From time to time there is discussion about how much people ought to understand the Eucharist before being allowed to receive it. [Reminder: I’m at the end of the spectrum of the early church and the uninterrupted practice of the Orthodox Church – which is the same as my opinion about how much people ought to understand dental hygiene before brushing teeth, or how much people ought to understand digestion processes before being allowed to eat]. Now the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life adds an interesting perspective: “More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ.”
This fits with my experience just chatting with young Roman Catholics who have gone through a Roman Catholic schooling system, regard themselves as practising, and are intelligent and reflective and regularly have a university education behind them. They surprise me in their pick-and-mix beliefs and knowledge. There will be guilt about using contraceptives, and certainly abortion is regarded as wrong – but sex prior to marriage is not an issue for them, nor mostly is homosexual activity. That the RC Church teaches a vasectomy is wrong comes as a complete surprise.
Protestants didn’t do that much better in the survey. Not surprisingly, to me, agnostics and atheists appear to have thought about and know about religion more.
ps. What was my score? OK – I did get one wrong: I had no idea which preacher participated in the period of religious activity known as the First Great Awakening.
pps. Boy it irks me when Catholic and Protestant are called “religions” – the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life gets marked down by me on that.