Who is that Dalai Lama guy, anyway?

I’m not at all surprised that Americans don’t know much about religion in general.

But the findings of a new Pew Forum poll are still kind of shocking.

45% of Catholics don’t know that their faith teaches that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ during Holy Communion?

53% of Protestants cannot identity Martin Luther as the father of the Reformation?

47% of respondents know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist?

43% of Jews don’t know that Maimonides was Jewish? (This might not seem like a big deal to non-Jews, but M. was one of the most significant figures in Jewish history.)

What do people know?

The Pew Forum asked people 32 questions about faith. The highest average scores went to…atheists and agnostics. This isn’t terribly surprising, given that non-believers tend to be very educated, but it’s still pretty embarrassing for all those who call the U.S. a “Christian nation.”

Catholics, on average, got only 14.7 questions right — fewer than Jews, Mormons and Protestants, not to mention atheists and agnostics. On the one hand, this is surprising because Catholics are generally a very educated group.

On the other hand, it’s well know that the quality of Catholic education for those who do not attend Catholic schools has been quite low for decades. And it’s long seemed to me that Catholics, in general, know less about faiths other than their own than other religious groups. Many Catholics, in fact, know little about Protestants — what they believe and why.

What else? I’m kind of surprised that 62% of Americans know that most people in India are Hindus. I would have expected 30% based on the other results.

And 51% know that Joseph Smith was a Mormon? Could have been worse.

Here’s a Pew Forum summary:


Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge, followed by evangelical Protestants, then those whose religion is nothing in particular, mainline Protestants and Catholics. Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity, though they also score at or above the national average on questions about the Bible and Christianity. Holding demographic factors constant, evangelical Protestants outperform most groups (with the exceptions of Mormons and atheists/agnostics) on questions about the Bible and Christianity, but evangelicals fare less well compared with other groups on questions about world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Mormons are the highest-scoring group on questions about the Bible.

Cardinal Egan likes Yonkers

tjndc5-5diah01k6ptkefyla0c_layout.jpgYou can see and hear Cardinal Egan describe Pope Benedict’s upcoming visit to New York on the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference webpage HERE.

Egan even has something nice to say about Yonkers.

I have one question, by the way, about Cardinal Egan becoming a Yankees fan. Why the Yanks? Why not the Mets?

If the pope was celebrating Mass at Shea…just wondering….

(ADD: Of course, Yankee Stadium is in the archdiocese, while Shea is not in “New York” but in (the Diocese of) Brooklyn.)

I just got off the phone with Bob Dunning on the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. We covered a lot of ground on the Big Visit.

He mentioned that another newspaper — a big one, based in a city not too far from here — said this about the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium:

During the public Mass, the pope will consecrate — symbolically transubstantiate into the body of Christ — about 26,000 wafers…


Symbolically transubstantiate? I would hate to think how many calls and emails the big guys got over that one.

In case you don’t know, the Catholic Church holds that during the Mass, the priest consecrates the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Symbolic, it is not meant to be…