I found a recent study by the Pew Research Group to be fascinating... it underscored what I've been lamenting for a long time now in our society regarding religious belief... that too much of it requires the act of sacrificing knowledge on the altar of Blind Faith. This has always baffled me, quite frankly.
Of everything we know about faith from the various religious sources that we hold sacred, nothing in any of them promotes the concept of blind faith. Or blind obedience. Rather, with the Bible being a rather shining (and well-known) example, faith is succinctly taught as only being efficacious if it is combined with action, and knowledge. Without knowing in what we have placed our blind faith we are nothing more than superstitious.
Knowing assumes more commitment than simply paying lip service. Knowing requires more than "going through the motions." Knowing denotes studying. Studying denotes spending more time investigating a subject than simply reading. One very wise man that I had the privilege to meet once, when asked what one could expect if they read the Bible every day, said "To be a better reader." His point was that reading alone will never enable the reader to attain knowledge. In order to do that, one has to be committed enough to actually study... diligently.
I found even more amusing that Mainstream Protestants rated lower than those they constantly seek to condemn as heretics, or who they claim worship the "wrong Jesus." After reading the results of this survey, one could quite justifiably ask, "How would they know?" Apparently, those they seek to condemn know better than they do who that is. Ouch.
So... why would Black Protestants and Latino Catholics rate LOWER on the religious IQ scale than... wait for it... people who described themselves as "nothing in particular"? My own guess is that they have chosen to sacrifice knowledge on the altar of spiritual laziness. "If the Priest says it, that's good enough for me." "What? The pastor said it in Church? Sounds good to me." This isn't faith in God. It's faith in Mammon. In man. In fallible, natural, corrupt flesh. And wasn't it Christ Himself who said, "No man can serve two masters. No man can serve God and Mammon. Either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will hate the one and love the other."?
Mark Noll, author of "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" said that the "scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of an Evangelical mind. Evangelicals are not known for their much thinking." Which, of course, begs the question... WHY? Because, like their predecessors in the Dark Ages, our religious culture regards asking too many questions as a sign of weakness... a sure indication that one's faith is lacking. The remedy for that used to involve a rope, the liberal application of wood, and a match.
Even though we don't burn people at the stake for asking questions anymore, serious study, outside the professional clergy, has been sternly discouraged for a long, long time. "Bible study" groups are carefully fed a steady diet of pureed pablum, and "troublesome" passages or issues are avoided at all cost. In fact, it's one of the "dirty little secrets" in Christianity. "Don't mind the man behind the curtain." "Don't question the Priest." "The Pastor surely knows more than YOU do. If you question what he says, you don't have saving faith. You're a backslider." Asking too many questions only "proves" to the terminally-threatened that you're "in the grasp of Satan. Satan wants you to question." And so, generation after generation is content to sit quietly in the quagmire of ignorance, too paralyzed by fear and conditioning to gain any meaningful knowledge or insight into what they, themselves, profess to believe. Or anyone else for that matter. This is why people drink the koolaid. This is why people don brand new Adidas running shoes, and lay down their lives to meet the Mother Ship. This is why people are burned alive in isolated compounds. The reality is, at least to me, that the more closely one's faith is based on truth, the more firm that person's faith becomes when they study and gain more knowledge about it. Knowledge is the most effective solvent for cleaning out the mental cobwebs that blind faith creates. It's also pretty good at getting rid of the stains of false ideologies and erroneous theories.
That being said, of course, we need to make sure that our knowledge is pure, and comes from original sources... whatever your own source for truth is... and not "some guy" who sold you a bill of goods or has an agenda to push. Knowledge is only as valuable as the purity of its' source.
There is nothing to fear from gaining knowledge... even about religion. The greatest minds of our generation thrive on the thrill of being challenged... tested... stretched. It is the playground of genius. It is the yeast of creativity and insight. The only thing we have to lose by striving to gain knowledge is blissful ignorance. And, let's face it, sometimes our very faith. But if we are truly fearful of losing our faith by gaining "too much" knowledge," logic demands that we should be taking a good, hard look at what we have placed our faith in all along.
But that's just me. Your mileage may vary. :)