religion than you do (statistically speaking, of course).
If religion is under threat of getting extinguished, it is in this position for no other reason than a lack of genuine interest. While many are busy choking themselves on anti-name-your-belief-system insinuations, opportunities for understanding are suffering from a general lack of oxygen. Keep it together, guys, and pick up a World Religions 101 textbook sometime.