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Americans Don't Know Much About the Bible -- Still!

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Pop Quiz, hotshot: Who is Job?

For a country that is seemingly wild about religion, we may not be a Godless Nation, but we sure are a Clueless Nation.

The latest survey of American knowledge (or ignorance!), conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, tested Americans on the basics of religion -- Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths. According to the Pew Forum survey as reported by the New York Times, most people scored around 50 percent -- which is a failing grade. The most knowledgeable were atheists and agnostics.

The results of this survey do not surprise me at all. For all of the talk of America being a "Christian Nation" and being founded on "religious principles," many Americans are as misinformed about religion as they are about history, basic science and geography. Many people tend to believe what they were told when they were children. That is, sadly, a very incomplete eduction. Few of us seem able to to move past "thinking like a child" and do as Saint Paul said: "When I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13: 11).

When I wrote Don't Know Much About the Bible, I said that the "Good Book" fits Mark Twain's definition of a classic: "A book which people praise but never read."

Most people continue to rely upon what they hear from preachers and politicians. Often it is misquoted or taken out of context. Or they remember what they distilled from the Hollywood version of the Bible. The internet has, in many ways, just made matters worse.

The very serious problem that the Pew Forum survey underscores is that there are a lot of people out there making stark judgments about matters like religion about which they are clueless. And when it comes to Americans doing very bad things based on their beliefs, the results can be deadly. I traced the murderous intersection of religion and history, and America's so-called tradition of tolerance, in a recent Smithsonian article titled "America's True History of Religious Tolerance."

By the way, Job is the biblical character for whom a very challenging chapter of the Bible is named. God took away everything he had -- over a bet with Satan.

Click here to read the New York Times story about the survey, which includes a link to a sample of the quiz. (Full disclosure: I scored 6 out of 6 on the sample.) And click here for a link to the Pew Forum report on the survey.

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