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Monday, October 11, 2010

How Important is Religion?

Religion is nearly an ascribed characteristic, since relatively few of us change the religious affiliation into which we were born, except when one group (e.g., Europeans) takes over an area (e.g., Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa) and pushes a new religion onto the population. Most of the changing mix of people by religion is due to the differential rates of population growth by group. The importance of religious differences is a common theme in the news and in the social sciences. However, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that most people in the United States are not all that familiar with the beliefs of their own religion:

Previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations. Nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults say that religion is "very important" in their lives, and roughly four-in-ten say they attend worship services at least once a week.
But the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey shows that large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions -- including their own. Many people also think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.
You can test yourself on the questions asked in the Pew Survey, and also try the special quiz on religion put together by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff. As you look at these results and see your own scores, contemplate the fact that religious knowledge probably tells us more about culture than it does about religion per se.

1 comment:

  1. I believe religion has become less important over the last several decades to men and women both. I find that people who say they practice their religion by attending church on Sunday does not necessarily equate to living a religious lifestyle by honoring every single tenet of their religion, although that is what most religious people boast about. I thought it quite interesting that the agnostics and atheists were two out of the four highest scoring groups on the Religious Knowledge Survey. Maybe that is because they chose to research the different types of religious beliefs to determine what fits or doesn’t fit them.

    In regards to the comment in the article about the belief by most people that our constitution is more restrictive in our public schools than they really are tells me that people are not as educated as they should be about our constitution. It is unfortunate that religious beliefs tend to skews things a bit in that area.

    I tested myself on the questions asked by the Pew Survey on religion and was presently surprised on how much I knew about religion, in general. Unfortunately, the New York Times quiz focused more on specific quotes from scripture, therefore I didn’t do so well on those results and I believe the reason behind that is I do not practice my religion and do not keep up scripture. Based on the Pew Survey and my own results, I have to agree that religious knowledge does tell us more about our culture then we care to admit versus about religion itself.