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Ignorance of the Bible Isn’t Bliss
More than 10 percent of Americans believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This is just one of the distressing statistics that Stephen Prothero, the chair of the religion department at Boston University, presents in his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t. He claims that although the United States is arguably the most religious nation in the developed world, it is also the most religiously ignorant.
How does your Biblical knowledge compare to that of your fellow Americans? Only half of those polled could name even one of the Four Gospels. A mere one in three knew who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. And less than half of those polled could identify the first book of the Bible. (We won’t insult you by printing the answers.)
On the other hand, approximately 75 percent of adults believe that the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” (Benjamin Franklin said it.)
It may be a bit surprising to learn that Evangelical Christians, who traditionally place a high value on Biblical literacy, fared only slightly better than their non-evangelical counterparts. Unsurprisingly, however, Americans know even less about Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism or Hinduism than about Christianity and Judaism.
This lack of Biblical proficiency is only one manifestation of a more general decline in the public’s cultural and civic knowledge. According to polls conducted by the National Constitution Center, only one-third of Americans can name even one of the rights protected by the First Amendment.
Further Reading:
Bible in Modern Culture
Strata: The Bible in the News ( BAR 34:04, Jul/Aug 2008)
Strata: The Bible in the News ( BAR 33:02, Mar/Apr 2007)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 20:02, Apr 2004)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 20:01, Feb 2004)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:06, Dec 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:05, Oct 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:04, Aug 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:03, Jun 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:02, Apr 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 19:01, Feb 2003)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 18:06, Dec 2002)
Bible Books ( BR 18:06, Dec 2002)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 18:05, Oct 2002)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 18:02, Apr 2002)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 18:01, Feb 2002)
Mad to See the Monuments ( BR 17:06, Dec 2001)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 17:06, Dec 2001)
Readers Reply ( BR 17:06, Dec 2001)
Readers Reply ( BR 17:05, Oct 2001)
Readers Reply ( BR 17:04, Aug 2001)
Genesis as Rashomon ( BR 17:03, Jun 2001)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 17:03, Jun 2001)
Bible Books ( BR 17:03, Jun 2001)
Readers Reply ( BR 17:02, Apr 2001)
Readers Reply ( BR 16:06, Dec 2000)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 16:05, Oct 2000)
Bible Books ( BR 16:05, Oct 2000)
ReViews ( BAR 26:05, Sep/Oct 2000)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 16:04, Aug 2000)
Imagining a New Millennium ( BR 16:01, Feb 2000)
Bible Books ( BR 15:05, Oct 1999)
Bible Books ( BR 14:03, Jun 1998)
Readers Reply ( BR 14:03, Jun 1998)
Bible Books ( BR 14:02, Apr 1998)
Jesus in the Movies ( BR 14:01, Feb 1998)
Jots & Tittles ( BR 14:01, Feb 1998)
Gospels in the Classroom ( BR 13:03, Jun 1997)
Bible Books ( BR 12:06, Dec 1996)
Introduction ( BR 11:03, Jun 1995)
Yes! ( BR 11:03, Jun 1995)
But… ( BR 11:03, Jun 1995)
What Does God Require of Us? ( BR 11:01, Feb 1995)
Bible Books ( BR 10:03, Jun 1994)
Biblical Literacy



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