The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How 'bout them ignorant irreligious Americans...

Yesterday evening I stumbled across an article on the Washington Post's website about a new survey taken by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. I haven't yet had time to examine the survey itself in any depth, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the Post's coverage, but based on the article it's apparent that a lot of Americans don't have a clue when it comes to things religious. The Pew Forum surveyed 3,412 people which is really a pretty large sample, so the results are fairly accurate, certainly within a few percentage points.

What were the results? Well, here are a few of the nuggets the Post writer mined from the survey:
  • Half of the Protestants surveyed didn't know that Martin Luther inspired the Reformation
  • Nearly half (45%) of the Catholics surveyed were unaware the Church taught that the Eucharist was really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and not merely symbolic
  • 40% of Jews apparently didn't realize that Maimonides, the great medieval rabbi and teacher, was Jewish
More telling, at least for us Catholics, are the scores achieved by various religious groups. The survey consisted  of 32 questions and overall the respondents got about half of them correct. But who did best...or worst? Here are the results:

  • Atheists and agnostics: 21
  • Jews and Mormons (strange bedfellows indeed) : 20
  • Protestants: 16
  • Catholics: 15
Based on a quick -- very quick -- look at the survey results published on the Pew website (click here to view the results), there are plenty of surprises, most of them unpleasant. And the fault lies with the clergy; that is, with the bishops, the priests, and, yes, with us deacons. I'm not too terribly concerned that most Catholics don't realize that the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist, but when such a large percentage are completely ignorant of the very nature of the Eucharist -- "the source and summit of the Christian life" -- I think we have a serious problem. It would seem we've got a lot of work to do.

Pray for your clergy.

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