FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHICAGO, IL, September 28, 2010--Today the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released its U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. The data reveals that many Americans, especially Christians, are unfamiliar with basic religious tenets—their own and others.
In response to the survey’s release, Ruth Frey, director of continuing education and development at Seabury Western Theological Seminary said:
“It’s tempting to look at this survey and prescribe a program of lectures and rote memorization for the American public. Shouldn’t adults at least be able to know as much about faith as they know about the National Football League or American Idol?
"Wringing our hands about ignorance of basic religious facts, however, misses the point. Adults seek out new knowledge when it is important to them and connected to what they do everyday. If we want to reverse the trend of religious illiteracy, we must take religious knowledge off the shelf, dust it off, and make it pertain to people’s lives.
"It’s notable that people surveyed by Pew who talk regularly about religion with friends and family answered more questions correctly than people who don’t. Adults learn best in settings where they can ask questions and debate ideas. That’s true in churches, synagogues and mosques, and it’s also true over the water cooler at work. But we know that religion can be divisive and contentious, and so often when we have the chance, we don’t discuss it.
"To get smart about religion, our religious and civic communities need to convene people from different religious backgrounds to learn together and learn from each other. It’s one thing to learn that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, as more than half of Americans need to do; it’s another thing entirely to understand what that means in the lives of our neighbors who are Tibetan refugees, Chinese immigrants, or American Buddhist converts.
"This research is a call for us to expand religious education beyond the walls of our own congregations. True religious literacy comes when we learn not only the facts of our own and other faiths, but also what those facts mean in our lives and why they matter to our communities.”