A classic Dilbert comic strip features Dogbert performing an exorcism. In the famous panel, he waves a wand and says with frustration, “Out, out you demons of stupidity!” I felt like channeling Dogbert this morning when I read The New York Times’ summary of the latest survey from the well-respected Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: “Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans.”
The headline-grabbing discovery was that, “Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons.” One disturbing lesson that could be drawn from this statistic is that the more you know about religion, the less you believe. This concern leads many to fear examining their religious beliefs too closely.
These survey results should embolden religious leaders and religious educators to redouble efforts to teach about both their own religion as well as world religions. For example, this survey helps quantify the ignorance about Islam that laid the groundwork for the recent debate over the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan.
Religious leaders should hear these results as a call to support rigorous religious education and to themselves model fearless intellectual curiosity — loving God with our minds as well as our hearts. Otherwise, we must take responsibility when the surveyors, perhaps next time, call us or members of our religious community.
Recommended Reading: Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t