Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Religious Ignorance: Preaching Without Understanding
There is a lot of hand-wringing and head-scratching over the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll that tells us half of our countrymen don't know much about even their own religions, not to mention the religion of others. I'm not sure why anybody is surprised.
Americans are basically incurious, disinterested and aggressively ignorant of even that which seems to be important to them--unless it's football. The average American, I'll venture, has far more in common with George Bush than with George Orwell. We have consistently voted against our interests in electing Republicans to office, shopped at Walmart (which would be the third-leading importing country of Chinese goods if it was a country) and killed our own jobs, watched "reality" TV and killed our minds, fouled our nest and resisted the obvious truth about global warming, refused to learn what caused our monetary problems, gone to war for no good reason time after time, continued to use fossil fuels even with the knowledge that they are killing us in several different ways, and on and on, ad infinitum.
We are a nation of morons, so what's the big deal about not understanding something as complex and often contradictory as religion? Christians often incorrectly quote the Bible in making their arguments and they are not above taking directives out of context. That whole litany about the various "abominations" on which homosexual bigotry hangs is a great example. Homosexuality and football are equally banned, but nobody mentions the football. I just love how Mark 6:5-6 is ignored by those who pound us over the head with their religion, trying to convert us.
Religious conservatives of every stripe are often among the most ignorant of what they claim to worship. Islam, for example, is a religion of peace, as is Christianity, but you couldn't tell it if you look at the record of war the world history. The numb-skull practitioners of the right in both those religions think that soldiering is God's personal directive and the non-believer must be converted or killed.
The poll, in fact, revealed that those most knowledgeable about religion are agnostics and atheists. I have as little use for atheistic philosophy as I do for Bible thumping, but the agnostic is the person who questions, who seeks, who tries to understand and I think that deserves our respect if not our strong support.
Maybe if we all adopted the notion that we need to know more, we'd be better off. We certainly would read "love thy neighbor as thyself" in a different light.