Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Lower Orders


I am slightly surprised that I got all of the Pew Religious Knowledge poll questions right, but frankly, I am not surprised that Americans in general, and American believers in particular, didn't do well with these questions.


One rueful observer of the poll results notes the performance of Catholics on a particular question of theology:
Barely half of all Catholics knew that when they take communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ according to Catholic doctrine.
This is sad. Not so very long ago, people were burned to death for having the wrong thoughts about the status of sacramental wine and crackers -- as an online Catholic encyclopedia puts it, soft-pedaling the role of Queen Mary mightily:
Mary and her advisers were probably right in thinking that religious peace was impossible unless these fanatics were silenced, and they started once more to enforce those penalties for heresy which after all had never ceased to be familiar. Both under Henry VIII and Edward VI men had been burned for religion, and Protestant bishops like Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley had had a principal hand in their burning. It seems to be generally admitted now that no vindictive thirst for blood prompted the deplorable severities which followed, but they have weighed heavily upon the memory of Mary, and it seems on the whole probable that in her conscientious but misguided zeal for the peace of the Church, she was herself principally responsible for them. In less than four years 277 persons were burned to death. Some, like Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, were men of influence and high position, but the majority belonged to the lower orders. [emphases mine]
Perhaps it is "generally admitted" today that Bloody Mary was just a misunderstood defender of this or that, but if this poll establishes anything, it is that the "generally admitted" can often be a euphemism for what lazy dolts believe to be true.

It seems clear that while Americans do, in large numbers, label themselves as believers, show up at services, drop cash into donation plates, pretend that child rape isn't noteworthy when cherished authorities do it or conceal it, and otherwise pursue a god-addled life, they're taking little interest in the fundamental practices and tenets of the belief systems they avow, and even less in those of others.

It is generally admitted -- or is it? -- that people endowed with strong beliefs about things they barely understand soon enough become the lower orders that feed fires.

2 comments:

Domestically Challenged said...

I took this quiz yesterday. 13/15 =o(. I guessed Abraham instead of Job and Finney over Edwards. Everything else I actually knew.

While I am not at all surprised that Religious Americans are ill-educated in their religions, I AM shocked that the questions asked in that quiz could be answered incorrectly by so many! They were VERY basic. A person does not need to know much about any religion to get them right (with the exception of the two I got wrong, of course... we KNOW those were TRICK questions).

Dale said...

DC - I agree. I actually read through all of the questions asked in the poll and found it appallingly easy. It's stunning that the average result in the sample of 3400+ was 16/32.