A recent Pew Forum poll continues to cause heads to shake in wonderment.
Fewer than half of Americans can name the four New Testament gospels.
More than half do not recognize that Judaism is a religion.
An early poll showed one in 10 believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another one in five believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.
Out of a possible score of 32, lazy mainliners (Catholic and Protestant) averaged a dismal 16. Evangelicals were only marginally more competent, racking up a dim 17. Ouch!
Mormons, Jews, Agnostics and Atheists trounced them, with averages between 20 and 21. That's gotta be embarrassing. I once knew a Mormon guy who thought Saint James wrote the KJV!
Yet despite this wall of ignorance, two out of three Americans believe the Bible has the answer to all of life's important questions. How is that even possible? Many obviously don't believe the Bible, just believe in believing the Bible, then steer well clear of the book itself lest they learn something they won't like.
Academic and writer Stephen Prothero worries that American Christianity is increasingly governed by sentimentalism ( "All that matters is I love Jesus") and super-charged moralism.
The above comments are largely culled from a recent piece in the Vancouver Sun. Columnist Douglas Todd then goes on to wonder about Canadian religious literacy. I would guess that the same survey administered in New Zealand would reveal even more eye-wateringly depressing results. A 15 question sampler from the original survey is available online to try - for those who dare.
Todd wonders what has happened to the Christian emphasis on intellect.
Uh, what emphasis was that? A simpler and more pertinent question is what happened to the basic reading skills that the Jehovah's Witness who knocks on your door still has? Not much intellect needed there, just commitment. And these days no one has to be put off by archaic language. Put on a pair of hygienic latex gloves and cautiously pick up a copy of the CEV Bible, a translation deliberately dumbed down so small children and particularly thick adults can read it. Bible reading isn't rocket science. How difficult can it be?
(Not that dumbed down, easy-read Bibles are good for kids. Ten year olds who can power through volumes of Harry Potter deserve much more credit than that.)
I'm not sure about Canadians, but compared to these results, Kiwis, Aussies, Brits... almost any other national group in the Western world, at least have a great excuse. Our societies are much more secular. Religious profession is far less an aspect of our national character.
Apparently there's little disadvantage in that fact.