September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
An item on the national news yesterday piqued my interest.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has sponsored a quiz testing people’s awareness of and knowledge about other religions. You can take the quiz yourself here. It’s only 15 questions and has no political content. The questions are exclusively about the beliefs and practices of various religions. After you take the quiz, you can compare your results with others by religion, education, socio-economic group, etc.
What fascinates me about the results is how uninformed so many people are. The median score is only around 50%. In other words, most Americans are unaware of the majority religion in India, or what exactly is it that Catholics believe about the Eucharist that might be different from their own religion, or even whose writing sparked the Protestant Reformation.
Religion plays such an important role in American culture, and is even a crucial factor for many in making poiltical decisions and voting. You would think that people would make it their business to be better informed about other religions so they could make better decisions.
Understanding world religions is also critical to understanding the rest of the world. We make a serious error in thinking that people in Pakistan or Egypt or France or Argentina think and believe like we do when we have no idea what their belief systems are. No wonder there is so much misunderstanding and suspicion among the nations.
As a lawyer, you need to comprehend the forces that shape your clients’ lives and influence their thinking, and religion is one of the most powerful of those forces. The more you know about what is behind what your client is thinking and being guided by, the better you will be able to communicate and advise. And that’s what you’re there for, after all.