In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, only a tiny portion of them knows a thing about religion. When he began teaching college 17 years ago, Prothero writes, he discovered that few of his students could name the authors of the Christian Gospels. Fewer could name a single Hindu Scripture. Almost no one could name the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Prothero, who went to Yale in the early 1980s and speaks of his all-night bull sessions on politics and religion with reverence, realized that to re-create that climate in his classroom, his students first had to know something. And so he made it his job to (1) figure out what they didn’t know and (2) teach it to them. He began giving religious literacy quizzes to his students, and, subsequently, to everyone he knew. Almost everybody failed.
This is why most atheists are so woefully unequipped to even begin discussing theology, and why their omnipresent claims of having read the Bible are rightfully doubted until proven otherwise. It’s also the explanation for the idiotic scene that appears in so many science fiction novels, wherein the atheist hero triumphantly brandishes a certain verse from Matthew before the ignorant fundamentalist bigot, who recoils before this wildly exotic quotation.
In every church I have ever attended, you’d find more people who could quote the 1st Corinthians 13 in its entirety and could rattle off every book in the Old Testament in order than you could find that did not know the authors of the Gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – or the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
I mean, one of the things I still find most annoying about other fundamentalists is their habit of dropping Bible quotations into everything. They may not be up on the Hindu scriptures or the latest quibblings in evolutionary biology, but if they know one thing, it’s their Bible. Hence the ubiquity of Bible studies in nearly every fundamentalist-leaning church.
Of course, this doesn’t say much about the sort of Christians who attend Boston University either. But I’d be interested to know how everyone does on this little quiz, which is both pretty easy and improperly scored. After getting 14/15, (I missed one of the Mormon questions), I received the following message:
Thanks for taking our quiz. You answered 100% of the questions correctly.
Of course, it could be that Christians are graded on a curve, given that we’re less intelligent and less-educated and all.