How much do you know about world religions?
A Pew Forum study of nearly 11,000 Americans done this year found that most of us can’t even correctly answer half of a basic world religions survey.
Think you can beat the average? Take the survey here.
I thought I should take the challenge since I teach a World Religions class to high school students. I was relieved to get a perfect score. 🙂
Besides teaching, I am also involved daily with Muslims in Indonesia, and occasionally take time to chat on issues of faith with an online interfaith discussion group. I’ve learned a lot from those interactions that I never learned in books.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the survey results—
- Most of us don’t know much about the beliefs of those of other religions.
In fact, as a Christian I’m embarrassed to say that in general, Jews, atheists and agnostics know more about others’ faiths than we Christians do.
Why? Pew Forum found that it wasn’t related to Jews, atheists and agnostics having higher education (though they do). I suspect that it comes down to who we choose to interact with and whether we’re willing to ask honest questions.
- The #1 greatest factor discovered by Pew Forum backs up my theory: personally knowing people from other faiths is the single most significant determining factor as to understanding the beliefs of other faiths. Out of 32 questions on the full survey, those who only knew members of 0-3 other religions scored an average of 8.6 right answers. But those who knew members of 7-9 other religions scored a whopping 19.0 questions right, far above the average.
- How this connects to peacemaking is also interesting—Pew Forum added a “feeling thermometer” of how respondents felt about those of other faiths. Not surprisingly, the more we know about another’s faith, the more warmly we feel toward them; and the less we know about their faith, the more cool or even suspicious we might feel toward them.
If we apply this principle to social issues such as the anti-Semitic graffiti in Santa Monica this week, or the 26 times mosques have been targeted in liberal, multi-cultural California in the last decade–with everything from arson to death threats to bomb threats to actually stabbing a worshiper–my guess is that whoever is behind such horrendous deeds has never tried to make a Jewish or Muslim friend.
While taking a World Religions class can be helpful, the most meaningful thing we can do toward building a world of understanding and peace is to make a friendship with someone who believes differently than we do.
Watch for opportunities this week—if your heart is open, you might be surprised at the situations God will bring across your path to meet someone different than you. Or if you’re really adventurous, go on a John 4:4 adventure, and intentionally go where people are different than you. Then write and tell me what happened!
[The complete summary of the Pew Forum survey can be found here.]