Religious Americans Who Know Nothing about Religion

Sam Rainer

February 12, 2008

Stephen Prothero has some intriguing statements about religious literacy in the United States.

The United States is one of the most religious countries on earth, but Americans know nothing about religion — their own or the religions of others. How can we engage a politician who is rightly or wrongly invoking the Bible or using religion for political purposes without knowing something about religion ourselves, as citizens, journalists and academics?

I encourage you to read this article. It’s a little long, but worth it.

7 comments on “Religious Americans Who Know Nothing about Religion”

  1. Jack says:

    I sometimes wonder if anyone is intrested in learning? I have tried to teach classes on Tuesday nights, and if 10 to 15 members show up, it is a good turnout. There are almost 300 members in my Church. If you don’t serve a meal, or have some kind of entertainment, folks are just not intrested. (Which I also tried without sucess)

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Jack – I agree with you. Part of the religious illiteracy problem is an apathy problem at its core. But be encouraged…if I had a 300 member church with 10 showing up on a Tuesday night for Bible study, I would consider it a victory.

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve heard Christians bemoaning the apathetic church for years. What is at the heart of all this apathy?

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    Susan – you’ve asked a big question! One that could fill volumes being answered. To be brief, my own pastoral and anecdotal opinion is one centered upon the deception of time. The great deceiver will feed Christians and non-Christians many lies, but perhaps the most pervasive lie is that there is plenty of time to “get right with God,” “start reading the Bible again,” or “go to church.” The Bible and the gospel message have an urgency about them. Satan likes to tone down the urgency.

    Secondly, I think that many people are overwhelmed by the amount of material and depth in the Bible. Instead of relishing in the pure joy of devoting a lifetime to learning more about God, they become frustrated with the fact that there is no “easy button” with God. Our society wants it all now in a wikipedia summary, and experienciing God cannot and will not be accomplished in that way.

  5. Susan says:

    Thank you for your answer. Those are some really good points for me to think on…thanks again.

  6. Jon Wilke says:

    Sam, Thanks for linking to an eye-opening article. Biblical illiteracy is at the heart of the American outreach efforts of the ministry I work for. The stats are staggering, 65% of Bible readers have never read the entire New Testament. This lack of knowing God’s truth keeps many captive. Truth can be a dirty word to many because it implies inclusivity and intolerance to some. The Bible says, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” How can you be free without the truth? Let’s get in God’s Word as individuals, let’s get into God’s Word as a community, a church, a people set apart! If you don’t have time to read, then listen. You and your readers can download a free dramatized New Testament at

  7. Robert Marie says:

    It’s all those basic misconceptions which turn many from the word. Most folks think when you die you go to heaven or hell. Did they forget God created the heavens for angels and the Earth for mankind. Had God wanted man in heaven he would have placed him there. There are the 144,000 chosen by christ to teach and preach in the 1000 years reign. If you pray then remember on earth as it is in heaven. Its the wrong teachings which promote disbelief nothing more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *