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Understanding, education key to religious discussions

An article in The New York Times titled “Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans,” noted that “Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.”

To understand and have an informed opinion on many current events, one must know the basics about different religions. To be able to have a stance on a subject and have plausible feelings toward it, one must be educated in what drives it to happen.

However, based on the findings on the study cited in The New York Times, most Americans do not know much about different religions.

According to the article, a study by the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found only half of the religious questions asked were answered correctly, and that many people had a hard time recalling the answers for questions about their own religion.

Researchers said that the questions were designed to span the knowledge of religion, but were not just a list of essential facts about the religions.

The best example of why knowledge on various religions is important is the Islamophobia present in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Since 9/11, many people have discriminated against Muslims and treated them with disrespect when they don’t know what Muslims really believe.

Many people don’t know that Islam is, in many ways, parallel with Christianity. Islam is a very broad religion that has many different followers, just like Christianity. The problem is that most Americans do not know about Islam or any other global religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. According to the article, the study found that the groups that answered the most questions correctly on global religions were atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons.

It is important to recognize why the atheists and agnostics answered the most questions correctly. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, most of the time these people grew up in a religious home and decided to give their religion up after research and study.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum, in the article. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

In the report, Rev. Adam Hamilton, author of “When Christian Get it Wrong,” said, “I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it’s already accepted to be true, they don’t examine other people’s faiths. That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith.”

According to an article on the San Diego page of, participants in San Diego with a higher level of education scored higher on the quiz, while people with little to no college scored lower. This could be because once an individual goes off to college, he or she interacts with people who have different values, religions, characteristics and cultural backgrounds.

In order to understand world events, it is important to have knowledge of different world religions. Americans aren’t there yet, but if they learn more about religion, they will be more knowledgeable and open to discussing different issues. This knowledge can help in understanding cultural and historical elements of current events.

Courtney Baker is a junior strategic communication major from Fort Worth.

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