[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on December 28, 2013]
Photo: Keith Negley/NYTimes
More than 95 percent of U.S. households own at least one copy of the Bible. So how much do Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true? Apparently, very little, according to data from the Barna Research group. Surveys show that 60 percent can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A Gallup poll shows 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse.The article notes that when Congressional Republicans quoted 2 Thessalonians (“Anyone unwilling to work should not eat”) to justify cutting food stamps, 90% of Christian respondents to a poll attributed the quote to Jesus. It was actually from a letter purportedly written by Paul to members of his church in Thessalonica, reminding them that if they didn’t help build the church, they wouldn’t be paid. (As it turns out, the letter wasn’t even from Paul; biblical scholars have dismissed it as a forgery.)
The actual texts of both the bible and the Constitution can be inconvenient, even for determined cherry-pickers. Add in historical and cultural context and….well, I guess it’s just too much work to actually read the damn things..