A Majority of Christians Know Little About Their Religion

My alternate title for this piece was "You Don't Know Jack," but it would be such a reach, so, I said it plainly. Occasionally, a Christian or two chooses to debate me about the Bible and of course I leave them asking themselves why they chose me to debate. It is not that I am a great debater, rather, it is that they know so little about the Bible. As long as we speak of the Bible itself as far as content, they manage to hang in until the discrepancies, autocratic behaviors, sexism start that they don’t have built in quotes.

It turns into a rout when I bring up how the Bible came to be, who directed it, why it came into being, where was it finally ratified, that people were paid for their effort, that it was political in nature, that there are more books left out than are in the Bible, that there are gospels by women, that the it came about by vote, that thje Catholic church once was the one true church and more.

Stevie said it best; “When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer…” That’s why I believe religion, although a stalwart servant of the community once upon a time now is little more than a millstone around its neck.

The Bible

The Bible is the one book most likely to be found in the home of African Americans. It is the world’s best selling book and African Americans seem to read it more than the rest of the country and among households which own a Bible, blacks are more than likely to have at least three.

Statistics for praying and reading the Bible vary widely as 94 percent of African Americans reported praying regularly compared to the national average of 77 percent and were twice as likely compared to other Americans to have read from the Bible in the past week. The national average for Bible readership is 31 percent. Research also showed that blacks are more likely to believe the Bible is totally accurate 64-41 percent compared to whites showing a considerable gap in those who believe the Bible to be
inerrant.[i]

The key interest here is the number of people who have never read the Bible or the Koran and believe that either of these books might hold the answers to the worlds problem is akin to guessing the color of the sunset without seeing it or based on the sense of touch—it has no basis for any conclusion. When it comes to the Bible, most people, including regular church attendees are unaware of the raw sexuality, brutality or carnage of the Bible because those parts are normally overlooked or glossed over.

Almost every household, 92 percent, in America has a copy of the Bible, including the homes of atheists and agnostics.[ii] However, according to a Gallup poll, overall readership of the Bible has declined since the 1980s from 73 percent to 59 percent today while the same poll says that 65 percent of Americans say that the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life." Interestingly, 28 percent of those who agreed with this said they rarely read the Bible or never read it.[iii] George Gallup Jr., son of the founder of the Gallup Organization said there is vast difference "between Americans stated faith and their lack of the most basic knowledge about that faith.” [iv] Americans ignorance of the Bible can be shown in that 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife and only 42 percent of adults know that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Jesus.[v]

The ubiquitous Bible is not only the best selling book in the world; it is also the most translated book in the world. It has been translated into more than 40 languages including Chinese and Braille. It decorates millions of coffee tables and bookshelves in the United State and often serves as a diary for family history. It populates courthouses and legislative digs where it is revered as talisman of truth. It is sworn on, used as a judicial prop and bumped on the heads of children during solemn events. It
comes in a variety of colors including red, white and blue with gold edged pages and even tabs. It ranges in size from small enough to fit in a pocket to large enough to require both hands to lift it.

However, the one thing that seems to be missing is that not everyone agrees with it, understands it or even actually reads it. As the numbers indicate, for many the Bible serves no other purpose than as a
conversation piece or political decoration. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the Bible is filled with glaring contradictions, bad science and numerous errors that will not go away no matter how sincere or fervent the belief. Still, even with the number of people who claim to read the Bible, these things seem to go unnoticed, except among Biblical scholars whose research rarely reaches the
regular reader of the Bible.

Interestingly, nearly all of the participants for this writing including nonbelievers and freethinkers claimed and demonstrated extensive knowledge of the Bible including its many contradictions and errors. Not only were they familiar with its contents, the majority possessed knowledge that extended well past the Bible and included the study of works by various theologians, sociologists and historians, as well as noted scientists, philosophers and humanists.

Education also has a direct influence on religious belief throughout the world, with the uneducated tending to have higher belief rates than those with advanced education. Of the nearly nine out of ten people who define themselves as Christians, seventy-two percent of Americans with a high
school education or less believed the Bible to be totally accurate while only 46 percent of Americans with postgraduate degrees felt the same.[vi] Nationally, less than half of all adults (41percent) believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.

One of the most remarkable and controversial aspects of Christianity insights into America's faith is the fact that less than half of all adults (40 percent) are convinced that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life
during his life on earth which is a direct contradiction of everything Christianity teaches about its namesake—Jesus.

Another interesting anomaly is that most Americans do not accept evangelism as a personal responsibility even though the call for personal evangelism stems from the Bible and its call to go forth unto all nations spreading the word of God. It is controversial because it often seems to be in conflict with individual privacy. Only one-third (32 percent) claim they have an obligation to share their religious faith with those who believe differently.[vii]

Reflecting the continued dominance of women in the church, research shows that women are twice as likely to read the Bible as men and that blacks are more likely to read the Bible than whites.[viii]  Barna commented that the survey challenges some widely held assumptions. "Charismatic and Pentecostal churches are often characterized as attracting people who respond on the basis of emotions but who lack strong biblical training.”

The Bible and Slavery

Unfortunately, one of the most abominable chapters in the history of how the Bible has been used and interpreted involves the questions of race and slavery. Racial relations, especially between whites and blacks, have long been deplorable in the United States. They started out badly, got worse before they got better, and are nevertheless still poor with slim prospects of improving a great deal any time soon. Although Christians will be loath to admit it, their religion shares a significant part of the blame for this situation.

