I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Religious Illiterates

As a minister (and, therefore, something of a walking billboard for religion) I am often surprised by the general ignorance about things spiritual. Just when I think I have heard it all, something else occurs. There are the small things, like the general amazement that I am married, have children, am a Democrat, homebrew beer as a hobby, and, of course, believe in science and support gay marriage. Then there are larger issues in deeper discussions that also are cause for some concern.

The fact is, many, if not most, Americans are religious illiterates. I am not just saying that they are ignorant merely of things Christian and I am certainly not talking about the minutiae of denominational differences in things like communion-theology. Many of us do not know the difference between a Hindu and a Jew or a Christian and a Buddhist.

Why should we care? Well, ignorance creates bad religion. Without information people can (and do) latch on to any old thing, no matter how wrong or dangerous it might be. Bad religion, if accepted and practiced, can (and has) cause great and irreparable harm to individuals, groups and entire nations. Bad religion when it is accepted as all religion and then rejected (a very popular and position, I might add) has also caused great and irreparable harm. Rejecting religion wholesale means a reduction in tolerance and understanding of difference. More locally, people who make assumptions about others based on their religion run the risk of loosing natural allies and potential friends. I could go on but I cannot. The list is too long and I have other work to do.

However, here are some links that have gotten me thinking.

The first is at Dunner's the article that Dunner's references is here.

Finally, if you are local to MetroWest, grab your copy of the Opinion section of last Sunday's paper. Local Columnist Julie Berry begins her article by saying "If you think your church rejects evolution, you are probably wrong". Later her column reads, "Surprisingly, acceptance of evolution does not follow denominational lines. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists and adherents to all major world religions can embrace evolution". In the article she quotes and references evangelical Christians (including the director of the Human Genome Project) who do not fit the usual stereotype of people of their faith. Also, she quotes two Mormon professors at Brigham Young University who oppose "Intelligent Design", support evolution and are not in trouble with the (Mormon) University! She even quotes John Paul II saying "There is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation".

This is just one issue but, I think, we all need to educate ourselves about our own faith and that of others. This is a small world. We cannot afford to neither know nor care.