Sunday, July 6, 2008

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey -- Part II

Last week The Pew Forum released more research findings from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Observers have zoomed in on responses which seem to indicate that a belief in God does not necessarily correlate with an adherence to religious teachings or doctrines.

Among Catholics, for example, only 19% would agree that "There is only ONE true way to interpret the teachings of my religion" and only 16% would agree that "My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life." (N = 8054)

There are a number of ways to interpret these results. One is to challenge survey itself and indeed Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as calling the methodology "sloppy." Another is to question the religious literacy of respondents who, depending on their cohort, probably never learned much about Catholicism to begin with.

Or maybe today's American Catholics are becoming less doctrinaire? More flexible? Hard to imagine given some of what has been going on lately. Last week's clerical craziness relative to Sr. Louise Lears has generated a potent combination of personal angst and embarrassment. I guess this means I'm really a real Catholic now.

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