Do We Understand What We Think We Believe In?

I have long believed that the followers of any given religion or religious movement must learn everything they can about their religion, its doctrine, and its history. All too often, I have encountered people who had grown up in a church and had learned almost nothing about it, having just "put in their pew time", as Mike Doonesbury had put it so well. They know all the motions to go through and what to say when, but they usually don't know what it is really about nor have they given it much thought. Worse, they usually "learned" their religion in childhood and their understanding is still stuck at that level (subject of another page once I find that article again).

What follows is an article that was published when we were discussing the on-going acts of religious discrimination being committed by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) both then and now. The proponents of religious discrimination were convinced that "God" could only mean one thing (even though officially published BSA policy forbids defining that term for somebody else) and echoed a long-time BSA statement:

"There are many kinds of religion in the world. One important point, however, about them is that they all involve the worship of the same God."
           Handbook for Boys, 1911, page 249

Of course, that statement is false and displays a lack of understanding about religion. It is especially false as it is stated in the article, since it states that even Buddhists "pray to the same God" as do Christian, "although by different names." The Buddha had explicitly taught against believing in the gods, since that would only hold you back from Enlightenment. Some of the Buddhists I had asked about this freely described themselves as "atheists" and the rest only declined to label themselves thus because they thought it would make them appear to be materalistic.

SURVEY: Americans believe all people worship same God, poll shows

The Associated Press

The Orange County Register, Saturday, 07 September 1991:

NEW YORK - Most Americans think there is no such thing as absolute truth and believe that people of different religions all worship the same God, a new survey says.

George Barna, whose Barna Research Group of Glendale conducted the survey, has produced a book from it called "What Americans Believe." His findings show an interest in religion. However, "If there is a revival going on," it "must be viewed as a religious revival, not a Christian revival."

Barna, a marketing research professional who has done work for Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, says a "massive realignment of thinking is taking place in which people are transferring many elements formerly deemed `necessary' into the realm of the `optional,' " such as Bible reading, prayer and involvement in church.

While most say religion is important to them, they're increasingly likely "to feel that being part of a local church is not a necessity," the findings say. Traditional Christian beliefs are eroding, too."

For instance, the report says, 82 percent of adults think that "God helps those who help themselves," and 56 percent mistakenly think the idea is from the Bible.

Actually, the saying is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. The report says it runs counter to Christian teaching that people cannot attain wholeness by their own deeds, but only through God's forgiveness of their failings.

The self-sufficiency streak also shows up in a finding that 82 percent of adults think that "every person has the power to determine his or her own destiny in life."

In a similarly amalgamating way, 65 percent of Americans say Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists "pray to the same God," although by different names.

The survey involved telephone interviews with a representative 1,005 US adults on about 60 questions covering a broad range of topics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Return to Top of Page
Return to DWise1's Religion Page
Return to DWise1's Home Page

Contact me.

Share and enjoy!

First uploaded on 2002 February 12.
Updated on 2011 August 18.