When speaking of slavery and the Bible, the first and most obvious thing to remember is that there is no specific condemnation of slavery to be found anywhere in it. At no point does God or Jesus express even mild disapproval of enslaving human beings and robbing them of what freedom and independence they might have had. Instead, God is depicted as both approving of and regulating slavery, ensuring that the traffic and ownership of fellow human beings proceeded in an acceptable manner. In many cases, the regulations display an apparent disregard for the lives and dignity of enslaved individuals, hardly the sort of thing one would expect from a loving God.

As a side note, it should be observed that the King James Version of the Bible replaces the word "slave" with "servant" and in this fashion is misleading Christians as to the intentions and desires of their God. The overwhelming majority of those that chose to debate don’t know that. Sad.



[i] Barna
Research Online, African Americans, 1996,
http://216.87.179.136/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=1

[ii] Barna
Research Online, The Bible, 1993,
http://216.87.179.136/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=7

[iii] The Gallup
Organization, Six in Ten Americans Read Bible at Least Occasionally, Alec
Gallup and Wendy W. Simmons, 2000,
http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr001020.asp
[iv] The Washington
Post National Weekly Edition, The Church
of Public Opinion,
Richard Morin, November
6-12, 1995,

[v] "Answers
to frequently asked questions," at: http://www.barna.org/PageStats.htm

[vi] The Gallup
Organization, Six in Ten Americans Read Bible at Least Occasionally, Alec
Gallup and Wendy W. Simmons, 2000,
http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr001020.asp

[vii] Religious
Beliefs Vary Widely By Denomination, June 25, 2000, http://www.barna.org/CGI-BIN/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=92...

[viii] Barna
Research Online, Women Are the Backbone of the Christian Congregations in America, 2000, http://216.87.179.136/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=4...

Views: 55

Tags: African, Americans, Bible, Blacks, Christian, Debate, Ignorance, Origins, The

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Comment by Sentient Biped on June 6, 2013 at 9:40pm

Don, it was worthwhile reading your essay again.

If I had known, as a teenager, that reading the bible would kill my faith, I would not have done it.  I did not know, then, the benefits of a rational life.  I'm glad I did.  Maybe that's why so many christians choose to be ignorant - deep inside, they suspect that thorough knowledge of their bible will lead to loss of faith.   I think they do choose to be ignorant - if they really wanted to know, they could read the bibles they have in their houses and profess to believe.

That line about christians thinking Joan of Arc was Noah's wife, is hilarious.    Led me to look it up. It was Emzara, a granddaughter of Methusaleh.   Although, in Jewish tradition, it's Naamah, and in Islamic tradition, it's Amzurah.    I couldn't find much about Amzurah except it looks a lot to me like Emzara.

Islamic representation of Noah

That may be a stream of consciousness tangent, except that the Curse of Caanan in the Noah story has long been a disingenuous rationalization for anti-African racism and slavery.  If the bible is so prevalent in the homes of African Americans, more than others, then it's like a Trojan Horse, keeping one of the roots of subjugation and vile hatred right under every roof, in the name of Jesus' love.

Comment by Loren Miller on June 6, 2013 at 7:25pm

As it has been observed elsewhere, mostly people don't know much about their religion because those in authority in their churches want it that way.  When you have independent bible study rather than GUIDED bible study, some folks may run onto choice things like Psalms 137:9 or Judges 19:22-30 or Deuteronomy 22:28-29, or any one of the hundreds of other infamous verses which those of us know who have explored the bible without an escort!

I wonder how many pastors and priests and rabbis cringe at the idea of their congregants and parishioners exploring on their own!

Comment by Donald R Barbera on June 6, 2013 at 6:00pm
Brandi, in my book "The 80% Solution," I directly address the things you mention. I address how many commit adultery, how many fornicate, how many are pedophiles, how many are addicted to pornography, how many are thieves, murderers, rapists and more. Read it and you'll see what an utter failure Christianity has been in the United States. They talk a good game, but reality shows atheists beat them by a long shot.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on June 19, 2011 at 10:37pm
Cliff: Anymore I debate at the Baptist University here. I don't know why they invite me back because I do my best to rout them. I guess they are in training. I feel somewhat sorry for many because they are sincere, but the arrogant ones I enjoy nailing their feet to the ground.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on June 19, 2011 at 2:07pm
Amanda: The part that seems so sad is the unexamined life they lead. I wasn't but 11-years-old when certain things in the Bible just didn't sound correct. For instance, the resurrection. I had seen people come back to life in the monster movies, but even as a kid I knew people didn't rise from the dead, but I wasn't sure. So, I asked. Depending upon who I asked the answer was that no one we knew rose from the dead. There was the Jesus example, but no one saw it. That was the first time I really decided to look further. It is like magic. As a journalist I worked with several magicians who swore me to secrecy when I saw how they did their tricks. I just don't understand how anyone could read such a story or any of the stories in the the Bible and not say, "Wait a minute. You need to explain that further." But the task presented to the people is not to question, to not trust your own thinking and to take it on faith, the perfect setup for the many con men in the business.
Comment by amanda alexander on June 19, 2011 at 10:13am
Interesting and very informative. I live in south Georgia so I know how little the bible is actually read by those who follow it. It saddens me that as an atheist I actually know more about the book then those that belive it. Also it seems Ironic that the same people that were enslaved due to the laws of the bible would be the ones so hell bent on reading and believing it. But when they took their old religion away I guess they had to find something to hold on to and they really didn't pull away too much since then.

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