No plate on the table

We live in the land of biblical idiots, says a column in The Los Angeles Times:

U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible.

Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore. Even evangelicals from the Bible Belt seem more focused on loving Jesus than on learning what he had to say.

In a religious literacy quiz I have administered to undergraduates for the last two years, students tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is “a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Last week, the Georgia Board of Education gave preliminary approval to two elective Bible courses designed to teach religion rather than preach religion.

Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible?

More than 90% of federal legislators call themselves Christians, making Congress more Christian than the United States itself.

The president is an evangelical Protestant. Catholics enjoy a majority on the Supreme Court. Biblical references — from the Jericho Road to the golden rule to the promised land — permeate political speech.

Yet U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible.

  • Four in ten Americans think Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Sixty percent can’t name five of the Ten Commandments.
  • Eighty percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
  • Fifty percent think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

We are all intents and purposes….