A report came out today from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life noting that atheists and agnostics are better educated about religion than Christians (Protestant and Catholic) in America. I’d like to say I was surprised by this conclusion but I was not. I am continually amazed at the lack of understanding I encounter not only about Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism but also about Christianity.
How can Christians engage in dialogue about other faiths when 29 percent of us do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or 54 percent don’t know that Martin Luther was the inspiration behind the Protestant Reformation? Misinformed about our own faith how can we even begin to have an intelligent conversation about our Muslim sisters and brothers and their faith?
For example, much of the recent debate about the building of The Cordoba House two and a half blocks from Ground Zero in New York City was filled with ignorant and uneducated views on Islam. I appreciate that many disagree about the placement of this Islamic Community Center. A good friend of mine, a well known pastor, disagrees with me and my view about this building in New York City. His argument is solid. His opinion, even though I disagree with it, is an educated one.
As an American I am very proud of the fact that in this country we are able to freely express our thoughts on any matter without fear of reprisal. Ignorant opinions, freely shared as though fact, too often dominate the discourse in this 24-hours-a-day cable and internet news era. Religious ignorance leads to intolerance and, yes, even violence. Let us pray that the USA will continue to be a land where freedom of speech is the rule and those who share in this freedom learn to use it wisely.