Many people believed this cheese sandwich, or the Clear Water discoloration, to be "miraculous sightings," though they were routine manifestations of pareidolia. So compelling was the "Clear Water Virgin" "miracle" that an estimated ONE MILLION people came to see the building until vandals broke three of the window panes.
We are, as a Nation, also quite possibly the most ignorant of the religious. Surveys about religious doctrine tell us that fewer than half of Christians can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible. Only one-third of Americans know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. When John Kerry answered the question "What is your favorite Commandment?" many Bible thumpers called him out for this answer:
Let me just answer one part of the last question quickly, ..... and I was taughtThis was, for typical religiously ignorant American, absolutely unacceptable because they didn't recognize these as the words of Jesus as we can see in Matthew:
that the two greatest commandments are: Love the Lord, your God, and to "love
your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question,
tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Kerry gave the same subtle answer as Jesus, who is summing up the entirety of the Jewish law (613 Commandments) in two broad principles which were previously summarized by Moses in the Ten Commandments. Yet Kerry was pilloried for this as if he didn't get it right.
Yet, in my life I've gotten the sense from people who've studied the bible in a scholarly fashion that these two Commandments, from the mouth of Jesus, are a summation of the Ten Commandments (as written in the Tanakh, which are frequently broken down as five Commandments proscribing worship practice and five Commandments proscribing conduct towards your fellow man). Though not always, the same exact Ten Commandments because they are, literalists be damned, are broken down differently by Jews, Protestants and Catholics.
So, what's the big deal? People make some mistakes, right?
I think the big deal is this: A 2005 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly two-thirds of Americans endorse the simultaneous teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools. Do we want to corrupt our educational system, our laws, our society and even our last competitive advantage in the global marketplace with this religious illiteracy?
How can citizens know what creationism means, or make an informed decision about whether it belongs in classrooms, if fewer than half can identify Genesis? What about the approximately 75 percent of adults mistakenly believe the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves." How about the more than 10 percent think that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc? Joan of Arc!!!. And only one-half of Americans can name even one of the four Gospels, and -- a finding that will surprise many -- evangelical Christians are only slightly more knowledgeable than their non-evangelical counterparts.
We are a country that is profoundly anti-intellectual. And unless we want to become a second or third world country, we need to focus on education, not ignorant theology masquerading as education.
We need to face the situation: We are at a cusp in history. Either we go forward into a future lit by science, or we go further backwards in our anti-intellectualism, supported by religion, and end up like Rome.